State Of Play

State Of Play: Wakefield Music

Please note this is an in progress document created by Long Division CIC as part of an ongoing piece of work to map the district. This will develop into 2020 and involve partners such as Music: Leeds. It should not be considered a complete overview or all encompassing document. For the sake of this research, Wakefield City refers to the city centre, not the district.

Summary of findings:

  • Wakefield lacks a music venue dedicated to emerging original music. This has to be the source of a musical city, from which bands, fanzines, record labels, collaborations, ideas, audiences and a sense of identity stem. 
  • Wakefield’s longstanding DIY culture may be diminished but the new gig nights that have emerged in 2019 show there is still an appetite for it. Long Division’s lifetime has only seen a decline in venues, events, artists and audiences, which suggests that a new, potentially more informed, approach is needed to avoid the same thing happening again. 
  • Some form of stabilityis needed, followed by collaboration and leadership. Comparitive work, to place Wakefield’s standing in a national context would help, as this might present ideas to reinvigorate its week to week standing as a musical city. 
  • Long Division Festival and Warehouse 23 are the only purveyors of original live music that can be proven to have an impact outside of the city and need to be protected and developed. 
  • There is no centralised place that promotes or simply lists live music events in Wakefield. 

 

DATA SOURCES:

City Survey (September 2019) relating to the concept of a City PA, a reduced cost PA available for hire to local artists and promoters, in order to enliven grassroots music. 

  • 70% of respondees believed “In the last TEN years do you feel the number of gigs involving local artists or emerging touring artists performing original music has decreased.
  • 78% of respondees believed “In the last FIVE years do you feel the number of gigs involving local artists or emerging touring artists performing original music has decreased.”
  • 87% of respondees believed “In the last FIVE years, do you feel the number of venues putting on regular original live music has decreased.”
  • 91% of respondees beleived the City PA idea would benefit them and the city. 9% responded “maybe”.
  • 95% were interested in the idea of Backstage Academy supplied sound engineers. 

 

Long Division Venues:

Since 2011 we have used a large number of venues and the types of venues and their current state are a good place to start when assessing the city. This list brings them together, but excludes smaller spaces used as a one-off (such as cafes for poetry readings). 

Venue Used Situation
Mustangs 2011, 2012 Closed 2013. Now a nightclub suitable for DJs
Wakefield Cathedral 2011, 2018 Not willing to host large music concerts
The Hop (Upstairs) 2011, 2012, 2013  Closed dedicated gig room in 2015.
The Hop (Downstairs) 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2019 Programmes cover bands on weekends, no in house PA
Town Hall 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019 Not able to host live music due to wedding ceremonies within same building
Graziers 2011, 2014 Closed in 2015
Henry Boons 2011, 2012, 2019 Available as a room hire. Does not contain a PA,.
Theatre Royal 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 Still available. In 2019 cost more to hire than all other venues combined.
The Orangery  2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016  (derelict) Currently derelict and unusable
Velvet (Queen Street) 2012, 2013 Became a dentist
Warehouse 23 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019 Busy as a gig venue
Drury Lane Library 2013 (derelict) Turned into art studios (Art House)
Esquires Coffee 2013 Solo / duo only
The Hepworth 2013, 2014 Too far from core festival area. No PA or setup for live music. 
Westgate Chapel 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 Available, but little stage space and sale of alcohol not allowed
The Snooty Fox (Kirkgate) 2011 Closed
The Bull & Fairhouse 2011? Closed
Unity Works (Major Hall) 2014, 2015, 2016 Closed
Unity Works (Minor Hall) 2014, 2015, 2016 Closed
Players 2014, 2015 Closed Became Snooty Fox Club. 
Havana 2014 Closed
Mulberry 2014 Closed. Became Velvet
Inns Of Court 2014 No dedicated gig space but space available outside of their busy weekend hours. 
Eyewood 2014 Closed
Wood Street 2014 Possible if road closed
Mechanics 2014, 2019 Available but expensive. Some PA but not enough for full band shows.
Westgate Studios 2014 Small rooms available but access poor for equipment load in. Audience up to 50. 
The Art House 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019 Available for performances up to 30 people. 
Neon Workshops 2016, 2018 Available, limited to audiences of approx 30. 
The Snooty Fox Club 2016 Closed
Top Five Studios 2016 Closed
St Austins 2016, 2017 Available. Requires full tech bringing in (except lights). Feedback in 2017 was it was too far out of town. 
Precinct 2018, 2018 Available. Requires full tech set up bringing in.
The Red Shed 2018 Available. Requires full tech set up bringing in.
Jolly Boys Tap 2018, 2019 Available for small shows / solo / duos.
Wakefield Beer Exchange 2018 Closed
Elizabethan Gallery 2018 Currently unsafe
Brews Books & Bites 2018 Closed
Wah Wah Records 2018 Available for instores (solo)
Urban Quarter 2018 Small bar used for Theatre performance
Theatre Royal Walker Studio 2018 Available but prohibitively expensive and does not have PA. 
Velvet (Market Street) 2019 Available. Requires full tech set up bringing in.
The Counting House 2019 Available. Requires full tech set up bringing in.
Establishment 2019 Available. Enough tech for solo shows. 

