Not fading away!
What do Huddersfield's Town Crier and Embrace, of World Cup song fame, have in common? Well, they are just some of the people who have had doors opened for them by the town's Beaumont Street Studios which is celebrating its 21st birthday!
Beaumont Street Studios (BSS) may now be Yorkshire's answer to London's Abbey Road but it began in a very small way. It was set up in 1985 by the Huddersfield West Indian Association. Founding member Reuben McTair explains how the studio started: "At that time there were a lot of problems with the young people. There were riots in Brixton and other places, and even in Huddersfield. There was nowhere for the young people to go but their main interest at that time, as it is now, was music. We applied for funding and decided the best thing was to set up a music studio for them.
"Now you've got rappers and stuff like that. Then we had the 'toasters' - they were the people who had the parties and they used to go on the mic and sing over the music of the artists and so we thought that was the way to encourage people to have an interest in music. A lot of the people from the West Indies, who came to Huddersfield, were playing in bands in those days and liked to rock 'n' roll and were also very interested in the music scene. And there was a lot of take-up because people wanted somewhere where they could have a record made so they could say to their friends, 'This is what I've done', show off with it and also use it for dancing."
Tracey: "It's just given me a lot of confidence"
This first eight-track recording studio was based at the Hudawi Centre in Beaumont Street but in 1993 the Centre burned down taking with it the original studio premises. Luckily just the year before work had begun next door on a new purpose-built 24 track studio and this survived the fire. Since then BSS has moved its offices and demo studio to St Peter Street, expanded into multimedia production and training, and launched its own community radio station, Creative FM.
Chumbawumba, Terrorvision, Shed Seven, Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and Four Day Hombre are just a few of the bands who have recorded there. Travis' Fran Healy and Fairground Attraction's Eddi Reader have also made use of the studio's facilities, not to mention a Yorkshire band called Parva who were then just starting out. (A change of style and name - they became the Kaiser Chiefs - brought them three Brit Awards earlier this year!)
Beaumont Street -and Embrace - go platinum!
Reuben believes BSS had to expand to survive: "After the fire we looked around and we encouraged other bands outside Kirklees to use our services. Originally, when BSS was formed, it was to help the unemployed and the grant at that time was for five years. We were looking at how we might support the studio by getting in professional artists to use the studio." BSS is still a not-for-profit company, it still has a Black Management Committee and Reuben is one of its six executive directors.
Tracey Britton, known to Creative FM listeners as Tracey DJ, is just one of those who thanks BSS for giving her a new start in life. she says: "The major way it's helped me is by giving me back a social life. I've done three courses and the last one I did, Level 3 Music Technology, introduced me to a load of young people on the music scene - young bands and a guy called Stevo who used to work here and who now runs a local venue for live music. I suffer from mental health problems so I was isolated before I started coming here.
Reuben and Sean...
"I've always been into music. I collect CDs like crazy and do a lot of DJ-ing but I didn't realise Huddersfield had such a vibrant music scene. When I did the last course I met a band called Pinstripe and I've got matey with them. I go down to the acoustic club, and I perform and I sing and that's all stemmed from coming to BSS. A few years ago I would never have dreamed I would one day have the confidence to do that."
Vic Watson presents Creative FM's morning programme and although he wasn't short of things to do before he got involved with BSS - he's Huddersfield's Town Crier - the Studio has provided him with new experiences. A few months after being interviewed on the radio by a "nervous trainee" Vic thought his leg was being pulled when he got a phone call from BSS asking if he would like to be a presenter: "At my age you don't get asked to do that. I said I'd love to but I couldn't work the [mixing] board. Over a period of time I taught myself by watching others." He was then invited to go on a radio course: "I learnt a lot about doing newscasts and putting adverts together. It was absolutely fabulous." Every morning he now plays Frank Sinatra to his audience because that's his sort of music but he likes "to jazz it up a bit" in the programme's second hour.
Past clients, The Sisters of Mercy...
BSS' Chief Executive Sean Leonard says: "In many ways everything we do is about what people want to say for themselves, how they want to express themselves, so we do a radio course but what we want to happen is for people on our radio course to go on and make radio programmes, and broadcast on the radio, and tell their stories and play the things they are passionate about. It's the same with our video courses - the idea is to get people making films. We do music technology and sound recording courses and the idea is to get people to make music so in many ways the whole thing is driven by people's passions. We try and keep one foot in the professional production industry and one foot in the community, it gives people the opportunity to bridge that gap between where they are and where the opportunities in the industry are."
This policy seems to have paid off for at least one band, Embrace. Brothers Danny and Richard McNamara signed up for the music technology and sound recording course and ended up making their debut album, The Good Will Out, at BSS. The album has sold over 500,000 copies in the UK and 4.5 million worldwide - the platinum disc has pride of place on the office wall. Sean is just as proud of some of the radio programmes that have come out of Beaumont Street: "We did a series of interviews with people who'd come to the UK from the West Indies talking about their first impressions of Huddersfield...They are really funny and poignant stories about the culture shock of arriving in this great place from the Caribbean islands."
Vic, radio presenter and Huddersfield Town Crier!
Sean is convinced that although BSS will have to adapt to an increasingly competitive world it will stay true to its original aims: "We want to make BSS the start of a journey towards education, towards employment, towards a more stable and happier life and we want to give people a voice to express themselves, so often in a way they feel they can't at the moment." Reuben, too wants BSS to go on making a difference to the people who pass though its doors.
In addition to giving her confidence, contacts and friends Tracey says her time at BSS has also given her "good music. Since getting back on the scene I listen to a lot of rock music and indie music." When she DJs she now specialises in playing music from Huddersfield bands. As to the future she says: "I'd like to take the DJ-ing a bit further and start getting paid for it. That would be really cool!"
Happy Birthday, BSS!
last updated: 05/08/2009 at 11:28
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West Yorkshire people's lives and stories revealed!