Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Slamfest Story - Highs, Lows and more Highs

The talking finally stopped and Rotherham Art Events got down to the job of delivering Slamfest.  OK so not as big as our major competition down South in that little Town that rests on the Thames but nonetheless given the amount of work that went into the organisation of the Festival, just as important.

Slamfest was a Party to which all Art genres were invited to contribute; in the end it was the musicians that delivered, while for reasons of their own other genres decided to not take part or worse still just ignore it all.

We started the week with the Roy Blackman CD Launch at Myplace.   It had taken us some time to get to this event, the CD having been available since the turn of the year: Roy had not enjoyed the best of Winters with his health.   Roy’s CD “Roy Blackman – Rotherham’s Man of Memories” is as many know a document of Roy’s life work, featuring all of Roy’s greatest hits. 

Roy is a veteran of the Folk scene; he has toured Yorkshire’s Clubs in his time working in the main for expenses only, when doing guest spots but mainly for free doing floor spots; he’s helped so many song writers and performers in his time.  So it was disappointing that so few of his friends bothered to turn out to support him. 

OK as far as publicity is concerned Roy is not the best self-promoter on the Planet, indeed he hates it, and he didn’t help the cause by failing to attend an arranged Radio Interview, but he deserved better than this and given the masses of publicity over the past month most of the Folkies would have known.  As Paul Pearson said, “the important thing was that those who really care about Roy were there. “

Paul Pearson produced a fantastic professional performance on the night in solo mode, which is the way I love him, as he is able to drag one into another world as he plays through his selection of songs. 

And MCing for the evening were Keystone Acoustic Pam and Pete from Featherstone.  Keystone Acoustic being a Wife and Husband duo fast becoming one of Yorkshire’s firmly established must see acts and one of the hardest working as well.  Great stuff.   Oh and Boch sound system is just fantastic.

Wednesday, we again put the Myplace Youth Centre to work.  Pocketful of N’owt and a programme of Poets had been planned.  And then………………  the duet of Poets from Hull Mike Watts and Joe Hakin pulled out only three days before the event’ having enjoyed all the publicity up to that time, giving no real reasons for the withdrawal.  And on the day event Jonathon Barrington dropped an Email to say that he was on holiday, gaoling because he had chased around and begged to be given a spot.

I was heard to comment that one should not work with animals, children and poets, but qualified that when ROMP came to the rescue, and Gav Roberts, Christine Turner and one other – sorry mate keep forgetting the name not very pro that (so slap hand for me as well).  Thank you to all.

It was though a brilliant evening.  Pocketful of N’owt making a wonderful contribution to the Festival in their typical manner.  Good to see that Mike has found a new guitarist for the Band that has a face as straight as Bassist Harv!! making the stage performance outstandingly entertaining as vocalist Mike does his full stage thing while the two instrumentalists blankly look on unmoved, even when Mike decided to do a bit of bean bag diving. .  And again big thanks to the guys from ROMP for making their contribution, (especially Christine who had only recently lost her Mother and was clearly struggling with the poem she had written about her),  if with their arms pinned up their backs, to the event.  It really was very much appreciated by all.

And check this out, the cast and audience pose for a photograph at the end of the evening.

Our final promotion at Myplace was the FOF Theatre Company’s production of Bill Doran’s “Tea & Kisses with Lover Jane”, plus “Twin Reich”, a play written by local writer Chris Cooper, who doubles up as drummer of Papa Legba’s 

I had seen “Twin Reich” at the Banners High Festival earlier in the year, so looked forward to seeing “Tea and Kisses with Lover Jane”.   

The play itself was based upon the true life story of the reflections of an old man’s memories of youthful unfulfilled love and the demons that might well beset us all in old age. 

Because of the logistics of the Myplace Theatre and technical problems with the excellent lighting, FOF had to improvise with the Theatre space in staging the performance; yet the actors performances held the tension and intensity of the piece to produce a thoughtful and yes, entertaining hour of Theatre.

FOF Theatre is Company of very talented young actors under the Direction of Eddie, and not forgetting the sound and light chappie, yes our Gill of the Bridge’s Thursday Session fame.   

