In May of this year, over 150 members of Liverpool’s musical community met to discuss the future of the city’s comparatively fragmented scene. Hosted by long-standing music magazine, Bido Lito! and the Baltic Triangle-based venue, Constellations, the conference called upon the city’s promoters, venues, musicians and council members to explore the reasons why Liverpool still has no community-based musical infrastructure, despite being marketed as a music city:
“Cities across Europe – Utrecht, Groningen, Mannheim to name but three – with little or no music heritage, invest heavily in specific departments to support and develop music in their city.” – Bido Lito!
If Liverpool really is a global music city, then where are the governmental and grassroots networks to support this? This was the case put forward by Bido Lito! editor, Craig Pennington. A point well raised, the comprehensive turn-out at May’s conference corroborated that this was a question on many local lips. Whilst initiatives within the city do exist, with LIMF Academy and Merseyside Arts Foundation excelling in their mentorship of young local talent, opportunities for up-and-coming artists still remain scarce and fleeting at best – Particularly with left-field and experimental artists often struggling to find a foothold in the industry.
Although eminent artists have emerged out of the city in recent years, with the likes of; Lapsley, Or:la and SG-Lewis all finding their way onto the international stage, there is still no master plan, no blueprint from which we can cohesively cultivate and promote up-and-coming musicians. For those living within the city, Liverpool’s remarkably singular culture transcends its history and is, in many cases, an undervalued cultural force within Britain – pushing against the boundaries of what can be achieved in everything from live music to club culture. Yet, beyond city lines, Liverpool is still ticketed as; the home of The Beatles, Cream Classics and Merseybeat…Trust us, we grew up in London. The city’s musical identity is still dominated by its historic successes, and not celebrated for its proliferating young talent.
What became evident throughout the course of Bido Lito’s conference was this: As a matter of top priority, Liverpool craves the sort of cultural infrastructure seen in cities like Utrecht, Groningen and Mannheim. As proceedings drew to a close, Pennington called for a centralised ‘Independent Music Office,’ one that would serve as a mediator between the culture’s leading forces and the city’s council – with the aim of bettering the opportunities available to musicians, venues, labels and promoters. However, it is fundamental to the advancement of the city’s music scene, that our community not only ventures toward inward-focusing solutions. Whilst the city would unequivocally merit from an independent and centralised ‘Music Office,’ as Pennington discerningly pointed out…it is perhaps from beyond our borders where we can also seek help.
Such collaborations can be found across Europe. Since 1998, the Red Bull Music Academy has toured the world, offering young artists access to creative workshops, lectures and guidance from industry-leading professionals. Notable alumni of the RBMA include; Denis Sulta, Krystal Klear, Jackmaster, Katy B, Jamie Woon and countless other artists who have gone on to create genre-defining music and perform to audiences across the world. With city-wide events based across Europe, Liverpool was fortunate enough to receive a visit from RBMA back in September 2016. Bringing with them the enigmatic and mysterious Moodymann, as well as a whole host of UK-based artists, the week-long programme featured lectures, workshops, gigs and warehouse parties. While leaving a lasting impression on the city’s collective memory, little was left behind on a grassroots level. It is here, on the ground, where Brownswood’s Future Bubblers programme looks to change the state of play.
Determined to ensure that they offer beyond what the city’s residents may consider a “one-off in-and-out do-good scheme,” Gilles Peterson’s Future Bubblers is defined by its goal of seeking out and assisting young talent from across the UK; offering them support, mentorship, advice and industry opportunities. Now into its third and final year, the programme has selected Liverpool and Southampton as its focus cities – with designs on connecting local audiences with the undiscovered talent that lives on their doorstep. In collaboration with Arts Council England, Future Bubblers has been given status as a National Portfolio Organisation – An accreditation reserved for the most advanced artistic practices in the country.
Regardless of genre, Future Bubblers are searching for singers, producers, rappers, beat-makers, scratchers and everything in between. What remains unique about the Bubblers project, is their determination to uncover left-field and ‘out of the box’ artists. Selected artists will be taken onboard the programme’s Mentoring and Development Project. Here, they will have access to recording studios, live performance opportunities and the chance to create their own session videos. Significantly, artists will be provided with a hand-selected mentor, each of whom has garnered critical acclaim in their respective musical field. Previous mentors have included; beat-making legend Eric Lau, electronic music producer AtJazz and Ninja Tune project manager, Alex Patchworks.
It is clear that the Future Bubblers offer is nothing short of an unprecedented experience for any young musician. However, beyond all the mentorship and recording opportunity lies the true value of the programme for Liverpool as a ‘music city.’ As Peterson states:
“Your city is important to your music and creativity, and we want to help create a city that appreciates and encourages you…keeping the music in your city.”
It is this underlying principle, alongside all other benefits, that establishes Gilles Peterson’s Future Bubblers programme as something the city of Liverpool should embrace. By working alongside local talent to cultivate and advance the existing scene within Liverpool, the initiative can play a fundamental role in amplifying the sounds of Merseyside – turning the speakers up and facing them toward a national audience. As many-a-young adult would attest, the so-called ‘Capital Brain Drain’ has in many ways diminished the cultural, social and economic power of many Northern cities; what the Future Bubblers programme represents is an opportunity to begin the necessary conversations and actions that will one day reverse this migration of young, talented artists – Building Liverpool up as a scene that people are proud to inhabit, safe in the knowledge that this is a place in which their creativity and artistry can flourish.
Celebrating the launch of their programme in Liverpool, Future Bubblers will be throwing a day and night Block Party down at Constellations on August 19th, with a very special previous Bubblers artist headlining the show. With a self-released EP now out on The Running Circle, our one to watch at this party is undoubtedly the forward-thinking soul singer, Yazmin Lacey. An alumna of the Future Bubblers programme, Nottingham-based Lacey has made some serious noise with her new six-track Black Moon project. A rough around the edges recording, Lacey’s band captured their entire EP from within in a living room, with all vocals being sung into a broken microphone. However, what shines through on this record can only be described as an endearing rawness, one that resonates with other bedroom recordings such as Mike Skinner’s – Original Pirate Material and Roots Manuva’s – Brand New, Second Hand. A true representation of the Future Bubblers scheme, Yazmin Lacey’s appearance will serve as an exhibition of what a young artist can achieve through the guidance and support of the Future Bubblers programme.
Elsewhere on the line-up, NTS Radio’s Skinny Macho (AKA Bone Soda) and Liverpool-based Radar Radio host, Suedebrown will be providing the DJ duties throughout the night. North-Western support comes from Bolts of Manchester-based party, So Flute and Preston-based record label, Fly High Society. MC group, Nu-Tribe will also be representing the local scene, following up from their recent appearance in the Constellations Garden at the 2017, Getintothis Awards. Be sure to also catch the Melodic Distraction residents playing music from early doors, with proceedings kicking off around 2pm. For those looking to gain their first insight into the world of electronic music production, Future Bubblers will also be hosting an Ableton workshop, teaching attendees about the various production techniques available through such hardware.
The event is completely free for all, and the Future Bubblers team are encouraging anyone with a passion for music to attend. With the scheme now into its third and final year, the city of Liverpool must not take such an opportunity for collaboration lightly. It is now our responsibility, as a community that is seeking to advance Liverpool’s grassroots musical culture, to not only look within our own borders for solutions, but to stay awake and embrace the chances that present themselves from the outside world. Simply sharing the scheme around close friends or on social media could develop an artist’s career beyond what they ever thought imaginable.
To find out more, please visit the links below for more information on how you, or a friend, could become a Future Bubbler and how you can attend their forthcoming day and night party. Applications close on 18th August!