Words: Sophie Walker
Last summer, in the month of August, while the city of Hull was infused with an anticipation for 2017’s Humber Street Sesh, a collective of creatives and music industry kingpins had gathered at Hull Truck Theatre for 53 Degrees North. A two-day event filled with masterclasses and conferences, teaching the music community everything from how to get their work heard to how to prioritise their mental health, it was an undeniable success. It would come as no surprise that 53 Degrees North is returning this year on 5th and 6th June. Browse Magazine spoke to Stewart Baxter, youth worker at Warren Records, drummer of LIFE and mastermind behind the event about what’s in store for us:
Q: From your experience at 53 Degrees North last year, what feedback did you receive and what changes and improvements should we expect to see this year?
2017 was the launch of 53 Degrees North and we didn’t have a clue what to expect. We knew form our work and constant consultation with the local music scene that this was an essential step forward, but also knew that it was a new concept for Hull and something we would have to build over time. The results were amazing, and the conference went really well on many fronts. Our team of young people really brought the energy and created a great space for it to happen. The industry guests were blown away by the professionalism, the content and the Hull people and we had some amazing feedback about how it compares to other international music conferences. Building on last year we feel we will take the positives and replicate much of what happened in terms of structure and quality content. We may approach similar themes we feel still need addressing and exploring as well as entering new areas and bringing exciting guests to the city. We already have great partners such as PRS For Music, PPL, DIY magazine, PRS Foundation, The British Science Festival and many more organisations and individuals who are busy planning talks, workshops and masterclasses for this year’s event. We are also adding in more showcase events and some very exciting large shows too.
Q: What changes have you seen since 53 Degrees North with musicians and people you know in the music industry? Have you seen improvements?
Following last year’s conference, the main difference was hearing about the awareness and knowledge attendees took away from it. There were so many conversations had, new relationships forged, you can put a value on that face to face contact with an industry you want to enter. There were some really successful outcomes in terms of artists signing deals with publishers, labels, management, and others accessing vital funding streams and services that have massively increased their profile following the conference. I am seeing steady growth in our cities music infrastructure within music, and more hunger to be part of the national and international conversation about the future of music. It’s very exciting to be part of it.
Q: Why do you feel there needs to be 53 Degrees North? Where did it come from? Who is responsible for what it is today?
Like many of the projects initiated by The Warren Youth Project, 53 Degrees North came from a clear need and a gap in our city to fill this space. I personally have been working towards this kind of event for many years and see every day how great the creative community is in Hull, but also how there’s a severe lack of knowledge and industry to support its growth. The only way things are going to change is by connecting the dots and putting the right people in the same room. Venues, promoters, artists, creatives in Hull have done an amazing job at building the scene and the city is booming with great music and art. The next step is how to help these people turn it into a business, a career, or at least see how that is possible. I have always wanted Hull to become better in these areas so more people invest in it and stick around, rather than having to leave to follow their dreams. This proves it is possible, it just may take a little time.
Q: Which guest speakers or workshops are you particularly looking forward to seeing this year?
Well at this stage I can’t really say as we haven’t released the programme yet, but I can tell you we have some really exciting guests lined up who will bring some amazing experience and knowledge to the conference, and we are working with people such as the British Science Festival to think outside the box. Stay tuned!
Q: Is there anyone new getting involved this year?
Yes, we have returning partners such as PRS For Music, AIM, The Joe Strummer Foundation, Independent Venue Week and have struck up new exciting relationships with record labels, managers, businesses and more who are very excited to be part of it.
Q: Will there still be a showcase of Hull musicians playing? If so, who shall we expect to see?
We are very proud to be from Hull and representing Hull, and there sure will be many Hull musicians playing our showcases and larger events. But it is very important to us to look at the bigger picture and see Hull as part of the UK music industry. So were not pressuring ourselves to have to be all about our city – that’s not our mission; our job is to put Hull firmly and proudly into the wider industry conversation while also openly listening and learning from the rest of the UK music industry. Expect music showcases that are very diverse, risk taking, and always high quality. Keep an eye on our socials for line up announcements!
Q: What are you hoping will be the outcome of this year’s 53 Degrees North, and what direction do you hope it heads in for the future?
I hope we have a repeat success in terms of engagement, development and growth in all areas, and I hope we can tap into new areas and learn new things as we move forward. For me this is an opportunity to make relationships and learn together. It won’t have all the answers but will provide a space in which we can grow our music infrastructure in Hull and be an active part of the industry. I hope it just becomes a regular part of what do and a staple part of the international music industry diary. For me it’s all about relationships and bringing people together. The rest will blossom from there.
For more information on tickets, schedules and events, visit https://www.53degreesmusic.com/
Tickets for the events below, which will run in conjunction with this years conference can be found at: https://www.ticketweb.uk/search?q=53+degrees