Last week there was an article in the Citizen in which Rikki Hill of Big Red Music and Events suggested that Gloucester could become a music hub for the area.
Clearly Mr Hill has a vested interest in this: his company is based in the city and he helped organise last year’s Sportbeat Festival at Plock Court, which is happening again this June. Nonetheless, I think that making Gloucester a hub for live music is a fantastic idea.
However, I do take issue with some of the comments in the article.
Although he says that “Gloucester has reason to be proud of its live music scene” and mentions the “thriving Gloucester blues scene”, he also says that “there is a drastic shortfall of entertainment in Gloucester” and “For years the city has been starved of high-quality live music acts”. I just don’t think that’s true.
The article acknowledges the Cafe Rene’s efforts in putting on live music, but says they are “a lone voice”. This is not true! The Cafe Rene is a superb live music pub, with bands on every Wednesday and Friday. They also host a number of excellent festivals throughout the year and are a major contributor to the annual Blues Festival, but they are not a lone voice.
I believe Gloucester has a superb live music scene around its pubs: live music can frequently be found in the Cross Keys, the New Inn, the Dick Whittington and the Brunswick, to name just a few that come immediately to mind. Most of the bands are local, and most of the music is rock or blues, which suits me nicely. Most of it is excellent. I have frequently thought that more should be done to promote the city as a live music destination – especially taking the Blues Festival to new heights.
Apparently “Big Red want to reach out to pubs and venues in the city by running live music for them”. If this can be done in a way that complements the existing offerings and leads to an even more vibrant music scene in the city then it is definitely to be welcomed: bring it on.
Where Gloucester does not do so well is with bigger acts, and this is where the festivals mentioned in the article definitely help out.
The problem here is the lack of a suitable venue. The Guildhall is great and has had some brilliant acts, from the bigger local bands and tribute acts through to the rock god that is Robert Plant, but it is generally not big enough to support major acts.
The Kingsholm rugby ground is an excellent larger venue and has been used a couple of times, most recently for a very successful Tom Jones concert, but it doesn’t get used a lot – presumably because of the clash with its main purpose as a rugby ground.
In the old days the Leisure Centre used to have some good mid-sized bands: I went to my first concert there when I saw UFO in 1982, followed soon after by Gillan and Thin Lizzy. Being a sports hall it wasn’t an ideal venue, but it was something.
Maybe a dedicated theatre/ music venue in the new King’s Quarter to replace the originally planned cinema could be a good idea.
So, overall I strongly support the aspirations of Mr Hill and Big Red. Let’s support and celebrate Gloucester’s current vibrant pub-based music scene and take it to new heights as a music hub. Cheltenham has it’s Jazz and Classical music festivals, let’s put Gloucester on the map for rock and blues.