An Interview with Roundhouse Rising

Roundhouse Rising at the Roundhouse, 2016, London. Image © John Williams

Roundhouse Rising Festival comprises panel talks, workshops, live performances and more, enabling young musicians to arm themselves with the knowledge, connections and platform necessary to begin a career in the music industry. Supplementing the main event is a continuous programme of events and courses, accessible to young people for a relatively infinitesimal price.

Insights spoke with Lucy Scott, Music Programme Producer for Roundhouse Rising, about the festival’s commitment to representing emerging talent throughout the year, plus her opinion on livestreaming and how to better help young musicians.

Festival Insights: Could you give us a brief history of Roundhouse Rising and how you came to be involved with the festival?

Lucy Scott: Sure, so Roundhouse Rising has been running for six years and was founded by my predecessor Oliver Kluczewski. Over that time the festival has evolved and taken on a number of different forms, from a weekend event to a weeklong one. Last year we worked with various partners to programme it, but this year we took a more in-house approach.

As for my professional background, I came into this post in September 2015. I’m a musician and I studied at the University of Leeds. My last job was at a Leeds-based theatre company called Interplay, where we did a lot of work with young artists who weren’t in any education, employment or training. We worked with them on recording and live performance. As a result of that I got a job as the Music Programme Coordinator for the Roundhouse – a position that I held for two years – and now I’m the Music Programme Producer for Roundhouse Rising.

FI: Aside from Roundhouse Rising Festival, it’s a year-round initiative, correct?

LS: Yeah, so the Roundhouse runs an annual programme of projects for 11 -25 year olds. Most people know it as a gig venue in the main space, but my role revolves around the young, emerging artists. Involved in that programme we have a choir, a music collective, and we run music production and DJ workshops with industry artists.

Our membership scheme is open to aspiring young musicians, and for £20 a year they have access to the Roundhouse’s studio facilities, plus advice and a development programme that aims to facilitate them starting a career in the music industry. Roundhouse Rising is a moment in the programme where we shine a light on those developing artists alongside slightly more established acts, providing these young people with an industry-facing platform to gain exposure.

We’re not just a music venue either; we work on performing arts and broadcasting projects. Radio stations and film crews train here, for example.

FI: £20 is amazing value for all of that. Do any external partners fund the Talent Development Programme?

LS: We’re funded by a range of supporters, from individuals to foundations such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Youth Music, and PRS for Music.

FI: When I attended Roundhouse Rising it seemed to me that it has a different dynamic to other emerging talent festivals, like it was a little more focused on creating a communal atmosphere and network for unsigned artists, rather than being purely industry- acing. How would you characterise the festivals spirit and what its goals are?

LS: Well the goal of Roundhouse Rising is to provide a platform to the artists we work with on our Talent Development Programme and music projects, but equally we do try and balance that with an industry facing side. The model we’ve adopted is that we have evening shows in which we put our artists on as support acts. Then in addition to that we have things like the free-to-attend ‘Getting Ahead in Music’ day. Accessibility is a huge thing for us, in fact we even offer bursaries to those who can’t afford the £20 annual membership fee.

FI: The Getting Ahead in Music Day was really informative, and the panellists seemed very engaged and passionate.

LS: What’s really exciting is that a lot of those people in the commercial side don’t always realise how much they have to share. So it’s great to have them in front of an audience who are so thirsty for knowledge.

FI: Another thing I find interesting about Roundhouse Rising is that it livestreams some of its shows. To me it seems like a great way to circumvent the physical limitations of venues, provide remote access to fans who can’t attend in person, and gain more exposure for the artists. So why aren’t more festivals doing it?

LS: It’s interesting because a lot of people have the opinion that watching something on a screen isn’t the same as being there. But I see it as the future of music, especially with the advent of virtual reality. Being in the room is obviously an amazing experience but not everyone can be there for whatever reason. I think one day they’ll have a way your friends can livestream the gig from their position via their phones. It should be something that more festivals do. We’ve had pretty huge audiences on our livestreams, and it’s worth mentioning that the crew running the livestream are film crews that we’ve trained here at The Roundhouse. It’s great hands-on experience for them to do that.

One barrier for livestreaming though, especially for greenfield festivals, is the expense. As our team are participants in our training programme we have a budget to do it, but if every camera operator and technician was a professional then the costs could potentially outweigh the benefits.

FI: And I suppose the technology isn’t reliable enough yet to charge for online livestreams.

LS: Yeah, we’ve had buffering problems ourselves in the past; technology can be fickle. What’s great about streams though is that you can keep them on the site afterwards to have a more lasting legacy of the show.

FI: The year-round approach that the Roundhouse takes constitutes what I would consider a greater effort to promote unsigned artists than most other festivals make. Do you think festivals in general could be more effective at facilitating the upwards mobility of new acts?

LS: I really do. I think festivals are generally becoming better at it though. I went to Green Man last year and they had the Green Man Rising Stage where they do a national callout for unsigned acts. That’s really great to see because in the day time at festivals when there’s not as much on you can stumble across some real talent. We receive quite a lot of requests ourselves to fill slots on other festivals’ smaller stages, because we’re becoming more renowned for what we do.

FI: Yeah, I was going to say – Roundhouse Rising’s alumni includes Little Simz, Sampha, Girl Band, and Prides, to name a few. Does it make you proud to know that these success stories are partially indebted to the work you do?

LS: Absolutely. All of those artists are really out there now and we want to keep our relationship with them going by involving them in our future programmes. It’s a network that we’re trying to build, and the longer we do it for the stronger that’ll be.

FI: Is there anything else in Roundhouse Rising’s future that we should know about?

LS: Yes! From July we’re going to doing monthly shows under the Roundhouse Rising banner, but looking at more Getting Ahead in Music-style events attached to those. One that I’m currently programming for September is a Women in Music day, with women in the music industry running panels and workshops, followed by an evening gig. The festival will still happen annually but we’re looking to strengthen our year-round presence.

Roundhouse Rising