The events of past few months have seen the future of live music in Norwich come into question. The factors contributing to this are numerous, with one of the primary influences being the decline in support from the Ei Publican following multiple threats to increase rents of venues that support grass roots music and up and coming musicians.
Multiple hits to essential venues such as Gibraltar Gardens, The Brickmakers, The Garden House and The York Tavern have lead to the banding together of Norwich’s live music community to form The Future of Norwich Music Forum, in order to address the mounting concerns of musicians and music lovers alike.
The Brickmakers in particular saw huge levels uproar upon news of its closure, and has since received a mass of online attention in the form of petitions signed by over 10,000 people and a fund started by free local music publication Outline.
There have been questions raised as to what UEA could be doing to support local music venues external to the university-owned LCR and Waterfront venues.
Speaking to Concrete on the issue, The Future of Norwich Music founder and UEA Alumnus Megan Thrift explained her concerns with regarding the fragmented connection between the students of UEA and events held in city. She discussed the intersection between her former role as UEA Live Music Society’s Secretary and the social aspect of Norwich’s music scene, explaining that she often ‘struggled to drag my friends away from the university to watch live music’.
She expressed sadness towards the potential loss of The Brickmakers, stating that they ‘give so much support to up and coming bands’, offering to film the set of each band that played their in order to provide performance footage for those that otherwise wouldn’t be able to do so.
When asked on what could be done by the university to increase accessibility and efficiency when promoting live events, she said:
“Even when it came to Zig Zag festival last year, we found that there was a lot of jumping through hoops to be done in order to get publicity on campus. We tried our best but had a lot of feedback from people that came to say that they didn’t see anything about it. There’s only so much that sponsored posts on Facebook can do.”
In October we spoke to numerous students both undergraduate and postgraduate about the means and the frequency of their access live music while at university. We found that across this sample the majority of people experienced their nightlife exclusively in clubs such as Loft and Mantra over traditional live music venues, raising questions about what could be done by the university to improve this relationship.
Worryingly, 28% of those interviewed could not remember the last live act they saw, with those that did remember often drawing from acts featured in UEA’s Freshers programme such as Scouting For Girls’ Leavers Ball headline slot last summer. The data was clear in its suggestion that student’s at UEA rarely come into contact with the many events held in the city. Moreso, a rising trend could be seen in the way in which students discover events, with 71% of students having discovered live music via social media, over posters and newsletters.
The Future of Norwich Music Forum has been created in order to address some of these issues, having held two meetings since its creation. The first, held at The Brickmakers, was chaired by UEA Alumni and former Live Music Society Secretary Megan Thrift and Campaigner and Musician Jon Fennell. Discussion points included the closures of venues, the creation of a new database and website for promoters and bands, issues with promotion of gigs, namely, UEA’s position on advertising on campus.
The second, held at Epic studios, consisted of 3 panel discussions consisting of various figures within the Norwich music industry, from musicians themselves to the press. The issues covered by each panel consisted of publicity and advertising, the work of the Music Venue Trust, and improving people’s access to live music in Norwich.
The discussions targeted many of the issues importance to the 100+ attendees, with Danielle Boden of the Eastern Daily Press and Kevin Maddams of local music publication Outline providing valuable information as to how musicians can get their shows promoted through their outlets. Clare Cullen, representative for the Music Venue Trust, discussed her experiences having been contacted by many of the venues currently affected by rising rents.
A representative from the Brickmakers referenced the work the MVT had done in Parliament to highlight the issues affecting music venues across the country. Across Europe, the average subsidy for for grassroots venues ranges is 42% – in Britain this figure lies at just 0.7%. An update was given during one of the panels that the venue will be pursuing legal action with regards to the threat of its own closure.
The MVT’s assessment of the problem has concluded that a reasonable solution would be pipeline investment fund, which would involve 50p from each arena ticket sales contributing to this. This fund would be open for grassroots venues to withdraw from and support venues, promotion and musicians.
Concrete spoke to Campaigns and Democracy Officer Sophie Atherton on what UEA could do to assist live music venues in Norwich. When asked what resources are available to people wanting to promote shows at venues external to UEA, Atherton said that the university does provide these opportunities but ‘will be introducing a method of promotion for those students in weekly campus distribution runs’, to ensure that the university can continue to operate as ‘the leading ticketing platform in the Norfolk area’.
“We welcome the opportunity to make new connections with venues, promoters and artists to create a wider network to help Norwich as a premier live music destination.”
“All of the events listed on the website are the events collated by our box office team which is a small part of the team working at uea(su). We recently had Gladboy and Marigolds perform at the Waterfront, both of whom feature current UEA students. We would love to work with more student acts and they get in touch with our box office team at firstname.lastname@example.org”