We are absolutely over the moon that our founder, Sybil Bell, was awarded the ‘Live Music Inspiration’ at the Music Week Women in Music Awards 2022. Sybil was amongst a winners’ list that included Independent Venue Community ambassadors Nova Twins and partners Come Play With Me, announced at the Park Plaza in London on Friday. We are so proud of our incredible founder for a decade of tireless work supporting live music in independent venues all around the UK. It couldn’t be any more deserved in our eyes!
Whilst there was time for a speech, Sybil wasn’t able to say everything she wanted in the time so here’s what she wanted to say, in full;
Thank you to those who nominated and supported me for this award. It’s a very surreal and humbling experience and means so, so much.
Thanks also to Music Week and AIM and congratulations to all the women who work in the industry, those nominated and those who’ve won today.
I’d also like to thank Maggie Crowe for presenting the award. I know how much Maggie hates speaking in public. That my industry hero and legend has agreed to be up here today, when she’d be so much happier sat at a table away from the spotlight, means more than she can know. I bloody love you Maggie, thank you for always having my back.
I came up with the idea for Independent Venue Week (IVW) back in the summer of 2013 and set about asking venues around the country to part of the first year. 17 venues signed up and we announced the project in November that year with the first IVW running at the end of January 2014.
In just over 2 months time, we celebrate 10 years of Independent Venue Week in the UK and in July earlier this year, we celebrated 5 years in the US.
It’s been a complete rollercoaster – personally and professionally.
But it’s been amazing and although it is still a HUGE rollercoaster, I’ve had, and am still having, the time of my life.
I’ve discovered so many parts of the country I would never have gone to otherwise, met some incredible people who are now life long friends and seen up close and personal, just how important, vibrant and most of all just how loved these unique and brilliant spaces are all around the country.
And being truly independent means something very special. It means being authentic. These are locally owned businesses putting back in to their local community and economy. And it’s incredibly challenging, as we all appreciate after the last few years.
And for young people that want to work in the industry behind the scenes but don’t know anyone or have the resource to work for next to nothing, the easiest door to get their foot in, is that of their local venue.
They are the epitome of the meaning of grassroots and they are in every nook and cranny of the country.
So for everyone that works in the industry, please remember the vital role these spaces play in our ecosystem and the future of our industry. Stop asking for guest list, start paying for a ticket (it’s the price of a pint), take a non-industry mate to a gig or someone who hasn’t been for a while.
Support these spaces that support the next generation.
Back to the award and this is actually the first, and only award we, or I, have won in our 10 years. And I think that’s a good thing.
An initiative like IVW shouldn’t ever be about us. And certainly not about me.
Independent Venue Week should be about our venues, and the communities within and around them.
Over the last 10 years, we have played a significant part in raising their profile, highlighting the importance and celebrating the vitality of grassroots venues and the communities they serve.
I’d like to think we’ve done that passionately, empathetically and with great care.
And it’s through 10 years of building and running IVW that in July this year, we launched Independent Venue Community (IVC), a new initiative which encourages venues to open their doors during the day offering a range of education and development activity, created by us and industry leaders, for local communities, especially the underserved and marginalised.
Not only does IVC help venues, located in villages towns and cities across the country, to sustain themselves alongside live music, but collectively we also have a real chance to unlock talent in places where these opportunities just don’t exist.
And they should.
Next spring, Independent Venue Community will become a charity and we are making it our mission to open up these opportunities in every part of the country.
But running IVW and IVC takes a huge amount of resource. So I’d like to thank Arts Council England not just for their continued support for our work, but for their faith and shared belief in what we, and our stakeholders, can achieve.
I’d also like to thank BBC 6 Music, and especially Steve Lamacq, Sam Moy, Antonia Kyte, Paul Rodgers and the team there for bringing the amazing stories from venues & creative communities around the country, to the airways for so many more people to discover.
To Rob Wilmshurst at See Tickets, our ticketing partner, for getting the independent sector, genuinely caring about it and being a ticketing company with ethics – a rarity these days.
Kelly, Millie, Fuzz and all at BBC Introducing and all of our other partners too like, Arts Council Wales, Welsh Government, Creative Scotland, Musicians Union, PPL and others over the years.
I’d also like to thanks Stephanie Hardwick of Hardwick and Morris, my dear friend and also our accountant. When I came up with the idea of IVW, she emailed lots of her clients saying “My friend Sybil has come up with this brilliant idea, please can you send her a message about why these venues are so important.”
Her client list is always confidential but her email brought about a number of messages from some of my hero artists. What really blew me away was a resulting Sunday lunch with her and her son and a bass player from one of my all time favourite bands, a conversation about the project over that lunch and a phone call the following week so see how they could help. And that’s how Colin Greenwood became our first ever IVW Ambassador.
