Dozens of aspiring rock stars and rappers took to a very different stage on Thursday as part of a youth music project in Stroud.
Over 30 young people, aged from seven to 17 years, gathered together in the ‘COVID safe’ Sub Rooms to perform for the first time in a custom-built structure designed by Glastonbury Festival artist Jack Wimperis.
“To be able to reopen our doors at all during this incredibly difficult time is extraordinary,” said Hugh Phillimore, volunteer director at the Sub Rooms.
“But to be able to give the stage to talented youngsters who have been missing being part of a creative music community was incredibly moving. We all had a tear in our eye from the sheer joy on their faces.”
Musicians from 22 schools took part in BandIT 27, a four-day song writing and band workshop, which culminated in a two hour performance when the Sub Rooms reopened its doors for the first time in nine months.
The event was witnessed by their peers and carefully distanced music industry experts in the venue – which can safely house over 100 audience and crew members adhering to strict COVID19 safety guidelines as well as being live-streamed internationally to thousands using a six camera set up and studio inside the venue.
Kevin Howlett, who has been running the music workshops for nearly two decades, said that the opportunity that BandIT could offer young students had felt even more important than ever.
“The musicians had just four days to put a band together, write and rehearse a song, and learn how to sound check and perform in front of a crowd,” Kevin explained.
“This year was different of course, we needed to ensure that the kids were safe, and there were strict COVID19 safety procedures for them to adhere to, to be honest we weren’t sure it would be safe to go ahead.
“But the relief when we found that our chosen venue had put something in place to ensure that the gig could not only go ahead, but actually make the performance even more special for the kids was incredible.”
Topics chosen for the tracks included, unsurprisingly, COVID19, and the effects of the recent lockdown the teenagers had experienced on their mental health and well-being, but lyrics also explored the Black Lives Matters protests, and the importance of NHS workers and newly formed bands names included ‘The Antidote’, ‘Forgotten’ and ‘Storm Inside’.
“The workshops gave the kids the opportunity to express some of their confusion and fear, but also gave some positivity – they made friends, gained confidence and showed us adults how we can adapt to change,” BandIT leader Kevin said.
Thirteen bands climbed steps onto an elevated stage which is part of Jack Wimperis’s cleverly designed structure featuring a mesmerising maze of tunnels, pods, rooms and a viewing balcony, built to ensure safe physical distancing for performers and audience members during the pandemic.
After having a commission to design a light sculpture for Glastonbury’s iconic Pyramid Stage to mark the festival’s 50th birthday was shelved, Jack Wimperis spent three months building light sculptures and structures many of which were made out of household items such as tin cans, milk bottles and even old camera film cases.
“It’s been quite wonderful, we’re not sure how we’ve pulled it off – but we have, and that’s down to all of the people from the events and music industry to just turned up to help,” said Jack.
“Aside from building something to give a glimmer of hope to our industry the project has done something else; it’s provided a platform for the community to come together and work on – it’s been like a magnet with more and more people turning up each day to help.”
A team of over a dozen out of work musicians, event producers, and sound technicians spent a further three months inside the historic venue building the walk-through art exhibition for families to visit during the day, which transforms into a venue after dark.
Doors to Everything is Light were due to open to the general public on November 9 and over 2000 tickets have already been sold for the visitors’ attraction. However due to the second COVID19 lockdown has delayed the opening until December, ticket holders have been offered a full refund or a transfer of tickets to the new dates.
Additionally businesses such as d&b audiotechnik, a global giant in sound systems and technology, who were lucky based just five miles down the road from the venue, stepped forward to help, and brought in partners like the SFL Group to bring in extra speakers to ensure that the sound quality matched the visual experience that visitors can expect.
“This has shown what happens when an industry comes together to support each other,” Hugh Phillimore said.
“We won’t stop thinking of creative ways to bring live music back, our younger generation of musicians need us to fight for it. We won’t give up.”
Photos by Simon Pizzey.