INTERVIEW // SYBIL BELL - FOUNDER - INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK - Unique Lullaby
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INTERVIEW // SYBIL BELL - FOUNDER - INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK

- Thursday, 7 February 2019. to read...




The past week has been positively jam packed with live music across hundreds of independent venues spanning
a vast array of different genres. Performances have included, Artist Ambassador - Novelist, Public Service Broadcasting
Tim Burgess and some of the most exciting emerging bands and artists. Independent Venues are the gateway
and beginnings of something really special as this is where new music and expressionism blossoms and
you could be stood at the very birth of something huge.


I recently caught up with Sybil Bell, the founder of Independent Venue Week. We talk; The
upcoming Documentary, how you can donate via the Crowd Funding Campaign, early beginnings,
the future of IVW, supporting your local venues, the first IVW gig & band and
more - Take a read below


Hello Sybil, thank you so much for catching up with me today.

You've been on the road at the moment up and down across the country and you're
filming a documentary with Philip Selway from Radiohead, which is ace!
How was it all been going so far?

I think it's been amazing. I met up with Blue hippo Media, the production company
and Philip down in Moles in bath and they were already there when I got there because
I'd been over at Bristol. So they'd already started their filming. It was interesting for me
to go back. I used to own Moles many years ago and I haven't been back for
10 years. So it was nice, I went back with mixed feelings, but it was great
to see some friendly faces and the bands were both fantastic really.
And it got the week off to a good start.
Tom who owns Moles had got some scrapbooks out from when Moles first started
and been bought by Phil Andrews. Philip Selway spoke to lots of people there,
lots of staff, the management and people who just rep the shows there
and it was just really good.

And of course we spoke to Philip last Autumn and he just said could he get involved?
Could he come along and go back to some of the venues that he'd played with
Radiohead when they first started out 25/30 years ago, and so it's taken on a slightly
new life and it's just really lovely to have somebody who has played these
venues so long ago and has gone on to do such incredible things to be able
to go back and tell the story really from an artist's point of view because I think
that's where there's a lot of rich storytelling to be done.

Absolutely and it's great, like you said, to have a member of a band that started out playing these venues,
it just shows the success and how important these venues are in getting these bands out there and
getting them heard.

That's it! And I think, you know, it was the reason for setting up Independent Venue Week
in the first place was to try to spotlight the heroes among these venues because they
certainly don't do it for any accolades. The band's can go on and get bigger and bigger
and grow their audiences. But the venue's can't physically grow. One or
two can maybe open up new rooms but they're never going to reach the
Stadium or Arena level and that's not what they're there for but I think it was
just about time that we told the story of these people some of them are the most remarkable
characters I've ever met.

I can go around on my own and walk into a venues and I'll know
people that I've seen before and if I've not been there before people are just
so warm and friendly, I think there's something about having a passion for music
and arts and caring about your community that just makes these places really magical.

Oh definitely, I have felt exactly that in every venue I've visited too. Looking back at independent venue week
when it started out with 17 venues being involved and of course its expanded in numbers as it has grown
geographically. It must be great to see the growth over the years?

It did start out with 17 venues being involved and that's obviously expanded massively
over the years because it was just me and I look back now, and in fact Colin who works
with me told me in year 2 that "I remember when you went from 17 to 91 venues".
You know, I remember working to sort of one o'clock in the morning in the first two months
because I there was so much to think about I look back now at what we did when it was
17 venues and I look I can say my goodness. It was a breeze really. We deliberately
kept it small in year one because it was just me and I think it's really important when
you build something like this and we didn't know if it would go beyond year one.

We deal with,
well over a hundred and fifty promoters who are the main points of contacts
often for those venues. We've got a list of artists. I don't know how many that is
how many hundreds that is, you know from, young emerging artists right up to the
people who we've been very fortunate enough to work with you, you know for
Ambassador roles. And as you say Phillip on the documentary and then you know,
we've got BBC music now. There are endless endless conversations and dealings to be had.
So Colin now runs everything in the UK. She oversees the whole project. She's got Ruby and Charlie.
They're working with us this year. Brilliantly talented good fun people to work with. Yeah, and
I've been working on the documentary. Something else. I can't talk about it the moment doing all
the Ambassador relationship and then working with the BBC. So there's a lot there's a lot to
think about.

Definitely! And I was based in Cardiff for a while and while I was there a lot of the
independent venues were facing closure. That's when the Womanby Street campaign came about
and it brought in that community support that actually saved the venue.
Now venues like Gwdihw are facing closure at the moment, which is really sad.

