A sit down with our Co-Founder Daniel Fisher and Building and Venue Manager, Jamie Wightman to discuss the future of the Sweetdram space re-opening later this year.
Q: How are you feeling about opening up Sweetdram for events again this year?
Daniel Fisher: I absolutely cannot wait! It’s been so many years in the making. We launched just before COVID hit, so we’ve been sitting here with a lifeless venue for as long as the pandemic has been going on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been wonderful in some ways because everyone in the team has been able to sit in the space, listen to loud music and enjoy themselves, but we’ve all agreed that what’s really missing is people, so we’re looking forward to their return.
Q: What have you been working on in the space in the last two years?
Jamie Wightman: For anyone that came here before the pandemic, maybe at one of our trade parties back in 2019, the place will look pretty different when we re-open. We were host to a whole range of indie businesses during COVID for warehousing and production and it was really nice to be able to support folks and see them thrive in a really difficult situation. We said goodbye to most of them as stuff has opened up again, then built a new internal wall in the main warehouse. The lovely folks at Bon Accord are storing all their stock in this new area.
We also have a new large toilet block, which believe me is way more exciting than it sounds… It’s a big deal because it’s increased our licensed capacity almost fourfold. We’ve now been granted a permanent license by the council to operate, so we don’t have to go through all the red tape of temporary licensing every time we want to do an event here. We now have tons of flexibility, and we can host loads more people here. So yeah, the space is going to look and feel very different and we’re super excited about that.
DF: Beyond that, I’ve been working specifically on the sound. My lockdown project was to find a better sound system. Our audio engineer and friend Adrian at Trash Panda HQ has been threatening us with this huge custom ATC system from the 70s that’s been in his dad’s warehouse for some 35 years, so we brought those in and cleaned them up. It took about 4 months to put together in the end. Our setup now is one of the top sound systems in Scotland.
JW: It sounds ridiculous…
DF: I’m looking forward to someone challenging us on that, purely because I want to get to know everyone in the country that has a high-end set up so we can all meet up to nerd out about speakers. Leave us a comment if you’d like to challenge us!
Q: What is the capacity?
JW: 270 and we’re a fully accessible venue. Children are also welcome; the space is family-friendly too.
Q: And what are the opening and closing times?
JW: Well we’re not going to be running the space as a bar you can just turn up to any day of the week to hang out and have drinks. This venue is for specific, booked events either curated by us or where the space is hired out to others. Our hours will be event dependent, but we are licensed from 10AM-1AM.
Q: How easy is it to get to Sweetdram?
JW: I think some people have a preconception that we are very out of the way and that we’re hard to get to. We’re actually really well connected here. The airport is 10 mins away, the tram stop is a five-minute walk away which is also right next to Edinburgh Park train station. Most trains coming through from Glasgow stop there and you can reach us from Fife in about 20 minutes. When the trams are finally finished you can make it from Leith to here in about 35-40 minutes. I’d argue that in some ways we are better connected than a lot of venues in the centre because we can get people from the whole of the central belt here very quickly and easily.
DF: We’re also the closest distillery to Edinburgh airport by far, it’s only 4 miles away.
Q: Will I be able to park nearby?
JW: You will. There is unrestricted parking pretty much all the way around the building. The benefit of being on an industrial estate is that on the weekends when we will primarily be hosting anything here, every other business is closed so the roads are basically empty…you might say it’s the ultimate parking experience…
Q: Beyond the space itself, what else is there on offer?
JW: Toilets. Great, great toilets.
DF: Really beautiful toilets. We’re conveniently located right next to Sweetdram distillery’s production facility, so there will be an exciting and creatively stocked bar for one thing.
We have a full audio-visual package and fixed lighting throughout the entire venue to accentuate the industrial structure of the space. We also have loose lights and a projector that we can use on the night to create a custom environment for pretty much every occasion. We love lights… We also have a couple of thousand records for people to look at and listen to. Those aren’t just for show!
There are also two old school arcade cabinets which both have over 500 games each which are free to play, one has games from the 80s, the other from the 90s.
JW: We’ll also be working with a rotating cast of food trucks for catering on site so no one needs to go hungry while they’re here!
Q: What should we expect from the Sweetdram bar?
DF: Behind the bar, there will be our core products: Escubac, Smoked Spiced Rum and Whisky Amaro. We now also have a Scotch whisky program, we’ve been quietly curating whisky casks for the last 15 years and have finally put together a blend that has natural colour and is not chill-filtered…
JW: ..and it’s outrageously good.
DF: It is…we just create drinks that we want to drink. As we started sharing these products we found others enjoyed them too, so we’re looking forward to inviting people here to enjoy them with us.
JW: Beyond that, we’ll be serving beer from a couple of local breweries and pals of ours, Pilot and Newbarns. We’ll have a great range of wines curated by Alliance Wines with some occasional guest bottles from Element. We’ll even have a gin on the bar too, from James at Electric Spirits Co.
DF: Yes, it’s true. We will be stocking gin. There will be vodka, too. We don’t discriminate here!
JW: And we’ll of course have soft drinks as well - from Bon Accord and we’re hoping to stock some Kombucha by one of our old tenants Anna at Matka Ferments – they’re ridiculously tasty.
DF: We’re picking products that we love from people we love. We’ll buy locally where possible, so we’ll share their stories with you too.
Q: I hear you plan to open a retail shop on site soon too. Do you have a rough opening date? What do you plan to sell?
DF: This is an idea we’ve had since opening this space a few years ago. We’re at the early stages of planning and we’re hoping to have it open by early next year.
