YOU ARE HERE NOW / The Mission: Gigs For Kids

Here & Now meets Shoreham Allstars’ Dave O’Connell

It’s 10 years since bass player, guitarist, songwriter and tutor Dave O’Connell started Shoreham Allstars. It’s quite likely if you’re a resident of this part of Sussex, that you’ve come across some of this collective of young musicians and bands from as young as 6 up to 18. Although they’re young, they play some grown up venues, as well as owning their very own mobile stage, which opens up to create a mini festival situation whenever it comes out.

AllStars started in 2008, when Dave, who had some regular guitar students, was approached by Shoreham’s Beach Dreams Festival. “They wanted to put on a fundraising event to help finance the festival, so we booked the Ropetackle Centre. My students formed various groups, and I was going to call the event ‘The Shoreham Beach Allstars’, but my wife pointed out that the simpler ‘Shoreham All Stars’ also had catchier initials and “S.A.S.” sounded cooler. I agreed, so Shoreham AllStars it was. We hoped to sell a few tickets, but when half of Shoreham turned up on the night, I thought “There’s something in this.’

Young People? Enjoying themselves?

To parents of aspiring rockstars still on their first set of teeth, an age range of 6 to 18 sounds like it might be challenging for the smaller ones, but Dave immediately points out their latest addition, “a drummer called Mason, who is just 6, and is an absolute powerhouse”.

What about persuading real music venues, which are usually pubs, to take on young bands? “What we found out, was that if you went to a venue and told the manager, ‘I have a band of 8 year olds called Chocolate Guftychumps, who would play a song they wrote called ‘Cats From The Future’, you might have a job to get a gig, but if you went in with a promise of 10 bands, plus their mums, dads and friends, the landlord would say ‘Yes, please!’ and by the way, that really is one of our bands, and also the title of one of their own songs!”

“We’ve taken it from there: we’ve built by having strength in numbers and by being part of the community, but with the aim for kids to play proper gig venues, not just school halls (although school halls are great!)”

“It’s a constant learning process but we’re playing 35 gigs a year” (which for an adult band would constitute a “UK tour”)

Taking Care Of Business

In 2012, Shoreham Allstars became “Original Allstars Music CIC”, a Community Interest Company with the excellent dual missions of

  • “through creating and maintaining young musicians’ collectives, to give young people across the UK the chance to experience the many facets of music in an environment that they feel safe, supported and inspired,

and

  • through developing year-long paths of events and activities we will provide young musicians with opportunities to express themselves through music on stage, in rehearsal rooms and in recording studios and to give them the chance to do this regardless of age, background or musical ability.

”Being a CIC moved things along for us: we were given our mobile stage, and were asked to represent the Shoreham musical community at all three WIldlife gigs, the last one of which had 100 musicians with an average age of 12 performing for potentially thousands of music fans.

Building Our Music Community with Young People

Allstars is a local gem – how do we keep it growing? “We want people to come and support us. Come to gigs! We want business, colleges and the community to get involved. We are enriching the community they live in across West Sussex and Brighton. Every kid that plays music is making positive choices for their spare time” We know there are plenty of less positive choices available these days for young people.

“Another thing I’d like is for more young adult musicians to come and get involved in the mentoring. It’s so satisfying to see how small changes making music actually change kids’ lives, and I want to be able to pass this amazing thing on to the next generation.”

“And videographers! We need people to come and make videos of the amazing music our kids make! Bring your phone if you don’t have a flash video camera, and learn to edit online!”

Building Music Careers, but Building Community Too

In ten years, some young musicians have grown up through Allstars, gone on to College (often our own Northbrook MET) and become full time musicians: Nathan Marshall now works with Dave on Allstars, and plays with his own band My Pet Shark alongside other projects. Cody Marshall started his first band with Allstars, and now is well known as part of Leeds and Reading Festival regulars, High Tyde. Drummer Gabi King began as an Allstar with fellow Davison girls in S’koolFest favourites Demelza’s Tea Party, but last year playedCoachellaand Lollapalooza festivals with Declan Mckenna.

There are clearly career opportunities for Allstars, but Dave says it’s about more than just being a recruiting channel for the Music Industry. “Playing music in groups also gives kids positive musical memories. We contribute to experiences that make life more liveable for young people. It may have been a hard week at school, but at the weekend you’ve got a gig in a pub, and you’re just 10, and you even get a free glass of fizzy pop!”

Anniversary Celebrations

Fast forward to the present and the ten year celebrations culminate in a packed weekend of gigs: Shoreham Academy’s Main Hall on 6pm-9pm Friday 14th December, The Duke of Wellington, Shoreham on Saturday afternoon, 3pm-6pm, culminating in a Sunday afternoon 3pm-6pm gig at the Brunswick in Hove. “There are now 30 bands in AllStars”, says Dave, “and there’ll be 10 bands on average each gig.”

Mixing It Up, Making Something New

We asked how it works if you get a group of kids who all want to play different genres?

Dave says “Whatever genres come in, we make it work. You find common ground, then we create our own new genres by mixing them up! We’re lucky, in that we all have the entire history of music at our fingertips now, so it’s actually quite easy to find a band that mixes even the most unlikely of genres!”

“Also we want our Allstars to write their own songs, and make original music, because it’s really important that they realise that what they create now actually has a value. Songs they write this year- aged only 12 will still exist and have worth in 20 years time; they will own and maybe still even be playing them! What else can you do as a child that retains or even grows in value and stays uniquely yours?”

To show how this works, Allstars has the Original AllStars Archive up on Soundcloud.com which contains every song written since 2009, including Cody from High Tyde’s first ever song. Dave says “It still sounds great.”

By Mike Pailthorpe runs S’koolFest, and the Foundation Degrees in Music at Northbrook MET. @mikepailthorpe @skoolfest @Musicnorthbrook