What a strange year 2023 has been for us. When the Westgarth Social Club in Middlesbrough closed down so abruptly in February the night after we had hosted Richard Strange there it was so sudden but if we are being honest it never really recovered from Covid and every time we drove there for a gig we commented there was an air of decay about it. I can only speak as I find but we were promised a stage extension upstairs that never materialised and the gents toilets were never fixed and the locks on the ladies toilets were never addressed. We promoted some great shows there but time moves on. When news of the venue closing was made public 48 hours later we received a message from a rival club owner mocking us for now having no venue. We were also told not to speak to the press so we ignored all the requests from local journalists for a few comments. In hindsight probably not a bad thing.
We had loads of gigs booked at the venue and shows coming up with Wasted Youth (over 160 tickets sold in advance) and their first show on Teesside for 43 years and His Lordship (100 tickets sold in advance) but we were due in USA a couple of weeks later. We swiftly made arrangements to visit a few venues; some we got too and others we never but thanks to Paul Ford of Johnny Seven we managed to relocate the Wasted Youth gig to Sticky's in Stockton on Tees and Lee Allcock kindly offered his venue at NE Volume Music Bar for the His Lordship show. If we didn't get to speak and even if we did we appreciate your offers.
On returning from America we made arrangements to speak to Chris Cobain at Tees Music Alliance who run The Georgian Theatre in Stockton on Tees. We managed to relocate The Chameleons gig there in July on a Sunday evening what turned out to be our biggest crowd of the year. I would personally like to thank Chris for his co-operation. Sadly some of our other bigger gigs couldn't be accommodated there simply because other promotions had already booked on the dates we wanted. It might have been easier not to bother looking for other venues to host The Men They Couldn't Hang and Riverside Rebellion but we really love TMTCH and Toni from Sticky's kindly agreed to let us have her venue on one of her prime evenings and then we made arrangements to visit The Forum Music Studios in Darlington to be shown round and quickly made a decision to agree to hosting it there. Ironically unbeknown to us at the time 999 had been asking if they could play there again.
Attendances at our gigs since the Westgarth closed down have been really encouraging. We had superb turn outs for The Chameleons, His Lordship, Riverside Rebellion, The Men They Couldn't Hang and Wasted Youth shows. We may no longer have a regular venue to call our own but we have even co -promoted a Punishment of Luxury gig in Sunderland at The Peacock and in Darlington for Riverside Rebellion. We managed one more show at the Georgian Theatre hosting The Godfathers on a Wednesday evening. Some of the smaller gigs have seen some enthusiastic crowds too particularly TV Smith and The Cramps Tribute Evening.
We would like to thank all the venue owners who stepped in to help us out. We managed to promote 11 shows in total bringing the total to 142 since I started promoting in September 2010. We already have 11 gigs booked for next year. Most of all thanks to the people who continue to support our events me and Wendy really do appreciate it. Also to Paul Ford who continues to design most of our gig posters and all the photographers whom turn up at our shows and kindly allow us to use them on social media including Owen Tudor, Mally Such and Steve White.
If we do stage Riverside Rebellion 8 next year it will be staged slightly earlier on Saturday, 30th November (that date is subject to confirmation) at The Forum Music Studios in Darlington. We already have a couple of bands in mind for it including Dead Objectives and Red London. There's a lot of bands contacted us asking us to be considered including Aerial Salad, The Battery Farm, The Dirt, The Fauves, Filthy Filthy, The Gakk, King Effers, MC16, Red Anger, Smalltown Tigers & UK Dissent. It's never easy deciding who plays and who doesn't.
So now we have a slightly nomadic existence and have used six different venues this year. Have a great Christmas and prosperous New Year.
Long Live the Music !
Mally Such took the photographs including my doppelganger appearing in Dead Pollys !!
SOME great news is that we have managed to reschedule some more of our gigs.
We had a very productive chat with Chris Cobain of Tees Music Alliance who run the Georgian Theatre in Stockton on Tees a few weeks ago and they have agreed to host The Chameleons on Sunday, 9th July. We are truly grateful for them being able to accommodate us for this particular show.
We also have a co-promotion confirmed with Ian Hedley from the band Cazimi to host Punishment of Luxury at The Peacock in Sunderland for Friday, 20th October with Cazimi themselves and The Roxy Girls supporting. It's a great venue with excellent acoustics.
Riverside Rebellion 7 has now moved dates from Saturday 2nd December to Saturday 16th December and will feature 999 as headliners. We would like to thank June Patrice Daly for her help in coming forward with a suitable venue. The full line up will be revealed very shortly.
