In the face of mounting cuts to the Arts sector throughout the UK and disproportionately in areas outside of London, it’s essential that local spaces are protected and utilised, so that expression and ideas can reverberate throughout cities. That’s why it’s incredibly refreshing to hear about The Tin Music and Arts project in Coventry. Scattered around the city are some absolutely fantastic hubs of creativity that are really driving artistic change in the city and in this case, social change too. The Tin Music and Arts project is a recently created arts charity that operates from a unique setting in the city centre, situated in the canal basin, previously called Taylor Johns, but now known as The Tin. Serving as a multi-functional artistic space, it offers the chance for performers and artists to perfect their craft but also for a vast array of collaborative projects fuelling social change; working with people in the city from disadvantaged backgrounds and using arts based activities to impact the community.
I spoke to David Butler (He Is A Pegasus), who is behind Marketing and PR for The Tin and his answers perfectly capture the public importance of Arts Centres that can provide rich, dimensional opportunities that offer creative contributions towards helping to alleviate disadvantage and inequality, aswell as introducing innovative acts. This is a really exciting and important time to get involved with your local Arts Scene and Coventry has a lot to offer thanks to The Tin.
The Tin was formally known as Taylor Johns, what's the thinking behind the name change?
The story behind the name change is quite simple – The Tin Music and Arts is a newly formed charity which was launched at the beginning of August. As well as our cultural offer, much of what we did as Taylor John's was already charitable – working Coventry City Council, supporting adults who have experienced mental ill health, working on music projects with young NEETs (not in education, employment or training), working with adults with learning difficulties etc, the transition made sense. However, when becoming a Charity, you cannot use the name of a pre existing place or company, so The Tin Music and Arts was chosen by our new board of trustee as a homage to the now sadly closed Tin Angel. It's been a bit tough trying to get the word out that we are still operating, but under a different name, but at the same time, that's what makes this such an exciting project to be a part of – it's new and fresh and only going to get better.
Coventry doesn't always attract the most favourable reputation, but there's pockets of exciting artistic developments all around the city. Is The Tin committed to fostering local artists and helping to further Coventry's artistic scene?
Definitely. Coventry's local music scene is just as vibrant as it has always been, if you know where to look. Taylor John's was always a hub of musical activity and the MO of The Tin is exactly the same – showcasing the best local talent Coventry has on offer, and providing a platform for local artists to develop as artists or performers in a friendly, welcoming environment, whether that be through the excellent Open Mic Nights that run on Sundays or offering support slots for reputable touring musicians to local artists and bands. We also offer great rehearsal rooms, which are totally kitted out with a 5 piece drum kit, amps, and a PA system, so we're pretty committed to not only giving artists an opportunity to perform live, but we're also giving them the facilities to improve for a reasonable price.
What's different about your venue?
What's so unique about The Tin is that it is more than just a venue – behind the scenes The Tin is a community focused arts organisation. As well as frequently putting on a diverse range of nights, from folk legend Ed Askew to REVOLT club nights, The Tin is also an active community centre, committed to improving links and opportunities for underprivileged or disadvantaged 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 pro-active music scene, The Tin also hosts Tai Chi and Yoga classes twice a week, respectively, and Indian Kuchipudi dance classes every Wednesday. We also have an artist studio for two artists. One space is currently vacant but the other is occupied by Midlands based artist Stewart Easton. We have also invested in a silk screen printer and plan to rent that to local artists and eventually deliver tuition sessions. So it's a really vibrant, exciting project to be a part of, as it has so much more to give.
As someone who's performed at The Tin yourself, how did you find the crowd and general atmosphere whilst playing in comparison to other places around the city?
The atmosphere down here is fantastic – it hardly feels like work! From a performance perspective it's even better. The entire focus is on the music, so you're not struggling to be heard over shouting, drunken men, which is a recurring obstacle for many performers in venues throughout Coventry. From the very early days of the Tin Angel there has been a 'Shuuuush' policy (we once held a series of nights called that!). The fact that the bar and the performance area are separate really helps. Also, everybody is interested in what you're doing, whatever it is – The audiences down here understand how diverse music can be, they don't just operate on a Radio One spectrum of music, but are totally open minded to anything you want to do. As a seasoned musician, it's refreshing not to feel pressured to play songs that people will have heard on X Factor or on a John Lewis advert. If I were a musician that was just getting started with gigging, or nervous about performing in front of people, The Tin would be absolutely perfect, as it is such a warm, pressure free environment.
For people that have never been before, what kind of acts can they expect to hear/see?
The fact that I had to take a few minutes to try and narrow down what you can expect to see at The Tin is a perfect example of how much variation there is down here. We have a few regular nights like the Open Mic, which is on every Sunday, which is different every time, so it stays fresh and interesting. The most frequent type of music we cater for is probably folk – we have 60s folk legend Ed Askew here this Saturday - but it is in no way limited to that. For instance, we are hosting the Proxy Music nights every month from January which is a funk, soul and disco club night, and Catharsis, one of Coventry's only goth/industrial night. We tend to book acts on their way up – we had the fantastic John Smith here in 2007, and Caribou in 2008 – so although we are a small venue, we are still a place that well known and well respected artists are keen to perform at.
The venue was opened by Richard Guy, who continues to work closely with the new charity, but now focuses on running Tin Angel Records. The artists on the label see the venue as their home-from-home, most of them being from the US or Canada. When they tour there is always a 'home town' gig at the Tin. Most notably Devon Sproule who has reached the dizzy heights of performing on Later.... with Jools Holland.
Which acts should we be excited about in the near future at The Tin?
We have some great acts coming up for over the next few months or so, like local band Batsch on the 14th of December, 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 up-and-coming alt-pop band 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 Johns 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!
Don't miss American singer/songwriter Ed Askew this Saturday (7.12.13)
Visit the website for more info here