Venue in Focus: The Talking Heads


Few of Southampton’s several music venues can boast a history as chequered and intriguing as that of the Talking Heads. The favoured venue of students and locals alike, the Portswood pub boasts a long and illustrious list of musical guests which grants it pride of place in Southampton’s live music and entertainment scene.

Guy Benfield, along with business partner Martin White, joined forces to save the Talking Heads from permanent closure in early 2012 after severe financial pressures, and the venue has since become one of Portswood’s most iconic and beloved landmarks. The pub has played host to a variety of musical acts, including alternative rock group Wheatus and Australian metalcore band Northlane, as well as being an ardent supporter of local bands and artists.

Late in 2015 it was announced that Talking Heads would be moving from 320 Portswood Road to a newer and far larger location at 16-22 The Polygon (also known as The Maple Leaf) at the end of January 2016, with the intention of re-opening doors in early February. There was some immediate, and understandable, scepticism at first, but both punters and the owners are now, nevertheless, excited about the imminent re-opening. In an interview with the Daily Echo, Benfield said: “We struggle getting people up to Portswood Road for events and [The Maple Leaf] is a much better location – I could not have wished for a better location.”

One of the Talking Head’s most striking features is it’s rustic, individualist interior aesthetic. Entering the cosy front area you are greeted with a solid wooden bar and a panoply of ruched Dralon chairs overlooked by copious numbers of trinkets and ornaments that hang from every wall. As you make your way down a short corridor to the large rear bar the wall furnishings and brushed wood subsist under the shadow of the impressive stage, which extends across the entire back wall. A highly flexible area, the rear bar can accomodate 260 standing for live music or several hundred seating places for private events. The Talking Heads carries a fine selection of Hampshire real ales as well as all the expected bar snacks and drinks, making for a highly enjoyable event no matter what or who the act is. Here’s to hoping that owners Benfield and White will retain this charmingly kitsch interior design which has stolen the hearts of Southampton locals. There is no doubt, however, that the Talking Heads will continue to even greater success, programming an eclectic range of artists from its new home in The Polygon.



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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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