Eighteen Years, and What Have We Learned?

It’s eighteen years, this month, since Nonemoreblack and I ran the first Carpe Noctum club night. To mark the event, I spent way too much of my time putting together some footage to show between our two headliners at our 18th birthday bash. It’s ridiculous, overblown, unnecessary …. and great fun!

As you can see, it also documents a long-running soap opera of double-bookings, failed venues, abrupt course changes, and questionable artwork choices. There’s even more I left out – fodder for the oft-talked of but seldom added to Book – but that’s by the by. It’s our story, but absolutely typical of hundreds of other stories of not-for-profit promoters in niche music scenes up and down the country.

You Are Somebody

That opening crawl: “SOMEBODY should put on a goth night here”.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that this conversation took place at the 1 in 12 Club, an anarchist-leaning self-managed space since 1988. Hang out in places like this for long enough, and you learn the corollary to the oft-used phrase “somebody should ….”: you are somebody. And if you feel strongly enough about it, you are that somebody.

Be a creator, not just a consumer …. and don’t wait for Bigcorps Inc to bring the noise that you can bring yourself.

Start Small, and Build

The first time you try to do something, you’ll be disappointed to find out you’re shit at it. Unless you’re Mozart, which I’m not. Ten thousand hours is the oft-quoted ballpark for mastering something, and I’m – probably – still some way off that yet.

Give yourself space to learn, to make mistakes, to grow; and still not have to live on shame and lentils until the next cheque comes through. I failed on the last bit a few times, and have learned about sums, understanding what folks want, promotion, and the wonders of flavoursome spices since then.

Quiet failures have a lot less impact on future cred than great humungous overhyped failures.

Location, Location, Location

Ten venues (to date), according to the t-shirts – and a couple more if we count spin-off projects. Venues are kinda like relationships – you can be attracted for all manner of reasons …. physical attractiveness, availability, convenience, reliability, “looks kinda fun”, and “the only available one left when you were drunk and desperate” …. and break-ups happen for much the same reasons. From our ten:

  • One we left with a heavy heart, knowing it was for the best.  Although we have snuck back for some quality time together now and then.
  • One ended due to mutual consent. It just wasn’t working.
  • Four were only ever going to be one-night stands (and we’ll not stretch the metaphor to icky lengths by talking about sharing a couple of these with friends).
  • Three died under us. Awkward.
  • And the other: we’re in a committed long-term relationship and are very happy, thanks.

There’s a post to be written about my perfect venue at some point, possibly in the style of George Orwell. Whatever your thoughts on a perfect venue; remember it should be a symbiotic relationship, and unless both parties thrive you need to be prepared to move on.

Define Your Vision

I might like to deny it, especially over the fifth pint, but Carpe Noctum is a very different beast to what it was eighteen years ago. Part of that is just the learning curve, but at least as important is the gradual honing of my vision of what it’s fundamentally about.

We started with an unwritten mission statement that might have read: “Cool music, live bands if we can get them, and cheap beer. Hanging out and dancing with our mates!”

The video shows the music policy getting more focused, the band bookings more “on the nail”, the visual presentation getting sharper, and the professionalism increasing all the way. Without, I hope, losing sight of that initial vision thing.

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