'It's something close to our heart': BBC Music's James Stirling talks Independent Venue Week

'It's something close to our heart': BBC Music's James Stirling talks Independent Venue Week

Independent Venue Week 2018 has reached the halfway point of its celebration of small venues. Now in its fifth year, the event has involved more venues than ever before with 172 signing up for 2018.

In a significant move for the rapidly expanding live music extravaganza, BBC Music has also come on board as an official partner this year with online and broadcast support across various networks. BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq is getting into the spirit of IVW with a tour of venues for his daily show - today he’s at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, where the event’s ambassador Nadine Shah is playing at the weekend.

Here, James Stirling, BBC Music, head of content commissioning, tells Music Week why it was important to get involved…

Why has BBC Music become an official partner for Independent Venue Week?

Independent Venue Week is a great initiative because it’s something close to our heart, that idea of developing and nurturing emerging artists and supporting them and - alongside the rest of the industry - helping create an impact with UK artists.

The BBC’s broadcast remit includes supporting new UK music. How important are those small venues for breaking artists?

I think they’re really important actually, without those small venues these artists wouldn’t have room to develop really. They’re such valuable places, I think they can just learn their trade there, they can develop, you notice that people tend to meet other musicians there as well and like-minded people. Our involvement with Independent Venue Week is really to try and shine a light on the good things that are going on rather than focusing on the decline in numbers. This is a really good week to look at the positive stories for venues and emerging artists.
Why did you want to increase your involvement this year?
They reached their fifth anniversary and it felt like a really good time to lend a bit more support from BBC music. Also, it feels like a really important story at the moment. It feels as though music is such a crucial part of UK culture and such an important part of the remit of BBC Music, it just feels like a really good time to up the support for something that is really important in terms of supporting the people that really make grassroots music happen. I think more venues than ever have joined in this year with Independent Venue Week, so you can see that it’s resonating with people around the UK and therefore audiences for the BBC. 6 music have traditionally led this and they will continue to lead it, but actually we’ve got Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 on board and so we’ve got good coverage right across the BBC including popular and classical music.
BBC Introducing has a very strong regional element, is that also important for BBC Music?
We have the network through BBC Introducing to really connect with all corners of the UK when it comes to these grassroots venues, so the Introducing teams will definitely be out and about and they will be covering the local gigs and reflecting that on that Saturday night radio programme across the UK. It's interesting to see there are so many BBC Introducing artists playing - Cabbage, The Magic Gang and Spring King are just a few. So BBC introducing will have an important role in telling that story.
How about Lamaq’s presence…
As I say, 6 Music really lead this and the brilliant thing about Lamaq is that he knows most of these venues - he would have stood in most of them for the last 25 years, more than that probably. What Steve is great at is just those local stories and talking to musicians and to the people that run the clubs and really hearing why it’s important to the local communities. It will culminate on Friday in Liverpool, which should be brilliant, he’s got Idles playing live and it should just be a great end to the week.

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