 

Summary:

  • 43 venues used.
  • 21 closed or became unavailable. 
  • Of the 22 available, 11 are cafes, shops, empty roads or small spaces with no basic provisions for events beyond solo performers. 
  • Aside of spaces for solo performers, only three of these spaces have existing infrastructure to host live music. Of these, Theatre Royal Wakefield and Mechanics Theatre require additional technical equipment bringing in, whilst also being the most expensive spaces Long Division Festival has ever used (in excess of £1000 for room hire only).  

Other venues: there are other spaces that Long Division has never used. These are predominantly small bars, some of which already host their open mic or DJ nights. There are no notable spaces that can host live bands, with the exception of Wakefield Sports Club, which hosts Wakefield Jazz events.

Wakefield severely lacks venues or spaces that are ready to host live music, beyond solo performers. The absolute majority of venues where this type of activity takes place lack the basic provisions of PA, Lights, Technicians, or the means / interest in promoting the events. 

 

Gigs in Wakefield:

Warehouse 23: Wakefield’s only full time venue, meaning it hosts live music on a regular basis as it’s main income stream. The venue has a good technical setup and staff and has a capacity of up to 800. 

The majority of its programming would appear to be booked through third parties, with little in house work done. Although a complete picture of events there in the last couple of years is difficult to find, based upon its consistent Facebook Events, the types of event are as follows:

Tribute / Cover Acts – 42% 

Original Heritage – 24% 

Original – 14% 

Festivals / All Dayers – 13%

Clubnight – 6% 

Non-Music – 1%

(October 2017 – October 2019. 124 bookings noted. )

The “original heritage” bracket includes artists such as Slade, Bad Manners, The Skids who are technically playing original material but they are artists predominantly with their heyday in the 70s-90s and don’t generally play modern material. Their draw is a nostalgia audience. Festival / All Dayers are a potential mix of tribute and original. 

Of the “original” bookings some were large scale tours (such as Richard Hawley, Echo & The Bunnymen) booked by third parties, and some were shows booked by the artists, often local (Knuckle). 

The overwhelming genre at the venue is Punk, covered in the Tribute, Original Heritage, Original and Festival strands above. 

 

Other Venues:

Due to a variety of reasons – lack of centralised “what’s on” information, lack of marketing, venues inconsistent online promotion, no culture of promotion – it is difficult to get an overview of what happens in Wakefield on a regular basis. This list attempts to surmise what happens in Wakefield City Centre, though it is an often changing thing. 