Such a pity that writers, performers, and other Theatre goers in Rotherham did not get to see the performance.

Pictures from this section of Slamfest can be found HERE

We had hoped to have a production of local writers work ready for Slamfest, however time limitations on the actors, most of whom had Exams to study for, meant that we have postponed the Production until the Fringe Festival in October.  This was announced some time ago, but apparently was missed by some.

So why the low attendances at Myplace?  A number of factors at work  MOAN, MOAN, MOAN AND SELF RIGHTEOUS STANCE WARNING.

It had been hoped to offer a range of Art genres at Slamfest, ranging from the visual arts to more written word and performance material.  The concept of Slamfest was originally to mount a Literary Festival, and discussions were held to try and bring local writers together to talk about their work etc.. The fact is that there was absolutely no interest.  Indeed we offered to place performance poetry, and youth writing into the Festival, but no one followed through or meetings were cancelled by the genre experts and not rearranged etc.   Yet interestingly, shows were independently mounted outside of the Slamfest concept and as such missing out on the publicity generated for the Festival.

To say that Rotherham Art Events was disappointed about this would be an understatement.  The Festival came out of thoughts and expressions of a need in Rotherham to promote audiences across the genres at numerous Meetings I have attended since last August.  We also consulted to the point of going hoarse.  But once again all those good words have come to nothing as some of the genres not only sought to protect their own little Empires, but in some cases were actually briefing against RAE and Slamfest. 

Interestingly a Rotherham Organisation that circulates listings to all Art Organisation listings etc., actually failed to get the three events onto the Web Sites approaching me on the day the Myspace events ended to inform me that they would get them on the site. Really helpful that was. NOT! Interestingly the Rock Rotherham and Acoustic Rotherham events did make it.   

More hurtful personally is the hypercritical, and darn outright two faced approach by some.  These people criticise Rotherham Art Events commercial approach, a commerciality based upon a need to generate income to pay for venues, publicity, staging, Insurance and many more hidden costs. 

I’m not sure what Planet these people live on, especially in some cases I was informed that they would only be interested if they were to be paid!! Yet if asked to back themselves as a draw by taking a % of the door run in the opposite direction.  Indeed one suggested that all events should be free.  Strangely he did not want to pay the Bill.

I think they live in this fantasy world where Grant giving organisations send down money from on high which can be thrown to the wind of Art and blown into corners where no one is quite sure as to where it is or has gone; or is it “I’m an artist, why should I worry about where the money comes from.”

And then there was the person, who is still just about living, who suggested that Mick and I were promoting it all for our own financial benefit and started posting Tweets about “people who make money from artists should be hung”. 

Others didn’t like the venue selected on the basis that there was “no beer”.  But how about attracting a young audience to see adult performers, how about encouraging more young people into the arts? How about attracting audiences who can’t for various reasons go into Public Houses? 

And then there was the friend, who I have promoted free of charge on my Web Sites for years.  Asked to provide some equipment and specialist performance, he responded by asking what was in it for him and wanted paying. 

So I say to these knockers and back stabbers, look to your selves, what comes around goes around.  These people who expect a free ride, expect their promotions to promoted / listed / advertised as part of a general co-operative approach to the Arts in Rotherham really need to understand what co-operation is. 

Fine words mean absolutely nothing, principles mean nothing, unless you are prepared to transfer them into some sort of action.  From what I’ve seen so far, there are some who would like the status quo to be maintained because it suits their own agenda, the real change that was spoken of in 2011 will never ever happen until there is a real sea change in attitudes from top to bottom.

All three of the, what some might describe as the more arty shows, were promoted with no “public money”.    Indeed the whole Festival was promoted without public money.

Rotherham Art Events despite this experience, are still dedicated to the promotion of Rotherham Arts talent and creativity, even if it would seem some would prefer that REA go and we move forward to sorting out the programme for the Fringe Festival in October.

