In recent years, a new camaraderie has developed amongst artists across Birmingham and the West Midlands – supported by the ever growing social media activity, not just between performers but also fans and proud advocates of their new favourite bands.
As the Birmingham music scene experiences another renaissance in the form of B-Town Mk 2, the surrounding areas of Wolverhampton and the Black Country should not be overlooked.
On the back of this, first time promoter Mark Terry, has launched a new half day event celebrating talent in the West Midlands and the wider friendships made through a love of music.
What fuelled the idea in creating such a beautiful collective event?
‘When Covid hit last year, as it was for everyone, it was a real blow not being able to get out and experience live music.
All we had was online interaction, people like Tom Williams, Withered Hand and local artists such as Alex Ohm and Jack Cattell were saviours with their live streams and, all of a sudden, I was making new friendships or building on what had previously only been acquaintances.
The local acts were also instrumental in raising money for one of Birmingham’s most respected venues, The Sunflower Lounge. As everyone now knows, it proved to be a very difficult time for music venues as well as artists and many haven’t come through it.
Approaching a milestone birthday this year also proved to be a bit of a moment of reckoning, so to speak. As I turned 50, I wanted to mark that by doing something special.
Putting on a gig had been an ambition of mine for some time but there was always a reason to put it off. After the 18 months or so we’ve all just experienced, there was now a reason to do it.
Having missed the buzz of the live shows and also knowing how many people had struggled mentally with the periods of isolation, now felt like the perfect time to try and put a bit back.
I played around with a couple of names for the event, such as Wulf Fest which references the city’s Saxon heritage, but it all felt a bit forced. When I really took a step back and thought about what I wanted to achieve, it quickly became evident that ‘Community’ was the perfect name. The ethos was all about bringing people together to appreciate what we’ve got and how lucky we are.’
What’s your history with the live music scene?
I’ve been going to gigs for over 30 years and it’s provided me with some of the best moments of my life. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of acts in small venues that then went on to bigger things and a lot of bands that didn’t but deserved to.
I was possibly a little late to gigging, as I didn’t really know anyone from school that had the same musical tastes as me, so it took a while before push came to shove and I decided I needed to start going to gigs on my own or I was going to miss out on the experience.
As you do, you then start chatting to people around you and I ended up making friends with a few local bands, some of which I was lucky enough to travel around gigging with them and they have become lifelong friends.
I went with one band, Sweet Jesus, to a gig in Manchester and accidentally ended up being at the first ever Oasis gig. I even got ‘reviewed’ that night by Melody Maker for my complete ineptitude when working the stage lighting for my mates.
It’s those kind of moments that you just can’t plan for and I’m thankful for the warmth and friendship so many bands have shown when I’ve chatted to them. I think my enthusiasm and lack of self awareness must have endeared me to people more than I could have realised.’
What was the thought process behind having Samaritans as the real focus on this event?
‘During Lockdown, for the first real time in my life I’d also started to feel a little vulnerable and began to pay more attention to my mental health.
Again, I see myself as being very lucky in this sense but I know not everyone feels that way. For that reason, I wanted to extend the thinking behind Community to help those who don’t easily feel that they are part of something. This has never been about making money, I just want to give everyone (myself included) the opportunity of enjoying a great day of local music. If it does happen to make a profit, then it’d be nice for that to do some good.
Samaritans was the obvious choice to be beneficiaries.’
What venue is being used for the event and how has social media been a positive in bringing together the collective idea?
‘There was really only one place I wanted to hold it and that was Newhampton Arts Centre. As well as being a creative hub in my hometown, it is held in very high esteem for its music facilities and the sound there is second to none.
The help and support I’ve received from them to make this happen has also been absolutely invaluable.
Without social media, it’s doubtful that Community would ever have happened. It enabled me to build relationships with really good people that I might never have had the chance to talk to at a gig.
Now I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in the same room, supporting each other and enjoying a brilliant day of music.’