Preview: Music in the City, Southampton

Preview: Music in the City, Southampton

by Catherine Collins and Lewis MacLean.

Southampton is set to come alive with the biggest and best free music event returning to the city this weekend. Music in the City is back with more than 170 acts performing in 22 unique venues, including the historic God’s House Tower, King John’s Palace and Lankester Vault – some of the very best settings the city has to offer. The event, now in its 11th year, aims to support and promote the diverse range of music available in the region, from rock to jazz and classical to Americana.

What makes Music in the City unique from other city weekend festivals is the emphasis on the use of a diverse collection of unusual locations that provide an eccentric atmosphere. Many of the venues stay locked until this one weekend of the year, when Southampton city council opens up the gates of the old medieval city and let the rock n roll shine thorough. What makes it even better is the free access to all that inspires us to  celebrate the rich heritage of Southampton’s quiet historical past, with a great soundtrack.

Photos of previous Music in the City events by Mike Daish.

Launching in 2009, the festival has seen more than 100,000 visitors over the years, with 30,000 venue visits last year, helping music in Southampton get the recognition it deserves and bringing the music communities together. This year Saturday, 28 September sees 21 venues host over 1000 musicians, with a number of free shuttle heritage buses transporting festival-goers between venues around the city. On Sunday, 29 September three concerts will take place at the Southampton’s Art GalleryCity of Southampton Orchestra will entertain people at 2pm, followed by Flautissimo from 3.15pm and Southampton Choral Society at 4pm.

The most noticeable and central venue is the infamously open air Holy Rood Church. It is pretty hard to blow the roof of this stage because there isn’t one! While it is not locked away the remaining days of the year, it certainly comes into its own every September when live music of all shapes and styles graces the busy weekend high street. Each year you get to hear something entirely different, from jangly guitars, laced with Indian sitar music to gospel choirs. It is always a spectacle for the sights and sounds, never knowing quite what to expect the next time.

Across the road from the Holy Rood church is the Lankester Vault, one of many underground vaults packed away under the streets of Southampton. These vaults have a long forgotten purpose with origins dating back to medieval wool and wine merchants. Now they remain near forgotten all year until Music in the City comes along. The festival is a great chance to give fresh life to them, hosting some of the finest live music bands from all across Southampton.

Stepping away from the high street you will eventually encounter the Undercroft. This quietly charming cellar is more openly lit with some interesting roof decoration and it is a stone throw away from the Tudor House museum which sets nicely into the background, making a very picturesque view as the sunsets down what is unarguably one of Southampton’s most quaint and rustic streets. It adds to a great atmosphere in this day of yesteryear Southampton. 

Not too far from here is King John’s Palace. As you walk past the Tudor House and Gardens, you meet the quaint old world nostalgia of Blue Anchor Lane. This small windy path leads you an anonymous stone arch entrance to the modest  open air rustic dwellings of King John’s Palace. Once a prestigious medieval traders wine vault, it has survived the call of various centuries purpose to become a stronghold of live music. The site look out onto the former coastline and the view from the top is breathtaking. There are even Norman era windows left to reconstruct the medieval ocean views. Most importantly, the natural acoustics are perfect for music.  

In between all this hectic rock and roll, it’s still very much business as usual for many of Southampton’s numerous bars and cafes , each offering their own take on the day’s proceedings with a different blend of live music spilling out into the vast city wide happenings. Some of Southampton’s finest pubs and greatest venues get involved and be sure to tick the Platform Tavern and the Dancing Man Brewery off your list for maximum authenticity of your cultural Southampton trek. Thanks to the generosity of the Southampton and District Transport Heritage Trust, you can even catch a free ride from the Guildhall square. 

For more information, or to see full venue listings, please visit: