Capsule zine no 4

Capsule zine no.4 – this time put together by Mark Murphy
Containing interviews with Nicholas Bullen about Zine culture and sound artist Jony Easterby.

Independent Culture for Independent Students: ENGAGING NEW AUDIENCES IN BIRMINGHAM

Arguably, one of the biggest influxes of new people to the city of Birmingham is the thousands upon thousands of new students arriving here every September. In September 2007, I was one of them.

Upon arrival, I had very little knowledge of the city and what happens here apart from the events the student union were relentlessly promoting during freshers week. With loans providing a new found, short term wealth, the general consensus suggests to quickly consume as many £1 pints and 2 for 1 shots you can whilst vertical, and then pay a visit to the nauseating glamour of broad street (amongst others) to waste some more of that cash you’ll long for a few months down the line. Sure, the big night out, club culture clearly appeals to many and seems to do well at catering for much of the student population. However, I soon found myself becoming quickly disillusioned with a student lifestyle that I wasn’t interested in being a part of, yet seemingly was all that was presented to me. Something that I now understand to be a fallacy, but why didn’t I then?

The university I attend, without naming names (although I’m sure you can guess) has campuses across the city and whilst it offers a wide range of courses, it’s probably fair to say that many come under the general brackets of the creative arts and media. The students of which are exactly the sorts of creative types you’d expect to see filling live music events and engaging with the local cultural community. So why don’t they? Why do the West Midlands have much lower attendance for cultural events than other regions?

Well, there is the lack of late night public transport in the city, the actual geography and location of many of the better independent venues, making getting to and from particularly difficult for some (for piss poor students, a taxi fare is usually out of the question). What about the potential apathy of Birmingham audiences? This is something particularly noticeable in my fellow students, but perhaps, through no fault of their own.

It’s taken me the best part of three years here in Birmingham to fully discover and become involved in its vibrant, yet hidden underbelly of music, art and creative culture and I love it. Prompting discussion among peers however often results in blank faces; they don’t know it exists, just like I didn’t. Its not the fault of the city’s independent promoters or venues, they do the best they can with what resources they have, and in most cases they do a bloody good job that goes unnoticed. But Birmingham’s creative sector needs help with the students. Universities – open up the gates for access; let non-union posters go up around campuses, allow flyer distribution and evangelise about the city’s creative networks and many events. It’s no surprise that attendance figures in the union are dropping when all that’s offered is a spotty DJ with the latest Kaiser Chiefs record. Unions need programming and promoters need audiences. Opportunity knocks? We also need a council that does the same. Instead of attracting kids to Birmingham because they can spend their money in the same clubs, bars, restaurants and shops as any other large town in the country, sell Birmingham because it’s offering things that are unique to here.

So, to all the higher education establishments of Birmingham and to BCC, lend us a hand will you? Let’s grab these new audiences before they get lost in the chaff and show them all the real reasons to stay in Birmingham on completing their studies.
David Breese

Taken from our latest Capsule Zine
What are your thoughts?