Review: Band Off The Wall – Live Showcase

Last week I was invited to photograph a new musical venture, Band Off The Wall, based at The Music School near Oxford Square, Blackpool.  I chatted to the team to find out more:

How did it come about?

Well, the Showcase came about originally through an idea by Vic Mulvey, with the blessing and enthusiasm of Blackpool Music Academy (BMA) founder and Chairman John Shaw and fellow director Ray Jones. The idea was to raise awareness of the wonderful work of the Academy in helping young, old and disabled people to learn to play a musical instrument, from donations through charity and the public. Vic then set about recruiting a team to help get the idea off the ground, by inviting local musicians and artists into a studio environment where they could showcase their work, that otherwise may not be seen.798430_422998694442918_1448232827_o

Who are the people involved and what are their backgrounds?

The Band Off The Wall team are volunteers and are made up of five members. They ar   e Vic Mulvey, who has been around the Blackpool music scene for a number of years, Mel `Mr Mel` Stacey who is a well known local promoter, event organiser and a musician himself. Steve Guest is a local artist and amateur photographer with knowledge in web design and has a particular love of the music scene in and around the Blackpool area. The remainder of the team is completed by Ray Jones, a director of the Academy, who specialises in video production and last, but not least, Founder and Chairman of the BMA, John Shaw.

What are the future aspirations of Band Off The Wall?

The Band Off The Wall has two aims really. The first is to highlight the brilliant work the BMA does for the local community in making available music tuition at highly subsidised prices and in some cases, free. This obviously relies heavily on the goodwill and kindness of donations of musical instruments by the public, which are sold on to provide tuition fees for those less fortunate. By using the academy as a base, the Showcase nights will bring the academy into the public eye and hopefully raise awareness of what they do and what they eventually aim to achieve. Secondly and just as important, is to provide a platform for local musicians and artists to showcase their work. Too many talented aspiring musicians and artists seem to go largely unnoticed or ignored, so by providing a place where they can come along, perform and exhibit their work, we hope it may give them a platform to go on to better things and ultimately be appreciated for their hard work. These sessions, in relaxed and informal surroundings, will be filmed and shortly afterwards aired by our website. So it is a two way street really. The BMA helps local talent and in turn this raises awareness of the work of the academy in its aim for funding.793925_422999827776138_1933202752_o

The first session was great – what are your feelings about it?

The first inaugural session went superbly well, better than any of the team imagined really! It was a kind of `see how it goes’ first, but apart from a few very minor hiccups, it ran fantastically well. We were honoured and privileged to have some very fine people come along to kick us off. In fact, we probably couldnt have asked for better. Most things ran to plan and everyone who attended the evening seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly. Most of all it was fun, relaxed and informal. We wont rest on our laurels though and aim to improve the sessions technically as we go along. But it was a very successful evening and a pleasure to stage.

What are the full names of the artists featured and what are their backgrounds?

On our first night we had so much pleasure in having some fantastic acts help us out. We also had wonderfully talented local artist Helen Williams demonstrating ‘live’ her beautiful work, by using music as its theme. How cool! Mel pulled off quite a coup by inviting former The Fall member and current manager, Ed Blaney along to perform a set of his own songs. Ed brought along Salford based Jenny Shuttleworth, from the band Girl Peculiar, who have their debut album due for release very soon followed by a tour. She delivered an acoustic set of songs from that album in her own special and unique way.792180_423000861109368_1153865718_o

Opening the session was the very talented Blackpool based Jess Harwood, with a brilliant selection of her own songs, some of which have been highlighted by BBC Introducing. She was followed by the amazing vocal talent of Blackpool singer/songwriter Russ Erwin. His set was delivered perfectly and held the audience captively. Both Jess and Russ are the very reason that we set up the Showcase in the first place, to give them the platform for their work to be seen by a wider audience. Added to the musicians and artists who helped us out, we also acquired the services of brilliant local photographer Claire Griffiths who offered to come along and take snaps of the whole event. So, we had an amazing line up of amazing people and for that we are very grateful indeed. And a huge mention and thanks has to go to the volunteers who ran the cafe downstairs for the duration of the night, they did a first class job!

When is the next session and what musicians wil be featured?

The next live session takes place on Tuesday 5 February starting at 8pm. We are hoping to carry on staging these nights every fortnight. We have some great organisers involved who know the local music scene inside out and they have many good contacts. Its all about getting musicians and artists down to the Academy and showing what they can do. We rely on good responses from these people and their belief in what we are aiming to achieve. We try to get people arranged for each session as quickly as possible, but sometimes we have to improvise slightly! I do know Vic has some exciting people coming along for the next session, but we are still waiting for confirmation on others. So far, so good.

How do people find out more about Band Off The Wall and what should people do if the want to get involved?774987_422998791109575_529102939_o

We have created a Facebook page, dedicated to this project, so people know what is happening. Social media these days allows us to communicate and get our message across to almost everyone instantaniously. We have also set up our own Band Off The Wall website, where there will be a mine of information on everything involved with the sessions. This will contain a dedicated live video page, band and artist profiles, photo galleries from each session, contact info, feedback forms and a blog. It will also feature pages dedicated to the aims of The Blackpool Music Academy. We hope to draw on local webpages around the area for support and the Gazette at some point. Volunteers are always welcome to help out and they can contact any of the team through our Facebook page or website. We are ideally looking for sponsorship too and if any local businesses would offer any help that would be fantastic.

The first Band Off The Wall session can be watched live online.


Photography courtesy of CJ Griffiths Photography.


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