Soho venue rises from the ashes to continue legacy


A London-based club that has provided entertainment in the West End for three decades, has won a national award after diversifying during lockdown to support the arts.

Phoenix Arts Club in Soho’s West End is an independent live performance venue that has offered cabaret, musical theatre, burlesque, and LGBTQ+ entertainment for the past 30 years.

The 200-capacity venue was inherited ten years ago by partners Ken Wright and Colin Savage when the former owner sadly passed away. Despite having no experience in running a business, the pair continued the legacy of the venue, welcoming performances from West End stars and breakthrough acts while hosting celebrities including Lady Gaga, Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the club was forced to close its doors putting a stop to the income of both the business and performers.

After the initial shock of lockdown settled, Phoenix Arts Club decided to run livestreamed events that people could watch from home. With the first performance hitting 32,000 views, the club continued throughout the pandemic to offer performers the chance to be back on stage while securing an income, but in safe environment.

Now, events at the club have started again but it has decided to continue live streaming for its global audiences. The club is also offering acts the chance to use their performance as an audition that can be recorded and sent to agents, saving the costly price of creating these videos themselves.

Phoenix Arts Club has been named a winner in the Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 awards, which celebrate the small and local businesses across the UK. The business was selected in recognition of its success during the pandemic and how the club has gone above and beyond to support the arts and hospitality industries.

As part of the win, Phoenix Arts Club has won a mentoring session with Kanya King, founder of the MOBO Group. Kanya will provide insight and support to help Phoenix Arts Club continue to advocate for the arts as the industry gets back on its feet.

Ken said: “Before the pandemic, we were having one of the most successful years to date. So, when the lockdown was announced, it was a huge shock to us all.

“We decided to use the technology we already had at the club to provide people with entertainment during what was a very dark time. This allowed us to keep our core team of staff in employment, and support more than 300 acts that otherwise wouldn’t have qualified for furlough and be left with no income.

“Opening the doors again has been just wonderful but we’ve decided to keep the streaming options in place to provide entertainment to our dedicated audiences across the world, from the north of Scotland to Australia.

“I’m ex-RAF and had no experience of running a business, let alone a venue like this, but I’ve poured my heart and soul into the club. We have a venue bursting with character and I can’t wait to continue its legacy for decades to come.”

Paul Gordon, Managing Director of SME and Mid Corporates at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Phoenix Arts Club has such a vivid and colourful history so it’s really inspiring to see the efforts being made by the owners to keep the venue alive, despite such a challenging year.

“Diversifying the business during the lockdown created income for the club and the performers while opening up the entertainment to people across the world. That’s why Phoenix Arts Club is so deserving of this award.”