Venue Promoter Frequency From / Since Music Average Music Gigs a year
The Counting House Venue Most Friday & Sat 2019 Majority Cover, lots of repeats 100
The Hop Venue Most Friday & Sat Longstanding Cover Bands 100
Harry’s Bar Venue Weekly, Mondays and Wednesdays Longstanding Original / Covers 100
Warehouse 23 Third party promoters Regular across year Longstanding Variety. 66% Tribute or Heritage 80
Black Horse Venue Sundays / some mid week Longstanding Open Mic / Solo Performers 52
Jolly Boys Venue Infrequent, days and times change Longstanding Open Mic / Solo, Duo Performers 52
Jocks Cavern Venue Weekends Longstanding Open Mic / Solo, Duo Performers 52
Jocks Cavern Palladium Of The North Thursdays Oct 2019 Original, Solo 52
The Print Works Mac McNally Weekly Longstanding Original, Solo 50
Wakefield Sports Club Wakefield Jazz Weekly during season Longstanding Jazz 40
Fernandes Venue Unknown Longstanding Folk gatherings 40
Theatre Royal Venue Regular across year Longstanding Tribute acts 40
Wakefield College Venue Across the year Longstanding Students performing their shows, various venues 20
The Establishment Bodys First Thursday of Month Consistent since Jan 2019 Original 12
Henry Boons Philophobia Music Monthly, Fridays (projecting) October 2019 Original 12
The Counting House Hook & Gun Last Thursday Of Month March 2019 Original 5

 

This lists clearly excludes some organisations, and will certainly not come close to covering smaller solo artists performing in pubs and cafes. 

However, from the data we are able to gather at this point we can make some conclusions. 

  • The venues providing the city with the most live music are the ones who programme tribute and cover artists. 
  • Wakefield appears to provide good opportunities for solo artists to perform to audiences. 
  • Independent promoters of live bands are in the minority. 
  • Working with these rough numbers (807 shows a year) we can see that the original band promotion from Hook & Gun, Philophobia Music, Bodys, 33% of Warehouse 23s input + Wakefield Jazz and Wakefield College (definition debatable) accounts for approximately 23% of the city’s musical outcome. 

A huge positive is the number of promoters who have started in the last 12 months. There seems to be a resurgence in grassroots promotion (Bodys, Palladium Of The North, Hook & Gun + Philophobia Music as of October 2019), though only Bodys has been going long enough for it to be clear there is an audience for it. On the flipside, these promoters have only succeeded in securing Thursday night slots, with Fridays and Saturdays being kept back by the venues for their more lucrative “town” trade. As they are not dedicated venues, they have no reason to commit to this, which does leave weekends largely free of original bands. This is with the exception of Philophobia’s events which aim to exist on a vital weekend slot.

 

Festivals:

Although some Festivals sit within the above stats, they sit outside of that data by providing a large number of performers in a single event. Wakefield lacks significant music festivals in or close to the city centre. It is difficult to quantify a festival, but here we are refering to events that last a minimum of one whole day feature either multiple venues and one large stage. Notable ones are:

Clarence Park Festival: Has been running over 20 years. Free to attend and family friendly. Currently programmes approx 15 bands a year, a mix of genres and some covers bands. Audiences range from 200 – 2000 largely depending on the weather. The Music Collective also run the smaller Blues Festival (5-6 artists)

Weightless Festival: Was due to debut in 2019 but was cancelled due to funding issues. Was a ticketed event with programming aimed towards a younger (20s) audience. 

Oxjam: Event took place in 2018 attracting approx 300 people across 5 venues. Was handed to Backstage Academy students for 2019 but did not take place. 

Hook & Gun: Takes place outside Wakefield City Centre with approx 100 attendees. Ties to their gig nights at The Counting House. 

Crooked Ways: The only larger festival of note in recent years. Ran for two years in Pontefract on the racecourse but ceased in 2013 due to lack of sales.  

Fake Festival: Popular event in nearby Ossett. Features 3-6 tribute acts performing in a marquee. 

 

Print Media support:

Local newspaper Wakefield Express has it’s cultural news centralised, meaning the same content appears across a wide geographical area. It can only support local live events through stories rather than listings. 

