IN THIS PHOTO: KT Tunstall playing at The Bedford in 2008
Tony Moore of The Bedford
THIS interview takes me in a slightly different direction...
IN THIS IMAGE: A shot of the new-look stage/’Globe’ at The Bedford
as I have been speaking with Iron Maiden/Cutting Crew’s Tony Moore (band/artist booker) about the future of the legendary London venue, The Bedford. December 2018 will mark the re-launch of The Bedford, one of South London’s most important music and entertainment venues. Operated by the award-winning Three Cheers Pub Co; Balham’s legendary performance space has a strong reputation for championing grass-roots music and maintains a lasting legacy for nurturing the stars of the future. In a triumphant riposte to independent music venues ever decreasing; The Bedford will reopen boasting five bars, four private rooms; a restaurant and fifteen boutique hotel rooms, making it an excellent place for music industry events of all types and purposes.
IN THIS PHOTO: Ed Sheeran at The Bedford in 2011 (one of music’s big acts whose got the chance to cut their teeth at the legendary venue)
The multi-million pound refurbishment has been sensitively managed in order to retain the venue’s unique spirit, while enhancing facilities for both audiences and artists. The new-look Bedford will allow the stars of tomorrow to flourish in a live setting, but will also attract established acts back to where the journey began for them.
Moore talks about his involvement and some of the stars of today who have passed through the doors of The Bedford; why grassroots venues are important for musicians and why the Government need to preserve them; whether Moore still gets time to play and we can see him perform soon; a few upcoming artists we need to look out for and, as band/artist booker, what he looks for in an artist when it comes to The Bedford’s stage.
Hi, Tony. How are you? How has your week been?
So far, so fabulous…
For those new to you/your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Well. I’ve had quite an eclectic career in music. I started by joining (the then unknown) Iron Maiden playing keyboards/synth when I was in my teens. In the early-’80s, I released an album of songs I wrote and recorded at Abbey Road and had an Xmas hit in Holland. I then went on to be keyboard player in Cutting Crew (I Just Died In Your Arms). In the ’90s, I worked as writer, co-producer and musical director with an artist called Marie-Claire D’Ubaldo whose biggest hit was The Rhythm Is Magic.
In 1996, I started a critically acclaimed underground acoustic club for songwriters called The Kashmir Klub that ran for six years; after which I came to The Bedford in 2003 to take over curating and promoting music.
IN THIS IMAGE: The Ballroom - as it will look when The Bedford reopens in December
Tell me how you came to be involved with The Bedford?
The Kashmir Klub had to close in 2003 and the owner at the time had been many times and loved what I was doing and invited me to come to The Bedford and try and to really help raise the profile of what (The Bedford) was doing and to raise the bar on all it could be.
I know it is reopening and will have a launch in December. What was the reason behind the closure?
New owners took over last year and had an amazing vision for The Bedford. Although it has been a legendary destination for many years, it was starting to show its age and was ready for some T.L.C. With significant investment of money, love and passion; they have now transformed the place into something that will really be a jewel in the crown of London venues and bars.
IN THIS PHOTO: Jack Savoretti storming The Bedford back in 2007
If one were to come to the relaunch, what might we expect?
If you had been to The Bedford before, you will still feel all the same warm and welcoming spirit and energy but you will see a building that has been taken to a whole new level. If you are coming for the first time, the ‘wow factor’ is going to be at the top of the scale. The main bar has been tastefully redesigned into an imposing horseshoe (which was actually in the original plans but had been lost for many years). Its sense of drama, music and theatre is evident in the unique, custom-made wallpaper; the brilliant posters and the great live pictures that recognise and celebrate the long history of music and comedy that has been at the heart of The Bedford…
IN THIS IMAGE: What one can expect when booking a room at The Bedford
We now have two floors of beautiful, boutique hotel rooms that reflect the very early incarnation of The Bedford, but bring right into the 21st century. The Club Room has been fitted with a state-of-the-art audio/visual system that will allow us to promote a much wider range of live shows, work with some bigger acts and give our weekend club goers an amazing experience.
