INTERVIEW: INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image: Eliza Lawson by Craig Abbott

The very lifeblood of any region’s musical and cultural scene is embodied by the grassroots ecosystem; independent venues and the artists, crew and audiences which depend on them are absolutely vital to the health of a music scene, and considering the dire circumstances of the last two years, they need more help now than ever.

It’s initiatives like Independent Venue Week, which takes place across the UK from Monday 31st-Sunday 6th February, that highlight the great venues on music lovers’ doorsteps, with the hope that by shining a blazing light on them and celebrating a flurry of high profile live shows, audiences will continue to flock to them year-round. Our region is blessed with a multitude of great spaces, owned and run by passionate people who have a real dedication to the health of the music scene.

Jimmy Beck from Stockton’s KU Bar, explains why IVW is important to him. “I’m a big fan of the initiative, especially the timing of it. It’s no secret venues are not as busy after their December schedules and they find it a little risky to put on as many shows, so to help draw the fantastic talent at that time of year is great.”

Mark Elliot from North Shields venue The Engine Room explains that the community approach IVW takes has advantages for all. “We are all in this together and all impacted upon, and that is something that this government has largely failed to realise. So IVW can potentially help all of us, not just venues.”

Just getting to the point where we can engage in a national celebration of live music feels like we’re moving closer to some degree of normality

Ben Richardson from Sunderland’s aptly named Independent is also full of praise for the programme. IVW really helps us as a venue to celebrate the work we do year round and get more eyes and ears on our programmes. In the past we’ve been involved in radio interviews and extra promo during the week, as well as having the chance to host some great live shows.”

While the last two years may have been full of uncertainty and worry, in some instances audiences have already heeded the plight of local venues, as Ben explains:People have been particularly helpful and willing to come out to shows since we reopened last summer, despite the recent downfall in attendance with the rise in Covid cases we had some heavily supported projects in 2021.

The region’s independent venues are rising to the challenge of programming headline-worthy shows during the week, some – like North Shields’ Engine Room – are focusing their shows on under-represented groups across all genres, while bigger spaces like The Georgian Theatre welcome pop superstars like James Bay (Friday 4th). Of particular note regionally are gigs from alt. songwriter St James Infirmary (Tuesday 1st, The Engine Room, North Shields); emerging artist Sarah Johnsone (Wednesday 2nd, Little Buildings, Newcastle); masked garage rockers Wax Heart Sodality with support from rambunctious rock ‘n’ roll band Scruffy Bear and slacker popster James Leonard Hewitson (Wednesday 2nd, The Forum Music Centre, Darlington); evocative folk musician George Boomsma, with superb support from Kate Bond and Faye Fantarrow (Thursday 3rd, Old Cinema Launderette, Durham); Teesside popsters Cherry Head, Cherry Heart and supports Jenny Lascelles and Eliza Lawson (Thursday 3rd, NE Volume Music Bar, Stockton); fuzz popsters The K’s (Friday 4th, KU Bar, Stockton); and indie rock trio Don Coyote who perform with R&B artist Frankie Jobling (Saturday 5th, Bobik’s, Newcastle).

The Georgian Theatre and Tees Music Alliance’s Paul Burns sums up the hope that many venues are feeling as they cautiously head into the new year: “Just getting to the point where we can engage in a national celebration of live music feels like we’re moving closer to some degree of normality.”

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout