Komedia: “Live performance is part of the very fabric of our community”

Header image by Indy Brewer // Instagram: Indyebrewer // Site: www.indybrewer.com

Komedia is one of Brighton’s most iconic venues. Situated in the very heart of the city, it has held host to countless bands, comedians, film events and club nights within its storied walls. Ahead of Live is Alive, we spoke to Komedia’s Lex Hollingworth about working with other venues to create the event, the impact of lockdown, the importance of Britain’s cultural sector and two of the best up and coming bands in the city – LibraLibra and Super Dupes. 

Undercurrent: How did Live is Alive come around, what was your role in it?

Lex Hollingworth: “My understanding is that it came about when Andrew Comben of the Dome announced in a Zoom meeting with Whats Next? Participants that the Dome planned to open in October and if any other venues wanted to bring their events to the Dome then then he would be open to talking about it.

Many of the independent venues in town had already started a Grassroots Venue Collective to help each other tackle the growing list of problems that small to medium scale venues face, long before the Covid-19 crisis had taken hold. (The Pipeline, The Brunswick, The Old Market, The Hope and Ruin, The Green Door Store, The Komedia and The Latest Music Bar). So we approached the Dome with the proposal that they could allow us free use of the space for a series of fundraisers for local grassroots venues. Thankfully the Dome accepted this proposal and have been very generous with their resources ever since, and we have been able to grow the collective of venues who are receiving support to the money raised by these events. This fundraising will by no means be enough to save any venues but it does allow us a platform to remind people we are still here and we are fighting for our lives.”

Live Is Alive! partners include: Attenborough Centre for the Arts, Brighton Dome – host venue. The Brunswick, CHALK, Brighton, Concorde 2, The Green Door Store, The Hope & Ruin, Komedia, Latest Music Bar, Music Venue Alliance Brighton, The Old Market, The Pipeline, The Prince Albert, and St George’s Church.

You nominated Super Dupes and LibraLibra for the event, what was behind this decision? What is it about the bands that made you choose them?

The Super Dupes are a band that I felt passionately about getting involved. They are a fantastically talented group with an eclectic, rich and mature sound; effortlessly fusing funk, jazz, prog-rock and afrobeat; Oozing auditory honey and stretching the listeners musical boundaries. But more than that, they formed during the depths of the lock-down, and during that time when many people didn’t dare to leave their houses, the Super Dupes could be seen all over the streets of Brighton, jamming it out, forming their sound, and bringing the people of our fair city one of the only experiences of live entertainment that was on offer. I loved watching them play and seeing the joy that they were bringing to passers-by, at a time that they needed it most. It was a special moment in time and one I will never forget. 

Libra Libra are another Brighton-based band that I think many of the Grassroots Venues wanted to put forward. They are a powerhouse of punk, garage-rock and experimentation with a female vocalist that could sing the house down. Ever since Melting Vinyl brought them to Komedia supporting the Flamingods I have been an avid fan and I think they will be able to fill the Dome with their epic sound seamlessly. 

With different venues putting forward different bands, do you feel the event is a representation of the truly diverse live scene in Brighton?

Yes, the events really showcase the best of the local music scene, which is exceptionally strong and diverse. There were so many bands that could have been put forward and would have loved to have been put forward for.

It’s been a wonderful exercise to have all the venues working together on this programme, everyone brings something different into the fold and I really feel that has been represented by the programme.

In regards to this, do you feel this really draws attention to just how important the sector is? It seems to be part of the very fabric of Brighton’s, if not the UK’s culture?

I think the pandemic has really shown us all what is important to us, and for many the joy of a live performance, and that shared experience with people you care about has really shone through as one of the major losses. Music in particular is the most emotive of all the art forms, it’s a natural release for performer and listener, and in a time where everyone’s mental health is feeling the strain, live music is a medicine we badly need. Likewise I’m a big believer in the power of dance, being taken away by the music, letting your inhibitions and body run free will be a powerful moment when standing shows can return.

As well as providing the parts of life that make it worthwhile, venues and live music are critical in terms of both their economic and social impact, is this being overlooked?

To my mind, I don’t think I’m over exaggerating when I say, Britain has the richest musical history on the planet, we have formed and developed so many genres, decade after decade building the richest of tapestries. How such a grey island, home to the stiff upper lip, manages to persevere with such creative flair and experimentation is a question I love to ponder. I think this has been massively overlooked, not only is the creative ecology of Britain one of the things we can be most proud of, it’s also a gigantic part of the economy and the government’s tax revenue. I feel this government has vastly over-looked the creative sector. I personally believe the funding should have been far further reaching and easier to access, although I am grateful it existed at all. Also, I must to say, Caroline Lucas has been a great support to venues, championing our cause in the commons and generally staying in close contact.

How has the current climate impacted Komedia?

Well Komedia has been closed for over seven months, haemorrhaging money, making practically zero income, great people have lost their jobs and those of us who remain are under a severe amount of pressure to keep this beloved venue afloat. Not only that, we are a vital part of the artistic communities’ livelihoods, so many creatives and freelancers have lost out due to our closure, not to mention all the satellite organisations such as our suppliers and the surrounding hospitalities industries that feed and water our audiences pre and post show. These are really hard times, I hope we can make it through, I can only ask anyone reading this, please flood back in quickly when we reopen and bring all your friends if you can!

Whilst it is great to see venues and bands coming together for a common cause, it is worrying that it has got to this stage at all. What would your key points be for ensuring the future of live performance both in Brighton and the UK?

Well fundamentally the creative industry has to be supported by the government. It is not a lucrative business for those running these places, we do it for the love of artistic expression and for the joy it brings to the people of the city. Many of us have been living on a knife edge for years, governments and councils have been much better at closing venues down than supporting them, and this must fundamentally change. That said, as mentioned, Caroline Lucas has been a great to us venues, and has really been championing our cause in the commons and generally staying in close contact. Live performance is part of the very fabric of our community, we need this devastating situation to be a catalyst for change. Governments need to get their priorities right, nourishing peoples creativity, prioritising the sum of peoples happiness and looking after our planet is where the focus should have been all along. Creative hubs often champion all these ideas and that is why they need to be protected.

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