Candles, unusual locations and talented musicians? If that’s your thing then By Candlelight is exactly what you’ve been looking for. We caught up with co-founder of the project, Phil Grainger, to find out more.
By Kate McHugh
So, what exactly is By Candlelight?
‘By Candlelight’ is a new series of gigs in York, presented by Bradley Blackwell and myself. We’re looking all over the country for artists, as well as looking on our own doorsteps at the wealth of talent that York boasts. These artists mixed with an unusual venue in which to host them – and some candles of course – is By Candlelight.
How did you get the idea for it?
Me and Bradley spoke last year about hosting London-based Folk/Hip-Hop duo Nizlopi in York, as we’re both big fans. They’d been on separate projects for a few years, and had just started playing together again so we thought we’d see if they’d be up for playing an intimate, informal gig – like a house concert perhaps. Once Nizlopi were booked, the idea kind of grew naturally from there and we started to look into some other acts that we’d seen over the years. This then progressed to monthly events and By Candlelight began.
What are you most looking forward to with this venture?
The standard of artists we have in mind for the shows is outstanding, and so far the responses to the invitations to play have been really positive. To be honest, we’re looking to book our favourite artists, so as much as anything I’m looking forward to sitting there and watching the acts perform in my hometown.
You’ve mentioned that the sessions will take place in interesting places, has this been difficult to achieve?
It hasn’t actually – some places we’ve been to have not been able to talk about the possibility of a gig there, but mostly people have been really interested in the project and are doing what they can to host one. We’ve even had people offer their homes for a gig or keeping their shop open for a while longer in order to host one. It’s lovely!
What is your favourite/ideal location for a gig? And why?
One venue we’ve been talking to is a cinema in York; we’re looking to put on an artist in the cinema itself with visuals behind them on the screen and 100 seats for the audience to sit and watch. I personally think this will be a really special event. I’ve certainly never been invited to anything like that before and I hope the people of York are as excited about it as I am.
What should the audience expect from it?
Audiences can expect an extremely high quality of performers and sound. The fact we’re hosting the events in unusual places means the crowd is there to see the artist and not just there by chance, so the room is able to generate this amazing buzz. The atmosphere is hard to describe and I think quite impossible to explain in scientific terms… but I think we’ve come across an equation of how to create it in By Candlelight.
Who are some of the artists that the audience could expect to see?
If you look through our iPods, I think that would give you a good idea of who to expect. But I can tell you that people that we’re currently talking to Eastbourne loop pedal master David Ford and Curtis Eller, a banjo playing maestro all the way from the USA. We’re lucky enough to have Nizlopi confirmed for April 11th.
How does By Candlelight differ from other gigs? What makes it special?
We’re not trying to pretend we’ve come up with anything new with By Candlelight. There are lots of great gigs around and lots of gigs with candles for that matter. I guess what you can expect from us is a standard that we won’t allow to drop. We want to put on the best gigs we can. We’re not tied to doing a certain amount per month, or per year, we can do them when we see fit, therefore every artist will be one we really believe in at a time we think is right.
The other thing is that all these gigs will have an audience that is there to listen to original music and appreciate it. We’ve got nothing against venues putting on artists as background music of course – I love it and support it – but these gigs are different.
One session that has happened already included Tom Figgins and Rachel Croft in the café Your Bike Shed. How did that go?
Tom Figgins By Candlelight was a truly magical evening. Brad and I were totally overwhelmed by the response. Tickets sold out before the event and the audience were so generous with their attention and applause all night. Some of the audience were there to see Tom and were blown away by the standard of the support. Some people however had come to see the support act, Rachel Croft – who was fantastic – and considered leaving afterwards but stuck around after hearing Tom begin his set. Ryan McCaffrey was sneaking around filming the entire thing, and we hope to have some video footage of the event up in a few days.
What are your long term plans for it?
We’re currently booked up, in pencil at least, with acts and venues through to October of this year. We’re not thinking it has to go on for a certain amount of time. We’ll keep booking events for as long as we think people want to perform and attend.
The thing we’ll be working on a lot in coming months is trying these events in London. We have the opportunity to take By Candlelight to Upstairs at the Arts which is a theatre space in London’s west end. This will differ only in that the space will be the same each time, and it’ll be the same Tuesday toward the end of each month. We are hosting the enchanting Sam Griffiths, of York, in London on the 24th March.
You’re also the co-founder of Gobbledigook, could you tell us a little bit about this?
Gobbledigook are a happy-go-lucky collective driven by writer/spoken word artist David Jarman and myself. We make theatre, music and fun wherever we can! We’re about to begin work on two new shows to take round the country this year, as well as working with The Flanagan Collective on a new piece. Alongside this we’re recording an EP with Plus48 Records, ready for release in summer. I don’t really know where to watch out for us… but we’ll be around!
What’s your opinion of the current York music scene?
I love the music scene in York: lots of buskers, lots of open mics and a few great venues. The performers around York are a real family and, judging by my own experience, there’s no hostility between performers. Everyone’s ready to help everybody. I think right now is a really exciting time and some amazing work happening.
Any last words for the readers?
I would just like to urge readers to get involved with our events Gobbledigook and By Candlelight in any way they can: performers, audience members, venue owners… anything! It’s something very special. Thanks for the opportunity to talk.
By Candlelight events will be taking place regularly in York and elsewhere. Details can be found via their Facebook page.