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From Demo Tapes to the Troxy Theatre

Posted by More Music on 07 December 2022

The More Media Collective at the Youth Music Awards

Written by Jack Marc Williams

This October, myself, Saffi Amber McConnachie and Joseph Hargreaves were granted the opportunity to attend the 2022 Youth Music Awards representing the More Media Collective. Excitingly, we were finalists for the music video category for our song Last Chance To Dance, and this was a gratifying experience for all of us and our work together with More Music. Though this is the outcome of our collaboration and creativity, the story of the project that facilitated it began during the summer of 2021 after a visit from Pops Roberts and Phill Howley of Brighter Sound.

Having only recently been formed during this time, the More Media Collective, alongside other More Music groups Baybeat Street Band and LYVE, were given the opportunity to take part in Demo Tapes, a project in partnership with Brighter Sound, Reform Radio and the North West Sound Archive. The purpose of the Demo Tapes project was to highlight the rich history of civil rights activism in the North-West, presenting young creatives and commissioned artists with the task to delve into the newly digitised archive recordings of interviews or protest songs for inspiration to produce a creative response to be added to the archives for perpetuity. This greatly resonated with me artistically and politically as a young person conscious of the issues we have and are yet to overcome as a society.

The most inspiring aspect of being given this lens into the past for me was exploring how issues and battles for civil rights have been resolved, and those that still need fighting for. Creating a response to this research into the archive was a way to relate and re-contextualise voices of the past to ours in the present, creating a feedback loop across generations that would not only highlight the significance of their cause, but also the people that were pushed back against injustice. Our response as the More Media Collective, Last Chance To Dance, came about from this research, the title being a direct quote from one of the archives many interview clips and struck me as a highly evocative subject to base our song upon.

The Last Chance To Dance that our song references came from the archive excerpt “the classlessness of gay life in Manchester before 1967,” and refers to the call given at the end of a club night where people of the same sex could finally dance together. Along with other restrictions on the personal liberties of LGBTQ+ individuals in public, the interviewee tells of their experience as a gay man, having to hide all their passions and affection for others of the same sex until this pivotal and final part of the evening.

Given the context of the time we wrote the song, having just been able to start live events and in person sessions after the lockdowns of the pandemic, many of the restrictions mentioned in the archive clip spoke to those that we, as the British public, had been subjected to. The government’s experimentation with relaxing and tightening the rules with schemes such as ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ and the disparity shown to different reagents of the UK with the tier system governed how we could behave and interact with each other in public. Despite the disparity in suffering, prejudice and oppression, relating these similar experiences now that the majority of people have now experienced similar controls over their ability liberty, for reasons similarly out of their control. I thought that by bringing attention to these issues might provide an opportunity to relate and empathise with the oppression experienced by the UK LGBTQIA+ community in the not too distant past. Sadly though these issues are still prevalent and experienced by many across the world, Last Chance To Dance is a lesson to those of us privileged enough to not suffer from discrimination for either our identity, sexuality, creed or heritage.

With this apprehension and concept in mind writing the song itself came together quite quickly, having already discussed musical influences and the sonic palette we wanted to draw from. Doubling down on the project’s roots in the North West by taking inspiration from the sounds of new wave, post punk and dance rock bands such as Joy Division, New Order and The Smiths. The latter being of particular inspiration due to the related themes of gay subculture and identity also with reference to ‘Polari’, the slang language used in the past queer subculture and discussed similarly in the series of interviews in the archive that our excerpt came from.

