The town is alive with the sound of music, says our music columnist, Paul Dunton.
Not so many moons ago, Tunbridge Wells was a bit of a ghost town when it comes to live music. In truth one of the main reasons was largely down to the change in licencing laws whereby venues were expected to pay a large annual fee stretching well into the thousands. This proved to be the death knell for many live venues across the UK and of course many musicians were also starved of work. Thankfully those laws have changed; however for any serious music venue the costs of staging regular live music remains considerably high.
These days the town is now bursting with live music of all genres and tastes. The Forum continues to fly the flag for Tunbridge Wells, battling against the odds year in year out it provides an integral hub for the local community to enjoy an array of international, national and local acts. It is a wonderful venue; the envy of many towns – however it needs supporting more than ever and if it is not well supported it won’t survive and that would be a disaster for the town.
The Grey Lady Music Lounge is another dedicated independent music venue that hosts music six days a week and has been going for close to 15 years. Offering a selection of jazz/blues and soul bands at the weekends, it also hosts an array of original acoustic showcases every week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays in addition to a ‘singers night’ on the last Monday of each month.
These days many pubs situated in the town have rediscovered their appetite for live music and are once again hosting an open mic nights, covers band, duos, blues and jazz themed evenings and some original bands. At my last count, regular live music can be found at The Beau Nash, The Royal Oak, Cassidy’s Bar, Sankeys, Scallywag Cafe, The Trading Post, The Spa Hotel, The Pantiles Hotel, Trinity Theatre, The Assembly Halls, The Bedford Pub, The Prince of Wales, The Cross Keys, The Black Horse, No.9 Smokehouse, St John’s Yard, The Jazz House at Pure Bar/Club and The King Charles The Martyr offers a selection of classical concerts throughout the year.
This welcome boom in the entertainment section of our town is a fantastic thing, for musicians, venues and the public. It is in my mind something that is now becoming part of the town’s reputation and modern heritage. It is a fact that Tunbridge Wells is now a music destination! This is something we should all cherish and enjoy, however looming in the background like an unwanted shadow is the risk of the ‘boom n bust’ effect, with so much music on offer but not enough support for the wheels to keep on turning.
The reality is, to keep music live we need to keep venues alive. Unless we all collectively support our local venues, live music and the arts as a whole will fade away and it could happen at an alarming rate. So, with something available for everyone’s musical tastebuds available across the town, please enjoy it and go back for more! A brilliant website that hosts all the events that take place in the borough is www.tunbridgewellsevents.co.uk; it is the most thorough site around detailing anything and everything! And, for a brief weekly live music update please refer to my gig guide in the Times of Tunbridge Wells newspaper.