|Logotastic Lyle and Nic...|
When you organise a festival, you take on a lot. It’s an enormous amount of work. For this post, OxjamBrum Takeover Managers for 2012, Nic Toms and Lyle Bignon, in between compering and cajoling at a pre-festival fundraiser and artist showcase in Sutton Coldfield, very generously walked me through exactly why they got involved in such a back-breaking activity, and, interestingly, hint at where this all might lead in the future.
|Look, Scott Matthews! He's playing...|
|and so are Bluebeat Arkestra|
It's instructive to look at OxjamBrum Takeover 2012, a one-day multi-venue music festival. The 2012 festival, one of many such localised events organised for Oxfam each year, showcases local talent.
So in my book, we're in positive territory already. Compared with Birmingham Council’s ArtsFest, it's tiny: twelve hours of gigs, performances, sessions and discussions in a handful of mainly independent music venues, for which you will pay a nominal admission fee. But tiny or not, Oxjam Brum punches considerably above its weight with an ability to attract credible local star names and assemble coherent line-ups. That counts for a lot, especially among the participating musicians.
|Dan Whitehouse is popping up too...|
Nic Toms: "It’s not by accident. People at Oxfam have researched and built a model that different teams across the country can pick up. The idea is to take a multi-venue event, before ‘Oxfamming’ it."
So were Oxfam aware of the image issue?
Nic: "Yes. But I would also say that Oxfam has changed too. They do other things: there’s a big country-wide festival stewarding initiative, for example. "
Lyle: "The model that Oxfam has created and shared still gives us lots of flexibility room. We can take that model and shape it."Nic and Lyle met at Flyover Festival in Hockley, Birmingham, in 2009; both were volunteers. Lyle did PR for the 2009 Takeover while Nic was involved across the entire event. Now they’re joint managers. In addition to Flyover, Nic had also worked for Moseley Folk.
Nic: "I thought there was a gap in the market -
Birminghamdidn’t have a city centre based multi-venue music festival with local artists. We’d had Gigbeth, but I wanted to see something in the city centre. And Oxjam gave me the model to do it. They gave me some training, some organisational back-up…and a good reason to do it."
|... the Dhol Blasters play as well...|
Lyle: "Can we mention this? Yes, I think we can. Last year, the Oxjam team raised £6,000. This year, our target is £10,000. "
But you can’t just be doing this on your own... the two of you and a few pals?
Nic: "No. We are collaborating with a range of promoters. We try to work with as many people as possible on the
|...and watch out for these guys too....|
Lyle and Nic together: "Mmmmm… no!"
Lyle: "It’s more about vision. Nic and I had to agree on some fundamentals from the outset. We wanted to represent more of the diversity in the city."
Nic: "Back in 2009 myself and the then team were mainly focused on getting a festival of this type off the ground. We started by approaching indie and guitar based bands we liked, and Brum has lots of great ones. Perhaps we had to stay close to that genre in order for it to work. A lot of credit for our first festival must go to JP White (Victories at Sea, This is Tomorrow) because without his production and programming foundations we wouldn’t have been able to grow or develop in future years. OxjamBrum is now four, and this year’s focus is to represent Birmingham’s demographic and ensure the music is more diverse. But yes, of course there will still be indie bands and guitars!"
|Not forgetting Paul Murphy...|
Lyle: "Then it was picking dates and venues. We wanted more venues, so we needed to sort dates early. We didn’t want to clash with existing festivals like Supersonic, BASS Festival, Moseley Folk, Mostly Jazz, Artsfest and the like."
Dates fixed, team in place… you’ve also added some seminars and industry discussions. What was the thinking?
Lyle: "I wanted to give it more of a festival ‘feel’. One of the driving factors is supporting young and emerging talent. As well as having gigs, it’s a nice addition for a new young musician to be able to get some advice, where there’s more to it than standing in front of an act and seeing what they do."
You are assembling a unique skillset in your team. In making this huge effort, there is now a team. What happens when’s it all over? Are you just going to melt away, like the Olympic games makers?.
Lyle: "We need to see how good we’ve been – for Oxfam, for our team, for the musicians."
Then it’s a case of seeing what’s gone well, and what could be built on?
Nic: "Are you saying there’s a niche, Robin?"
Lyle: "I don’t mind stating that Birmingham is in need of a big music industry festival that matches The Great Escape, Sound City, Unconvention, In The City, etc – one that brings in fans, professionals and artists alike, gives the music community here a voice, a chance to share and showcase to the region, the country and even internationally’ "
Finally – repertoire….?
Lyle: "To broaden the festival's reach, we worked with more people: Birmingham Zinefest, Sugarfoot Stomp, Eye Candy, Speech Fewapy,
, Louisden, Secret Walls… This is Tomorrow, Brum Notes, Jazzlines, Eatgood. Maybe 20% came to us, and the other 80% we went out to. We wanted to spread the range. And the decisions on the acts were made by the whole team." Brum Town
But it’s also hugely encouraging to see new blood channel the ideas that that Clare Edwards put into the Birmingham mix with Gigbeth, to put something purely idealistic together that could grow into one of the most positive parts of the city’s music calendar, and to raise a bit of serious money.
And where is it going in the end? We don't know yet, but I'm optimistic. This sort of thing works best when you play the long game.
OxjamBrum website and Facebook page
Sample some of the music at the OxjamBrum 2012 Soundcloud group