Book: Venue Stories
Chapter: The Rainbow Venues and the Impact of its Closure on the Swingamajig Festival
Founded in 2004, Birmingham’s The Rainbow Venues was one of the most unique and iconic spaces for live music across the Midlands. Less of a venue in itself, and more of a sprawling arrangement of performance spaces which would cater to a whole manner of different events, The Rainbow Venues was made up of spaces such as The Warehouse – named and styled after the type of venue that typified early ’90s raves; The Black Box – a small, dingy room suited to more underground styles of EDM; The Roof Garden – a spacious open air balcony overlooking the rest of the site; and The Car Park stage – the biggest stage, an arena with a semi-permanent big top covering it. Situated in Digbeth, this venue brought thousands of music fans to revel in an otherwise unfrequented area of Birmingham.
The Swingamajig festival also aimed to bring something different to Digbeth. The world’s first festival dedicated to the genre of electro swing, the first Swingamajig was held in 2013, just around the corner from The Rainbow Venues. For its first few years, the festival was held largely on closed-off streets, or other spaces around the Digbeth area, but in 2016 the festival officially moved to The Rainbow Venues. For an attendee who had been to every event, thisfelt like the perfect match. The two years that Swingamajig were held here were largely acknowledged to be fantastic.
In November 2017, The Rainbow Venues lost its license following the death of an attendee who had overdosed on MDMA at a Halloween event. For Swingamajig, and for the various other events staged here throughout the year, this ruling was devastating. This chapter looks at the impact of the closure of The Rainbow Venues on Swingamajig, and the struggles the festival had to overcome to retain its reputation, continuation, and legacy.