Ramsgate Music Hall’s decade of putting town on live music map

André Dack is aiming for another 10 years 'at least' for Ramsgate Music Hall

On October 30 Ramsgate Music Hall celebrates a decade since first opening its doors.

The Turner Street site, with capacity for 130 people, has made its mark as a small but perfectly formed gig venue bringing a diverse range of music acts to the town.

On that opening night in 2013 London indie band Allo Darlin’ were the first to fill the building with the sound of live music and, in a nod to the 10th birthday, the band return on Friday (October 27) for a sold-out show.

The music hall was originally created by friends Jules Bigg, a graphic designer, producer Tim Baines and entrepreneur Robin Hyman and has become a byword for exclusive and eclectic gigs – hosting stars including Jarvis Cocker – with tickets for that gig selling out in less than 30 seconds – Gruff Rhys and Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh.

Kristin Hersh

The trio bought the former Jesters site at auction for £67,000 and then completely gutted it and rebuilt the interior, an investment in excess of £300,000.

In 2018 there was a restructure and long-term staff members André Dack and sound engineer Al Harle took on a lease and the reins of the business.

Former Chatham House student André , 31, had been working the bar and other jobs at the music hall since 2015 after completing  a music technology course at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Joking that he and Al were perhaps the only people ‘mad enough’ to take the business on, it is clear there is a passion for keeping the grassroots venue alive with acts from beginners on the circuit to big hitters such as Neneh Cherry and Stereolab.

The Big Moon at Ramsgate Music Hall

 

André  said: “We don’t thrive on the big shows, we are all about finding the next Jarvis Cocker, being in a room of 50 or so people and when a show finishes you know it was special and can reminisce years later when that person is playing the O2.”

However, there have been some tough times with the covid pandemic shutting down music venues and then applying restrictions as the country started to open up once more.

In December 2021, amid the spread of the Omicron variant, restrictions included customers having to show an NHS Covid Pass to demonstrate proof of two vaccine doses or provide proof of a negative lateral flow test.

Ramsgate Music Hall in Turner Street

In common with other grassroots venues Ramsgate Music Hall suffered an average drop off in tickets at almost 50%.

With the covid pandemic behind us, there came a cost of living crisis and hugely rising bills for utilities and goods.

André  said: “In some ways it is more difficult now than it was in covid. We are open now but have more outgoings, energy bills are ridiculous, our average monthly bill has gone from £350 to up to £1000. We are small, our income has remained the same or maybe even less as people can’t afford to go out so much. So, it is difficult and challenging.”

VAT relief would be a huge help, says André , and he would like to see a system similar to the football world where money from big clubs filters down to the grassroots.

Andre with a RMH 10th anniversary tote bag

He said: “A VAT break would help a massive amount. There is a conversation to be had about how much money arena shows make but very little filters down. In football money goes down to grassroots clubs but that doesn’t happen in music. That’s something the Music Venues Trust is campaigning on and making slow progress but there’s resistance from people who already have too much money. A lot of bigger bands have benefitted from venues like this and it’s not out of order to talk about them giving something back.”

And some bands are happy to help, rock band the Idles were happy for RMH to release a  live recording on their 2018 show to Bandcamp with proceeds going to the venue.

Despite the challenges the Ramsgate Music Hall team say loyal regulars, bar takings and a membership scheme contribute towards keeping the site running and there is a packed schedule of gigs coming up.

There has also been some experimentation of teaming up with other venues, such as recent gigs with Scott Matthews and Kristin Hersh being held at St George’s Church.

André  said: “We will keep going, bringing interesting music to the area. Our demographic is probably 35-65 years old and we love and appreciate them but would also love to get a younger audience involved although having money is an issue for everyone at the moment.

“We have made it to 10 years which is an amazing achievement. Ramsgate wasn’t on the touring circuit before and now it is on posters saying London, Paris, Ramsgate.

“We want to grow and we want to go on for another 10 years at least.”

Check out upcoming gigs, merch, membership and news at Ramsgate Music Hall here

 

12 Comments

  1. I like the idea of VAT relief to help smaller music venues. 20 years ago, it was possible to go to at least six pubs or clubs every friday and saturday night to see bands, now these have all been either closed down or turned into restaurants. Very sad.

    • Try looking in Facebook for Janet Gigs. You will see at least twenty bands playing in pubs and clubs across Thanet every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
      Thanet has got one of the best music scenes in the country.

  2. They got tens of thousands of pounds via the Arts Council to install gender neutral toilets 🚻 so it’s a no for me.

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