Hitting the right note - the importance of independent music venues to North East music

Nadine Shah, ambassador for Independent Venue Week
Published on: 13th February 2018

Following previous success’s, this year marked the fifth year of Independent Venue Week, a nationwide celebration of small music venues around the UK. 

Over 170 venues participated in the event that aims to recognise the people that run independent venues across the UK, their contribution to music and encourage gig goers to get out there and support local venues.

Across the North East there has always been a strong independent scene, from established venues such as The Cluny, The Riverside and Think Tank, to new and emerging venues such as The Boilershop and Wylam Brewery’s Palace of the Arts in Exhibition Park.

Historically the region has produced a range of musical talent, including The Animals, Mark Knopfler, Sting and the wealth of folk artists such as The Unthanks, but more recently we have seen newer acts from the North East performing on the national, and even global stage.

One of the first acts to reach national recognition was Maximo Park. Formed in Newcastle in 2000 Maximo Park shot to fame when their debut album, A Certain Trigger, was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Similarly, Field Music are another Mercury Prize nominated rock band from Sunderland who alongside Maximo Park, and DJ Patrick Topping have really helped put the North-East music scene on the map, as well as paving the way for emerging artists such as Sam Fender, The Old Pink House and This Little Bird.

There has always been a collective attitude between popular bands from the North East, with numerous bands sharing members over the years including Field Music, The Futureheads and Frankie & The Heartstrings.

The similarities don’t stop there, as the bands all forged their careers in independent venues. These venues, will often present artists with their first experience of playing in front of an audience and enable them to hone their skills.

Nadine Shah, South Tyneside singer-songwriter and an ambassador for Independent Venue Week commented on the importance of these venues. “Every small music venue has its own unique history and character. Coming from the North East it's hard to pick a favourite but The Cluny in the Ouseburn valley is most probably the venue I've not only played at the most but also seen the most other bands.

“It’s of the utmost importance that we protect these places. Independent venues are the backbone of the music industry, places where we nurture and grow tomorrow's musical icons. The “agent of change” principle will require those responsible for new residential accommodation to ensure that measures are put into place to allow venues to continue to operate whilst co-existing with these new developments. The UK prides itself on its musical output and without these measures being put into place to ensure the safety of these venues then the British music industry itself will quickly become a grey dull version of its former vibrant glittering self.”

Julian Ive and Steve Parkin, owners of The Cluny commented, “We believe in supporting local artists, as so much about the character of our cities is within the independent venues that form their makeup. Without independent venues such as The Cluny we would all go to the same bars, drink the same beer and listen to the same music!

“Music is the very core of our business, changing customer expectations means that we constantly need to be offering something different and live music nights give fans the chance to watch acts that one day, may well be headlining at festivals and selling out stadiums.”

The independent music scene in the North East is constantly evolving and the resurgence in the popularity of such venues is evident throughout the region. After a busy year last year and another successful independent venues week, we look forward to the year ahead and envisage the North East music scene continuing to go from strength to strength.

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