FIVE days ago I received a telephone call from the Westgarth Social Club in Middlesbrough informing me that the venue was closing down almost immediately. Bearing in mind we had a gig there on the Saturday evening with Richard 'Kid' Strange and nothing was mentioned of the imminent closure. We had even put posters for forthcoming shows up at the venue. Gigs were booked right through to May 2024 and we only received confirmation of the return of The Chameleons on Friday and when this was mentioned on Saturday, again nothing was said to us. It's all been so disappointing and frustrating for us, especially as we have promoted nearly 100 shows at the Westgarth.
Our immediate thought was the two gigs we have with Wasted Youth and His Lordship in March and April, especially as we are away in USA at the beginning of March. Advance ticket sales are over 100 now for Wasted Youth and we thank owner Toni Cook for stepping in and offering her venue Sticky's in Stockton on Tees which used to be known as Peppermint Park back in the early eighties. Lee Allcock of NE Volume Music Bar in Stockton on Tees too offered his his venue for His Lordship.
We have spoken to people and visited venues on Teesside and into next week we have set up meetings. Regarding the other gigs we had booked we are seeking to relocate them pending successful negotiations so all we can say is watch this space.
We do appreciate all the positive comments and support on social media and would publicly like to thank Nathan Stephenson who always supplied us with a PA and a perfect sound. Stephen Callaghan at the Westgarth and the bar staff for all their help and support over the years and anyone who came to the gigs and supported what we did. We don't intend to quit just yet.
Dave Griffiths of Fast Forward Promotions
Some sad news to relay. Dave Griffiths passed away from cancer on Friday, 6th January. I knew he was unwell from close friends when attending a Damned gig in Sunderland last summer and even more so when he cancelled gigs he had lined up in the Autumn.
Me, Dave and Gary Mcgee started promoting live music together in the summer of 2010 under the guise of 'Rock Garden Revisited'. I can't speak for the others but my only experience of putting anything on previously was when I co-promoted a comedy evening at Darlington FC in 1995 with the late Sean Lock headlining.
I started the 'Middlesbrough Rock Garden' group in 2009 and before long several members were suggesting a reunion should be held. I asked for some help and Dave volunteered and Gary came in slightly afterwards. We all contributed the same amount of money to get the venture off the ground. We really wanted to host it at the Arena but they ignored all our calls and e-mails. That's when I suggested we consider the Georgian Theatre in Stockton on Tees as an alternative. I had seen bands in there myself and thought it would be perfect. Dave was reluctant initially but we set up a meeting to speak with Paul Burns from Tees Music Alliance. Paul was very helpful initially and thought it was a good idea and everything just snowballed from there. At this point though there was no intention to promote live music beyond a 'Rock Garden Reunion'.
We drew up a list of bands from back in the day and some who had already expressed an interest in playing. This was in the days before the venue was upgraded. Capacity was 180 and the reunion sold out a month in advance. People travelled from far and wide to be there, some of whom we never saw again and others who supported what we did. It was great to see so many familiar faces. We had such a good time we decided to carry on. Dave wanted to put Penetration on and I had wanted to put Punishment of Luxury on. Dave had to wait for some time before they agreed but Punilux quickly agreed a deal with us to come back to Teesside for the first time in over 30 years. It was our second gig but first featuring a headliner from the Rock Garden days. It snowed heavily all day and we weren't sure if everyone would make it but we had a grand time.
We put on some great bands together, some were more successful than others but we shared both the good with the bad and we took financial risks, none more so than when we lost over a thousand quid on putting a rescheduled gig with The Wolfmen on who proceeded to play for no more than 45 minutes. We also lost £500 on a solo performance from Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls but we couldn't refuse to not put him on ! There were so many highs including 999, John Otway, Penetration, Spear of Destiny, Theatre of Hate, The Rezillos & Ruts DC.
Gary decided in the Spring of 2013 to call it a day after a successful Ruts DC gig. We gave him some money back and thanked him for his contribution. I knew there and then me and Dave wouldn't last as Gary was the glue that held us together. I guess in hindsight we were both wanting our own way. We had already started promoting our own shows and we decided that Theatre of Hate and 999 would be our last shows working together in December 2013. Ironically we then worked together one last time promoting The House of Love in the spring of 2014. There was no fanfare.
Although me and Dave had a somewhat acrimonious parting of the ways we never spoke to one another again, even though we attended similar gigs. Once we were promoting our own events I was given the impression that I was now a rival and had to be vanquished. I found Dave unwilling to co-operate and provide a copy of the contacts we had built up over the three years we had worked together. That said none of what we ever did would have ever happened if we hadn't have got together in the first place. I am grateful for that opportunity.
I send my condolences to his widow Debbie, family and friends