Victoria Inn hitting the right notes with patrons after returning to its musical roots

The Victoria Inn opened its doors again after a few years absence. Photo: 100570585
The Victoria Inn opened its doors again after a few years absence. Photo: 100570585

The Victoria Inn is hitting all the right notes with pub-goers by making itself a big part of Derby’s live-music scene again.

The historic music venue is coming up to its second-year anniversary after it re-opened in July 2022, when new investors Emma Middleton and John Smith took over and reinvigorated the venue.  

John Smith, has lived in Derby all his life and had been running pubs for other people for “way too long”, and when the historic Victoria Inn, tucked away in Midland Place opposite Derby train station was available on the market, he jumped at the opportunity. 

The 44-year-old said: “We just seemed to have enough money to get it open on the bare bones, so we took a risk.

“I’ve got a partner that is supportive and it’s something we always wanted to do.” 

John admitted that it had been a tough challenge trying to establish a regular local crowd.

“The first year was difficult, before we started doing live music we had a six-month run at trying to establish some locals.

“Which unfortunately doesn’t work in this area, because there are a lot of commuters and people who can’t afford to come out and spend money, or because we are close to town and people have their pubs in town which they like.”

He added: “It takes a long time for humans to start doing something different.” 

In the 2000s, the Victoria Inn was famous for its live music scene, in its basement, where gigs are held beneath the Victoria Inn, has a capacity of 120 people and has seen huge names such as Kasabian, Snow Patrol, and the Libertines headline the venue. 

They started doing live music again in January 2023 to return to their musical roots. 

John said: “I knew the history of the place, but I didn’t realise how much it touched people when they were younger, so live music was an absolute must. 

“This place was known for punk music and original artists which wouldn’t normally get a look in a normal venue, so we are trying to get that fine blend of everything at the moment.

“We’ve got some indie nights, some heavy metal nights, and punk nights which are probably the most supported.” 

Since the venue opened its doors again bands have been eager to play there with Derby bands such as the Public Eye, Shreds, and the upcoming rock band MuddiBrook headlining the venue since it reopened. 

The venue is also attracting continental attention again, with heavy metal rockers As We Stray from Milan, Italy, playing a set at the Victoria Inn in April 2024. 

System of a Down UK (tribute) headlining the Victoria Inn. Photo: John Smith
System of a Down UK (tribute) headlining the Victoria Inn in January 2023. Photo: John Smith

Besides the music, John said the pub also “relies heavily on real ale,” the bar always has six real ales which change weekly, alongside a selection of 12 ciders with a plentiful choice of spirits and keg beer. 

The pub has previously won awards for its alcohol, in 2023 CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ales) considered the Victoria Inn the best out of 32 pubs on Derby’s ‘Real Ale Trail.’ 

They also finished runner-up in the cider/perry category behind the Brunswick Inn in the 2023 and 2024 awards. 

John said, “Unfortunately they didn’t do a Real Ale Trail for this year so we couldn’t defend the award, but we are still the holders of it so that’s great.” 

 

There has been a positive reception since it re-opened, online reviews have heaped praise on the atmosphere and the staff, and the locals are on board with the changes. 

University of Derby student Matt Clarke enjoys his trips to the Victoria Inn. He said: “It’s a decent little pub, very old-school but it’s a good vibe and I think the music side of things they do makes the pub a bit different and stand out from others.”

“A lot of pubs, not just in Derby can be quite boring and the same as all the others, but the Vic Inn isn’t.” 

He added: “It’s a shame it’s the other side of town as it’s a long walk from where I live.” 

John believes the location has helped the business due to many gig-goers coming from outside the city centre.

“We try and push the punk stuff to finish at half 10 because they get a lot of people come in from out of town who get that last train back.” 

John and Emma will not be resting on their laurels, he said the goal is “just to keep pushing forward” as the pub is on its way back to establishing itself as Derby’s place to be for live music. 

The Victoria Inn is open from 9.30am10.00pm Monday to Thursday, 9.30am10.30pm Friday and Saturday and 12.00pm9.30pm Sunday, with live music ending at midnight at the latest. 

The Victoria Inn posts regular updates about gig announcements, events and its ales on their official Facebook page. 

https://www.facebook.com/TheVic2022/

The pub is situated opposite Derby train station. Photo: 100570585
The pub is situated opposite Derby train station. Photo: 100570585