Yes. I know we've been in touch with them. It's awful. It's a it's a shocking state of affairs
really and I think there are some serious issues there that do need to be addressed.
I think what we aim to do with independent Venue Week is say to people, go to a gig,
you know, you very often see people coming out of the woodwork when you get threatened
with closure. Why are you not there throughout the year and it's not about browbeating
people. It's about saying to people at the start of the year. Why don't you just set asides
maybe one night a month two nights a month once a week just to go to a gig and if you're
not sure go to a couple of gigs during the week and if you love it, then you'll realize how
great a night out is and then continue that throughout the year.

Absolutely, you have to experience the thrill and excitement of these gigs to understand and want more.
How important do you think independent venues are in creating that community and bringing people
together?

You know, I know we have social media. I know we have online, but actually where people
buzz off each other and get ideas and exchange are at these venues. Thoughts and creativity
is in the person, usually in a cultural space and there is no cultural space that is more diverse
than these live music venues. There is just so much more than just the music and on
top of that you've got all these people who are interested in working in live music and can't
play an instrument, can't hold a note but would make brilliant tour managers. Yeah, fantastic
Sound Engineers. Why shouldn't there be you know, we say this a lot at the moment. If you
don't know anyone in the music industry and you want to get your foot in the door, there is no
easier door to get in than a music venue because as soon as you walk through the door, there
will be a promoter will be a band they'll be a sound guy and they'll be a lighting guy.

So many important people to network with! Also The genres span across the week nicely. You’ve got Novelist as an Artist Ambassador, Tim Burgess, Public Service Broadcasting and jam packed week of exciting up and coming talent too? 

Yeah, you know what he and his team have been an absolute pleasure to work with
and it's taken us a while to to find anyone from that community of either Grime or hip-hop or
Urban or just as he likes to classify himself, quite rightly, more as just as a general musician and
producer because artists from those genres don't historically break in these venues.
They tend to play house parties or they go and pay bigger venues, but as a collective, and I
think what we're trying to say is, if you're an artist from any of those honors try playing
some of these venues because you open yourself up to a new audience and we're saying
to the venue's allow your audiences to hear some of these new artists who have got some incredible
music.

So for us independent venue week is as much about the shows that you would expect to see
and also an opportunity for us to bring performances that you wouldn't expect to see

Absolutely! And it's great that you're now involved with the US, which is really exciting for the
geographical spread of Independent Venue Week?

I said to the our partners out there, just go really small try and get a good
geographical spread across the whole country, but just do a few so that you can work out.
You know what, the structure that we do this is the time scales that we work with and they
did that last year. I think we have 20 venues, so very similar to us in the UK and they're
back again this year. We're doing an announcement a couple of days after the
end of our VW to talk about the Ambassador they've got and the first tranche of venues
all signed up. So there's always something going on, which is fantastic.

Would you like to expand even further?

Yeah! We've got a couple of territories in mind for next year. I mean, we're a really tiny team so it
really what will work for us, who is most interested and has the capacity to help make it
happen.

And can you remember the first gig you attended in a Grassroots venue for Independant
Venue Week?

Yeah, It was at the Half-Moon in Putney. and the very first band on were The Amazing Snakeheads
who I saw for the first time, blew my socks off. They were absolutely amazing actually and it's just
so sad and I didn't realize until after it happened that I think it was last year one of the band
members, Dale Berkeley passed away. He died at 32 absolutely had a rare form of brain cancer.
I was so shocked I wasn't aware that he was poorly but that show will always have a place in
my heart for being the very first show on the very first night of the very first independent a new week and
they were just outstanding. You know, what they drove eight hours from Glasgow down to London,
played for 30 minutes and drove back that night. There are there are very few. If any careers
where your job takes you 16 hours of traveling for half an hour work and the petrol would have
cost them more than that. But you know half-million Putney is a very iconic venue.
Kate Bush played there in the 60s. It was a hotbed of artists and that was our very first venue in
year 1 so that will always hold a very special place.

Definitely, I think all us avid gig goers, music lovers and artists have those special venues which hold a big
place in our hearts.

Oh yes, definitely. There's four of us in the team this year. They're having the time of their life
going around seeing places that we've talked endlessly about. We launched the campaign this year
called "Where Does Music Take You?" I will be pushing it harder throughout
the year.
It's about saying to people, because when you see an artist on tour you see the list of all
the venues that they're playing even if you're only going to the one in your hometown so, you
would know about the Leadmill in Sheffield about The Adelphi in hull. And ask yourself When
did you go? Have you ever been? Because actually if you've got a group of friends together and
went there for the weekend, the gig may be the reason that you travel but you'll find out so much
more about another part of the country that you've never been to. Yeah, and I can guarantee you'll
absolutely love it. I've spoken to both Ruby and Charlie today and they both can't wait to get
back to Hull Cause you know, it's a wonderful wonderful City with some of the most wonderful people.
I would encourage everyone to go and to get themselves to a gigand go and discover some new places.





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