Ignite Chelmsford each month takes over spaces in the most unexpected places, in the true DIY subculture way this month Hotbox skate shop hosted the meet up. They not only sell customisable skate gear but also host gigs equipped with a good sound system and nifty bar. Hotbox have deep aims of helping to grow and build the skate community not only in Chelmsford but in local Essex areas, in line with a dash of punk ideology and anti consumer culture you are welcomed into the space without the pressures to purchase.
The theme this month is all about the empowerment that these sorts of spaces can give to individuals and communities and how often such spaces are nothing without the people that support it. We first heard from Chris Scott sharing his work at Essex based We are Music, supporting emerging artists and plans for a youth-led festival in partnership with Hot Box Skate Shop and funding from Youth Music.
We are Music is a registered charity helping people to engage in the community through popular music. It was set up by local people, who obtained a building, raised funds and built the rehearsal rooms and studios. The charity has run for ten years and former local students, became apprentices and five years on now teach and run the sessions. The legacy from student to apprentice to teacher encourages the DIY spirit of self sufficiency without having the paid expert come in and teach them how to do things. By supporting young people from nine to eighteen and providing them regular band sessions, three days per week, during term times in the Harwich facility and Jaywick Martello Tower helps harbour the creativity and allow it a space to grow in an intersection between art and activism. We are Music also help to provide for the advancement of young people through music into the music industry, and education giving them professional tips and opportunities for young bands from writing, performing, recording, producing and promoting their work.
We then heard from Marc De’Ath who stepped in to present his experiences talking about starting and running the DIY Venue the Waiting Room in Colchester where the aims were to support creativity and enterprise by uncovering and supporting the town’s cultural heritage. With plenty of holes in the local cultural economy the Waiting Room secured at peppercorn rent rates from the council by taking over a derelict bus station that was becoming a bit of a breeding ground for ‘anti-social’ behaviour. By testing new enterprising ideas the waiting room was able to challenge established ways of thinking and transferring this once non-space into an interactive socially and economically benefitting space rooted and connected to the people around it.
Events ranged from weekly making and crafting, monthly meetings from activist groups or local councillors and community groups, to meet-ups for digital entrepreneurs, and serving as a host venue for the Colchester Film Festival. It also shape shifted into a magnificent arts and cultures venue catering to all tastes ages, but gave the community a place that they could run, by volunteering, participate in or just drinking in! The café-bar was super successful promoting local brewers, roasters, bakers and chefs, some of whom have now gone on to run their own restaurants. The waiting room was all about innovation in practice, but also to support others to innovate.
Overall it was a wicked event enhanced by vinyl DJ Dan from neighbouring shop Intense Records. What linked the venue to the speakers was that sense of DIY venues becoming sacred places for musicians, performers and people of marginalised communities alike. Even if they’re temporary by nature, many scenes have blossomed in these makeshift spaces as they can empower the individual and the community for they are owned and led by the community.