SO HAIL THE MUSICIANS.  Without the dedicated support of Rotherham’s musicians Slamfest would have been a damp squid.  Here’s a group of guys gals for too long ignored by the establishment of Rotherham Arts who jumped at the opportunity to showcase their creativity and talent – and what a show they put on.   From folk to a wall of modern heavy metal sound, and everything in between.

What’s more they played to good sized and appreciative audiences.

Over three hundred musicians performing as part sixty plus Bands or solo performers Rocked Rotherham Town Centre and other venues throughout the Town.

The weekend started appropriately enough, with the Myke Barritt Memorial Concert on the Friday evening, where young Band Majority Vote made a fantastic impact upon a packed audience at The Bridge in support to another super band Brain Bomb.  Great punk rocking entertainment and a brilliant start we hoped to what promised to be an amazing weekend of music.  And so it proved.

Saturday kicked off at 10:00am in All Saints Square on The Main Stage.  The honour of being the first artist to play at Rock Rotherham Saturday went to Phil Sinclaire, one of the Boroughs developing song writing and performing talents.  We chose Phil deliberately, as he is a prime example of what Rotherham Art Events is about, young, talented, wanting learn and wanting to perform to build the experience that will develop his career.

To even it up a bit, we then had Nic Harding a young lady with what I hope will be great future on the local music scene. 

The first Band to grace the Slamfest main stage was Swansong.  One of the best sets that I’ve seen them produce, congrats to the boys and of course Karen.   Let’s hope that the people who caught the performance will be out and about searching for news of your Gigs.

And so the people started to gather, more and more as the day went on, and even as we hit 7:00pm and the last Band of the day were hitting the stage, the people kept coming to support their favourite Band or just find out what it was all about. 

All in all everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, I don’t think of the people crossing the Square did I hear one complaint, one lady of sixty six told one of our people that she had been in the Square all day and had enjoyed every minute. 

And thanks to Dan Cooper and the boys at the sound desk we had the perfect sound well within the decibel limit we had imposed on ourselves.    Big, big thanks to these guys – they were working from six in the morning until nine in the evening so as to get and keep the show on the road.  I make that fifteen hours of work.

We’ve heard a few moans from Traders about the level of sound.  However, on the basis that I know of at least two businesses reporting good to record sales, with one business selling out of larger before the evening ended I think that it was a good day for everyone.

Certainly my unscientific observation of numbers suggests the footfall through the Town was a significant improvement on a regular Saturday, and where a lot of businesses are winding down and closing around 3:30pm the event generated footfall throughout the whole day.

For me it was just good to see so many happy faces, and so many happy artists. 

And this applied to all the Slamfest stages.   At Myplace the youth Bands played out their sets wonderfully.  I was lucky enough to catch a few numbers from “For Pete’s Sake” on my tour of the Stages , who demonstrate only too clearly the depth of the talent we have.   Thanks to Richard from The Herringthorpe Youth Centre for providing the PA, and backline for this venue.  Very much appreciated.

At the Clifton Park Band Stand stage Mark Lynam and the boys from “View from S62” had taken charge of providing the PA.  The Band Stand attracted reasonable audiences throughout the day, with Crafty Jack, View from S62 on the Bill alongside the act I caught, The Tom Kilner Band – who is yet another amazing young musician who I just know you’re going to hear a lot more from in the years to come – and other top local Bands.

At The Exchange, the fantastic Masher Road Crew were organising the stage.  First of the slight slip ups here.  The artists were as expected fantastic, but the Pub since we earmarked it for the Folk venue had decided to become Rotherham United’s home base Pub!!   But Sue and Barrie battled on regardless, producing an entertaining afternoon of music.  

Unfortunately some would have witness an uncharacteristic outburst from the much respected Roy Blackman, being the only unsavoury moment of the day, despite the Football fans.  We apologise to anyone offended by what was said, or found it not appropriate to be addressed to a Lady.

At the end of the day we had to move “Florins” set from the Exchange to The High House where Biff out of Leather Zoo was in the Chair.  The move was necessitated by the Rotherham supporters having got bored with the music as more ale had been taken on board, and deciding that they could add something to the music by performing something that looked very much like a war dance and chanting into the mic.  We closed the venue for artist safety.

