Blues venue is crucial to rising stars

SIMON Wallace made his stage debut aged 13, in front of a live audience and gained the experience to pave a career as a professional musician.Now a seasoned harmonica-player, the 22-year-old has spoken out in support of providing extra venues accessible to performers of all ages.

SIMON Wallace made his stage debut aged 13, in front of a live audience and gained the experience to pave a career as a professional musician.

Now a seasoned harmonica-player, the 22-year-old has spoken out in support of providing extra venues accessible to performers of all ages.

When Simon took up his chosen instrument after being given a harmonica as a child, only one site in Bury St Edmunds would allow stage space to youngsters.

Barred from performing in pubs due to licensing laws, he instead relied on a now-closed venue, and was crowned under-18 Blues Harmonica Champion of Britain just four years later.


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But Simon strongly feels his development as an artist would not have been possible without vital live experience. As a result, he has urged councillors to give the go-ahead to a specialist blues bar in Bury's Churchgate Street so other young musicians have the chance to realise their dreams.

"This will be one of the top places in East Anglia for musicians to play, and will be a high class operation where people go for a meal and to listen to music," said Simon, who plans to move to Austin, Texas, to pursue his career.

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"When I first started playing, I couldn't have gone into a pub to perform because of my age. Loads of youngsters who otherwise wouldn't get the change will be able to get up onto the stage at the new venture, which is very important for an artist.

"Sarah Maris, who is planning the bar, will be supporting local talent, which is really great. And if we want to be proud of Bury as a musical town, we need to feed projects like this to ensure that talent grows."

The proposed bar, called Dusters, has sparked controversy since Ms Maris lodged an application for planning permission with St Edmundsbury Borough Council earlier this year.

Local residents have raised fears over increased noise and disruption and have asked councillors to turn down the scheme when its fate is decided on Thursday.

But sound-proofing and limits to the volume at the restaurant, Simon added, would minimise any disruption while providing the town with a friendly, relaxed bar catering for music-lovers from across the region.

"The good thing about the proposed blues bar is that people will go there to listen to the music, as opposed to a pub, where people go to drink. This is very important for the performers," added Simon, who said the nearest existing venue to Bury was in either Ipswich or Cambridge.

"Residents seem concerned about rowdy customers, but places like that don't tend to attract those people. I think Sarah is coming up against ignorance, as those living nearby seem to think the bar will be more like a pub, but the atmosphere will be friendly and the music controlled.

"It is sad that people are so opposed to something which will be a high-class venue. Without places like this, youngsters just don't get the chance to perform."

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