Exeter Cultural Partnership

Engaging, empowering, energising culture in Exeter

Exeter Music and Sound Forum - inaugural meeting report (7.6.17)

Thank you very much to those who attended the first Forum last night. I've written up notes (below), and I hope you feel I got everything down.

For the next Forum it would be great to have both a chair (Simon Belshaw this time) and someone else to take notes and write them up for sharing. Any volunteers?

The next Forum will take place at The Workshop, Exeter Phoenix, on Thursday 20th July 6.30-8.30pm. Please share this as widely as you can.

Best wishes

Emma Welton

Exeter Music and Sound Forum

Notes from meeting at The Globe, Clifton Street, Exeter, Weds 7th June 2017

Written up by Emma Welton… who also chaired…

About 30 people attended the first Exeter Music and Sound Forum. After half an hour of networking, Emma Welton welcomed everyone and described how the Forum came about. This Forum was inspired by an Artist Development Day held by Exeter Visual Arts Forum. The day offered Professional development and introduction to Exeter Cultural Partnership’s Culture Director Martin Thomas. Much of the content would have been equally helpful and relevant to people working in music and sound art. Emma reported Martin Thomas’ reflection that music and sound art doesn’t have a voice in the Exeter Cultural Partnership. The hope for this Forum for Musicians and Sound Artists is that we can learn from and support each other more, have a way of communicating both to and from the wider cultural sector and a voice. And that we can achieve things together that we can’t as individuals.

Everybody introduced themselves, gave a brief description of their work in music/sound and their expectations for the Forum. Some expectations were: 

to meet people

to pick up where a previous composer-focussed group had left off

to create cross-genre musical networks

to find out what’s going on

wanting to see something happening in Exeter

to be part of an overall vision for arts in the area

better networking

to avoid clashing (dates)

more affordable venues

a Festival

Our invited speaker was Stuart Crewes, collage artist, Creative Director of Art Week Exeter, Chair of Exeter Visual Arts Forum (EVAF), vice-chair and practitioner representative on Exeter Cultural Partnership (ECP) steering committee.

Stuart spoke about the journey from recognising that the Exeter Cultural Partnership initially consisted of big cultural organisations but no practitioners to the forming of EVAF to enable artists to come together. EVAF meets bi-monthly. It exists to enable communication between artists, to provide a place where creative partnerships can be forged, to help with awareness about funding, recruitment and call-outs for work, and it is a pro-active part of the city’s strategy.

Stuart told us about the ECP Ning which offers an online communication tool for people working in culture in the city http://exeterculturalpartnership.ning.com and encouraged us to sign up to it. We wondered whether the Ning could have a searchable online diary to help with planning.


The lack of a dedicated music venue in Exeter was raised. There are churches that can be hired, but a church isn’t always the best environment for a concert. We discussed the lack of a grand piano with full-length keyboard and middle pedal, and the difficulty of being able to afford venue hire out of ticket receipts. We noted that there is a new Steinway at Exeter School and at the University’s Kay House, but our sense is that these are not accessible to people outside those institutions. We decided to invite someone from Exeter University’s Arts and Culture to speak at the next Forum.


We noted the difficulty of attracting an audience to venues which don’t see themselves as promoters. It’s a DIY affair: several people use their own mailing list to publicise their events. There is a sense that there is a large potential audience (as evidenced by audiences in the Cathedral for choral and orchestral concerts - perhaps family and friends of the performers) but that this audience is difficult to find for other, more independent events. We learned that plans are developing for a shared box office in Exeter. People expressed a strong need for help with developing audiences for our work.

We learned that Visit Exeter is about to be relaunched, aiming to be a useful promotional hub for everything going on in the city.

We wondered how it is possible to attract a younger audience (20s - 40s) to concerts as we think they must be there but are difficult to reach. We don’t know why this should be so. It was suggested that the Phoenix’s Freefall Youth Art Group would be good people to talk with about this.

