Call for dedicated music venue in Ipswich for more to follow in footsteps of double Brit Award winner Ed Sheeran
- Credit: Archant
What do Ed Sheeran, Underline The Sky, Nik Kershaw and Cradle of Filth all have in common? They all cut their teeth on the Ipswich music scene.
But according to local musicians and industry experts, the town is desperately in need of a dedicated music venue, following the closure of the Malthouse.
Despite plenty of pubs in the town hosting live bands, local artists are finding it increasingly difficult to find a dedicated venue of 50-250 capacity with a permanent stage, sound system and in-house sound engineers.
Mischa Pearson, an Ipswich-based musician and live music event organiser said: “The musicians and talent are what keep the music scene alive, but there are a lot that aren’t really gigging in the centre of Ipswich because there isn’t that heart and soul to it a lot of the time.
“The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket have got in-house sound guys, you get a sound check, and you can give the audience the material you have written in the way you have written it.
“Pub venues are different because a lot of the time we have to do our own sound, and it is more difficult for them to be able to offer that.”
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Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, which helps support music venues, believes that there isn’t enough investment in live music. He said: “I think we are not seeing enough cultural planning when it comes to music venues.
“Councils are supposed to represent the interests of their population but I have never seen a cultural plan for any town or city which sees a representation of constituent’s views.”
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However, while Ipswich borough councillor, performing musician and representative of the Musician’s Union Andi Hopgood believes the town does need a dedicated venue, it is not entirely down to local government investment.
She said: “People in Ipswich do well on arts and culture spending compared to other areas in the country.”
Among the council backed projects are Ipswich Music Day, world music event Global Rhythms and Access All Arts events at the Town Hall, as well as significant investment into the Regent.
Ipswich Borough Council portfolio holder for leisure and culture, Bryony Rudkin, added: “The borough council is increasing its financial support in the face of cuts elsewhere across the country.
“We have seven arts partners in the town and are proud to be increasing our funding for them for next year. Music is, or should be about people, not simply about buildings.”
The gap in the size of venues between music pubs and venues like the Corn Exchange and the Regent Theatre has also meant that many touring artists are bypassing the town and promoters are turning their attention to Norwich, Colchester and Cambridge.
Phil Pethybridge, owner of Neon Street, which promotes gigs in East Anglia, including Cambridge Folk Festival, said: “We stopped doing shows in Ipswich in 2012 because we couldn’t find the right space in the live music community.
“We do a lot of shows in Cambridge and Colchester, and we’re now doing a lot of shows with The Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds because the venues commit with us to make it a place where people can see live music.”
Ms Pearson added: “You look at Underline The Sky, one of our Ipswich-based bands, you don’t see them within the Ipswich scene because they were going outside, and Ed Sheeran worked his way up through places like Norwich because there are dedicated music venues.”
In 2012, the Live Music Act aimed to cut the red tape that prevented small spaces hosting live music by removing local licensing for venues of less than 200 people between 8am and 11pm. But the reality is that while the act has helped pubs and cafes, it hasn’t helped establish a dedicated venue.
What both Andi Hopgood and Mischa Pearson believe is needed is a joined-up approach with interested parties working together.
Ms Hopgood said: “Good venues are not buildings, it is the right people having the right contacts and being really good with artists. It can work and could really help the night time economy if we got people to work together.”
Despite the closure of the Malthouse, there are promising signs of a venue with the planned conversion of St Clement’s Church in Star Lane into an arts centre, but the project is reliant on funding.
Ms Pearson concluded: “Right now it is money that is stopping a venue. After that, the only thing I worry about is it needs that time for people to get it.
“People are going to have to understand venues won’t run themselves and need to support it.”