Large 3-room warehouse-style nightclub on Lichfield Street – a big part of the local dance music scene until the Christchurch Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The building was acquired by the City council and incorporated into the new Bus Exchange.
Opened by Bruce Williamson and named after the UK’s Ministry of Sound, the Ministry Nightclub (plus the additional spaces – which seemed to have changed names several times of the years) were a HUGE part of both Christchurch Dance Music and Gay scenes for over 20 years, before falling victim to the Canterbury Earthquakes in 2011.
I saw just a handful of shows at Ministry so my memory is not particularly clear – I do however remember the cavernous industrial interior and the stifling heat on a busy night.
The most notable shows I witnessed would have to be British Sound-system group Rockers Hi-Fi in 1999 during their ‘Overproof‘ tour, plus turntablists like (member of the legendary X-Ecutioners) Rob Swift, and Canadian whiz-kid A-Trak.
1875: Original Building built on Lichfield site
1992: Ministry Nightclub opens at 88-90 Lichfield Street
2011: Damaged and eventually demolished after the Canterbury Earthquakes
Multi-use space on St Asaph Street, opposite the established Darkroom bar. With Doki Hair Saloon at the front, and running during the day as Kadett Cafe, Space Academy is a lively, spacious live music venue and bar from 4pm – 11pm every Tuesday till Saturday.
Every Tuesday through Saturday Mirabell and Gareth run the Cafe during the day before Richard and Hamish run the bar from 4pm, with Miki running the saloon at the front from 11am till 7pm.
Space Academy doesn’t just host live music though – a variety of performances plus movies and other events have taken place in the main venue, making use of the permanent PA system, bright decor and comfortable seating. Closing at just 11pm – forcing efficient running schedules, the venue harks back to the old days of the Dux de Lux.
One great aspect of Space Academy is their co-operation with established live music venue Darkroom, which is opposite Space Academy on the other side of St Asaph Street. The two venues have been known to put on joined shows, or accommodate each other to avoid conflicts etc.
Shows at Space Academy are easy to organize and run with minimal fuss – a straight forward two speaker PA with a control desk location fairly close to the performing area allows easy setup, the foyer area at the front of the venue is ideal for setting up a cover charge and merch area, and the bar staff are very warm and accommodating.
2015: Space Academy / Kadett Cafe Opens in a former warehouse at 371 St Asaph Street
Fuse Youth Cafe is Christian-focused Youth Centre in Sumner that regularly hosts events for teens and even pre-teen kids. As one of a dwindling supply of all-age friendly venues in Christchurch, over the years it has hosted a number of general admission events with a broad appeal – without any Christian focus.
The Fuse Youth Centre was started in 2001 by the Shoreline Youth Trust and has developed into a vibrant, multi-faceted space that exists to work with local youth to provide programmes, events and services for the young people of our community.
Location: 76 Lichfield Street, Central Christchurch
Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, replaced by bus exchange
Active as a live music venue: 1990’s – 2000’s ?
Bar Manager: –
Capacity: Around 60?
When Cafe Culture exploded in Christchurch in the mid 1990’s, I was a student at Christchurch Polytechnic, surviving on a $14 a week student allowance (and living at home). Due to my modest means I marveled at how people could spend what seemed like a fortune on fancy new coffee’s and cafe food.
However, Venus Cafe was the kind of place where you’d see students hanging out all day nursing an extra-large hot chocolate – getting their full moneys worth. The place was one of a few in the central city (most notably Java Coffee House) that had a hippie vibe, and was often involved in the promotion and support of local raves and dance parties.
The Cafe itself was up a handful of steps in an old building on Lichfield Street, above the Lick er Lounge (later to become Carbon) and next to the notorious upstairs Danz Nightclub. Long and narrow, and quite dark at the back – more than a few live shows were put on within the Cafe itself (noted on the Barnard’s Star poster below as taking place in ‘The Pluto Room’), though the capacity can’t have been more than 60 or so people – usually sitting on the floor.
The shows I remember attending were:
Barnard’s Star bringing out their debut EP supported by Le Mot Cafe (making their debut) – Helen spent the show sprawled out on the floor playing bass, whilst every Le Mot Cafe song went along the lines of “This song is… how do you say? An instrumental! It has no words…” – funny stuff from a bunch of the Puffins (who were my favorite band at the time).
