Independent Venue Week is an important milestone on the gig calendar, where non-corporate grassroots music venues get a moment in the sun. In Northamptonshire The Black Prince and The Lab are running IVW shows. Peter Dennis speaks to events manager Phil Moore from the former to get the lowdown.
There’s something very special about compact, independent music venues. Not only do they provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with musicians but there’s the thrill of possibly catching a future festival headliner in their infancy. Shining a spotlight on smaller venues up and down the UK Independent Venue Week runs from 31st January to 6th February and supports the foundation that keeps the whole live music pyramid flourishing.
New Boots: Formerly known as The Racehorse and since 2016 rechristened as The Black Prince, the venue has a long and illustrious history. When Covid first hit the effect was cataclysmic. How have you managed to keep the venue afloat?
Phil Moore: The Black Prince was quite fortunate through the pandemic. Once we closed in March 2020 and a friend said “no proper gigs for the rest of the year” I assumed we’d go under. But with local governments grants first, and then being able to open our garden for live music and DJs throughout the summer period we had a new lease of life. For quite a while were being referred to as “the only fun in town”. It bought a new audience into the Prince fold, as well as swelling the coffers and keeping us going. I really learnt of the power of music in challenging times during that summer, and will be forever grateful to have given artists a platform and the public a show during those difficult months. The biggest challenge has probably been to try and keep focused and motivated with so many roadblocks in front of you appearing out of nowhere. I count us lucky that we had it better than others, because we have that outside entertainment area.
New Boots: What does Independent Venue Week mean to a venue such as The Black Prince?
Phil Moore: IVW is crucial; it gives the wider world something to latch onto when thinking about our role in the music ecosystem. It really does concisely showcase what we broadly do, and there’s a real party vibe during the week. Grassroots music venues are at the mercy of the market, and if you don’t give the public what they want you’re in trouble. We try to offer a range of styles a platform during IVW.
New Boots: In a similar fashion to Record Store Day, IVW focuses on a specific week. Does its effect echo throughout the year?
Phil Moore: It’s hard to quantify its impact outside of the week itself, but it should give some fence-sitters the encouragement to come and see what it is grassroots music venues do. We’ve upgraded the Prince significantly during the spring of 2021, and so we hope that once old heads return they’ll be impressed with our efforts and keep coming back for more.
New Boots: You have a full week with everything from electronica to grime and local acts to national. Can you give us a rundown of the week?
Phil Moore: Sure, it’s as follows:
Wednesday February 2nd
ANDY BELL SPACE STATION [shoegazing, ambient]
+ Maps DJ set
Sunday February 6th
Support from ANTI!I [both grime]
New Boots: As the name of the week suggests you’ll be focusing on bands who operate with an independent, DIY ethic.
Phil Moore: Yes, there’s little corporate influence here! No one’s on a major that’s for sure.
New Boots: Does the IVW crowd vary from that at other times of the year?
Phil Moore: I don’t think so. Maybe there’s a few more curious types willing just to watch anything who will stand at the back arms folded, but generally everyone comes to party as usual!
New Boots: Independent venues offer so much more than just what happens at show time. They play a vital role in the community and offer a starting point for those who want a career in the music industry. What role does The Black Prince play in Northampton?
Phil Moore: The Black Prince is a safe space for those who marginalised in society. You’ll never look out of place within the melting pot of the crowd, no matter who you are and what your interests are. Rock ‘n’ roll is about inclusivity first and foremost, right? It’s my favourite place in Northampton for a reason!
New Boots: There will be a lot of people considering whether to experience their first gig during IVW. How would you entice them to The Black Prince?
Phil Moore: A guaranteed good night out, or your money back! I’ve very proud of the five bills we’re managed to put together. I can’t imagine anyone thinking anything but positive thoughts after coming along. The pandemic is sailing into the sunset for good; now is the time to come out again and have a little fun.