Bournemouth’s Madding Crowd: Part live music, part art gallery

THE worlds of great musical talent and innovative art are meeting in a unique business venture in Bournemouth town centre.

Located on the first floor where Madisons was 20 years ago, the concept may be rolled out elsewhere in the country says owner, Peter Gilbert.

The walls of the stairwell up to the first floor are lined with framed originals and prints of stars like Queen, the Stones, Bowie and more, as is the main music venue room, which will have capacity for 300 guests when the last social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Peter opened the venue in 2018 and it showcases national and local artists and their original music. It has taken three years, £800,000 investment and the pandemic to get things where he wants to be.

He said: “The concept is we always aim to have chart-topping headliners and free support acts, one from the record label on their way up and at least two local to provide a platform for them.

“After the event we create Spotify playlist for them so they end up being on the same stream as the headliners. We also provide videography and photos and we record the shows which save the cost of recording studio time.”

All music genres are catered for and there’s a stage set up with a full backline – sound equipment, lighting and drum kit.

“One of the things this industry has done so wrong for so long is artists have to lug all their gear in, they are not looked after. But we really do look after them. We provide cars, we cater for them, they’ve got a blue room upstairs.”

There’s capacity for 100 seats at the moment because of social distancing. They were just about to open with full capacity the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic hit.

The stunning art work is displayed and sold in collaboration with Gallery 21 of Salisbury.

“I believe this is the largest single music collection of art in one place in the country,” said Peter. “The reaction has been amazing.

“We have sold a lot of pieces already and some could have gone several times over such is the interest. We have a dedicated audience for it.”

A fair few were sold at the recent Art Rocks showcase night when specially invited guests came for an evening of music and viewing.

Peter works with Nina Fox, the venue’s commercial director and Future Agency who arrange the top musical artists.

Ironically Covid has helped the business.

“No-one really wanted to know us before. A little 300 capacity venue. But people have had the time to listen to us in the past 18 months because no-one has been performing. They were quiet so they would answer their phones. That’s really how this great collaboration came about.

“We really take the hassle out of touring and there is a real wow factor for the musicians when they come in for the first time.

“For our customers it’s a real opportunity to see bands intimately, up close. This is a full evening out, a real experience and a safe environment.”

Madding Crowd doesn’t do tribute acts.

“Some people ask why not and aren’t tributes the only way small venues can stay alive? Well, that may be the case if you haven’t got the right business model,” said Peter.

Upcoming artists include FM, Pat McManus and Ricky Warwick and the Fighting Hearts.

Bournemouth Echo | News