JW: Our plan is to feature our own products, Bon Accord Soft Drinks plus Ciders and Eau De Vie’s from our good friend Graham’s business, Sail We Must, which is made here on site. To be honest, most of the products on sale in the main bar should be available for sale in the shop to take away.
One other thing Dan and I have been talking about is having a space to sell records, too. Vinyl is a huge passion of all of ours at Sweetdram, so we’d love to bring a bit of that to the shop here as it represents us and who we are. There will be some new records, some used, and there will be of a whole range of genres that represent the taste of everybody in the building.
DF: We also have a massive surplus of compost which we’ve been using for the front garden, and it turns out you can create some pretty great compost out here in Sighthill! We’ll be selling that too for anyone that has a home garden, or a community garden project and we’ll have information available from our gardening team Radicle Gardens about this.
JW: There will be a refiller station for our spirits too. Rather than taking away a new glass bottle every time, you can bring back bottles that you’ve purchased from here previously to reduce glass waste.
Q: Do you have any events booked for 2022?
DF: YES! We have a party planned for the staff to make sure the sound is good and the drinks will be flowing… Beyond that, Jamie will fill you in.
JW: Yeah, once we get through that we will be having a soft launch party for friends, family and the local community. One thing I’m really keen to do ongoing is to build more of a community here around the space and throughout the building. It’s something we had to some extent during lockdown with all of the businesses that were renting floor space here and that community feel is something we’d like to continue with, nurturing and developing relationships with artists, musicians, other local businesses and charity projects.
DF: For example, the space was a residence for local artists KMG Yeah, who are really well known for their large-scale mural art around Scotland. They have done a series of pieces in the space that you’ll get a chance to look at when you’re here.
JW: We are also planning a launch night for our new Absinthe in September, which is going to be in collaboration with local artists and our gardeners, Radicle Gardens. We’re hoping to have garden tours, distillery tours, maybe even a ‘blend your own Absinthe’ programme, plus music and a bunch of Absinthe-based cocktails at the bar.
DF: It’ll be a really fun way to connect with the local community. We run a circular economy here so all the waste from the distillery operations and the waste from event operations, we recycle and reuse. That’s exactly what we have done with the botanicals to create our Absinthe.
On another note, within our circle, we have some of the most respected jazz collectors in Scotland. We’re planning to curate some jazz-focused events to try and bring to light some of the amazing talents which are overlooked by a lot of people. We’d love to help nurture young musicians here to show everybody what is available. Jazz is really close to our hearts and is something that will ring out in the venue regularly.
JW: We’re all going to the ‘We Out Here’ festival this year and one of the bits I’m most looking forward to is their Sunday afternoon ‘Dingwalls’ event, which is a tribute to the classic 90s club night Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge used to host in London. We’ve been talking about doing something like that up here, on a Sunday afternoon, with loads of danceable jazz and soul records. It’ll be a really nice, chilled out, positive vibe with live music and DJs a couple of food trucks and plenty of drinks at the bar. Something like this should be accessible to everyone including families – that’s the sort of vibe we’re looking for.
DF: Yeah, and it really will be accessible to everyone - these parties bring a large number of styles of music from around the world that are there for people to dance to and have a good time.
JW: We all need positivity after the last couple of years! Again, we really just want to get people into the space and see how they relate to it. This is a learning process for us as almost nobody has had the chance to be in this space beyond the people that work here for so long.
One thing I will say is when we bring people into the space to discuss potential events, they’ve been incredibly excited about just being in here which is really positive. We believe there’s something special in this building but to hear that from others when they see the place is great. The more we can get people through the door to understand what they enjoy and what works or doesn’t work, the better. We’ll just try things and see how we go!
DF: We’re excited to see how people use it.
JW: Yeah, because it can be a real blank canvas.
Q: What’s the best way to keep in touch to hear about upcoming events at Sweetdram?
JW: And if you don’t follow us on Instagram, there’s some great content on there too…
Q: You mentioned Distillery Tours earlier, do you plan to hold those regularly? Will there be tastings?
DF: We do plan to hold tours, and we’re currently working on a program for this. We have a wonderful story behind the distillery, and we plan to hold a number of different formats to show what we do, what our products taste like and explain more about our circular economy.
JW: We’ll have more info on booking tours and tastings soon.
Q: Will the space be available for hire for things like Weddings?
DF: Yes, it will. Weddings were something we wanted to look at especially, you can get cornered by the market a bit and pushed into all sorts of deals and expensive packages with caterers and suppliers. Whereas like Jamie has said, this is just a blank canvas. There are lots of people out there that don’t want to pay tens of thousands to be married somewhere and be told what they will have at their wedding. This is just a space you can come into, do whatever you want with it and enjoy your wedding day with the people you love the way you want to without us telling you how your day should be run.
JW: I think it will also, in terms of vibe and atmosphere, be quite different from most places available in the market. There aren’t many industrial spaces, certainly in the central belt of Scotland, that will be available for that sort of thing.
We want it to be simple and accessible for people and we aren’t going to throw in all sorts of cumbersome, expensive packages. Life is complicated enough as it is.
As well as weddings, we’re available for film and photo shoots, music nights, art exhibitions, markets, birthdays, corporate events, seminars, you name it. The easiest thing to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any enquiries.
Anything else you want to add?
JW: I’m just really looking forward to having people back in the building after it being in limbo for so long.
DF: We all are, quite frankly. As much as we all love each other and love hanging out, it’s such an enjoyable space and we’ve been waiting for years to share it with everyone. We’re excited to continue to build on what could be a really positive and influential place in the local community.
JW: Things will be progressing pretty quickly now over the next three to four months. If you’d like to keep an eye on what’s happening here, make sure to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter where we’ll keep you updated on the progress of the building.
- Tags: venue blog