Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bearwood...and the curious case of the vanishing gig venues

Okay, this is a bit of a local one but I reckon it’s kind of applicable to most people reading this right now. First of all I live in Bearwood. If you’re not from round these ‘ere parts it’s a couple of miles outside Birmingham, a city that’s reasonably well served by gig venues these days. In its time Bearwood seemed to host loads of gigs too. Incredibly the Beatles and Stones played Bearwood’s Thimblemill Baths way back in the 60’s and at least two of our local pubs (The Bear and The Kings Head) were respected gig hotspots. Fast forward 40 years or so and there’s relatively little live music round here now or anywhere locally outside Birmingham for that matter. If you live in Kings Heath you’ve got the Hare and Hounds pub (similar in size to Bearwood’s The Bear) which puts on some cracking gigs most nights of the week. Nearby Moseley has one or two venues too. Other than that, if you want live music, you’ve generally got to head into the City. Why? Beats me. But I might be about to find out. Together with a number of other brave/mad souls we’re planning to put on some gigs in Bearwood. It’s early days yet. We still have to secure a venue, confirm dates, book know, all the basic but pretty essential stuff.

I’ve read a lot over the years about the shrinking number of live music venues all over the UK. It seems that there used to be loads more than we have now (enough to support a huge number of bands...all of whom earned a decent enough living out of playing...happy days eh?), which is curious as we’re always being told that live music is more popular than ever. Certainly there seems to be no shortage of people willing to part with £20+ to see bands play some of the bigger venues in the City so, even in these cash strapped times, money can’t be an issue. What’s happened to the ‘neighbourhood’ (I can’t think of a better way to put it) music venues though? Like I said at the beginning I guess this applies to lots of pockets of the UK and, who knows, the rest of the world too. Have the big corporations and mega venues sucked the life out of everywhere else. Is the red tape (health and safety, insurance etc) too much of a ball ache these days? Are people unwilling to take a punt on bands they might not have heard of? Or are we all glued to ‘Big Fat Apprentice Gypsy Chef On Ice’ and online porn? I happen to be of the opinion that live music is pretty much the best way to spend an evening...okay, one of the best ways to spend an evening (next to watching ‘Big Fat Apprentice Gypsy Chef On Ice’ and online porn of course) and I’m curious as to find out for myself why a lot of the ‘neighbourhood’ venues seem to have pretty much died out (hand in hand with the death of the local boozer perhaps?). Time will tell...

PS: I’ll keep you updated on our progress here but check out the brand new We Love Bearwood blog too for all your Bearwood related news and gossip...

PPS: The random picture above shows Bearwood's legendary Little Nibble cafe, namechecked by Dexy's Midnight Runners. It's now yet another deep fried chicken place...oh the shame of it. Here's the awesome track in question...

PPPS: If Dexy's would like to play at our first night we'd be happy to have 'em...


Sailor Annie said...

I love this idea! I live close to Bearwood and go to a lot of gigs in Brum and Wolverhampton. I would be absolutely delighted to have a local venue that offered quality live music nights. Look forward to hearing more.

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie :o). Followed this from your FB post.
I do live in Bearwood and know the area well. I've put gigs on all around Bearwood in my time - The Bear, Dirty Bett's, King's Head, Dog, The Abbey, The Mill...blimey...and even Atticus had an excellent acoustic night hosted by Dale Perry til last year.

Some of these go back a long time tho - The Bear don't look too kindly on gigs nowadays, the other pubs are generally too focused on food or fighting. The KH is tribs / covers only and you wait til the food stops being served :o).

All the more reason we went outside to do Halesowen and Dudley and are loking at Blackheath next.

Dirty Betts would be the best bet but that is only if the Talbot survives and Bett's is still habitable but since the council restricted parking it is a real issue in that whole area but bus routes are good.

Unless thay are run by music lovers local pubs only turn to gigs when they are struggling and are really restricted on what they can do by their breweries. If they get no short term return they will bin it as soon as it starts.

Best of luck :o))))


The Baron said...

