Nancy Buckland Kirk goes in search of some new musical inspiration in lockdown and finds it at Liverpool’s Arts Bar…
If you are at that stage in lockdown where you are trying to watch The Serpent and can’t get past the second episode (guilty as charged), then stop, go to YouTube, and watch Lily Almond’s cover of Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love For You, part of Liverpool Arts Bar Library Sessions. It is nothing like the original, but that’s not to say it’s not wonderful. In fact, it’s a contemporary version that only someone who was not around in 1985 to hear Whitney’s first Number One could master. At a time when we are all feeling a little isolated, live music is the greatest balm.
In a city renowned for its musical heritage, history and current cultural prowess, it feels like a difficult time. However, the Liverpool Arts Bar has been thriving, as it awaits the thumbs up from Boris to open its doors once more. Located in Hope Street, The Arts Bar is a fresh, safe and creative space that strives to support and develop the local artistic scene. It was launched in 2019 with a plan to promote and celebrate all aspects of the local creative community and offer several ways to help give a platform for artists to showcase their work. They also hang and sell art from a diverse group of local artists and host a variety of inclusive weekly events that celebrate local music, poetry, theatre, comedy and film.
Whilst the current pandemic has forced all of us into a lockdown, the team have made the decision to adapt and take many of their projects online. The recent launch of their website gave a platform to local creatives to promote their work through their blog page, ‘Arts Bar Live’ gives musicians the chance to showcase their original work. They are planning to host an online art gallery where artists can promote and sell their work and keep earning whilst times are difficult, too. I caught up with Alex from the venue to find out more.
I discovered Liverpool Arts Bar via your live gigs online, are there any more planned and how can music lovers access them?
You can check out some incredible, original music by local artists on our YouTube channel ‘Arts Bar Live’. Before lockdown this was an event we would host on the last Tuesday of the month, jam packed with hundreds of people who wanted to catch their favourite music live. We are now trying our best to offer musicians as many opportunities as we can to keep performing. Our latest project, ‘Library Sessions’ will showcase new musicians playing intimate gigs in our library space. The aim of this project is to show that you can film high quality videos to promote music on your iPhone. All the filming, mixing, and editing is done on an iPhone and will hopefully inspire musicians to do a similar thing from home whilst they can.
While it’s been a challenging 12 months for arts venues, what you have enjoyed putting on?
We have really enjoyed connecting with our audience over the past 12 months. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to reach out to our followers on social media and find out what they enjoy about our venue and what things we can do to grow in the future. In the original lockdown we hosted so many live events where we could talk directly to our followers. We hosted a ‘Quiz Night’ on a Monday, an ‘Open Mic’ night on every Wednesday and ‘Coffee Morning’ on a Sunday. We have had an opportunity to adapt and take our values online. We have always strived to promote and celebrate Liverpool’s buzzing creative scene by hosting events in our venue, but now we can do it online and reach a much bigger audience.
Tell us more about the podcast. What can we expect if we tune in?
We started our podcast many years ago, before we opened the bar and we ran an events company called ‘Liverpool Arts Society’. We launched it as a way of talking to local creatives about projects they were doing and helping to promote them. As the years have gone on it has split into two different episode types, firstly where we speak to or about local creatives and their work and secondly where we have some fun and talk about things we find interesting. It is fun, playful and can be quite informative but is certainly born out of the need of a laugh or two. You can head to our website to listen or find us on all major podcast platforms.
Finally, as we all pray for lockdown to end, what are your future plans and what are you looking forward to?
We miss more than anything, being in a jam packed venue, drinking with friends and listening to live music. We’re not too sure when we will be back to that, but we are excited to reopen, see friends and enjoy the local arts scene again. We will continue to promote and celebrate music, theatre, film and art in the city in as many ways as we can.
