Welcome to the Near Future

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Welcome to the Near Future

Post by Wirral Council News » Fri May 29, 2020 5:13 pm

What would you do right now to be able to go for a meal with friends, to go to the cinema or to watch a band play? A big positive from the current lockdown is it makes us realise how much we take our leisure time for granted.

Craig Pennington, founder of Future Yard certainly agrees. The Wallasey-born music fanatic has been running popular Merseyside new music magazine Bido Lito! for the past 10 years.

He explains: ‘The number of Wirral-based artists that we feature in the magazine is so disproportionate to the size of its population - there are so many! She Drew The Gun have been a high profile success story, Forest Swords is an incredible electronic musician from this part of the world, Evian Christ has produced records for Kanye West, Zuzu is a brilliant female rock artist, cut from the same cloth as Courtney Barnett, who has a record coming out on Virgin and there’s a brilliant off-the-wall electronic indie artist called Podge, who’s from the same school as Animal Collective’.

When you hear Craig’s enthusiasm for new music it’s no surprise to hear that he was the brainchild behind Future Yard, the music festival that turned the amps up to 11 at venues across Birkenhead last August and featured headline sets by Bill Ryder-Jones and Anna Calvi. The festival, whose name reflects the shipbuilding heritage of Birkenhead, featured a lineup with 50% Wirral artists.

Craig continues: ‘The great irony is that despite all of these local artists making great music, we have no dedicated live music venues to support them and give local people the opportunity to experience internationally significant live music. We think if you put a high quality live music offer in Wirral, it will work.’

He was right. The festival, which was supported by Wirral Council, drew in the crowds and proved that there is a huge appetite for live music in Wirral.

‘Future Yard was a massive experiment’ confesses Craig, ‘we were just dipping our toes in the water. It was such a success both in terms of the number of people who came to the shows but also the enthusiasm and warmth it was embraced by the local community. It made people think ‘do you know what, Wirral can be the centre of the musical universe.’ It might feel a long way away at the moment but we really think it’s possible’.

After the success of Future Yard, the next step on the journey was to be a regular live music venue, opening in April. Warehouse-like premises were found at 75 Argyle Street, ‘The Future is Birkenhead’ was emblazoned on the wall outside and acts were booked, including Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark who were due to play their first ‘home’ show for 41 years.

But then coronavirus struck.

Craig recalls: ‘I was attending Unconvention Conference in Manchester, meeting other new music businesses from France, Spain, Italy, Germany and all over Europe. It went from being this thing that was on the news far away, to something that might mean the next conference in Lisbon at the end of March wouldn’t actually happen. By the end of the week it was off! It was during that week-long period that everything we worked towards as a live music venue had been completely called in to question.’

Like many businesses in Wirral, that question needed answering as quickly as possible. 

‘It’s hard for any business’ points out Craig, ‘but especially one which is based on the idea of sticking 350 people in to a sweaty room together! We should be running shows, selling tickets, putting on concerts - that should all be happening right now. But although Near Future isn’t open, we’re not just a live music venue. We want to be a resource which is about training, developing artists and shaping the future of what the music industry looks like’. 

‘We have this idea about re-imagining a music venue as a learning opportunity’ continues Craig. ‘For example, we have a programme called Sound Check which helps people develop the skills to deliver a live music project with technical aspects such as PA, lighting, AV, sound engineering, plus the whole event management aspect, booking and marketing. This project is specifically designed to help local people access careers in the live music industry. We also planned to have training for under 18s, but then a global pandemic was dumped on top of everything! So now we’re working out what we can do and when we can deliver this work.’

‘We received a Small Business Support Grant from the government, so that will help us adapt our offer in the short-term’.

Although the lockdown has been a tough time for many and presented businesses with an unprecedented set of challenges, it has also given us a new outlook on life.

‘As an individual I’ve learned a lot about myself’ reflects Craig. ‘I’ve learned a lot about my new day-to-day that I want to keep. I’m a lot healthier! I’m eating better, I’m exercising a lot more. I’m spending a lot more time with my family. A lot of that I want to keep’.

‘Ironically, as a society it has brought us a hell of a lot closer together at the same time as keeping us apart. The selfless, fundamental roles people play in terms of keeping this country and our community going is valued now more than ever. That should have a tangible long-term impact’.

And what is the future for Future Yard?

‘We are 100% going to realise our vision. It may just take a little longer than planned. In the short-term we’re looking at what we can do digitally, what  we can make work within this current day-to-day reality. But it’s important to note that anything in the short term is a  stop-gap. Nothing is going to replace that absolutely human instinct to come together and share  live music experiences. It is ritualistic, absolutely central to what we are as human beings. People who love live music are feeling that now more than ever before’.

‘You realise how important music is to you’.


Read full article:- http://wirralview.com/news/welcome-near-future

Published by Wirral Council News on Fri, 29 May 2020 www.wirral.gov.uk

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