How did you get involved with the Live is Alive project?
I was very much missing contact with venues, as it has been my life in Brighton for 23 years now. I hold the diary and do the productions for the larger concerts at St George’s Church, be it through Melting Vinyl or attracting other hirers, we do about 20 shows a year. I just thought that has to be some shared knowledge that would be good to have. I am part of a group called What’s Next who would meet every week and it was a good way of coming together of different cultural organisations and I asked if we could have a discussion focused on promoters and venues to see where they are at. There are 40+ venues and 40+ promoters in Brighton and I felt like there was a real disconnect between us all due to pandemic, so I wanted to see if there was an opportunity for us to work together and share knowledge between us.
Andrew Comben chaired the initial meeting and it eventually came to being that we as a group of venues would work on some programming a series of events at The Dome and that was Live is Alive.
Working to put on shows has been my lifeblood, so not doing so was a bit of a shock to the system, so I was keen to get involved however and help out however I could. I come from the grassroots in brighton and I understand what it means to people and what it means to the city so I’ve just been supporting the venues and the people at The Dome for this in whatever way I can. It has been a real honour.
How has it been working as a collective?
It has been really good and really unique for all these venues across Brighton to come together for a singular project. Most of the time all these places, and the people that work there are so busy with their own venues and events that they all work independently of one another, but especially in such a small city it has been so good to come together, get to know each other and all work towards the same goal.
The event is very much about focusing on the venues, and then what comes from this are the artists. Each venue has programmed different performers, so each night is a celebration of the different parts of the city’s music scene.
And the response has been positive?
Absolutely. All but one of the shows has sold out of its physical capacity and the other is almost there. There are streaming tickets for all of the events too which has been great, that has also been going really well. Even though the Dome itself is limited to a 250 capacity, people can still witness the event, experience a night of live music and support the city’s venues by purchasing a streaming ticket and watching from home.
I know that each event is going to be special, it is going to be quite emotional, quite overwhelming but in a good way. To be at the first night in this wonderful venue and all these wonderful bands and people, and all in such bizarre circumstances, is going to be emotional for sure.
The lineup is a diverse one, was this a consideration when programming it?
Absolutely. It is a really great selection of bands, it’s a real cross section of independent cultures. Brighton has such an amazing independent arts scene with so many walks of life in terms of ethnicities, genders and age groups, and it’s really nice to see this represented in the acts playing. Each venue has their own style when it comes to music and it shows in the programme.
It was something we really wanted to consider when we were booking artists. As a woman in the music industry, Brighton is a lot more comfortable place to be, it is a lot more accepting than other places. I can’t speak for other people, but I have found it to be a democratic, open minded scene that is very accepting of people for who they are, so it was important for us to have this diversity in the line up.
One of the other remits that we had, was that the artists themselves had to be very “alive”. They had to be able to command a stage. It would have been difficult to bring on artists like singer songwriters, or bands that had just started out, it wouldn’t have been fair on the performers, or on the audience.
How has the covid pandemic, and following lockdowns been for yourself in the promotions industry?
Right now it seems like we are continuously pushing shows further into the future, but that said I am in a much better position than I was at the start of the pandemic as no one in the industry knew if we were going to be getting Government support, or what it may be, there weren’t these grants to help plan for the future, which we do have now.
Most of the promoters and agents that I am dealing with are now looking towards the end of summer/autumn next year for shows. There is so much that needs to be put in place well in advance of events that people may not quite realise. Our industry can’t just bounce back straight away, the infrastructure has been altered with many people having to retrain in the short term, and that will take some time to build back up when feasible. I would have thought we as an industry will need around six month’s notice before we really come back, it takes time to organise events, especially when artists are maybe travelling from overseas, there are issues of Visas, flights, accommodation, we can’t just open our doors tomorrow and have it back.
Do you feel the bigger picture sometimes gets missed when it comes to venue closures?
Well the last show we put on at St George’s Church was in March and it has been so strange to not have had any since. There is a definite knock on to not hosting these events. Not only are venues and promoters not earning any income from shows, but there are a lot of other staff members who work on the bars, as stewards, in security that are all without that income. It is crucial for so many people all throughout the entire infrastructure that are dependent in some way on these shows going ahead, which obviously they haven’t been.
How do you see the sector progressing?
With the way developments are going we are looking at the beginning of the autumn season for things to be coming back. Late summer and autumn is one of the two key touring hotspots of the year, and should there be movement on vaccines, or a working test and trace system, that will most likely be the point where things return in a clearer way.
I believe that Brighton will become more of an outdoors city in the near future. We have seen it move that way this summer with Fringe Festival returning in a new way, as well as other community groups and organisers working on outdoor-based entertainment events. Venues are now having to look at potentially moving to outdoor spaces, and I know that many already have, The Warren and its association with Komedia for example. I know that there are developments in regards to finding outdoor spaces to make sure that live music and arts can have a platform in these times.