This Is My Town: Southampton
First things first: I’ve arrived in Southampton, I’ve got a couple of hours to kill – where’s the best place to get a drink and some food?
"If you just want to grab a bite to eat then you can head to the West Quay food court which is inside the West Quay shopping centre. It’s got loads of different stuff in there, Ed’s Diner, Pizza Express, McDonalds, all those kind of places. It’s actually really smart, they’ve made it a proper destination."
Where are the best / most unusual music nights happening? Are there any club nights that Southampton residents / visitors should go to?
"There’s a club called Unit, it has a bit of everything going on in there and there’s quite a few characters. There’s a guy who is legitimately called Ron Jeremy that always goes in there, introducing himself to people! There are also a bunch of people who have different ways of legally playing with fire, so they have fire eaters, fire jugglers and all that. There’s also a barman who only responds to the name ‘Tonto’."
What sort of music do they play in there?
"They play a real variety of stuff. They have rock music, dance, there are a few different rooms there and they all cater to different tastes."
Of all the venues in Southampton, which is the best?
"There’s a place called The Joiners that was voted the best small venue in the country by NME a couple of years ago. I think it only holds about 200 people but they have some pretty decent-sized acts come through and play there. I’ve been there myself a few times and there isn’t really another venue like it, it has a great kind of personal, intimate feel to it."
What’s the clothes shopping like in Southampton? Where do I go if I don’t like chain stores?
"There’s a place called Underground Clothing in the Marlands Centre, they sell some unusual stuff, like Zombie Pokemon shirts! So if you’re looking for something off-kilter or out of the ordinary you can head to the Marlands, it’s got several places in there."
Does Southampton have any famous sons or daughters? Or any famous residents?
"Well you’ve got Foxes, who comes from Southampton. She’s been doing pretty well for herself obviously, had some chart success. Then there’s a band called Bury Tomorrow who are also from the area. I just found out that Benny Hill is from here, and Tommy Cooper. Then there’s Craig David of course…"
Do any of them come into the store?
"In terms of celebrity residents the only ones we get are the footballers really. We did get Luke Shaw come in over Christmas."
Guess you won’t be seeing him around much any more…
"No, looks like those days are gone, sadly. But he came in to buy two Xbox Ones from us. We’re going to miss him, haha!"
Are there any good local radio shows / stations?
"Yeah, we do a lot of work actually with a radio station called Voice FM. We had a pretty successful ‘Digital Week’ campaign and Voice FM came in and helped organise booking some of the bands for that. Some of our ex-employees have actually gone on to present shows for them as well. One of the shows is called Sylum, which is a metal show. It’s a non-profit radio station and it’s all community run as far as I know. We went to meet them the other week and they were saying that they’re actually one of the most listened to stations on the TuneIn Radio app."
Are there any Southampton bands / artists / DJs we should be looking out for?
"Yeah, there are some great bands around at the moment actually, we managed to get some of them to come and perform at the Digital Week events I mentioned. We had a band called Jealous Michael who I was really impressed with. What they did as well was have someone out on the street selling copies of their EP while they played in the store, and they ended up shifting all of them, completely sold out within an hour!"
"There’s loads of other bands worth checking out as well - In the Hills, Kids Can’t Fly and These Septic Stars are all really good.
"There’s also a girl called Charley Macauley, she’s signed to the Acid Jazz label and she’s about to go on tour with Lisa Stanfield. She’s going to be doing a night for us soon as it’s going to be the store’s 20th birthday on…. July. To celebrate we’ve booked the Joiners and we have a few acts performing there."
What’s Southampton’s best kept secret?
"Well, there are some absolutely fantastic pubs and little food places, there’s a place called Seven Bone Burger that’s been voted the best burger joint in the UK. It’s renowned in the area as the place to go for burgers.
"There’s also a pub called The Rock Stone that keeps being voted one of the best pubs in the UK, they’ve got a huge selection of spirits and again they do great food that’s all made in-house, it’s really getting a reputation as one of the best places to go in town."
If you could change one thing about Southampton, what would it be and why?
"I’ve canvassed opinion from the staff on this one and the main gripe appears to be the lack of a decent coffee shop. Three Starbucks, two Costas, and no Cafe Nero. They just want a Cafe Nero!"
What’s the one thing I should do in Southampton l before I leave?
"Well, of course you should come and visit us! But we’re a big student town, there are two universities and we actually have one of the only dedicated Oxfam Music shops, one of only three in the UK I believe and Southampton is fortunate enough to have one of them. Music is a really important part of Southampton, the Guildhall has just been taken over by O2 so we’re starting to see some bigger acts come to play in town.
"Apart from that though, I’d say the one thing you should do is visit our local theatre, The Mayflower. They have a lot of West End shows there, they have Lion King on at the moment, they had Singin’ In The Rain recently. I believe they’ve got a meet-and-greet with Bruce Forsyth coming soon! It’s all kicking off!!"