On top of all that, The Ballroom has been turned into one of the most beautiful and inspirational event spaces that can accommodate everything from the most special wedding to the coolest private party. And that’s just the start! I have been here almost sixteen years and I have to say that what the team have done with The Bedford has surpassed all my expectations. I am SO excited to be part of the next generation of this amazing venue.
Are there big plans for 2019? Are there already events and nights planned?
We have a lot of things in the system but, for now, the most important thing is to be up and running and make our opening month as smooth as possible and get everything ready for a big New Year.
IN THIS IMAGE: How The Bedford’s first floor bar will look
Is it true there is a new lightning system? Will the new-look venue provide an even better and more dynamic live experience?
Yes, very much so. It’s a fantastic lighting system that includes a new ceiling truss full of moving heads and extensive P.C.-controlled software allowing us to create a very special environment for any event.
The Bedford has helped support and propel musicians like Ed Sheeran, KT Tunstall and Paolo Nutini. What has been your fondest memory from your time with the venue?
That is SO hard to answer! Over fifteen years, there have been so many amazing moments. Pete Townshend playing a free show for us one night was an incredible experience, for example. However, the real magical moments are when we see acts that started their early careers with us really take off. Ed is obviously someone we have very fond memories of and because of the shows we did with him - and his own night here - that led to him releasing the album Live at the Bedford. We feel very proud to have played a small role in his journey.
IN THIS PHOTO: Charlotte Church at The Bedford in 2010
A lot of grassroot venues are closing and a lot are in the capital. Do you think more needs to be done by those in power to preserve small venues?
Yes...absolutely. Small venues are like small airfields. If there is nowhere to learn to fly, we have no pilots for the future. Similarly, if we lose small venues, we close the opportunity for young artists to learn their craft, build an audience and gain experience. We are very lucky to have owners at The Bedford who understand this and have actually invested heavily in our ability to do more and help acts be seen and heard at their very best. The Government needs to continue to be reminded of the value of music and the importance of protecting small independent venues.
IN THIS PHOTO: Coffeepot Drive at The Bedford earlier this year
How important, in your view, are these venues regarding the next generation of musicians? Can music survive without them?!
There is no doubt that, for performing artists, the ability to play regularly, in places that will welcome you before you are famous and will help you to find fans; try out material and meet other musicians/industry people is vital. The O2 headliners of today can only get to be good enough with experience and that can only come from small venues not only surviving, but thriving.
What advice would you give to venues at the moment regarding sustainability? Do you think The Bedford has a magic formula?
The truth is that being an independent venue is a tough challenge. Between the standing costs of rent, business rates; electricity, insurance etc. and staffing, everyone needs to be creative in how they generate income for the business. Every venue, including The Bedford, has to diversify and be open to different ways of generating financial stability - from club nights to private hires to sponsorship; each venue needs to work out how they can add extra value to their business.
IN THIS PHOTO: Mercury Prize-nominated artist Jorja Smith on The Bedford stage in 2016
You have an eye for spotting musical talent! What do you look for in a musician when it comes to future promise?!
Having booked over 10,000 acts through the last twenty years as well as being a musician; I think I have developed a certain ear for what I think works for the kind of shows I book. My area is really songwriter-based music (even if it’s a band) - that is where I trust my instinct the most. I don’t know a lot about emerging talent in other areas like Dance, Jazz etc. so I follow my gut feeling about acts that I book.
IN THIS PHOTO: Hope
Might we see you taking to the Bedford stage? Do you still perform live?
I will actually play the first set of the soft launch night - and then I will make the odd guest appearance as things go along. I am still very active in music, writing, producing and playing shows.
As Christmas is coming up; if you had to ask for one present what would it be?
A special one of our ‘alumni’ to confirm a re-appearance at The Bedford for 2019.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Fleurie - Hurricane
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