We heard how reaching school-age audiences depends on persuading parents. There is a perception that attending concerts is expensive. Several music groups in Exeter offer highly subsidised tickets to young people, and are adapting their programmes, venues and times of concerts to specifically appeal to younger audiences.


Some people spoke of a perceived lack of value of local performers. It can be easier to get a gig in London than to be given an opportunity in Exeter. There’s a perception among some programmers in Devon that quality needs to be brought in from outside the region.


We recognised the importance of having a representative music/sound art practitioner on the Exeter Cultural Partnership steering committee.


There are no established routes for music and sound art developed in Exeter to then travel to other venues. You have to create routes and networks for yourself.


Locally, there is funding from Exeter Arts Council and from Exeter Classical Music Trust.


There’s a lack of incoming music and sound of international quality eg Dante Quartet Beethoven cycle in Lympstone. Question of the need to nourish ourselves as practitioners by going elsewhere to find quality and innovation.

Positive examples of music programming: Totnes’ ‘Party in the Town’ was an example of taking over a whole area in an open-door, community-wide celebration of music. ‘Park Life’-type organisations could be a way of reaching new audiences, putting on events in Exeter parks (this is discounted by the Council, but not free).


We agreed to hold bi-monthly forums at The Workshop in Exeter Phoenix. 

We will vary the day between Wednesdays and Thursdays and the time between 6pm and 7.30pm in the hope that as many people as possible will be able to come.

We will create an ongoing presence on the ECP Ning for communication.

We will advertise future Forums on the Ning and by email, and have bookings via Eventbrite.

Next forum

Thursday 20th July 6.30pm, The Workshop, Exeter Phoenix. Chair: Simon Belshaw.

We will invite John Hartley from Exeter University’s Arts & Culture to speak at the next Forum.

We will have ‘speed-dating’ style groups to talk about our music and sound.

Simon Belshaw and Emma Welton will share the chairing. We invite other people to offer to chair.

COMMENTS SHEETS - attendees' written responses to 4 questions:

What’s your favourite venue in Exeter?

The Great Hall

The streets

The future venues of Greater Exeter

To play in an orchestra: Great Hall

To listen (ambience but not acoustic): Cathedral

Chamber music: St Stephen’s Church (smallish, light & welcoming)

Southernhay Church - CHOIR - The Mint Methodist Church

Barnfield Theatre has its merits


Is there a smallish non-religious venue with a grand piano?


What do you need in order to flourish as a musician/sound artist?

Portable sound recording equipment

Rehearsal spaces, venues & an audience!

P.A. kit

Other people to work with/capacity


inspiration: dedication: some money & a lot of luck

An audience!

Paying gigs!!

A creative network of peers ot evaluate ongoing work

Practise space

A strategic voice in the city

Willing performers


Inspiration through collaboration

A challenge eg a task or a competition

A deadline

Co-artists who inspire me and who I can listen to.


COMMISSIONS that specifically ask for sound/music compositions

Feedback on today’s Forum (hoorays/boos)


Good to meet everybody. Bravo (Brave?) Hopeful.

What are the 5 most musically inclined pubs in Exeter? Can we bring our music there?

Ideas for future Forums

mixed genre live performance colabs

music in green spaces (perhaps under gazebos)

untypical scales in genres

music in diverse venues

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Hi there,

We were sadly unable to send a representative along from our organisation - Music In Devon Initiative (MIDI) CIC to this meeting, but we would love to come along and meet everyone at the next meeting in July. In the meantime, you can find out about us and what we do here: www.musicindevon.org

All the best,

Marie, Nick, Tom & Ellie

Thanks, Marie. We'll look forward to meeting you on 20th.

Best wishes,


Marie Belsten said:

Hi there,

We were sadly unable to send a representative along from our organisation - Music In Devon Initiative (MIDI) CIC to this meeting, but we would love to come along and meet everyone at the next meeting in July. In the meantime, you can find out about us and what we do here: www.musicindevon.org

All the best,

Marie, Nick, Tom & Ellie

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