Performing live is the heartbeat of every musician and in the DNA of Help Musicians UK. Therefore, supporting Independent Venue Week (IVW) was never going to be a tricky decision. We have supported IVW for a couple of years now and the whole charity is passionate about improving the touring circuit, giving musicians live opportunities and underlining the plight of grass root venues.
As Director Of Northern Ireland, I’m delighted that we have focused some of our IVW support around the new Help Musicians Northern Ireland (HMNI). Seeing venues across my homeland support the week and HMNI acting as an enabler – is an amazing double success and something central to our future vision for NI. And importantly, it hasn’t been all about Belfast.
Our new HMNI office sits in the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast and they too are an IVW venue. Belfast has so many remarkable live music spots but I was keen to look outside the capital. The charity supported the Atlantic Sessions Festival back in November and this showcased some unbelievable venues in Portrush and Portstewart. And I’m so pleased to see the Playhouse in Portrush hosting Emerald Armada, Runabay and Verse Chorus Verse. Runabay were played on BBC 6Music’s Steve Lamacq’s show this week and hearing ‘You I Know’ on national radio was so inspiring.
We will continue to pose the right questions as well as being the health and welfare champions for musicians all genres.
Joshua Burnside & Rachael Boyd, Goldie Fawn and Stephen Elliot played the Black Box in Belfast and artists like these really underline the depth of talent in Northern Ireland. It’s such a hotbed of musical innovation and vision that it’s no surprise that Ryan Vail and Jealous of the Birds are getting so much airplay at the moment. I see this as merely the start of something big in Northern Ireland and I hope HMNI can provide a strong backbone into the future.
I’m a huge live music fan myself and was lucky enough to attend the Q Awards in November last year. The Charlatans provided the night’s climax performing a greatest hits set after the ceremony. It was therefore serendipitous that the IVW Ambassador Tim Burgess’ Tim Peaks Tour was also on the horizon. HMUK is proud to support this tour which included Tim Burgess’ solo set (pictured) at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall in London (fact – Edward Elgar was the first President of HMUK. Another slice of serendipity).
The charity has made remarkable strides in the last 18 months and I’m keen to continue to focus on the live music scene as we build on our successes. I know that while our recent mental health campaign and musicians’ hearing initiative continue to gather momentum, we cannot rest on our laurels. HMNI, our planned work in Scotland and support of the live music scene will continue to pose the right questions to the music industry as well as being the health and welfare champions for all genres.
We at HMUK and HMNI are proud to support IVW and look forward to helping ensure more and more music fans keep grass roots venues alive. It’s what the musicians want and need!
Check out some of the photos from our HMNI Independent Venue Week gigs here.