by Joy McKay.
If you haven’t already discovered it The Art House in Southampton is a performance venue and social centre on Above Bar, opposite The Guildhall. They offer live music, performance poetry, storytelling and comedy as well as workshops and classes, drop-in community cafe events, a community pantry and a meeting space for groups. It’s a wonderful, friendly and inclusive space but in order to provide all of it’s services, especially with rising costs, money is really needed. This is why a pantry fundraising night celebrating local musicians was held recently.
Director of the venue, Jani Franck, spoke to me about what they offer. “The Art House runs a community pantry three days a week, sharing surplus food diverted from becoming waste. Everyone is welcome and those who can’t afford to pay can access groceries, toiletries, hot drinks and soup, as well as a cosy place to sit and feel welcomed. In these times, the space is more needed than ever, but at the same time the cost of running is rising all the time. This fundraiser and others we have coming up, as well as our ongoing ‘Pay it forward’ scheme and Patreon community are what keep the project going, covering the costs of providing a space, food and other essentials. Our ethos is mutual aid, so musicians sharing their talent to raise money is much appreciated!”
The evening featured five local singer songwriters providing their time and talent for free so that all ticket sales could go directly into funding the pantry. The evening started with Diego Parks a musician, originally from Colombia. Full of romance, he sung sweet and meaningful songs to his partner, who was present in the audience. His set was full of love and happiness, which is surprisingly unusual amongst acoustic musicians.
Next up was Simon Maggs “channelling his inner Billy Bragg” but also playing a great cover of The Lemonheads’ ‘The Outdoor Type’ which translated to his prominently British folk style beautifully. His voice and guitar paired harmoniously creating a markedly different version of the song from Evan Dando’s own acoustic version.
Rhirhi followed – a talented 18 year old from The Isle of Wight. She joked that her songs are about being a teenager and she doesn’t know what she’ll write when she gets older. However her lyrics about love, loss and mental health resonate with me still in middle age. She seems so sweet and shy on stage and this combined with the vulnerability in her voice make storytelling so emotive.
As a complete contrast vocally was Bo Gallows, whose bass-baritone register has a Johnny Cash via Nick Cave sound perfect for his spooky country vibe. His voice, rich and distinctive, filling the room with melodious melancholy.
The final performance of the evening came from event organiser Charlie Smith (pictured top), closing the evening with a more alt rock vibe, his performance transporting us North West from Tennessee to Seattle. Charlie said “I really thankful for The Art House for putting on amazing local shows! They are always very receptive of allowing me to ‘do my own thing’ and bring in acts that I have heard on the scene. It’s a small venue but perfect for hosting acoustic music, it always great playing for an engaged crowd. That’s just the music side of things, not to even mention the community cafe and pantry which really goes without saying just how important they are. I don’t think I need to even say. I hope to put on a few more shows before the year is out and keep putting on local artists in front of crowds. I just want to keep the whole operation going because you can’t get much better great music, food and a drink or two.”
The evening was a great success and it was such a pleasure to hear fantastic local artists and be able to eat delicious vegan cake at the same time. As is usual for The Art House supporters who were unable to attend were also able to watch the Livestream. A fantastic £248.93 was raised over the course of the evening and there are many ways to support this special and important space if you wish to add to the total. You can do this by popping along in person for a drink and tasty snack or to one of the many upcoming events (including more live music, a quiz and a seed swap), by ‘Paying it Forward’ providing a hot drink or meal to someone who needs it or by becoming a regular Patreon supporter online.
Outside of events The Art House is open at the following time;
Wednesday 11am – 3pm community cafe drop in with drinks, cakes, snacks and pay-as-you-feel lunch
Wednesday 6 – 9pm community cafe, pantry
Thursday 11am – 3pm community cafe & pantry
Saturday 11am – 3pm community cafe & pantry
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