- Independent Venue Week
IVW 2024: Venue talk with Phil Moore from The Black Prince, Northampton
By Dale Grogan
- 29 Jan 2024
- 2 min read
In conjunction with this year’s Independent Venue Week celebrations, we spoke to a handful of dedicated souls running the show behind the scenes at some of the UK’s most beloved music and arts spaces. One of those who agreed to a quick chat was Phil Moore, the legend behind Northampton’s renowned cultural institution, The Black Prince.
A public house turned music venue, which has stood unmoved in Northampton’s historic Abington Square since 1857, the venue has played a hugely significant role in bringing live music to the local community. Household names the likes of Feeder, Reef, Half Man Half Biscuit, The Senseless Things, Enter Shikari, You Me At Six, InMe, ArnoCorps, Rozi Plain, Jeffrey Lewis, and Look Mum No Computer have all played at The Black Prince since it first began hosting live acts back in the 1960s.
In more recent times, performers have included The Bluetones, The Sherlocks, The Subways, Working Men’s Club, The Lovely Eggs, Newton Faulkner, Andy Bell, The Lottery Winners, Jah Wobble, Red Rum Club, Beans On Toast, BC Camplight, Ben Ottewell [Gomez], and The Bug Club, to name but a few.
Discussing everything from the changing habits of eventgoers post-pandemic and the challenges associated with the cost-of-living crisis to the importance of venue-rescuing organisations, the likes of Independent Venue Week and the Music Venue Trust, hear what Phil had to say in this tell-all interview.
Can you explain how customer habits have changed in the venue from pre-Covid to the cost of living crisis?
“I feel like The Black Prince is going the opposite way to many, in that we seemed to build on what we achieved before the lockdown and have developed something of a ‘proper’ new music scene here.
We used the downtime due to Covid to expand the size and the capabilities of our venue, and now people have come back in with fresh eyes and ears, realising that we are in effect a ‘new’ venue with top-level sound and lights.
People seem to enjoy live music even more than before. I guess you could call it gratitude for the good things in life after temporarily losing them. I think the cost-of-living crisis would have hit us much harder without the freshness of our approach.”
If the government gave you a sizeable grant to do whatever you liked in your venue, what would you do with it?
“Great question! We’d invest in everyday equipment, build a new and more comfortable green room for performing acts to relax in before they head up on stage, and of course, put money behind putting on more shows.”
We know that nightclubs and small venues provide innovation, a platform for musicians to play and a pipeline to the stadiums and large venues, but the climate feels disproportionate. How can large venues and famous artists help the grassroots to create an environment where both parties feed into each other?
“Realising that the ecosystem feeds itself, and what goes around comes around. You need to be putting effort into all areas, so the big promoters should be supporting the grassroots financially, and the bigger artists should use an initiatives like Independent Venue Week to recognise and support the sort of places where they made their name.”
What’s the most challenging part about putting on events at your venue and why?
“Just the sheer amount of work required for each show, carried out by small staff numbers. You don’t make much of a surplus of money even with successful shows, so a lot weighs on a few shoulders. You need a bit of a can-do attitude every day in dealing with all manner of unexpected problems that come your way.”
Other than funding, is there an area where you feel more help could be given from either the government or a centralised body?
“Music is a capitalist pursuit where it’s ‘rush to the top and forget what you left behind’, so money talks and margins are fine. We need more ways to underwrite the shows and protect the cultural ecosystem, much like the European model which has sadly never been implemented in the UK. Once government understands that then we can truly know our labour is valued and protected.”
Skiddle recently partnered with the Music Venue Trust, introducing a 50p ticket levy, with 100% of the proceeds going to the MVT’s Pipeline Investment Fund. Can you explain how initiatives like this help small and grassroots venues?
“Resources like the Pipeline Investment Fund are crucially important. It means we know someone has our backs when money is hard to find and we need to go to the well. At this time especially, where many venues are running at a loss, it is sheer madness to be left alone when things out of a venues control change the economic landscape. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how successful a venue is, we’re all vulnerable.”
Skiddle provides many tools to help organise and promote gigs and club nights. How have you found using The Promotion Centre and our other features?
“The Promotion Centre is a great instinctive tool to use when working on putting on our shows. Navigation is straightforward, and there are plenty of ways to analyse what’s happening with sales. Some ticketing sites are a frustrating maze, so I’m very glad we are with Skiddle! Plus having an account manager to talk to gives the company that personal touch.”
Where can musicians and promoters get in contact with you if they want to discuss organising an event?
“A simple email is the best place to start the conversation, via email@example.com.”