I’m told that Biff did an outstanding job up at The High House and the programme of music made it one of the most entertaining stages of the Festival.  Everything from comedy to indie fusion to Americana and all played out to a packed House throughout the day.  Big thanks to Martin Croft and Biff for the loan of the PA and the Management of the stage. 

More Folk and Acoustic music could be found at The Imperial Building, where David Kidman was in charge.  Once again nothing but positive comments about the superb programme of music that was put on with Rachel Barley, and Keystone Acoustic making appearances.  Good to see my old mate Philip Hartley out and playing again in Rotherham after a tough time in his life.  I’m told that the Button Box and other Traders in the building did a brisk trade throughout the day.

There should have been a stage at The Trades Club in Rotherham for the Indie Bands.  The sound system was in place but unfortunately the person who offered to provide the backline and was over the moon to support us by accepting the publicity we gave him at the time, failed to deliver, and did not answer his telephone until 2:30pm, when he said that he had expected us to collect……….. given that we couldn’t contact him that was a bit of nonstarter.   That one bit of, let’s call it, failure to communicate cost the Festival close to £200 and the Bands who were supposed to play did not get the chance to join in.   Not good from a live music bar.  But then perhaps Mick and I should have expected it as this particular person said they could not be bothered to get up early enough to have his establishment take part in the Festival.

At The Charters heavy metal was being thrashed out all day, our apologies to the bar staff (sort of). Managing the Stage were the two Nathans and despite initial problems with the supply of a bass cab everything went off without incident.   Each time I went past the pub was full, not surprising as there were some top Bands to be heard and it was fantastic that there were so many that the music went on until mid-night.

Mick and I ended our day in The Bridge.   We only just squeezed in.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the place so packed at 8:00pm, and I mean packed, like sardines and all to see Rotherham’s exploding young Band “Waiting for Eddie”, what a show they put on?   How the Band’s lead, Em managed to survive I don’t know, during the day she had performed two solo slots and by the time she finished at The Bridge two Band slots.  It’s support like that makes it so easy for RAE to back such raw talent. 

The slightly more experienced Steve Cooke from Middlesbrough did the second support slot with his electro keyboard funky indie fusion, something new to the Rotherham audience.

And winding up with a grafting two hours of driven punk came 77 from Lincoln.  Last time they played the Bridge the place was near empty, so they must have wondered what had hit them this time out. 

A fine end to a great day of music.

Pictures from the full day at Rock Rotherham Saturday can be found HERE

We had just one more event to work through, Chill out Sunday at The Queens, Rawmarsh;  Acoustic Rotherham 16 to you and I.

For Keystone Acoustic it was their third run from Featherstone to Rotherham, my how they worked hard for Slamfest this week.  For Em it was her fifth set of the weekend, I told her it was good practice for when she is number one in the charts (think I got away with that).  Phillip Hartley was making his third appearance of the weekend! While Malvern Gaz, or was he Stomping on Spiders or even the Abbott of Unreason was making his fourth appearance of the weekend.

But we had debut makers at this Acoustic Rotherham, Diamond Dac from West Yorkshire, a true veteran of the Yorkshire music scene, and Carol Robson who brought along her new singing partner, Maria Barham to entertain us, while Dylan Brierley was making his second appearance at The Queens (yet another top young musical talent who enjoys every minute of being on stage he’s also developed a Masher like Commercial streak so watch out).

It never ceases to amaze me just how wonderful these afternoons are, even if attendances recently have not been at their best.  

This quarter we could say that we had the full range of ages, and a full mix of acoustic music genre and not a dud amongst them, if you discount The Masher at the start of the afternoon.

It was simply a lovely afternoon of music. 

But sadly, once again the afternoon was slightly marred by Roy Blackman.  I have to apologise to the those who were aware of what was happening as this time Roy decided to shout abuse at me over the performing artist.  I’ve no idea what on earth was going on, or what has prompted these two out of character but nasty incidents from a normally lovely Roy were about and as he currently will not speak to me so at the moment we are going to be none the wiser.  For a second time this weekend Roy had to be escorted from the pub.

