Saturday, 29 September 2012

ROCHDALE: Why is it not on the Musical Gig Map of England?

A report by Chris Hewitt:
CHRIS Hewitt is a Rochdale ex pat who grew up promoting live music in the town and continues to do so around the world as well as running a record and music dvd company which has strong links with musicians who originally came from Rochdale.
The recent blue plaque day evening event saw a host of music fans attend a £15 a ticket event at the 250 capacity town centre Back Door. 
Venue at Broadwater- unfortunately people paying £15 a ticket to see original live music in Rochdale is somewhat of a one off. The fact that the powers that be through the years have consistently failed to maintain or even provide a suitable venue in the town centre together with funding /subsidies for regular music events has meant that Rochdale has slipped down the ladder behind towns much smaller than it.
The Gracie Fields theatre was built as a poor substitute for a town centre theatre/ music venue. The College Halll had its stage door access wiped out by the expansion of St Mary’s Gate to a dual carriageway and furthermore despite being originally in the control of the Council’s own Education department and hosting some great town centre live pop music events and the youth music festival it was always a bureaucratic obstacle course to hire it- even when I was running concerts at the college in conjunction with Paul Gibson who was then in RMBC Entertainments we found that trying to book the College Hall from Education was even difficult in the name of another council department. I believe Hopwood Hall no longer allow bookings of the College Hall for concerts ? Champness Hall hosted some great concerts in the 70’s but would not survive as a concert hall today as not having an interval bar under the Methodist rules would mean it would not work as a cultural venue in today’s climate- does this no alchohol rule still apply to Champness Hall today?
Until such time as one of the grand schemes for a town centre theatre/ music venue are actually built ( and don’t forget to budget for some funds for events to put in it or you still have a building that is a white elephant- as Rochdale needs funding for music and arts events to put it back on the cultural map of England ) surely an investment of say £50,000 per annum towards a series of indoor live music events for over 18s at Back Door Broadwater would help to bring some much needed cultural status back to the town and continue the great positive feeling that the blue plaque day and evening created. Whilst Rochdale Development Agency does a great job of bringing new business to the borough and the Re-Thinking/branding project preaches sermons about why people should be thinking about “why I want to visit Rochdale or I want to go to Rochdale it’s assets are attractive” a positive thriving live music and culture policy for over 18’s from RMBC / Link4Life in a venue like Back Door which would take so little to continue after the success the blue plaque day and evening created would help to bring people back into the town centre in an evening and encourage people from outside of Rochdale to visit the town. The general feeling of well being and being part of a cultural event is something even the police have mentioned when I have been at meetings about music and culture in Rochdale. To quote a strap line from Bury Met below- they present music and theatre at their 240 capacity venue that leaves people inspired and enriched. Rochdale has created some great musicians ( and many musicians from outside have used Rochdale to record their music there), artists, poets writers, and great sound technicians and the one thing we haven’t got is a focussed venue hub where these people and the ones who will be tomorrow’s and the audiences can meet.

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough has a population of around 206,000;
Rochdale has population of around 94,000. 

Holmfirth has a population of 17,970 

Holmfirth played host/ plays host to the following indoor live music in 2009- this is just a few from the last quarter of 2009: 
American touring blues man Walter Trout on the 23rd October £17

Barclay James Harvest 25th October £21

Magnum 30th October £18-50

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes ( from the USA) 19th November £20

Kiki Dee 21st November £15

Steve Hackett ( ex Genesis) 22 nd November £22

Boomtown Rats 4th December £12

Bad Manners 27th December £16
Hebden Bridge has a population of 11,253: 

Hebden Bridge Trades Club has hosted concerts by:
Gong Legend Daevid Allen plays the Trades

Juno winner James Keelaghan visits Trades

DJ James Holroyd, Sisters of Transistors and the Hello Sailor burlesque team Motion Theory, Salsa, quiz and 20/20 cricket at the Trades

Big Apple troubadour Jeffrey Lewis plays the Trades

Live Ashes at the Trades

Celtic rock kings Peatbog Faeries play Trades

New Trades Roots label Owter Zeds 25th anniversary event at the Trades Top poet Simon Armitage to rock the Trades

Ska warriors Natural Rhythm storm the Trades Club

Monkey business and Steve Gifford at the Trades

Glastonbury favourites 3 Daft Mondays swing into the Trades "Incredible" Mike Heron at the Trades

Dr Feelgood back at the Trades

Nick Harper hits the peaks at the Trades May Day weekend at the Trades Club

Peter Kay rocks the Trades Club Squeezing out the hits at the Trades Southern Tenant Folk Union at the Trades

Becks and The Bullets back at the Trades

Australia's Emily Barker plays the Trades.

Bury has a population of 60,718: 

Bury Met has a capacity of 240. 
It presents new and exciting artists who go on to become household names as well as established artists performing to sell-out audiences all over the world.  Audiences at The Met have enjoyed a pre-Partridge Steve Coogan, legendary performances by Joy Division and The Pixies, pre-Elbow Elbow, pre Hollywood Lee Evans and live music and theatre that leaves people inspired and enriched.

Ashton Under Lyne has a a population of 44,000:

The Witchwood in Ashton is a small but much extended public house now a listed building owing to its contribution to live music and part of the live gig

music circuit of the UK. When Rochdale/Middleton’s indie guitar world stars The Chameleons decided to reform in the early 2000’s they decided to try one night not in their home borough ( because there is nowhere with that cultural live music buzz in RMB )but in Ashton because it has such a great venue. Their one night sold out and became five consecutive sell out nights and then they went on to play London Shepherd’s Bush Empire and then toured the world for a second time.

The Witchwood Ashton – a small selection of upcoming gigs below. 

Limehouse Lizzy 14th Nov £12

Bad Manners 14th Dec £14

UK Subs 10th Dec £8

Prodigy tribute

Legend Bob Marley tribute £12

Clone Roses £10. 

My point is Rochdale has the largest population of all of these towns, in the past it has had the largest effect on the UK music scene through it’s recording studios, Deeply Vale Festivals, Rochdale Festivals, bands that were created in Rochdale, the growth of Wigwam into one of the major sound production companies in the UK and yet Rochdale has lost its way in supporting a live music venue for over 18s. I believe a lot of hard work from the team of people ( including myself) who want to solve this problem and create an over 18’s music venue at the Back Door on Saturday evenings initially and finance from RMBC / Link4Life and even business sponsorship would put Rochdale back on the cultural map of the UK not just for the one day that it happened on September 23rd 2009 – the blue plaque day.  Incidentally press articles mentioning that day and Rochdale in a positive light are still happening even now over a month later. 

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