GET IT LOUD IN LIBRARIES – Cath Aubergine meets one of Britain’s most innovative live music promoters

GET IT LOUD IN LIBRARIES – Cath Aubergine meets one of Britain’s most innovative live music promoters…

website for Get It Loud In Libraries


October 2007, somewhere north of Preston on the M6”¦

“So what’s the venue like, have you been there before?”
“It’s a library.”

We were heading for Lancaster, off to see Manchester electro band The Whip – not an uncommon occurrence in 2007 – and my mates still didn’t quite believe me about the venue. No, it’s not a pub called The Library like that one in Leeds, no it’s not a Library Theatre, it’s a real working library.

“With books in?”
“Well I guess so, that’s what they do, isn’t it?”

Lancaster Library looks, from the outside, much like any other library. Except most libraries don’t have a poster on the door advertising that evening’s performance by a band more frequently found making festival crowds dance. We walked inside and sure enough there was a drumkit set up just in front of the Large Print section. We had a scout around and discovered a larger than usual number of rock’n’roll books – the band’s bassist had already found The Dave Grohl Story and propped it on top of his amp – and the actual music shelf itself was bewildering and impressive. We wondered how many people in Lancaster regularly borrow Flux of Pink Indians CDs. As I noted, reviewing the show for ManchesterMusic, “down the front is possibly the strangest audience The Whip have faced to date – they’ve done a few all ages gigs, but here the ages start at about… five. And in case that wasn’t bizarre enough, the band’s arrival onstage is heralded by Half Man Half Biscuit’s ‘Secret Gig’ coming through the PA.”

pic: The Whip

This was my first encounter with Get It Loud In Libraries, who have been putting on gigs in the nation’s lending establishments since 2005. The project originated in Lancaster Library and subsequently spread to other libraries around the North West before expanding in 2011 to other parts of the country – and their list of past performances is one any decent indie club would be proud of. Florence and The Machine, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, Adele, Guillemots, Robert Forster, Sky Larkin, Noah and The Whale, Bat For Lashes, The Wombats, I Like Trains, Slow Club, Los Campesinos!, Plan B, Professor Green, Yuck, Brother, Warpaint and many more: not surprisingly, the library-loving British Sea Power have done three of them, in Morecambe, Rubgy and Westminster; whilst up-and-coming singer Spark just completed a national tour playing in libraries from Scotland down to Cornwall. Not only is the project bringing people into libraries who may never usually set foot inside one, but with no bars and accompanying license restrictions it’s allowing young kids a chance to see great bands playing live in a real gig environment at an age where they would normally be restricted to big-venue pop concerts and the occasional festival.

pic: I lIke Trains

It’s been the busiest year yet for Get It Loud In Libraries, but man in charge Stewart Parsons found time to answer a few questions for us – obviously we started by asking how this rather wonderful scheme actually came about and whether he’s actually tried his hand at music promotion before at all.

pic: The author at her first GILIL gig Oct 2007 in Lancaster

I have worked for Lancashire Libraries for 25 years but the last 12 have revolved about the music library in Lancaster; the first Get It Loud In Libraries shows went down brilliantly and my role has developed in that area since – my full job title is Cultural Youth Officer / Project Officer – but most people have walked away by the time I reached the end of the sentence…. I have always adored music and as much as the music itself I am passionate about the connection it makes, especially with young people. I mean they consume it like fresh air. As a tool for audience development it makes complete sense to launch a live programme in libraries. No previous experience, and I have kinda learned as I have gone along…which is daunting but fun.

Was there any resistance to the idea from more traditional library workers or users, and if so how did you sell it to them?

The ethos of GILIL has been embraced has been truly satisfying…even older library users realise the cultural capacity of the library has to expand in 2011 to both reach more of the local community and generate the headline, publicity and feelgood factor that ensure the local library is the first cultural point of reference for education, entertainment and information. The shows allow libraries to spearhead culture from the front rather thn be hamstrung by PRS licensing laws ( a new CD can only be put out for loan a full 3 months after release)…so it makes sense all round to deliver music through the live format.

What was the first gig you put on in Lancaster and how did it go?

It was The Long Blondes in May 2006…they signed to Rough Trade the same day…an awesome, awesome show with NME shooting the whole day and 250 people crammed into one tiny space…we have expanded since and stage the shows in the bigger library room. The band were so utterly charming and I think about the whole experience with dewy eyes still…

So after a couple of years you started branching out into other libraries – where have you done gigs to date?

Lancaster, Preston, Edinburgh, Burnley (Kristen Hersh, Anti Flag); Westminster Reference Library (Darwin Deez, Holly Miranda, British Sea Power), Rugby (Plan B), Poole, Isle Of Wight, Worksop, Bodmin….erm…

Which have been your favourites so far then?

Katy B at Lancaster Library for her freshness and the complete loved up vibe….Dum Dum Girls for their sheer class…..Adele at Lancaster for the hairs on my neck springing in the air….Plan B at Rugby felt like something special in the air…..It’s so difficult to cherry pick….Professor Green exceeded all expectations too. Nice bloke.

What are the particular challenges faced when putting in a gig in a library that you wouldn’t necessarily see in a more traditional live venue?

Hiring in a great PA like we do is obviously costly but ensure all the acts enjoy a briliant warm sound….soundchecking could be more relaxed as the timeframe from the library closing proper to doors is very short and fleeting and these bands don’t move fast, do they? Setting up stage and PA whilst traditional users are still browsing is fun…the old timers love knowing who’s playing even when they haven’t heard of them…

And you recently did your first Sunday afternoon matinee show – was that a different sort of experience? Is this something you’ll be doing again in the future?

Oh, I loved Yuck playing in the broad daylight of a Sunday afternoon..yes, it felt very chilled and happy and lots of parents who love great new music but don’t normally get out to live events flocked in. So YES – a great vibe and one to be repeated soon, I hope.

pic: Yuck live feb 2011

How do you select bands? Obviously some of the people you have put on, such as British Sea Power and I Like Trains, have a certain literary element to their music anyway but then you’ve had people like Brother who project themselves as quite rowdy and laddish…

pic: British Sea Power

Yeah, basically we just book the good as we see it, I suppose…I purposely ignore the more literary end of the spectrum sometimes as I don’t want the programme to get pigeonholed as being lit-rock or specifically structured to encourage reading..Reading is obviously a wonderful thing…but GILIL sets out to give young people a great time a in a library first and foremost. Any further reading or library use is simply an extra cherry on the cake. I just trust my own ears like everyone else I suppose…There are always bands you miss out on but like buses, another great one comes along when you least expect it…I still am thrilled to bits when the confirmation email drops!

OK, imagine you have two minutes with David Cameron (or whichever member of the Government is repsonsible for the currently planned decimation of Britain’s library system)… what do you say?

Libraries are a conduit to happiness – to your well being agenda – libraries can change lives – libraries are for some the only cultural access point in their lives – USE, don’t ABUSE libraries…I would keep it simple. Ed Vaizey (Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries) is a GILIL supporter but certain things can be said, eloquently and compellingly.

Tickets from Crowdsurge / Seetickets or direct via the GILIL website

Saturday 14th May: An Evening With Frank Turner (sold out)
Friday 20th May: Warpaint
Sunday 22nd May: the Duke Spirit, Lancaster Library
Wed 13th July: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Lancaster Library
Saturday 17th September: Slow Club


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