I first found out about Liverpool Arts Bar from one of my favourite singer/songwriting artists, Lily Almond, who I spotted on their YouTube live gigs. Lily, who at just 23 already has a degree from UCLAN under her very cool belt, has been performing in the city and beyond for several years now. I caught up with Lily for a virtual chat, to ask her more about being an artist during these different times, in the hope that brighter ones are on the way.
I’ve really enjoyed watching your live gigs for Liverpool Arts Bar – what makes it a great venue and space for new artists?
Apart from being a brilliant space, all of the team involved are experienced artists themselves, so they know the kind of support valued by upcoming artists in every field. They have created a wonderful platform for live performances, as well as a great place to network. It has a warm, welcoming community feel for artists and for guests, who have such a wide range of events and broadcasts to choose from. I really, really enjoy being a part of it.
You clearly love writing your own original tracks, where do you get your inspiration from?
Like so many artists, I draw from my own experiences. I only started songwriting a year ago: at the time I really felt I was transitioning from a young girl into a woman. I tend to reflect on relationships of every type: I find it amazing how songwriting can capture a feeling that you can revisit at any point in your life, even if you might not necessarily be in that frame of mind any more. It’s like a log of memories that you can tap into whenever you want, in a healthy way of course! And I hope those reflections are relatable for anyone who is listening, too.
Lily, how did you get into music in the first place?
I can only say that coming from a family like mine I had no choice, really! But it is a choice I am happy to make. My mum is a talented artist and my dad is really musical – he got me into playing guitar, and is so supportive of what I do. My maternal grandparents are huge music fans. They always have been and are regulars at my gigs. They have so many stories about great concerts they’ve been to. They even saw The Rolling Stones support the Everly Brothers and Little Richard in Liverpool way back in 1963. They went for a Chinese meal afterwards, and in walked the Stones! Because all of my close loved ones are music fans I grew up listening to so many different styles and genres, so it was just natural for me to want to join in, appreciate, and learn. I have certainly had the best educators! I would love to travel back in time with them to see some of the legendary gigs they witnessed in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Do you have any favourite musical muses of your own?
As a young music fan, Queen were my first love: I admired the fact that they were unique not just in the music industry but also in society. Because of my upbringing I have a real appreciation of all genres, but I have to say country music is close to my heart. As a musician of course I admire The Beatles, and I am also a fan of James Taylor. In terms of contemporary artists, I really enjoy Jade Bird and Sam Fender: they are both unafraid of sticking to their roots, and are not influenced by trends. I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and so both Stevie Nicks and Christine McVey stand out to me, both as artists and for their achievements and longevity.
What are you looking forward to most about live performances with audiences again?
It has been a real privilege to keep performing live during lockdown, but I cannot wait to get back to singing in front of a live crowd. It is valuable for any artist’s progression to gain experience, and get valuable feedback from audiences. For the future, I want to continue writing and collaborating as well as getting the chance to record in more studio surroundings and hopefully gain some representation. Like most other young artists, I don’t have the budget to go it alone. But playing live is what I love the most, and I am hoping once I can sing again audiences will return enthused and ready to rock.
Lily has promised me that the first time she does a live gig at Liverpool Arts Bar as soon as it reopens, I can indeed bring my fold out chair and sit with her legendary grandmother, Mary. As in Mary-who-dined-next-to-Mick-Jagger-Mary.
Forget about Stevie Nicks. I’m all about what Mary would do for 2021.
I may even try out my poetry. The question is, will ‘I Wrote This In The Aldi Car Park’ be a hit with their supercool-yet-cosmopolitan crowd?
I’ll keep you posted.
For all information about Liverpool Arts Bar visit their all-new website www.liverpoolartsbar.com/
They have lots of exciting live events coming up online and you can listen to their brilliant Podcast, too!
You can check out Lily’s Library Sessions for Arts Bar www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtlmrCKreOg
Lily Almond’s YouTube is at www.youtube.com/channel/UCcWM5ipCqTfZEetm2Nao8Zw
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.
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