The music scene in SE16 has recently been enhanced with the opening of the Sands Films Studio as a World Music venue. The person behind this transformation is Eleanor Thorn who as TunedIn.London has been working to bring some of the best performing artists to Rotherhithe. We met and chatted over a coffee.
So what drew you to Sands Studios as a venue for your concerts?
It’s such a unique space! Few people knew about it and when my work with the Brunel Museum was over, I thought it would be great to introduce performers and audience to a magical setting. I live really locally to both the Brunel Museum and Sands, so it also made sense when Martha my daughter arrived in 2013 to do things round here. I’d already been a regular at their film club so I knew how the space could be used and when I suggested a set of concerts they were up for it.
How did you get into the World Music scene, then?
I got involved in a free open-air short film festival in Paris and the films were often preceded by music. I was lucky and got to book some of the acts and consequently got to know more about Algerian music. When I returned to London in 2008, I volunteered with the Guys’ and St Thomas’ Charity setting up concerts for patients and visitors on both sites. At the same time, I spent my free time visiting lots of small venues around town listening to an amazing range of global sounds. Charlie Gillett’s Saturday night show on BBC World Service was a great influence and introduced me to many world music bands.
You started out at the Brunel Museum. How did that start up?
Well in April 2011 I moved (on Marathon day!) to Rotherhithe and brought my volunteering to Brunel. Their space was a great intimate venue and they already had Manu Delago as their musician in residence. He’s is a very talented Hang player and so I proposed three live concerts in the Engine Room itself. And of course, the amazing potential of the Tunnel Shaft (see opposite) was obvious and so alongside Manu who continued to play there I pulled in other talented performers to play in that acoustic. I got involved with the Midnight Apothecary and took on a role developing the venue hire for the Museum.
So what have you in store for us this Spring?
I started out with three concerts in November and December 2014. They went well especially after a key article appeared in the Londonist. I always want to fill the 70 seats in the main theatre but such promotion really helps. And this year, we’ve gone for a series of five acoustic concerts roughly fortnightly and running mid-week. I’ve been reluctant to raise the ticket price to £14 (plus booking fee) but for a small venue it’s important to make enough to cover costs.
The first concert is this Wednesday (25 February 19:30). We’re delighted to welcome Brixton-born Errol Linton – three times the Best Blues Harmonica player – together with his five-piece band Boogie Train. He’ll play a range of blues and roots numbers with influence from reggae too. As a vocalist, harpist and composer, Errol brings many talents to the evening. His amazing band will lift the roof with their musical energy.
The other concerts in this season are equally as good. On 11 March we welcome Olcay Bayir the Kurdish-Turkish singer who will also bring her band. Following the release of her debut album Harmony, Olcay’s songwriting has also garnered praise from many quarters. She brings musical influences from across the Balkans and Mediterranean as well as from Anatolia, her homeland. Now based in London and trained as a classical vocalist, she draws on folk traditions as well as modern tempo and melodies.
But I’ve said enough. The other three concerts are a great mix of global sounds with Jorge Bravo a Chilean guitarist on 25 March, Family Atlantica’s Luzmira Zerpa singing Venezuelan folk on 15 April and Khiyo playing radical interpretations of Bengali music on 29 April. All the concerts start at 19:45 with doors opening at 19:15; the tickets are £14 each (plus a booking fee) and can be bought online.
So what do you most like about living in SE16?
It’s living by a tidal river that excites me. You see the sea come and go each day and you know you are part of a world community. The cobbles, trees and heritage of Rotherhithe make the area very special. I’d not want to live anywhere else!