Do What You Want Day is back!
Friend of Pleece & Co and gig lover, Fiona Langdon, spent a Do What You Want Day/Night on Saturday watching local bands perform at The Brighton Dome – her first live gig for 224 days. Here she outlines the campaigns to keep live music alive as a result of the impact of coronavirus, as well as her take on an eagerly anticipated, if somewhat restrictive, return to what makes her feel alive…
Yumi and the Weather
In September 2020 Brighton Dome joined with the national #SaveOurTheatres initiative set up by the Theaters Trust to create a crowdfunding campaign in an attempt to make up the shortfall from loss of ticket sale revenue due to the impact of Corornavirus. Their initial target was £25,000 to be raised from rewards such as signed posters, backstage tours, membership, art cards and email or video thank yous. At the time of writing they’ve reached their third stretch target with over £68k pledged. Rewards and support for the campaign came from a variety of artists and businesses including Morag Myerscough, Steve Bell, David Shrigley, Graham Cameron, Lemn Sissay, local fine art screen printers The Private Press who screen printed a series of high quality prints selected from previous festival brochure covers, and GF Smith who donated premium stock paper.
As a Brighton Dome email subscriber promotion of the #BringBackBrightonDome campaign went directly into my inbox via a series of well thought out, interesting and highly visual emails, most of which I clicked through on. I was also aware of their crowdfunding campaign via Instagram. Live is Alive! was launched by the Dome on the 29th September as a way for them to support local grassroots venues, under current government guidelines venues cannot operate as sustainable businesses. Brighton and Hove’s music scene contributes an estimated £112m per year to the local economy and is a huge part of what makes Brighton a vibrant cultural, creative city and tourist destination.
Live is Alive! came to my attention the day it was launched via my Whatsapp music group where a friend shared Melting Vinyl’s Facebook post, by the end of the day we’d picked our preferred evening. Some confusion over maximum tickets allowed and seating rules led me to email ticketing at the Dome who replied within the day with a clear friendly explanation that said how excited and confident they were feeling about these events. With restrictions to live events continuing and 2021 festivals looking in doubt this event came at a welcome time for the group. Detailed instructions were sent out just before the gig which were clear and provided full guidance on the safety measures in place and our arrival time.
On the 17th October, exactly 224 days since my last gig I was finally going to another. As someone who normally averages a gig a week (mostly local bands and within Brighton) Covid has had a huge impact on my social life and my community. I approached the Dome with huge excitement and soon recognised other local gig goers, though with many wearing masks in the street it wasn’t always easy to know who was waving at you!
Bar Stool Preachers
Regulations to follow were similar to pubs, scan the NHS QR code to check into the venue, sanitise your hands before you enter, have your temperature checked and wear a mask unless seated and drinking. A one way system was in operation with cabaret tables seating a maximum of 4 well distanced from the next table. Drinks could be ordered in advance via the Preoday app and were waiting for us in an ice bucket when we arrived – which was a lovely touch. More drinks could be ordered during the evening and were delivered super fast to the table in paper bags – only cans were on offer. Only niggles during the evening were the amount of plastic cups we were given, maybe there could be a way to order a cup only if you need one? And being told off for taking photos when I saw no signs saying that wasn’t allowed was poor customer service. I’d question why you’d want to take that approach given the audience would want to share the event and campaign on social media – before the end of the night at least three of us had posted to Instagram. Apart from that, the staff were lovely and seemed genuinely pleased to have some people back.
There were four bands, playing in the wrong order we felt, with each band being presented by a local venue. First up was Immersion (presented by Chalk Live) , an instrumental only electronic project originally set up in 1994 by veteran musicians (and couple), Malka Spigel (Minimal Contact) and Colin Newman (Wire). Followed by Yumi And The Weather (presented by St.George’s Church), music project of Brighton based singer Ruby Taylor and then the amazing West Afro-funk sounds of Bakk Lamp Fall (latest Music Bar) – it was really hard to stay seated for them! and finally exuberant (but not our cup of tea) The Bar Stool Preachers (Pipeline). Compere for the evening was local comedian Jen Brister, which added to the theatre.
Today was a good day…
The Dome’s concert hall has a standing capacity of 1,800, this sold out event was limited to 250 so the atmosphere was never going to be anything like a regular gig. Being seated when you’d rather stand up and dance is one thing but part of the joy of live events is being up close with other people, it’s what creates your community and although we shared a collective experience it paled to what we normally experience. Having said that we still had a lot of fun plus it was something different to do after months of being starved of what has become a way of life for us. Sure we’d rather jump up and down, shout in a mate’s ear and hug a friend but in the meantime we got out, we had a drink, we had the excitement of listening to live music and the escape and wonder that can bring, and most importantly we were doing something to help keep the venues going.
You can donate to a specific venue in crisis via their individual fundraising campaign or to the national #saveourvenues Crowdfunder campaign.