Independent Venue Week 2020: 'Seeing a band you love raise hell in your favourite hangout is about as good as it gets'
- David Pollock
- 23 January 2020
Giant Drag play the Hug & Pint on Tue 28 Jan
Representatives from three Scottish venues tell us what being a part of IVW means to them
Now a national fixture in the UK's live music calendar, with a similar US operation happening in the summer, Independent Venue Week continues to champion the kind of small and independent grassroots music venues which gave – and continue to provide – most people who love live music some of their most formative and exciting experiences.
Across Scotland, there are full-week programmes at venues including Edinburgh's much-loved Sneaky Pete's, including sets by local artists Cloth and Carla J Easton, while Glasgow will welcome gigs at Sauchiehall Street fixture Broadcast, the Flying Duck and Southside local the Glad Café, among others. There will also be gigs at Aberdeen's Krakatoa and Dundee's Beat Generator Live, including a special intimate show at the latter by Twin Atlantic, as part of their comeback trail. Here, we speak to three Scottish venues about what Independent Venue Week means to them.
Jamie Forrester, Events Booker and Venue Manager at Leith Depot, Edinburgh
This will be Leith Depot's fourth Independent Venue Week. We look forward to it every year as it's a great opportunity for young bands and musicians, as well as seasoned pros, to get together and celebrate live music. We treat IVW as a week-long party, it brings energy and good vibes. It feels like a big event, and people are keen to come along to be a part of it.
I think we provide a supportive grassroots music venue; a welcoming and safe place for bands and artists to do what they do. We feel proud to be a part of the community and are in a fortunate position to be able to offer a dedicated space for arts, creativity, music and culture – and in return, people feel free to express themselves and connect with each other here. Our venue gives young people a platform to perform, and it offers locals the chance to host a gig, a film screening or a club night, and the opportunity to see bigger name bands in an intimate setting.
Next week we have a full week of gigs, ranging from rock to electronica, folk to punk, and everything in-between – including FemmeFest 2020, a full day of female-identifying musicians playing original music. Flow State Music and Stellar Sounds will be running a fundraising event for Save Leith Walk (the campaign to save the block which Leith Depot is a part of from being knocked down for development), and Callum Mackinnon is hosting his album launch for Bottle of Rain. It's a great line-up, we're looking forward to it.
For sure, IVW is a nice thing to be a part of. It's a great annual music event that connects bands and venues with people, and highlights the need for live music whilst recognising local businesses.
Ryan Drever, Press and Marketing Officer at 432 Presents, Glasgow (The Hug & Pint, Blue Arrow)
We've been taking part in Independent Venue Week via the Hug & Pint since we opened in June 2015, and now with the Blue Arrow too. We care passionately about live music and the communities at the heart of independent venues, so it made sense to be a part of something that supports that. So many iconic venues all over the UK have been squeezed out or shut down, but it's great that so many people are now showing their support for these smaller places, without which many of the biggest acts on the planet would have had no place to start.
We take our programming very seriously and always book what we care about, but IVW brings with it a brand that people recognise, so it feels like a festival of its own. We'd like to think that people come and see our shows because they're strong shows, as well as wanting to support local venues, but having shows registered as part of IVW means they're all listed together, so I think it does encourage folks to head to places they haven't been to before or to take a punt on something. They're usually all very busy, and overlapping with Celtic Connections, there's a particularly big buzz in Glasgow over that week, which is quite extraordinary for such a miserable month.
We've got a mix of stuff coming up next week, including Giant Drag, Rev Magnetic and the one and only Romeo Taylor. I suppose acts feel the benefit of being part of something supportive, which highlights their show and offers a window to different audiences they might not normally find. Seeing a band you love raise hell in your favourite hangout is about as good as it gets, although it's also incredibly challenging to run a small venue. Like any small business, you can have anything and everything thrown at you at any moment, which is why the support of the local community and the wider music industry is incredibly important.
I think IVW brings a sense of solidarity. People of all ages who have grown up going to live shows have no doubt quickly found places they love, and love to play, but many of those places are now sadly lost. So IVW is about something as simple as wanting to put your money where your mouth is and show your support. Great places have suffered and disappeared over the years, and I think being part of this week together under the same banner is a great way of highlighting just how many like-minded venue communities there are all over the UK. It's amazing, but we've got to work hard to keep these places going.
Chris Wemyss, Venue Manager at Mac Arts, Galashiels
Mac Arts has been taking part in Independent Venue Week for three years. For a geographically isolated venue like ours, being part of IVW makes us part of a community of venues, and it sends a message to audiences, performers, promoters and other venues that we are the same as – if not better than – many other 300-capacity venues in the Central Belt. We see a slight upturn in visitors during the week, and being a part of something bigger brings new audiences to us.
We're the only venue in the Scottish Borders which programs similar acts to the likes of Sneaky Pete's (in Edinburgh) and King Tut's (in Glasgow), albeit in lower numbers at this point, so if we didn't exist people would have to travel to Edinburgh or Newcastle to experience what we can provide, or accept local covers bands. The biggest pressure for us is audience numbers. We had thought we would attract a regular audience from around the venue, but we've now discovered that transport is a major issue. Some local towns don't have direct transport links, or the last bus is very early.
We also struggle to be seen as part of the touring circuit; Galashiels isn't on many people's bucket list. However, we've overcome a lot of that by making sure we do a better job than a lot of venues. We cook for the headline, the support, their crew and ours, and we all sit down together before the gig, and support bands get properly paid. All of this has paid off in securing shows from Scouting for Girls, the Wedding Present, Jah Wobble, the Vaselines, John Cooper Clarke, Tide Lines and so on.
Our IVW line-up has grown over the years. The first two years we only put on one show during the week, with the Ninth Wave in 2018 then Bossy Love in '19, but this year we have three; the Borders Youth Music Forum's Sound Cycle album launch, Salsa Celtica, and Honeyblood with support from Indigo Velvet. As a rural venue, it's a fantastic opportunity to become part of a national event that puts us on an equal footing with other venues, which helps open more doors for us.
This year the IVW team are coming to our Salsa Celtica gig, and we get a few shout outs on BBC 6 Music and from Vic Galloway on Radio Scotland. I'm sure all of these things are helped by being part of IVW and membership of other national organisations like the Music Venues Trust, and that promoters and artists are drawn to a venue that's been part of IVW, rather than an unknown local pub with a back room.
Independent Venue Week takes place in various venues across Scotland from Mon 27 Jan to Sun 2 Feb. See independentvenueweek.com for full listings of IVW shows across Scotland.