An exciting weekend for us all I think. 

Pictures from Chill out Sunday can be found HERE

It’s hard to believe that the whole week was programmed by two people Mick Hill and myself, administered by a small dedicated team including mainly Jane and Lisa, and delivered in full by a relatively small team of helpers. 

So let’s make our thanks, and in no particular order of priority.  First all the Stage Managers on Rock Rotherham Saturday and especially those who loaned equipment and PA.    Giving your time and demonstrating the flexibility to keep the show on the road was fantastic.  We did not have one problem throughout the whole day which helped Mick and I so much.

One man or team requires special mention, Dan Cooper and family that delivered the main stage sound.  Without his support and help I really wonder if Mick and I could have made it all happen.  Thanks Dan.

The Rotherham Town Centre Team who have been positive about the promotion from day one and have helped us through the administrative mine field to get the event staged.  Hugs all round and I think we have an excellent back view picture of you to show the World – I thought I caught a rather cheeky angle.

The RAE girls and boys.  Jane, Lisa, Louise, Linda and Mr Chris Bilton who somehow produced a Brochure out of nothing in three weeks.   Also new friend Neil, who by buying the Mashing Machine made the whole thing possible, and reassured The Masher that the Machine had gone to a good home.   Yes just these people.  If you would like to join our Events Team and be a part of delivering The Rotherham Open Arts Festival Fringe in October and Slamfest 2013 then please get in touch with Jane HERE

We also need committed members of the Management Team able to deliver under pressure.  Please contact Dickie HERE

All our Sponsors and advertisers.  Your contributions have been critical to the staging of Slamfest.  Special thanks to Ziggy's Workhouse Gym who kicked the Commercial fund raising off for us and gave others confidence to invest.  The latest figures show that there have been around 6,000 views of your adverts on our Web pages, (continues until April 2013) two hundred Programmes were sold and some got mentioned amongst the five major local newspaper stories published during the run in.   The on line adverts will remain in place until April 2013. 

I say again, and will not tire of saying, not a penny of public funding money was used to mount this Festival. 

Most of all the three hundred plus artists from Rotherham and District who gave their time and talent for FREE to make this Festival the biggest ever Festival of music ever seen in Rotherham.  Well done to you all and I hope that we will see you again 2013. 

Personally what is even more remarkable is that we delivered the Festival in the face of the above discussed negativity from those who should know better, just what might have been achieved in terms of artist exposure if we had received full support.

We want your comments.  Were you part of the audience, were you an Artist, or do you just have an interest in what we were doing, then please give your views.  Also, if you have any more pictures from the days then please send them through.  You’ll find upload forms HERE

There are a few more stories from the World of Art in Rotherham that should be told and events coming up.  Sorry, but these will have to wait until the next Blog when my brain might be more together.  I think the come down from the weekend is only just kicking in. 

I will mention the Chris Slater Oil Painting Workshops at the Imperial Building each Saturday during August and the first two in September.  The Workshops are being delivered FREE.  Now, I don’t know Chris personally, but I love his work, his pictures of Rotherham scenes and events are absolutely super, and if you need proof then take a look at Slamfest in the Imperial Building.  Spot on.   Thanks Chris.   If we had some pennies we’d buy it for the RAE Office. 
Tickets for the Dirty Dylan Concert as part of Clifton Park's Summer Breezes weekend 17 / 18 /19 of August are on sale from The Information Centre in the Town Centre.  It's a great line up with Steve Gascoigne and Phil Sinclaire in support.

So – whatever you are have already done this week we hope it was great, and for the weekend ahead have great fun and KEEP it live. 


  1. Well Done Richard and Mick. a mammoth Achievement, heads up and into the next one!!

  2. Thanks Mike.

    We look to October for The Fringe Festival next. But a couple of days extra rest will have to come first.

  3. Well done, Richard and Mick, for putting together such an excellent series of events. I played two sets and watched several acts, and was exhausted by the end of the night, but you guys were running all over the place 24/7 making sure things went smoothly. Thanks for all your efforts.