Punk-Space Organiser Interrogation #2: Joe Caithness and Phil Booth, JT Soar

This month I asked some questions of a DIY space a little closer to home. JT SOAR, named for the proprietor of its former usage as a fruit and vegetable warehouse, is in the centre of Nottingham, somewhere nearly in the middle of England, and has become a mainstay for a ton of different styles of punk gigs, and is now firmly on the circuit for touring bands coming through the UK.

What was the venue sitch like in Nottingham prior to you opening the space?

Joe C : Up and down really, we suffer from being a mid sized place, small city or large town vibes. This means we have one huge arena, a bunch of mid level venues for 300 kinda cap and then tiny things, so if we wanted to put on a DIY gig that wasn’t absolutely tiny in predicted turnout / the band needed good dosh we’d either have to work it into a function room (with all the problems of hiring inside a pub) or hire a “rock club” out which alienates half the bands.

Phil B : I’d say The Chameleon and Lee Rosie’s have been fairly consistent in supporting independant promoters through the years, providing a place that doesn’t fit your standard ‘pub’ formula and catering for shows in the 30-80 attendee range, art spaces such as One Thorsby Street and The Lurking Hole were also putting on shows every now and again. There were promoters such as Damn You that always managed to find interesting and appropriate places for larger shows (The Evens in the Sneinton Community Centre, Deerhoof in a Church in Carrington). Looking back on it I have very fond memories of the pre JT Nottingham, discovering new spaces, bands and people, even though some of them were quite fleeting (RIP Lurking Hole), the ideas we got from them were as influential as the ideas of what we wanted to avoid we got from your standard boozer.

When did the idea for JT Soar come about – any other spaces you’ve been inspired by?

Phil B : The first spark was wanting to put a show on and realising it was totally possible to do in the safe haven of JT, we put on The Real Numbers and The Hipshakes upstairs, it was unreal, the music was great, no pressures…. a few months later when I took over the warehouse downstairs, there was nothing stopping us, the gigs never stopped.The Audacious Space in Sheffield has always been an inspiration to me, a real sense of collaboration and community.

Joe C : From the venue perspective of the space which I co organise with Phil amongst others I was just jealous of all the times you speak to punks all over the world and the sentence “our venue” comes up. We had also been playing with our ill fated post punk band La Boite Diabolique in some great spaces such as Wharf Chambers in Leeds. The punk run thing just makes everyone more relaxed and therefore the show objectively better.What was the process like for actually securing space and what are the financial pressures?

Phil : I initially moved my recording studio into a small room upstairs, subletting off a friend, how busy I got with recording seemed to perfectly balance out how quiet he got with rehearsals, so after a year I took the place on and have been building up both equipment and space for about 5 years now. There was a turning point when I took over the warehouse where a group of 8 people who were either in bands or promoters came in on the rent with me to as a venue and rehearsal room. Until very recently Jt has been subsidised by my work as a live sound engineer, but with the addition of new rehearsal rooms it’s become self sufficient allowing me to concentrate on recording and shows.

Who’s involved on a day to day basis and how do you split tasks and make decisions? Consensus, benevolent dick-tator ship or both?

Joe C: There is a hierarchy based on what people can do/give to the space really. Phil’s essentially the manager and is on site most the time whereas I’m not so I do a lot of promo and planning/admin stuff when I can remotely, as well as obviously putting on (mostly) good shows for foreign bands. There are also a few in house-ish promoters and folks who help with the practicalities and (actual) DIY. Shouts to the Hippy Dan and LongHair on that vibe. We don’t sit down and have meetings and stuff as 1. we don’t have time and 2. we’d possibly end up going off topic and wasting our precious sorting time. In general there a lot of people that contribute what they can and that’s the only way it would work.

Phil B : I generally deal with most of the recording, rehearsal and external promoter side of things, but in pretty much every avenue there’s always someone helping out, Chris AKA Longhair is a big part of the studio side of things. Somehow JT has been filled with like minded individuals, friends and very talented people I 100% trust and I think the whole place has kinda grown through input from everyone involved. I’m quite blunt and encourage folks to be too, it’s made improving the place much easier. Best show so far?

Joe C: Been a few which stand out for me.. GIVE (both times), Hysterics for the most surprisingly aggro performance, Birthmark (Nate Kinsella) for being stressed and nailing it from our perspective.

Phil B : That first Give show was incredible, there’s still flowers all around JT from nearly 3? years ago haha. Our first Halloween show was pretty special, Purple Pilgrims and Gary War but most importantly loads of oddballs in the best costumes I have ever seen!

What part of town is the space in, and role if any do you think DIY spaces can play in gentrification?

Joe C: We’re in the middle of this whirlwind right now and it’s something that comes up a lot. The reason that we pick a run down area like Sneinton Market to work from as punks is because it’s cheap and empty. The reason these areas are prime for sweeping gentrification are slightly more.. problematic. The kinds of businesses we passively help with passing trade are the ones that locals (bare in mind Sneinton Market is on the cusp two ex famous Nottingham “slums”, to use a historic term) rely on. Now if any past experience of seeing this happen elsewhere is to go on, these places are the first to go once the boutique mini shops move in. This is problematic as fuck before you even factor in how landlords abuse re-branded districts. A recipe for disaster completely at odds with our loose overall politics….

Does anything happen there other than gigs?

Joe C: Yeah, in fact we’ve been preparing for our UN-RECORD STORE DAY party, a completely unofficial event the day before Ebay Record Flipping day where we’ll be selling tonnes of awesome international DIY vinyl cheap!

Phil B: Yeah, I’m pretty chuffed that under the roof of JT, along with the venue, we have rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, a well stocked distro and in a month or so, accomodation for travelling bands with shower facilities. The venue has become a catalyst for pretty much every other avenue of JT! Most of the bands I record have played here before; No Form, Fickle Twin, Soul Structure, The Wave Pictures, T-Shirt Weather, Ace Bushy Striptease, The Hipshakes, Human Hands etc….

What kind of lifespan do you see it having?

Phil B : Well, I’v got another 4 years on my current contract, so….. let’s see what the rent situation is in 2019… If it’s become over inflated by the joys of a local STARBERKS and GRERRRGGS (UK Chain Bakery) then I guess we’ll move a bit further out of town…. If we go, we’re taking the signs with us!

Joe C: We’re kinda so integrated now I don’t even know what would happen if we did go… one of the best thing I see is that a new generation of younger punks are growing up in the UK DIY VENUE boom, and if that’s an essential element of punk to them it should keep on rolling.

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