Early shows by The Dialtones – this local group had a whole swag of great songs, but it took the best part of a decade before Fleur De Lis saw fit to record and release them.
Lastly, the mighty rock’n’roll experience that was The Black Panthers – who were obviously far too loud to play in a cafe. Singer and guitarist Matt Alien spent a period of the show jumped up on tables, whilst their bass player Vaughn had his usual cadre of groupies throwing Marmite-stained women’s underpants at him…
First there was The Vic, then there was Caffiends, then there was Java, then there was Venus. Was that a Helm Ruifrok mural? I remember lots of James Robinson’s paintings. I remember hearing Ornette Coleman there, In All Languages for the first time and remembering it from the John Zorn versions on Spy vs Spy. I remember seeing the James Last Appreciation squad blow up Here Comes Jack Thompson’s amps there, before it was even dark outside, before we even to a chance to play. I remember seeing Kaylo walk past in the Winter sun with a freshly shaved head. I remember regrouping there with the Spook billstickers crew. I don’t remember the coffee. I do remember the muffins.
The Cafe can’t have last too long as there are scant all details at all about it on the web, though I have heard about further shows such as Auckland punk group Sommerset some time in winter 1998, kRkRkRk recordings ‘foremost avant-garde collaborative project’ DiS towards the end of 1999, plus Rhian Sheehan, Jolyon Mullholland, as well as Matt Bullimore and Dave Murphy’s group SeaWorld.
Note: This is a work in progress and will have additional content added both in the Map (i.e. venue images) or in the body of this post (i.e. a list of the venues in questioned, grouped by status etc).
Feel free to comment, give suggestions etc – this was put together as part of thebigcity’s on-going Venues archive.
Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake and replaced by the Margaret Mahy playground.
Active as a live music venue: 1927 – 2011
Bar Manager: Keith
Capacity: Around 300 in the main bar and 70 in the ballroom.
The Christchurch Media Club was a large building on Armagh Street, next to the notoriously seedy Centennial Pool. Broken up in to several parts – It had a mid-sized hall with hard-wood floors, a large performing stage and bar (used mostly for Media Club patrons, housing pool tables, darts etc), the smaller ‘Winter Garden’ ballroom where most live performances occurred – which was carpeted and decked out in ornate ceiling alcoves, plus a hallway, toilets and a small kitchen.
Though the main bar gave the appearance of an old tavern or sports bar, the venue had a storied history, with the Winter Garden Ballroom a notable part of Christchurch history.
Opened in 1927 as a cabaret and social hall, The Winter Garden was a sparkling venue in the Christchurch social scene. Originally a dance studio, the building was refitted for its opening with a sprung floor in the ballroom and the addition of a supper room and kitchen. The original décor was deep maroon suede, and there was a large mural depicting nymphs in a sylvan (forest) setting.
This storied history continued through the 1940’s through 1960’s, with debutante balls and formal diners being a regular use of the dapper, ornately decorated ballroom. Remodeled in a ‘most delicate pink’ in the 1960’s, the venue surely reached it’s peak when the Queen dined here in 1964 – Christchurch Libraries noting:
During this time the venue boasted a 12-piece band – including drums, piano, saxophone, and clarinet. The band dressed in blue, Bermuda-style tuxedos.
However, as interest in ballroom dancing declined in the 1980’s the venue was purchased by the monolithic Lion Breweries, then passed on to the Trade Union Centre, who in turn leased it to the Christchurch Media Club.
By the 1990’s the lush interior was now vary faded and quite grotty, however it became a favorite location for local shows, particularly of the underground or experimental variety.
With thick carpet, a decent PA system, and comfortable couches – it was the easiest of places to put on a show, particularly if you got on with perennially grumpy barman Keith. It was also a great venue when it came to live music photography, as hopefully my own Flickr photo-stream shows.
The fringe music collective ‘Borderline Ballroom’ established themselves with shows in the smaller ballroom with regular shows over the course of the mid to late 2000’s. The Media Club was also a good choice for All-Age shows for a period, as the main bar was essentially a separate venue from the ballroom, as a result quite a few A Low Hum double-headers took place either in the ballroom or across both rooms.
The bar closed in 2009, however the Christchurch Music School MAINZ took over, using it as a teaching space and even hosting some All Age shows.
