“Grassroots is from the ground up”: Inside Studio Monkey Shoulder, the new grassroots music initiative - Features - Mixmag

“Grassroots is from the ground up”: Inside Studio Monkey Shoulder, the new grassroots music initiative

The collaborative project between Monkey Shoulder, Worldwide FM, and Gilles Peterson was launched with a panel and Q&A session on the future on the future of grassroots music

  • In association with Monkey Shoulder
  • 16 April 2024

In celebration of the launch of Studio Monkey Shoulder, the new music initiative providing a launchpad for grassroots music communities in the UK with a £10,000 grant up for grabs, Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM and premium drinks brand Monkey Shoulder came together to host a panel on the future of grassroots music.

Kicking off the evening at Dalston-based live music venue Total Refreshment Centre, venue owner Lex gave some insight into the history of the space before passing over the mic to DJ, broadcaster, and label owner Gilles Peterson. With a selection of Monkey Shoulder cocktails on tap and the drinks flowing, the panel lined up to take their seats and discuss their experiences in music.

Taking the lead on the panel, Mixmag’s Deputy Editor Megan Townsend was joined by music journalist and author of Document Your Culture and Make Some Space, Emma Warren, Melodic Distraction head honcho and We Out Here marketing manager Josh Aitman, Touching Bass co-founder Alex Rita, and Bristol musician and Save the Rhubarb Tavern campaigner Sunny Paradisos.

“We talk about grassroots as if it's somewhere separate or marginal, somewhere hard to find. But grass is everywhere, grass is the most common plant around us, so it’s useful to think about grassroots as something normal and ordinary and on the high street, why not?” said Emma Warren. “Somewhere that’s easily accessible, affordable, and easy to get to. We should think of it like grass, because grassroots is from the ground up. These places are everything.”

The panel spoke about their experiences in their individual sectors, and why grassroots music in the UK is so important for building foundations and music communities. “The reason I got involved in grassroots culture is because I love to see people be creative and thrive together,” said Josh Aitman. “I got involved in radio to give people a path to express themselves and try new things in a safe environment with no pressure.”

The panel also discussed the difficulties of running and maintaining grassroots projects during the cost of living crisis and the hardships of applying for arts funding. “The money is out there, it’s hard to be told that it isn’t,” said Sunny Paradisos, who’s currently campaigning to bring back Bristol pub The Rhubarb Tavern as a community hub. "If enough people get involved, these things can work."

Speaking on her experiences running Touching Bass, Alex Rita explained that she felt it was important to create a grassroots space that was "missing for our generation" as a place to have fun and experiment. "We wanted to give people a space to connect, for those who don't often have the opportunity," she said.

Studio Monkey Shoulder will allow a creative community to bring to life a pioneering project that spotlights their scene. The UK's impressive musical landscape is built on the pillars of energised communities formed in and around independent venues, radio stations, record stores, collectives and club nights, and this initiative will help identify one trailblazing music community and work with them to develop an original project with a £10,000 grant, chosen by Gilles Peterson and the Worldwide FM team.

“I really want to discover the next wave of music communities, communities who are finding new ways of doing things and adding to the rich tapestry of music in their cities,” said Gilles Peterson on the project. “We have no idea where this is going to take us, but I can’t wait to see and hear it.”

Applications to the initiative are now open. To find out more and apply for the grant, visit the Monkey Shoulder website here.

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