Janet Farmer – Interview

Pocklington Arts Centre is a venue in Yorkshire that we have covered frequently, with the venue going from strength to strength over the past few years. We had a chat with the venue director Janet Farmer recently to find out how her 2018 was, and what plans she had for the future. It’s certainly looking good!

By Jane Howkins

How was 2018 for you? Any highlights you can tell us about?

2018 was a highly rewarding year for the venue with so many memorable moments. PAC staged over 400 events (Live Events, Film Screenings, External Hires, Community Events and Workshops) with 39 sold out music and comedy performances. Live event highlights included fabulous Irish folk/rock band Hothouse Flowers, the Grammy nominated The Lone Bellow, americana singer-songwriter and Rolling Stone magazine favourite Courtney Marie Andrews and PAC’s inaugural Handpick’d Festival featuring a headline performance by Rick Witter and Paul Banks from Shed Seven.

In April the venue was awarded National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status by Arts Council England. This was awarded in recognition of the venue’s past artistic achievements and to ensure it’s long-term sustainability. In November PAC won the Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Award for Best Live Large Venue, this was a wonderful achievement and a great acknowledgement for all the hard-work over the previous eleven months.

Are you excited for what is coming up this year? Do you have anything particularly exciting planned?

2019 will see the return of the venue’s Platform Festival which takes places at The Old Station, a beautifully converted old railway station in the heart of the town. Past performers include KT Tunstall, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, Newton Faulkner, Bellowhead, and Richard Hawley.

You’ve been working for PAC since 2000. How have things changed since then, and how has it been seeing the venue go from strength to strength?

The use of and evolution of technology has impacted greatly on the venue since it opened in 2000 – be it how we research artists, promote events, sell tickets etc. Gone are the days of sending faxes and letters to get bookings.

PAC has developed and grown over the last nineteen years – we now welcome over 32,000 people through the doors each year, have 12 paid staff members (full and part-time), have National Portfolio status from Arts Council England and have a national reputation for our live event and film programming.

How do you choose which acts are to perform at PAC? Do you have much of a choice over the events held there?

Myself and my colleague James programme all of the events and the aim is to always provide a diverse and dynamic range of events. We do extensive research – visiting festivals across the UK and further afield (we’ve been to SXSW in the USA for the last six years) in addition to regularly attending productions and networking events across the region. The venue is also a member of numerous regional and national organisations such as the Small Venue’s Network, Americana Music Association UK etc.

What have been your favourite events/gigs at PAC over the years? We bet you’ve met some interesting people over the years, are there any that particularly stick out to you?

We have programmed over 1000 live events since the venue first opened, so there are so many highlights and memorable moments. Without a doubt I would have to include the following artists: Curtis Stigers, Shed Seven, Mary Coughlan, Adam Cohen, Kate Tempest, Richard Hawley, Rosanne Cash, George Melly and Russell Kane, however there are so many more I have not mentioned. We really do need to write a book detailing all of the venue’s history.

This year was the most successful year on record for PAC. How did that feel when you found out? What do you attribute your success to?

The whole team is energised for 2019 and we fully intend to build on this success of the last year. The venue is constantly evolving and improving, it’s the only way to operate. With increased competition and technological advancements, you always have to be looking six months to a year in advance. 2018’s success is down to hard work and dedication and would not have been possible without the support of the venue’s volunteer workforce, alongside the PAC Management Team, the Friends of PAC and Pocklington Town Council.

You recently gained Arts Council England NPO status. How did that happen, and what does that mean for PAC? Do you think that has helped bring about a lot of this year’s success?

I submitted an application on behalf of the venue to ACE, and this was based on the venue’s past body of work up alongside a defined vision for the next four years. The whole team was completely overjoyed when we were informed the application had been successful – the funding has allowed PAC to expand, build on its clear potential and secure its long-term sustainability.

What events are you most looking forward to coming up this year?

We have some very special announcements coming in the next month, please check our website and social media accounts for updates.

How would you like to expand PAC in future? What do you think the future
of PAC is?

To build on the success of 2018 and to use this as a catalyst for a long and sustainable future.

Any last words for the fans?

Many thanks for your continued support, we look forward to welcoming you all in the new year.