Thursday 20th July 2017
Sound and Music Forum
Exeter Phoenix, The Workshop, 6.30pm
Chaired by Simon (Notes by Mariko North – apologies in advance for spelling errors, unclarity etc)
Around 18 people turned up to the 2nd Sound and Music Forum
Whilst introducing ourselves, the point was made that one important aspect of getting audiences for gigs and events that we are putting on is to let each other know when we are doing things, and in turn support each other by showing up.
UPCOMING EVENTS: Tom Matthews (sound engineer) would like to get the word out that he is involved in the 2017 Exeter Street Arts Festival which will take place on Saturday the 26th of August throughout central Exeter (Princesshay, the High Street, Phoenix Centre – including an after party). Musicians welcome to get in touch. http://exeterstreetartsfestival.co.uk/
Emma Welton will also be performing on the 1st of August at the Phoenix Centre as part of Exposure Exeter for BBC Radio 3 http://www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/events/exposure-exeter/
IMPORTANT COUNCIL CHANGES: Val Wilson, Exeter City Council's City Arts & Events Manager is retiring at the end of March 2018 (link to full article here: http://exeterculturalpartnership.ning.com/profiles/blogs/exeter-cit...) The main gist seems to be that the council has used this time as an opportunity to review and change how it delivers, manages and coordinates Cultural Events in Exeter. Some concerns were raised in the forum, including the fact that: “as of 1 April 2018, the post of City Arts & Events Manager is amended to Events Manager” – the dropping of the word “arts” was seen as potientially negative, as it could lead to a general rounding together of all kinds of events, such as sporting events, with more attention being given to events that are likely already highly-funded and seen purely for their monetary value, rather than supporting less mainstream, more diverse cultural and artistic events which generally require more support. Replies to the above message are to be made by Friday 28th July. Mike Westbrook has proposed drafting an open letter to the council, protesting against the dropping of the word “art”.
Additionally, the question was raised about the council: Who is responsible for the artistic vision in Exeter? Is it the councillor? The Officer? Who are they? Are they trying to outsource? The Exeter Cultural Partnership needs to be balanced. Will there be anyone within the council with knowledge, experience and empathy with the arts?
At this stage the Exeter Community Forum was brought up. It may be more relevant at present than the council. It is centred around St David’s and St James’ and could include arts and creativity events.
HAVING A VOICE: Following from the above, Music and Sound do not really seem to feature in the Exeter or South West. There are no obviously specific music organisations to give us a voice. Perhaps the forum could help shape and develop this voice in the future.
FUTURE GUEST SPEAKERS: Several people were approached to come and speak to the forum although no one was available for this particular date and/or there was a question of fees for speakers. Someone was invited from Exeter University Arts and Culture representatives but was not able to attend. Social media experts were also approached – Matt Young normally charges a fee for this kind of consultation, but was open to the idea of holding a future Q&A session with a contribution to expenses. Obviously, this would need to be agreed on by all members of the forum.
Another person who was mentioned was Andy Williamson in Ashburton, who managed to set up an arts organisation in Ashburton and raise the money to buy the Chapel to turn it into an Arts Centre. He would be particularly interesting to inspire and share his experiences.
PROMOTION FOR EVENTS: Roz Harding shared her experience of running gigs with the Barnfield Theatre for 3 years running a series called “A Message From” which she wrote the music for, promoted, and performed in – managing a core audience of around 40-60 people permonth. She also managed to do a gig exchange with London. Whilst she said this was a valuable experience, she has now stopped running regular concerts, and is now running them on a more ad hoc basis, due to the sheer volume of work involved. The point was raised that in general it is very difficult for local musicians and sound artists who may not be already famous to get gigs within Exeter, despite the high calibre and availability of local talent.
VENUES (including one WITH PIANO): Once again, the issue of lack of dedicated music venues that can be used by local professional musicians was raised, particularly those which are not churches and with a modern piano (3 pedals i.e. built within the last 80 years and well-maintained). This would not only benefit pianists, who cannot be as flexible with venues due to the cost and logistics of transporting their chosen instrument (particularly re classical and contemporary classical piano, as opposed to jazz musicians who may choose to use portable digital pianos in some cases), but could provide a focal point for future music events and festivals as well as a long-term legacy for the city. Alex Wilson and Mariko North have suggested that it may be worth investigating the possibility of future fundraising for a suitable instrument, and either negotiating with a local venue, or finding suitable storage (although this is purely speculation at present). Other suggestions from members of the forum were to investigate whether there were willing country homes or grand houses that may be open to the idea of hosting a concert series throughout the year. It may be worth contacting the Devon and Exeter Institution as well as the Devon Association, the Bikeshed Theatre, the Boatshed, the McLaine Buildings down by the Quay etc. Obviously there need to be different visions for the different venues.
LIVESTREAMING: For those really struggling with venue audiences and size, someone also mentioned that it may be worth livestreaming from small/private places which can keep costs down. A website called streakjelly may be worth investigating. Balcony TV in Exeter can film live performances, and there is a rating option and a pick of the month slot, which can be good for promotion.
VENUE DATABASE: Marie Belston may have a database of venues within the Exeter Area and should be contactable through the Music in Devon Initiative. Otherwise it would be a good idea to find or create one.
EXETER PHOENIX – kindly provided The Workshop free of charge to host the forum this time. They also can be used as a venue with a split door fee solution, depending on which time of year (summer is the least busy, and therefore the most likely time for this kind of arrangement), and they can help with event promotion. If you are thinking of applying, it would be great to have some links to audio or video
BIKE SHED: wants to offer music to people coming out of early evening shows, as well as open mic nights, and may be open to ideas.
NING – at present, it is still agreed that the NING should be the main source for the dissemination of the minutes. You do need to log in to find all the information (it won’t come to you). It is not 100% clear if you will automatically receive updates for everything re the forum and beyond, or if you need to actively sign up to follow specific things. You can contact other individuals in the forum through the ning. It would also be helpful to develop our online presence where people can contribute.
NEXT MEETING: The suggested date was Wednesday 13th September, 1930 in the Workshop at the Phoenix, hopefully with a guest speaker (suggestions welcome)
Future aims: we need to develop some kind of structure, with proposals to take to venues and give a clear voice for music within Exeter cultural life, as well as exchanging lateral ideas with others.
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