This Independent Venue Week, we’re running a series of features looking into the highs and lows of some of London’s most important small venues.
Each year Independent Venue Week, which runs from 29th January – 4th February, acts as a seven day celebration of small venues and those who own, run and work in them.
Each day during the week, we’ll be interviewing the people behind the day-to-day running of some of London’s most loved independent venues and delving into the highs and lows of running them. We’ll also be asking how best they feel they can be supported, both by those who go to gigs and by organisations, and looking into the challenges they face.
Previously we were at The Dome and Paper Dress. Next up, we’re at The Windmill in Brixton, chatting to booker Tim Perry from the venue about community, what role the government could play in helping live music and his favourite gigs at the venue.
Hi Tim. What’s your favourite thing about The Windmill?
The dog, but apart from that I think it has the feel of a dive bar without anyone having chucked an interior designer tens of thousands of pounds to create it.
What’s been the most memorable show for you?
Probably Clor 12 years ago. Debut show. Not one person in the packed-out crowd knew anything about them. They just blew people away. We went on to have a couple of dozen more glorious nights with Club Clor and then they stopped altogether, which is really sad. A band ahead of their time who would fit in really well with what’s going on nowadays, and nowadays is the best period ever as far as quality of local bands goes.
It’s been pretty tough for a lot of venues over the past few years with rising business rates, threats of closure and more. What’s been important for you in overcoming the issues venues face?
Being a part of your community is important. Our overlord lives on the premises and gets on well with neighbours.
What role could the government or funding bodies play in helping music venues survive?
I think we need to be viewed as a legitimate art form just as much as, say, ballet or opera. Also, relief on VAT, like they do in some European countries, would help.
Is there anything your average gig-goer can do to support local venues, besides just turning up to gigs?
Big ups on social media.
““Now is the best period ever as far as quality of local bands goes.” ”
What’s your favourite venue outside of your own?
I worked in America a lot in the late 90s and found the venues to not just be delightful dive bars but also very supportive of the local music community in a way I don’t think UK venues did to the same extent at that time. The Hideout in Chicago and the old Emo’s when it was on Red River in Austin were two of my favourites.
Are there any common mistakes you feel venue owners make that hurt business?
Not paying bands. You piss off bands and the word gets around. And anyway, why would you not pay the people bringing customers into the venue? The other thing is not having a decent PA. Yes, that’s money too but…
Any stories of terrible bands over the years? Or are the 70’s cliches of rock’n’roll band behaviour extinct?
We actively avoid the cliched types who hark back to that era…