Sunday, December 16, 2012

Musicians playing for tips could rejuvinate pubs in Exmoor and West Somerset, UK and perhaps in the rest of the country

Minstrels gallery Tithe Barn Dunster West Somerset
When I was asked to join the musicians that were scheduled to play in the Tithe Barn for the Farmers Market in Dunster for Christmas 2012, I thought 'well it will be a new venue and interesting for that'. It was, in reality, a brilliant experience.

Situated in the minstrels gallery of the recently renovated and massively upgraded Tithe Barn, the band was looking down on the stall holders and their customers which meant that, although we were just an acoustic band, our sound carried really well to the other side of the Tithe Barn. (I know because I went down and checked!)

There was a wide range of interesting stall holders and I was pleased to spot a fellow musician called Rocky amongst the stallholders who plays a brilliant piano accordion and contributed some of his wares to me by way of special thanks for the music. The apple juice flavoured with beetroot tasted brilliant. I reckon it'll be the taste of 2013 and everybody will soon be drinking it!

Beetroot flavoured apple juice - yum!
We played a mixture of Christmas carols and tunes from many traditions including Eastern Europe, Ireland, Scotland, France and many more and had a fantastic time for two hours. By way of thanks, the management provided some tea and coffee and a few mince pies, for which we were grateful.

One of the really nice things about these community get togethers is the people you meet. It was several years ago that I met Jamie Robertson and, after playing our tunes, I got an opportunity to have a chat. It's always a pleasure talking to Jamie who is so full of exciting ideas about the community. He was talking about having a Stogumber Music Festival. I contributed my thoughts about my experiences busking on Minehead Sea Front last Summer (2012) and suggested he had a buskers festival in Stogumber. My argument was that buskers play for tips. There is no risk for the organisers and there are loads of musicians who would just like the opportunity to play in front of an audience who would regard it as a bonus if they received coin of the realm. Other places in the UK are putting on buskers festivals too so it was an accepted festival strategy.

In fact, I even argued that the pubs of West Somerset, UK and Exmoor would be better off if they regularly had musicians playing on the basis of a tips jar paying their wages. Pubs on Exmoor and in West Somerset in most cases simply do not have the expectation of customer footfall to risk agreeing to pay £70 - £100 (possibly per head) to a band. However, there may be many musicians locally who would welcome taking their chances busking with a tip jar, especially if the odd half pint and a sandwich was on offer from the publican too. It's much better than the musician sitting at home waiting for a gig and the publican sitting in his bar wishing he had a live music act! To me, it seems a win win situation.

Jamie Robertson is such a power house of innovation, perhaps he might just make this all happen to the benefit of publicans and musicians who want to go beyond merely playing for fun and become semi or completely professional.

The Stogumber Festival is largely organised already and is taking place, Jamie tells me, from 30 August to 1 September with some classical, some folk & maybe some other genres still to be added but, watch this space, perhaps there will be scope for some buskers in the main street during the festival :-)

For more photos of our Tithe Barn gig, see my Facebook account.

Whatever the arrangement, I look forward to playing at the Tithe Barn in Dunster again at some time in the future. It's a brilliant venue and a great place to play music or hold an event. Perhaps I'll soon be playing there for you :-)


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Lysaght Club said...

I would like to follow this up for the Lysaght Club in Old Cleeve.
Please contact me at
John Wilkins :-)