Online presence:

It has been noted by many groups (including Wakefield Council who has recently commissioned BOP to try tackle this issue) that Wakefield as a city is not successful at promoting it’s cultural assets collectively, so it is not surprising that music within Wakefield also suffers from this. With the lack of consistent venues promoting events adding to this, Wakefield Music is poorly represented online. 

Although basic, this table shows searches online around key phrases and tries to find central locations where events might be listed. 

Where When What
Exp Wakefield 13.9.19 Four shows listed under Music. Three Body’s shows and one at Warehouse 23
Google 13.9.19 “Wakefield Live Music” Top 15 events: 8 tributes. 1 in Leeds. 3 old Punk shows. 1 Kids. 1 Circus. 1 Original. 12 of them at W23 or Theatre
Google 13.9.19 “Wakefield Music Venues”brings up three Google place results: Warehouse 23, Wakefield Jazz and Clarence Bandstand
Google 13.9.19 “Wakefield Live Music” also brings up YELPs best venues (22) in West Yorkshire. None in Wakefield.
Venue Finder 13.9.19 Venuefinder.com lists 2 Wakefield Venues: LS Live (not a venue) and Wakefield Cathedral
Yorkshire Gig Guide 13.9.19 Long list of only Warehouse 23, Bodys and Wakefield Jazz
Google 27.9.19 “Wakefield Music” brings up a page of links to work of Wakefield Music Hub / Services
Google 27.9.19 “Live In Wakefield Tonight” – top hit is Skiddle. Full page of events, all in Wakefield, except Meatloaf and Beegees tributes at Theatre Royal. There is an allday event at W23 tomorrow.
Google 27.9.19 “Live In Wakefield Tonight” – second hit is Exp Wakefield. Same results as last month
Google 27.9.19 “Live In Wakefield Tonight” – third hit is The Hop. Link takes to listings which only show two shows (tonight and tomorrow, cover bands)
Google 27.9.19 “Live In Wakefield Tonight” – fourth hit is Yorkshire Gig Guide – a long list of events, but only showing Warehouse 23 and Wakefield Jazz

 

Our venue data previously does show that although live original bands are in a minority, there is activity in Wakefield, but this is not reflected online. To some extent this is a chicken and egg situation, where there is little need for a central place or website until there are enough events, but events won’t grow without that online support. However, as the promoter and artist survey shows, there has been a definite decline, which may in some way be down to the lack of spaces to promote online and/or a lack of willing / knowledge from promoters and artists to do this. 

This requires much greater research to find more conclusive answers. 

 

Ticket Sales and Data

  • During work around Wakefield’s Cultural Destinations funding, most of the large organisations in the city contributed their audience data (predominantly postcodes). Long Division was the only music based organisation that was able to provide data. (though Theatre Royal also contributed some music events) Warehouse 23 were invited to be part of this process but declined. 
  • Wah Wah Records, Criminal Records and Hellraiser (record / clothes shop) do not sell online. They will sell tickets in the shop but there isn’t enough business for them to warrant listing what they are selling on the walls or online. You have to be directed there from the event and customer data is not collected. 
  • As a city we have very little data driven evidence of who is attending events, other than Long Division. 

 

Potential:

  • Collective approach to promotion
  • Representation of Music on cultural groups
  • Campaign for better promotional opportunities
  • City PA to jump-start DIY gigs and make them financially viable
  • Joint events among promoters
  • More research and data collecting
  • Connecting with other cities and exploring their models for developing live music
  • A music board / leadership group

 

Barriers:

  • Non professional nature of promoters in Wakefield, meaning promoters are lacking time and money.
  • Not a culture of cooperation in the city.
  • Culture is DIY, meaning most promoters want to do things their own way and are not interested in learning / developing – they just want to enjoy what they do. 
  • Lack of spaces / venues in which to build a vibrant culture that engages a wider audience.
  • Lack of opportunities for weekend events that can attract emerging touring artists and audiences outside Wakefield.