Interview//Feature – The Tin Music and Arts

2014 promises to be a challenging year for the UK arts scene due to Government cuts, and in truth there’s a struggle due to the disproportional focus on London. The future should rightfully paint a bleak picture, but thankfully there are bastions of hope.

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Anyone familiar with the Coventry arts scene will be aware of the prominence of the Taylor John’s name, located in the Canal Basin. For years it’s been the central creative hub in the city, successfully promoting and showcasing a number of local bands and musicians.

The Tin Music and Arts project is a recently formed arts charity that operates from the former Taylor Johns’ venue. It’s first and foremost an arts venue that allows for musicians to perform, liaise and strengthen the community within the city, but it also champions social change – supporting Coventry residents from disadvantaged backgrounds and using arts to bring genuine change.

We spoke to David Butler (He Is a Pegasus), who runs the marketing and PR side of the operation, about how they became a registered charity, the importance of the venue to the city’s creativity and what 2014 holds in store.

The Tin was formerly known as Taylor Johns, can you run us through the name change?

When we were granted charitable status at the start of August, we needed to find a name that reflected what we do and this couldn’t be the name of a pre-existing company. The trustees felt that calling it The Tin Music and Arts, after the down sadly closed Tin Angel, would reflect the quality of music and sense of community we grew there. While it was a necessary change, it’s a change that has thrown up its fair share of challenges, mainly to do with getting the word out about what we’re doing as a charity. We are keen for people to know that we are not just a music venue – we’re not resting on our laurels and relying on Taylor John’s prestige, but trying to establish The Tin Music and Arts as a new, exciting charitable venue and arts facility in it’s own right and to maintain the success of one of the last truly unique live music venues in Coventry.

How did you go about becoming a registered charity?

I can tell you, but it’s the most boring answer you’re ever likely to hear! Basically we applied to the Charity Commission and appointed a board of trustees, all of whom are very talented, really enthusiastic and supportive of what we do. The Charity Commission went away, considered our application, came back to us and informed us we needed to give them more information about what we planned to do. Then they went away, reconsidered, came back to us and told us our charitable status had been approved.

How will being a registered charity help you grow?

Although a lot of what Taylor John’s was doing for the community before the transition to The Tin Music and Arts already resembled a charity, becoming an official registered charity is a huge help to our organisation in numerous ways – mainly because it widens the opportunities for programming, which gives us the freedom to expand into areas outside of just being an average, run of the mill music venue. We are currently part of the Coventry Music Education Hub, which is a city-wide initiative that works closely with schools and Youth Services, and provides children and young people with an opportunity to grow their talents and perform on-stage in front of people. Last week we hosted the culmination of the Youth Service’s work, where we had 15 varied acts from different Coventry youth clubs, from bands to solo artists to MC’s performing to their peers in front of a capacity crowd.

We are also running a music project called Changing Trax, with Positive Youth Foundation, which includes a rock school, young people’s Open Mic, singing workshops and studio training.

While this is just one example of how being a registered charity is a benefit to us as an organisation, the possibilities are endless.

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Taylor Johns always had a great reputation for creating and sustaining Coventry’s music community and it really felt that it was at the very heart of the city’s cultural scene. Will there be a change of direction for The Tin?

You’re right – Taylor John’s was always committed to fostering and nurturing Coventry’s music scene, and The Tin Music and Arts is no different, we have no intention of changing direction with The Tin – if anything we plan to push harder in that direction! We have plans to launch a Coventry Music Network, bringing in speakers from PRS, Musician’s Union, booking agents and record labels so that local people can learn from professionals in the industry. By both supporting local talent with our Open Mic nights, offering the opportunities to support well known touring artists, and by bringing some of the best up and coming and established talent in the UK and internationally to perform at the venue, we are still striving to become a vital cultural hub in Coventry. There is still a vibrant local music scene in Coventry and people who still want to listen to top quality live music – they just need to know that we feel the same, and we are still here!

What makes The Tin so different to other bars and clubs in the city?

There are no other similar sized venues in Coventry that offer such a high quality music programme. We have been able to book acts that are on the brink of ‘breaking’. Past examples of this include Imelda May, Caribou and last year we had Paz Lenchantin who has recently joined Pixies, as well as frequently putting on a diverse range of nights, from folk legend Nick Harper in February to Catharsis Gothic Alternative club nights later this month.

Also, as a registered charity, The Tin is a community focused arts organisation and an active community centre, committed to improving links and opportunities for people in Coventry through the arts. We have strong links with The Pod, which is a Coventry City Council resource for people that are striving to improve their mental health, through music and arts, and several members of our team offer high quality, affordable music lessons, from guitar to African drums and turntables.  As well as a being host to an incredibly vibrant and active music scene, The Tin also runs Tai Chi and Yoga classes twice a week, respectively, and Indian Kuchipudi dance classes every Wednesday. We also have an art studio rented out by painter and embroiderer Stewart Easton. Another exciting new development includes us investing in a silk screen printer. We plan to print gig posters and T-shirt and eventually deliver classes. These are but a few examples of what we have going on down at The Tin that makes us so unique – No week is ever quite the same, every act, every night is different – and most of these events cost less than £5.  We genuinely care about Coventry as a scene, as a place, and as a community.

What has 2014 got in store for you?

2014 is hopefully going to be a big year for The Tin Music and Arts – we have some brilliant artists booked up until April; we have the jazz supergroup ‘Let Spin’ here on their debut album tour on the 27th February, and up and coming indie-folk band ‘Peggy Sue’ on the 8th April. We are commissioning resident Record Label, Tin Angel Records to programme some shows in 2014 and we will be adding to our gig listings over the coming months. On top of this, we are on a mission to get ourselves into the Coventry’s public consciousness a lot more than we are already and hopefully to establish ourselves as the cultural hub of Coventry City Centre.

Who can we be excited about seeing at The Tin in the future?

We have some great acts coming up for over the next few months or so, like the fantastic Mustard and Blood Band, Moonbears, Resurrection Men, The Fallows and Sonomama all here this Friday 20th of December for a massive Christmas party, which I’m very excited about, and Ian Bland on the 9th of January. Looking further ahead, we have ex-Squeeze legend Nick Harper here on the 28th of February and Peggy Sue and Diane Cluck on the 8th and 15th of April, respectively. We are filling up our bookings diary fast though – so there will be much more on offer soon enough. Acts aside, there is a lot to be excited about at The Tin – we are a fresh, new and exciting project that is committed to making our Coventry community better, and providing a top quality music venue at the same time. It’s a really exciting thing to be a part of. Taylor John’s was always one of my favourite venues, for the atmosphere, the people, the acts and the sound, and to be given the opportunity to play a role in preserving the venue for years to come is a really inspiring prospect, because there are not many places like The Tin left!

Where do you want to be this time next year?

Ideally, I want The Tin Music and Arts to be a fully established, successful organisation, actively involved in the community as a whole and to have been responsible for a revival of a passion for live music in Coventry. Over the past 5 years or so, the level of enthusiasm, and opportunities for musicians and performing artists have become increasingly limited, with venues either closing down or cutting live music from their programming in favour of more profitable club nights. What we all want, as a team, is to turn back that tide, that worrying trend of dwindling creative outlets in this city, because the calibre of artistic talent in Coventry is in abundance – they just need somewhere to play, and for people to listen. Here at The Tin, they can have both.

For more information on the Tin Music and Arts project head to their official website.

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