After writing the chord loop and a the main body of the lyrics myself we set up to record the song aiming to showcase Last Chance To Dance alongside the Demo Tapes tracks made by other More Music Groups, ‘We Had The Magic’ from LYVE and ‘Some People Think There Is No End’ and ‘It’s Not Your Song It’s Our Song’ By Baybeat Streetband, at Viva La Youth Arts Week 2021. Many members of More Media Collective and More Music facilitators joined in making Last Chance To Dance a reality, expanding the scope and arrangement to include synthesiser, drums, trumpet and spoken word pieces. As part of our involvement with Demo Tapes we were set to perform our piece live as part of showcase on Reform Radio, this unfortunately didn’t come to pass due to concerns with Covid safety at the time, though we did get to be interviewed for behind the scenes podcast.. This lead to us having to create a music video for our submission, despite having a small time frame to complete this Saffi having not only produced the song created a video that perfectly encapsulated the themes and mood of the track. With a mixture of well sourced stock clips celebrating queer culture, juxtaposed with others sourced from the British Pathe archive depicting the disparity of the past, with heteronormative couples happily dancing together in old fashioned dance halls. Though the video was a replacement for our live performance we didn’t expect it to have as big of an impact as it did, especially when it came to submissions for the youth music awards.

Finding out that Last Chance To Dance was nominated for a Youth Music, music video award came as a welcome surprise, having submitted for the awards on behalf of the More Media Collective I hadn’t considered weather it would go further let alone that we would become finalists and getting the opportunity to attend the 2022 awards. As part of being nominated finalists, myself and Saffi were interviewed about the video, song and project for the videos announcing the nominees and give more context for the voting process.

Though the recognition and and honour of being nominated was reward enough, the most exciting part for us all was the trip down London to attend the awards themselves. As I had moved away in September to study for my masters this trip served as both a reunion and celebration with my friends and colleagues from More Music and our work together. Joined by our mentors Rachel Parsons and Ashley Murphy, we spent the day walking along the Thames, catching up and taking in some of the sights such as the Tower of London and Tower Bridge before we travelled on to Limehouse. Once checked into the beautifully eccentric Limehouse Library Hotel, with each of our rooms themed after historic authors, we met up with Kelly Thurston who joined us for social media coverage at the awards.

Dressed up in our finest we set out towards Troxy Theatre, stopping off for a celebratory drink before the big event. At the time it seemed funny for the pub to be so full that early in the day but we later recognised and got to meet many of those we saw who were similarly going for a drink before the awards ceremony. Before the awards ceremony we got to immerse ourselves in the crowds of other nominees, performers and creatives all amongst the resplendent Art Deco surroundings of the Troxy. After having our photos taken on a premier style red carpet, we sat down at our table ladened with drink to be treated to a two course meal. Acquainting ourselves with our table mates, the members of the band English Teacher, the band who would later that night win the Rising Star award and awe us with an energetic and raucous performance. Once started the awards themselves were a showcase of inspiring new artists, stories and perspectives from all over the country, we got to see the amazing work done and coming out of other Youth Music funded projects and organisations similar to More Music. Though we may not have won this time all of us who attended are eager to return next year to feature more of the amazing work we do.

Capping off the day we celebrated at the awards afterparty where we got to dance, laugh and reflect on the great time we’d had, how this was an amazing opportunity for us and has given the More Media Collective and us as creatives more visibility and recognition. Despite this I don’t think I speak for just myself in saying that being able to celebrate this project and something we created together meant more than the award itself. Myself, Saffi and Joe have all grown up from being attendees at More Music sessions, to members of the More Media Collective and becoming Mentees working with and for More Music in several capacities. This was a celebration of our work together with our mentors Rachel and Ash who have supported and nurtured us at every step of this journey. As part of writing about this experience I want to thank them and everyone else at More Music, as none of this would have happened without them and their continued support of us as young professionals and our creative voices.

Links & resources for the project :

Last Chance To Dance

Demo Tapes – project page

Demo Tapes behind the scenes podcast

Archive excerpt sampled

Credits for Last Chance To Dance:
Saffi Amber McConnachie – music and music video producer
Jack Williams – lyrics, vocals, music composition, guitar
Rachel Parsons – drums, backing vocals
Ella Clarke – trumpet, backing vocals
Reece Clarkson – spoken word piece and voice 1
Radical Haslam – spoken word piece and voice 2
Ash Murphy – synthesiser
Joseph Hargreaves – backing vocals

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