Friday, October 31

interview: thomasin sleigh & sarah smythe (creators of "old hall gigs")

A gig at Breaker Bay Hall by Richard Robertshawe © 2014
Old Hall Gigs is a wonderful initiative, which I first heard about when my friend Kane Strang mentioned he would be playing at one of their concerts. As their website describes, "Old Hall Gigs was created because we were dreaming of non-rowdy places to listen to our favourite bands. It is a roving series of events taking place in halls around Wellington." 

I sent Thomasin Sleigh and Sarah Smythe (the creators of this initiative) some questions in a quest to understand the inspiration behind this concept. 

Could you briefly describe both of your backgrounds?

Thomasin: I'm a weird venn diagram. I have a background in art history and contemporary art. I've worked in various galleries and write art criticism and commentary about the visual arts. I am also a writer of my own fiction, and published my first novel Ad Lib this year. I now work at DigitalNZ, working to make NZ's digital content easier to find, share, and use. But, most importantly for Old Hall Gigs, Sarah and I met when we were in a band together, St Rupertsberg, I played the drums and Sarah played piano.

 I come from a music background, but have always been interested in other art forms too. I studied classical piano at university but never liked the stuffiness of that world, and so after I finished studying I pretty much stopped playing classical music, and then got into playing in bands. Which is where I was introduced to Thomasin's remarkable drum face (she basically just stares into the distance like she is seeing through walls).

What drew you to creating the "Old Hall Gigs" initiative? Did it come about in reaction to changes in the gig scene or because of your personal backgrounds as musicians? 

It really just came about because we thought that there should be more interesting ways to present gigs. It seemed like there was just this un-imaginative world of gig going that involved over-priced drinks, late starting bands, people talking over the music, and venues where you can't actually see the bands properly. Sofar sounds was a bit of an inspiration, they are a world-wide initiative that puts on gigs in people's living rooms. Old halls in Wellington just seemed very tempting, and we liked the idea of taking each gig to a different hall/ suburb/ community each time. And then because we both like a wide range of art forms we decided to make it a bit of a smorgasbord and have readings, dance, films and art as well as some of our favourite bands playing. 

Do you think the initiative could be part of bigger changes happening in Wellington?

Perhaps...It's always nice to see the city's spaces used in creative ways. The Letting Space project does a great job of matching up visual artists with vacant offices and spaces in Wellington. It's interesting to stage arts events in spaces that are freed from commercial imperatives. Hopefully more people will put on gigs in interesting spaces - it was great to see A Low Hum will be staging a gig at Vogelmorn Hall, so maybe there is something bubbling away...

What draws you to the venues that you choose to run Old Hall Gigs in?

Mostly they are recommendations. When we tell people about the project they say, "Oh, well you definitely have to try such and such..." and then we go off and find an amazing hall hidden somewhere. The size and space of the hall also dictates the kind of activity that happens there, some spaces are great for big, anarchic bands, and some are good for quieter, close listening. Without exception, we've found that every hall has something a bit idiosyncratic about it, like Breaker Bay with it's amazing stage mural, the City of Wellington Pipe Band hall with it's scotch whisky bottle collection, and for our upcoming gig at the Long Hall in Roseneath, the amazing setting on the headland... it's pretty hard not to get enchanted by each one!

What has been a highlight so far (for both you as organisers and the audience)?

Oh, we couldn't pick a favourite! But, the first gig at Vogelmorn hall was really amazing. The hall is just a beautiful, elegant space, and we worked with fantastic writers, and musicians–Glass Vaults played, and there was a big, enthusiastic crowd who came from all over town. All of the gigs have been great, but that first gig really had us excited that we might be onto something.

What does your collaboration with Hue and Cry involve?

We really wanted to work with our friend Chloe Lane, who edits the Hue and Cry journal, because she has such a breadth of knowledge about the literary scene in Wellington (and further afield). She's been really great at recommending writers and putting us in contact with the right people for the different space we've been working in.

Old Hall Gigs' next event is on Saturday, 15th November at Long Hall in Roseneath. For tickets and event details click here (but be super quick about it because spaces are filling up fast)!

No comments:

Post a Comment

leave us your thoughts! xx