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Inner City Music

  • Date: 27 May 2011
  • Artform: Music
  • Area: North
Outside shot of Band on the Wall Outside Band on the Wall, Gawain Forster

Manchester-based Inner City Music promotes jazz, folk and world music events at venues across the north, owns and operates the city's legendary venue Band on the Wall, and provides an extensive learning and participation programme for people of all abilities and ages.

A registered charity, Inner City Music will be part of Arts Council England's National portfolio from April 2012. It is an organisation with a reputation for innovative business practice and high artistic programming which features a complementary mix of commercially successful and experimental work across a range of musical styles and genres. They are also recognised for their innovative use of digital technology.

Gavin Sharp, Chief Executive Officer of Inner City Music, commenting on the organisation's successful application to the National portfolio funding programme, said: 'This is wonderful news and confirmation that the hard work and ambitious vision of our business plan has been recognised in full. We plan to continue building Band on the Wall's position as one of the UK's foremost live music venues and as a seed bed for developing new music in the UK. This funding also allows us to carry on building our pioneering online music initiatives, to build our national music archive and to ensure our exciting education programme continues into the future.'

Inner City Music has developed into a specialist arts events company with the additional asset of a showcase venue, rather than vice versa. It has demonstrated increased efficiency through several innovative developments, such as its IT systems, digital archiving and the rapid integration of structured operational procedures into working practices.

Its venue, Band on the Wall, has been one of the North West's most important music venues since the 1930s, when musicians used to play from a platform set halfway up a wall above the crowds. In the late 1970s it became the central focus for Manchester's punk scene, giving bands such as The Fall, Buzzcocks and Joy Division their first appearances, before it went on to establish a global reputation for showcasing a vast array of the world's leading musicians and artists such as Bjork and Hugh Masekela.

From 2004 to 2009 the venue was extensively refurbished by Inner City Music, supported by £2.5 million of funding from Arts Council England, alongside support from Manchester City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Band on the Wall re-opened in September 2009 with an increased audience capacity of 300, improved disabled access, a state of the art sound system, audio-visual and sound studios and education suites, and a new social space and cafe area, the Picturehouse.

Alongside leading the successful refurbishment of this iconic venue, Inner City Music has developed from being a venue operator to deliverers and producers of high-quality, diverse and innovative live music from across many cultures and genres, for audiences and artists throughout the north.

Inner City Music specialises in presenting non-mainstream roots music artists of the very highest calibre and reputation, or emerging young musicians of significant talent and ability.

From September 2009 to September 2010, more than 50,000 people attended events organised by Inner City Music, with another 30,000 people at festivals at which they presented artists.

This included more than 200 events at Band on the Wall itself as well as a programme of 80 events at The Brewery in Kendal and the programming of over 30 bands at the Kendal Calling festival (winner of the Best Small Festival at the National Festival Awards 2010).

Inner City Music has also programmed artists and events at the Wardrobe in Leeds, Manchester Jazz Festival and Manchester Food and Drink Festival, and at a range of other leading venues across their home city, including Brooklyn-based soul-funk singer Sharon Jones at The Ritz and American jazz, soul and folk guitarist and singer-songwriter Terry Callier at The Lowry.

More recent events have included Marina Celeste - the heavenly voice behind Nouvelle Vague - with her new Parisian band 6 Day Riot, and Grammy-nominated Acoustic Alchemy. From Wavertree in South Liverpool, 25-year-old guitarist Delta Maid played American roots music, and SubGlobal Underground presented an Easter Saturday clubbing spectacular of global electronica.

Inner City Music's learning and participation programme offers a range of inspiring, interesting and challenging opportunities for non-formal, hands-on learning. Their musical activities include and value all participants regardless of age, experience and ability. Some of their programmes are aimed at experienced music makers, some are open to everyone - but all give opportunities to perform and practice in Band on the Wall.

Recent opportunities include Rawchestra, a free course for 11 to 18 year olds offering the chance to make music as part of an unconventional orchestra featuring any instrument and players at all standards, and Global Grooves, a six-week course open to musicians regardless of experience, leading to a performance of Bob Marley's classic Exodus along with drumming groups and choirs from all over Manchester at the Manchester Day Parade in June.

Across all its work Inner City Music utilises digital technology to reach new and wider audiences - with a personal youtube channel, which includes free access to high definition footage of past concerts, and a website which won the Big Chip Award for Best Not-for-Profit Project in June 2011. They are innovating online, as well as on stage.

Visit the Band on the Wall website for more information about Inner City Music and Band on the Wall.

Find out more about music in Arts Council's new National portfolio.