INDIE DOCTOR: BILL FROM BLACK BARN ON INDEPENDENT VENUES CRISIS

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As Independent Venue Week wraps up its fifth annual celebration, our attention has been drawn to the increasing jeopardy of grassroots music venues once again. With figures being punted around the internet daily and protests for the Agent of Change taking place this month, there’s no shortage of awareness on the issue. But what are the practical steps that can be taken by local communities to support their music scene? We ask for advice from this week’s Indie Doctor, Bill, who manages Black Barn record shop in Cambridge.

Hey Bill! How do Black Barn support local artists on a practical level?

In smaller ways like the local section in the shop or in bigger ways, like sponsoring the subterranean festival at The Corn Exchange or hosting the Cambridge Rock Festival. It is a goal of ours to play our part in supporting artists in more ways than just selling their music and are always open to hearing from people promoting local events.

What encouraged you to offer a space in Black Barn for local and unsigned artists?

Cambridge, by comparison, has a wealth of venues and music shops but we still felt that it was important that Black Barn showed its support for the local artists. I suppose what encouraged me to offer space in the shop to local and unsigned artists was my appreciation and acknowledgement of the importance of a thriving music scene.

Why should communities care about keeping their local music scene alive?

The local music scene is integral to the culture of a city and can define it for a generation (Liverpool in 60s, Manchester in the 90s etc) and it’s the music venues (The Cavern, The Hacienda) that house and facilitate these bands and club-nights. They are an absolutely essential cog in that mechanism and it doesn’t always seem like this is appreciated.

What are the repercussions on the local community when a small venue closes?

When the decision is made to close a venue, it’s more of a significant loss than just the business itself, For the people that use them, local venues can be a home from home and somewhere you can escape to where your choice of clothes or hairstyle won’t be highlighted and ridiculed but celebrated and matched, truly a sanctuary and not always just about the music.

What was it like watching your hometown venue, The Square in Harlow, close down for redevelopment?

My experience in watching my hometown venue and hub for the local music scene close its doors made it clear what kind of vacuum can be left when its significance is underestimated and ignored.  At the final hoorah I witnessed 60-year-old rockers crying with the teenage punks, people from all walks of life come together, generations unite and true community in all its glory. From this it was clearly evident that music venues are an awful lot more than the bricks and mortar that build them, they are the lifeblood of a scene and their importance is often immeasurable.

Grassroots Music Venues are closing down all over the country. What are the implications for emerging artists?

The biggest bands touring right now have all played in tiny venues around the country, sometimes to no one, sometimes to 50 or 60 people and it’s at these grass root levels that venues offer a platform for artists to grow and learn and potentially go on to become the next Foo Fighters or Adele. Without them, it is difficult to imagine how people will get from their bedroom recording session to the headline slot at Glastonbury.

Do you feel like enough is being done to support these independent venues?

Efforts are being made nationally to support independent venues which is great but they are still closing down all over the country, The Flying Pig in Cambridge is fighting a battle of its own as we speak and I hope something can be done to help them.

Thanks, Bill.

Visit Black Barn Records in Cambridge:

 

15 Burleigh Street, Cambridge, CB1 1DG

Open: 10am–6pm Monday to Saturday and 10am–4pm on Sundays.

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