Hello both,

Thanks for taking the time to comment! We (the eleven or so people behind this idea) really want it to be a sustainable, long-term thing so we'll be taking a bit of time to put together some decent bills and to find a venue that will stick with us. One of the people involved in the group is Jez, the guy behind the Atticus Bar, so his experience will be invaluable. We're looking at running the first night in July so feel free to make any suggestions for the kind of bands you'd like to see, what you'd be willing to fact anything at all to do with putting on some more live music in 'da wood'.

PS: If either of you want to come along to any of the meetings please feel free...the more the merrier! Details will be posted up on the We Love Bearwood blog.

Russ L said...

@Andynonymous - Gigs in Blackheath? Whuh? When?

Sailor Annie said...

Hi Baron,

In terms of bands, I genuinely like a lot of different music. Looking at last year's gig list, I saw bands as diverse as Pulled Apart By Horses and The Modified Toy Orchestra. I'd be looking to come along to support the night anyway.

As far as the ticket price is concerned, The Hare and Hounds tickets seem to vary between £5-£7 depending on who's on the bill, but I don't know whether they 'built up' to that so to speak. That's around what I generally pay at The Flapper and The Slade Rooms.

On a separate note, I've just bought tickets for The Irrepressibles, so thanks for the heads up on that!

Sailor Annie said...

Hi Andynonymous,
As Russ L says, tell us more!

The Baron said...

Cheers Sailor Annie and Russ L! Thanks for taking the time to post again. I'd like to see a diverse mix of bands myself too. I'd love to see a bit of Pulled Apart by Horses in the 'wood! We're hoping to fix the ticket price at around the lower end of the figures you're quoting. We'd actually like to pay the bands that play as well(which isn't always the case sadly). Hope you enjoy the Irrepressibles as much as I do. They were just stunning last time I saw them.

As for the mystery of the Blackheath gigs...over to Andy. Let us know what you're putting on and I'll happily stick a post up about it too.

ChickenboneJohn said...

Good idea to get something going...but with respect it does look like an awful lot of planning and not much action at the moment...I'm guessing this isn't "musician driven"? There are plenty of musicians in the area, and it would be relatively easy to draw on their support and knowledge. Likewise, there are people around who are used to promoting small-scale gigs & open mics, who have a roster of performers and have got a network of contacts. You can make things a lot easier and get a "leg-up" by getting into the local muso network and utilising their skills and contacts.

Not wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, but I did organise the music for The Picnic in The Park right from its inception before handing it over to Jon Harris, and founded Birmingham's only weekly blues club (still going strong after 3+ years). Also I have recently founded the Home Grown Music Collective, which is a not-for-profit music if you want to pick my brains about any of this stuff...let me know.

The Baron said...

Hi ChickenboneJohn

Cheers for the comment. You're spot on, there was a lot of planning and little doing. We're mostly music fans too...not musicians. Basically a group of ten+ people got together and the inevitable happened...everyone had different ideas of what they wanted to do. No one's fault but a real case of too many cooks. None of us in the group really had any idea of how to put on a decent night and perhaps we were being a little optimistic in terms of our aims (we wanted to be able to pay the bands that played, hire a decent PA and sound guy and put on a really good night...). When we costed this stuff out it seemed that we'd make a loss on each gig. Also, as a regular gig goer, I'm all too aware of how hard it is to get attract a decent crowd sometimes. Call me soft but I really hate to see bands play to a handful of people. So, where are we now? Well we've postponed the planned July gig and are reviewing our next move (yes...more planning I'm afraid!). We have compiled a list of 80+ people who have indicated they'd like to come to gigs in Bearwood (a lot of them want to hear blues too). If you'd like to send me your email address I may well take you up on that brain picking! Email:



Anonymous said...

As it happens, gigs are starting back up in Bearwood! On June 4th The BED (Bearwood Entertainment Distribution) will be starting up at St. Mary's Hall. It'll be a monthly thing to start with, with an aim to build over the coming years.

Check out!