Across the North of England a series of collectives are helping to inject energy into music at a grassroots level.
Actually creating art can be prohibitively expensive - especially in this era of austerity - so through banding together, working towards a common goal, these collectives are able to provide support, a platform, to those who need it.
In Leeds, Chunk have helped increase the city's pulse rate, with the DIY art space / rehearsal room / venue growing from minute origins to become a real powerhouse for the surrounding area.
Noise rock group Bearfoot Beware have been involved in Chunk from the very beginning, and have watched it become a safe space for countless artists, musicians, vagabonds, and lost souls.
Here, the band's Tom Bradley writes for Clash about collective action and his own experiences with Chunk...
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The small group of musicians that banded together to create their own practice space never imagined Chunk to grow to what it is today. Originally it was just two and a half rooms (we had to build a wall to complete the third) and a huge warehouse room, which we could only practice after 5pm because of the strange auditions office upstairs. After running the space as a group we realised the potential for something more and what it could do for us.
Roll on four years later and we’re about to sign our next three year contract in a six room purpose built space with 40-odd local musicians all as full members.
It’s been a tough journey with loads of hard graft and constant reassessing about how we should operate but it’s all worth it. Places like Chunk are becoming more important as less well regarded culture is pushed further and further to the side lines of modern life. These scenes don’t make money and that’s why they get disposed of. They are labours of love and passion, so can’t find a place within the realms of what is considered to be normal to people.
By grouping together, pooling resources, knowledge and elbow grease our collective has provided an easy place for weird music to thrive. Around the collective a community has formed that wouldn’t have existed before and has been able to enhance the lives of the people that use it.
It important to the individuals who join, initially out of excitement, that they can eventually grow and develop in way they’d never expect with each new experience. That might be learning how to be a sound engineer, finding the confidence to play music in front of people, seeing types of people you’ve never seen playing in bands before, fixing a hole in the wall or working out how to do the accounts. Everyone involved in the spot who puts some work in get something positive out of it.
We started as just a practice space but eventually saw the potential to put on events. DJ nights, noise rock gigs, spoken word, all sorts really. As a band we’d only just started being exposed to DIY culture in Leeds. We just wanted to group together with some new people and make it easier to practice, but the impact it’s had on our outlook, confidence and music has been huge.
Having a single place to practice and write and to be constantly surrounded by awesome musicians has influenced this new album. There’s so many bands and musician to mention but check out Cattle, Beige Palace, Irk and Girl Sweat for a start. I don’t think we’d have been inspired to keep on writing and work the way we do if it wasn’t for a lot of the people around us.
There’s also other DIY spots across the country like The Audacious Art Experiment and Delicious Clam in Sheffield, and JT Soar in Nottingham to name a few. Where else would these spots exist to propagate provocative music to the weirdos of music scenes. They’re important and should be protected from the ever expanding ambitions of city centre developers.
They might not collectively, even if you can call it ‘they’ as it implies some kind of organisation, wish to hollow out the very flesh of what makes cities attractive to people. But it’s happening. Costa after Costa after Costa.
It’s been in many of my interactions down at the space that I’ve been inspired to write lyrics. ‘Punk is Violence’ has been taken way too literally by people. I’m just questioning why it acceptable for ‘punk’ folks really feel that to push and shove people around who clearly aren’t interested in it, is crucial to a good gig.
For example one bloke that came down to a gig once was asked to calm down. The room was packed and you could hardly move. He went on to push the girl to the floor and kick her. I grabbed him and booted him out. His response … ‘facebook hipsters, punk is about violence’ in a quivering little boys voice. It sucked and I hated that someone who came to one of our gigs was exposed to that.
I tend to feel optimistic about the future though. There will always be groups of people willing to band together in order to make what they want achievable and it’s nothing new. They’re important but will always live on in new forms and organisations. These communities change many lives for the better occupying over active creative minds from the daily grind.
People need friends' reactions and times to feel alive and if that means sweating it out in an old warehouse space a couple of times a week then we’re winning.
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Catch Bearfoot Beware at the following shows:
15 Leeds Wharf Chambers
16 Manchester Soup Kitchen
17 Sheffield The Audacious Art Experiment
23 Nottingham JT Soar
24 Bristol Mother's Ruin
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