We’ve been so lucky to have some incredible artists as ambassadors over the years and we’ve always strived to ensure we have artists at all stages of their careers, from a variety of genres and truly representative of our community. Sharing their stories not just of playing these venues early on in their careers, but also seeing artists on stage that have then gone on to inspire them to come artists themselves, says just why these spaces are so important to us all. So thank you to Colin Greenwood (Radiohead), Frank Turner, Wolf Alice, Tim Burgess (The Charlatans), Adrian Utley (Portishead), Nadine Shah, Jamie Cullum, Darryl McDaniels (Run DMC), Big Jeff Johns (Gig Goer), Novelist, Samantha Renke, Anna Calvi, Vic Galloway (Scotland), Huw Stephens (Wales), Arlo Parks, Amy Macdonald (Scotland), Gruff Rhys (Wales), Jordan Adetunji (N. Ireland), Wet Leg, Joesef (Scotland), Mace The Great (Wales), Soak (N. Ireland) and Philip Selway.
I’d also like to thank Rev Moose, Cecilie, Bobby, Kodi and the team at Maruarder in the US for bringing IVW to life in the US with as much care, passion and love as we put in over here. IVW US is already bigger in terms of venue numbers than the UK but neither they, nor we, are obsessed with numbers. For us, it’s quality over quantity and we want to see authentic, truly independent venues being given the spotlight they so deserve by everyone who relies on them and loves them as much as we all do.
IVW and IVC wouldn’t happen without all of these supporters and partners and their support is never taken for granted. But we still aren’t where we need to be, to deliver our goal, even this coming year.
I see eye watering amounts of money spent in music sponsorship and partnerships. Often for just two or three days. In a field. Once a year. Or out there in the ether – an intangible world of untouchable, unliveable real life experiences. And so often with no legacy or genuine investment in the ecosystem, which they, themselves rely on to exist.
These partnerships always feel like they’re about the brand. Not about the music. Or the people. Or the future.
Supporting our community through IVW and IVC offers a genuine opportunity to be there at the start, supporting those making the biggest investment in the next generation. They are the people and places that take a chance on new artists, because they believe in them.
They, along with music fans are the true “Influencers”, not some sappy non-ebrity.
Supporting Independent Venue Week and Independent Venue Community is not about badge slapping, it’s about the people. This is the chance for brands to come and be ‘the people’. And the future.
So if you’re in the room and want to talk help us unlock talent on and off the stage through live shows and community engagement, come and find me.
We have big plans for the future including international growth – an IVW taking place every month somewhere in the world with a venue twinning programme and cultural exchange of artists. And to see our community projects extending beyond these shores.
So now is the perfect time to put your faith, and money, into a business founded in the UK by a woman, that’s me, which champions the independent sector, for the betterment of communities all around the country and the world.
You don’t build something like IVW or IVC by sitting on the side lines. You have to have a vision which you believe in. And be bold enough to keep going to deliver it.
At the very start, I was told by an established national promoter in the midlands that he “didn’t see any point to this”. Another man from a ticketing company said to me a few years later that I wasn’t really cut out to run the business, I’d be better off handing it over to a man and become something of an ‘Ambassador’ for the project.
I don’t want to be overly negative but I do want to highlight that for so many women, this is still our every day reality.
As women, we have to be ‘more’ in so many ways, to be equal.
As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History.
But why is it about our behaviour when for men, it’s about their business capability.
Why are we seen as…
- Emotional when men are passionate
- Bossy when men take control
- Pushy when men are assertive
- Abrasive when men are direct
- Impulsive when men are smart
- Showing off when men are expert
- And Judgemental when men are honest
Why is there still a disparity? We hear talk of levelling up – that still needs to apply to us as women in the music industry.
We are so many things but more than anything, we are passionate about our work, our community, the impact our work can have and the difference it can make.
And there are so many men who are hugely supportive and kind, offering guidance and opening doors to help our work have the greatest impact. Most notably Webbo, Martin Talbot, previous and current ambassadors, Colin Greenwood, Philip Selway, Frank Turner, Adrian Utley, our venue family Nathan Clark (Brudenell Social Club), Mal Campbell (Trades Club Hebden Bridge), James Stirling (BBC) among others and of course, gig going legend, Bristol’s very own Big Jeff who we send our love and best wishes to for a continued recovery.
IVW and IVC is only possible because of the brilliant, kind, smart, bold and funny team I’m lucky enough to work with every day. Ours is a rollercoaster world and their passion, dedication, belief in and love of our community means we are all still here, doing what we can to keep our community in the spotlight. I love that they challenge me, that we overcome unimaginable hurdles to keep our work going and that we have a genuine love and respect for each other at work and beyond.
So, thanks to Joe, Erin, Sam, Adam, Debbie, Brian, Will, Lou, Angelle, Liv and to our reps all around the country Tam, Vic, Stew, Emily, Claire, Martin, Kris, Minty, Adrian, Ruth, Tor and Aaran, thank you.
I’d also like to thank my mum, my absolute hero. Her tireless belief and love has helped me keep going when I’ve wanted to give up, to have faith when I’ve doubted, laugh when I’ve been in tears and just been silly, loving and inspirational when it was needed most.
Our goal is to help venues become cultural hubs for learning, creativity, arts and culture more widely, connecting like-minded people in their local community of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, sexualities, genders, skills and walks of life.
We have the ability to unlock talent and open up the music and creative industries to a much broader talent pool. And one that is truly representative.
Grassroots venues around the country, from cities to towns and villages, are THE place where the next generation of talent is found and together we can change lives, and the industry, for the better.
Let’s help keep them thriving and keep them independent.
Thanks again for this award.