Gig buddy Lee talks about the importance of small venues and bands in music inclusivity and accessibility

Local venues can really make a difference

Paul and I have been Gig Buddies for just over a year. We’ve seen many bands in that time across several local venues and at larger places like The Brighton Centre. Our closest venue is The Factory Live in Worthing who, as the name suggests, have converted a factory on a small industrial estate and turned it into a fantastic venue with a capacity of around 200. Although every venue has a role to play in giving people the opportunity to see and experience live music, theatre, and performances, the smaller local venues such as The Factory are, for me, the most important.

There are lots of reasons for this, but the main ones are:

  • They are relatively cheap when compared to large venues, sometimes a tenth of the price!
  • The staff are easier to get to know and therefore the experience for us is more relaxed. We feel safe and should there be any issues we have confidence that it will be easily identified and dealt with (not that we have had any issues so far!!).
  • Smaller venues, and I’m going to shout out The Factory again, are far more willing to adapt and cater for us. This could be as simple as a visit before the night of the show so we can see the venue in the light, making it a little less daunting, or providing a chair.
Gig buddy Paul at a tribute band.

Little things make a big difference to us. Perhaps the best thing about smaller venues is access and vicinity to the bands. Paul and I are front rowers, so we love being as close as possible with no obstructions (neither of us are blessed with any real height!!!) and The Factory has always ensured that we feel completely safe to get down there and have the best experience.

The power of kindness

This leads onto the bands themselves. Paul loves a photo with the band and this is so much easier (and cheaper than paying hundreds for VIP tickets) in small venues. We have been able to have photos with bands such as Hot House Flowers, China Crisis, a number of tribute bands, and many others.

The Gangsters and gig buddy Paul stood around the drum set.

Recently, we saw The Gangsters and I spoke to Mickey Wilde, who is the drummer, about getting a photo with the guys when they had a chance. Mickey then spent a few minutes talking to Paul and introduced him to some of the other band members. Once the gig had finished Mickey even got Paul on stage, sat him on his drum seat and had a photo with the whole band. Whilst this only took a couple of minutes the experience of being able to interact with the band should not be underestimated! As Paul said, he was “well chuffed” with being able to talk to the band and feel so included (Mickey also very generously gave him a Gangsters T Shirt!!) which made the whole experience a real night to remember.

So, my point is that it doesn’t have to be Madonna or Coldplay to make a huge difference to Gig Buddies, or anybody’s life. In fact, I would argue that bands in independent, smaller venues play more of a part in helping everyone access live music and events far more often than the big venues where the bands are pretty much unreachable (physically and money-wise).

For Paul and I, the way we have been welcomed by venues such as Concorde 2, The Wedgewood Rooms, and especially The Factory, along with the generosity of bands such as the Gangsters are what really makes a real difference. Whilst they do not ask for recognition, I do want to say thank you from Paul and I for what you do – it makes a difference in allowing us to ‘STAY UP LATE‘!!

And lastly, if you see Paul and I at a gig please do come and say ‘hello’, we will happily tell you how you can get involved with Gig Buddies, or just have a chat about our favourite bands and gigs!