A zoom call with Laura at Seed revealed that they loved the idea and wanted to pursue it further. What followed was a big learning curve in terms of applying for a Seed commission, getting the premises license to run a bar, as well as doing a lot of advertising and networking. The church got behind it with permission and people power, and Seed were supportive every step of the way. Ollie Davies, a great local sound engineer and musician, was on hand to help in many ways. The first night, held back in September 2021, was a huge success and we’ve been hosting the event monthly ever since. We have also run a masterclass, and a weekend of workshops in the first year – many of which sold out – and we are running another such weekend in May 2024.
What amazes me about Blues in the Pews is the range and depth of local talent, as well as visitors from further afield. No two months are the same. Blues has developed into a very inclusive space, where musicians from 8 to 80 can get up and have a go – and where sometimes the younger musicians are the more experienced!
People have found an opportunity to learn new performance skills, or to get back into skills they thought they’d forgotten. It’s also been a place where people of different levels of need and ability can get involved. Two of our regulars have additional needs, and come along with their carers. They often sing a nursery rhyme (given a suitably blues-ifed backing by the band) and it brings the house down. One of our participants, a young man who lives with schizophrenia, recently spoke movingly in a BBC Radio 4 interview, about how Blues in the Pews helps his self-expression and opportunities to for socialising.