Covering everything from bars to concert halls and much more, 120 venues are taking part in the this year's Independent Venue Week festival by hosting a spectrum of acts – including this year's official ambassadors Wolf Alice (singer Ellie Rowsell pictured) – for a series of special shows which will take place between 25-31 January – see Independentvenueweek.com/ for full details and ticket news. In a guest column founder Sybil Bell explains why we need Independent Venue Week.
Independent Venue Week is a seven day celebration of small music venues around the UK and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them, week in, week out. These venues give artists their first experience of playing live in front of an audience and for fans, somewhere to get up close to artists that one day, may well be playing stadiums and festival main stages.
We started in 2014 with just 17 venues and over the course of the week, 69 artists play 17 shows to just over 2300 people. In 2015, we had 91 venues with 820 artists playing 216 gigs and gig-goers rocketed to nearly 33000. This year, we’re working with 120. Venues put on gigs over as many days as they like that week and, where we can, we hook them up directly with artists, labels, promoters and media to play and curate shows. This year we are also working with Attitude is Everything as well as a gig buddy scheme for people with learning difficulties.
We’ve had huge support from across the industry and were lucky enough to have Colin Greenwood as our first ambassador which Frank Turner took over last year. This year, that role has been taken by Wolf Alice who have had an incredible year and epitomise why starting out playing small venues is the perfect foundation for later success.
Artists, especially those that have gone on to huge success, are happy to support the project because they all started out playing these venues so it’s great to see them give something back.
It doesn’t cost anything for venues to take part but they have to be independent. For us that means not sponsored or owned by a music business that has multiple interests in music. We do look at some venues on a case by case basis. We insist that all gigs are paid tickets – it gives all the venues an equal footing and there is so much free access to music these days. Some people are happy enough to pay for an overpriced coffee, no great nights or special memories come from that.
IVW has grown incredibly quickly and the feedback we’ve had from the venues is overwhelmingly positive. We have created an equal platform for everyone to show what they do and hopefully encourage people to (re)discover the romance of a live gig. Never mind the gym or online dating – go and hurl yourself around at the front and meet like-minded people. Sybil Bell @SybilBell
For more head to Independentvenueweek.com.