Unfortunately Christchurch lost one of it’s most beloved live venues when the Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 struck, however the site was incorporated into the wonderful Margaret Mahy Playground – one of the highlights of rebuilt Christchurch.
1927: Opened as The Winter Garden as a Cabaret and Social hall.
1960: Remodeled in light pink, ‘Sapphire Room’ added.
1964: Host to the Queen during her formal visit.
1984: Lion breweries buys the venue before on-selling to the Trade Union Centre, who demolishes half of the venue for car parking.
2009: Main bar closes. MAINZ takes over, using the venue for teaching purposes, plus putting on the occasional All-Ages show.
2011: Heavily damaged and eventually demolished post-Earthquake, replaced by the Margaret Mahy Playground.
Location: 840 Colombo Street, Central Christchurch
Current Status: Demolished
Active as a live music venue: 1990’s – 2006?
Bar Manager: –
Two-room Vegetarian Cafe at the Northern end of Colombo Street. Eventually a bar was built into the left-side of the venue, with (mostly acoustic) bands performing at the front of the room pressed against the big roadside windows.
From all accounts the food was very very good vegetarian fare, with C4 coffee and a bar stocked with what seemed at the time like exotic foreign beers and other alcohols.
Generally got pretty decent crowds due to the cramped size of the venue plus the walk-up nature of performing there (it was quite easy to entice people walking up Colombo to come inside, while playing).
One of my very first performing experiences was here, as a guest performer with the ‘Davidson Collective’ – it was a very welcoming place. One notable aspect was the walls of the performing room which were covered in a fantastic collection of classic New Zealand gig posters, sadly removed when the venue was refitted some time in the early 00’s.
Went out of business around 2006 and was knocked down prior to the Canterbury Earthquakes. An office complex is currently (July 2017) being constructed on the site.
1998?: Bar built at the rear of the left room.
2001?: Ownership change, interior redesign.
2006: Mainstreet closes down and is eventually demolished.
Warehouse and studio space occupied by ‘The Henrys’ – i.e. Henry Nicol and Henri Kerr of local industrial / punk / noise group Log Horn Breed (hence the name), plus local punk figurehead Lance Downing, post-earthquakes. Together the trio formed Pavement Saw, who became a regular site at Log Recording shows.
The Henry’s had previously been regulars at All Plastic Recordings, prior to moving in to the Log Recording warehouse (and eventually building the studio) in 2014.
Along with Pagan House in Richmond, Log Recording was a prominent house party venue till finally closing in early 2017. The downstairs warehouse space was very large and open plan, with huge rolling doors, often opened up so performances could expand out into the car park area that surrounded the venue.
Due to the occupants musical connections, shows there erred towards punk or underground sounds – even hosting the annual ‘Nevermind the PunkFest‘ event on a couple of occasions. Shows at Log had a communal vibe to them, with kids and the occasional dog attending the odd day-time show, punters bringing their own food and alcohol, and laying back on the communal couches.
Eventually Log Recording did manage to acquire some community funding through the Rata Foundation, however within a few months the occupants had their lease ended and had to shut up shop. Since the venue closed, Log have gone on to promote shows at other venues, primarily New City Hotel.
Aside from hosting house parties, Log was used for a handful of Art installations, plus the studio space was used for several band recordings – primarily those of Log Horn Breed, Les Baxters and Leather Image.
2014: Henry Nicol and Henri Kerr rent 48 Lismore Street, start converting downstairs area into a performance space and an adjacent studio.
2016: Community funding acquired through the Rata Foundation. Space transforms into an All Arts space.
2017: Lismore Street lease ends, Log Recording starts promoting events at New City Hotel.
Open-plan two-story Cafe on a (previously) busy corner in central Christchurch – Java was a quirky place with a colorful interior, good coffee and food. When Cafe’s were starting to explode in the late 90’s, Java was one of the places to be for young people in Christchurch.
As a result they pumped a lot of good music and put on the occasional live show, with a handful of musicians working behind the counter over the years. Java was also heavily tied to local dance music, promoting locals raves alongside the original Cosmic Corner (which was just down High Street).
The Cafe was heavily damaged in the February 2011 Earthquake and eventually demolished, now replaced by a commercial building next to Strangers Lane.
2011: Damaged in the Canterbury Earthquakes, Demolished in July 2011.