FEATURE: The Old Police House | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Images by Matt Jamie

At the recent TUSK Festival, Gateshead Old Town Hall was the focus point for performances for remarkable artists from around the world – Oren Ambrachi, Rhys Chatham, Stephen O’Malley and so on – but it was just around the corner that some of the most remarkable action was taking place.

The Old Police House has become an integral part of the culture of DIY and experimental music in the North East; operating as a music studio, workshop space and venue that reaches out across genres and forms to provide a unique artistic space. I talked to Mariam Rezaei, composer, turntablist and director at the Old Police House about the purpose of the space and their upcoming plans.

Describing the start of her work at the Old Police House, Rezaei noted, “I was looking for a studio space across Newcastle to host regular DJing workshops as part of my work with NOISESTRA and through the generous help of Gateshead Council and Somewhereto_, I found the venue. The space had previously been empty for a number of years and then became part of an architecture youth project a year leading up to the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. I moved in in late 2013 with my many turntables and piano! Adam Denton later joined forces with me through our mutual interest in new improvisation, love of the DIY noise scene and late night rehearsals.”

The live music that is shared and enjoyed has such a positive energy which brings life in to the building

As she made clear, she views her role at the Old Police House as just one part of her wider artistic work. “I believe that being part of the overall process of composition, performance, community work and curation is very important to the success and integrity of all art work, particularly in the North East, where money is tight and talent is in abundance. I am privileged to be in a position where I can do all of those things. Having a private space to work, like any other artist, is important. The isolation of the Old Police House means that I can work long hours, which I frequently do, and record 24/7, working with visiting artists and finishing recordings for my own work. As a DJ, it is a priority of mine to keep the place busy with all different kinds of DJs and musics, whether that be record label owners, young families with their children, visiting theatre folk, young DJs like NOISESTRA or just myself.  The live music that is shared and enjoyed has such a positive energy which brings life in to the building.” As any visitor to the venue will attest, it is not a place where hierarchies and egos live long: rather than business, it’s expression, creativity and community that are the driving forces here.

At a time when the Star & Shadow Cinema has been temporarily closed, the emergence of an inclusive, welcoming and diverse artistic space like the Old Police House that supports arts across the spectrum has been vital. Asked about this diversity, Rezaei observed, “It’s no coincidence that The Old Police House is supportive of the DIY, experimental scene as both Adam and I work in this scene.  We’ve hosted all-day gigs, Algoraves, dance performances, theatre workshops, poetry readings, DJ schools and much more. We both believe in supporting the local music community, sharing and linking with local music from other communities (in particular Glasgow with the Asparagus Piss Raindrop ensemble and Sheffield with The Audacious Art Experiment) and support new, young and innovative art in the area.”

old police house INBODY

It’s unsurprising then that the TUSK Festival partnered up with the Old Police House to expand the parameters of this year’s festival. “Working with Lee Etherington and running a TUSK Fringe event has been a great experience. We have an enthusiastic audience at the Old Police House already and the TUSK audience added to that vibrant energy. We do love a good party here!”

Alongside the TUSK Festival, the Old Police House has played host to a variety of other nights and performances, including events from experimental music promoters Blue Rinse and (for this writer at least) a very memorable gig from noise-punk trio Beauty Pageant. Also a home for Rhodri Davies’ popular improvisational and experimental music showcase, Hauskonzert, Mariam’s keen for the venue to be an eclectic space. There are plans afoot for a very special New Year’s Eve party to celebrate the best in local creativity and to provide a far more engaged and friendly way to see in the New Year. As Rezaei explained, “Keeping away from the Geordie Shore hell of the diamond strip and the city centre, we like to keep a relaxed and friendly vibe for New Year’s. DJs confirmed so far include Richard Dawson, Alt-Vinyl’s Graham Thrower, Mark Wardlaw, Kuba and myself. It’s going to be an insane mixed bag of rare and specialist tunes to get down to!”

To keep up to date with gigs and events at The Old Police House, keep an eye on their Facebook page.

MICROSOFT performing live at The Old Police House from THE OLD POLICE HOUSE on Vimeo.

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