I sit opposite Joel White and Yemi Bolatiwa, two University of Manchester students who appear to have ambitions slightly bigger than the average Joe around campus. As we sip our pints in the student’s union, Joel describes how the two crossed paths. “It was a really grim night with terrible weather. We were both playing at an open mic night at the Ram [and Shackle] in Fallowfield and my band was looking for a singer at the time. We heard Yemi and loved it. She was just about to leave and we managed to convince her to come to a practice”. “Yeah and there I found that Joel and an ex-bandmate had a project they were working on at the time. It sounded like a great idea and I wanted to get involved. So after the bandmate’s departure, we tested out some ideas. The result was a free festival in the Northern Quarter in summer involving DJ’s, musicians, artists and contributors of all kinds. It was a huge success and made us realise we can both do something bigger than just make music” adds Yemi.
Using art, whether that be music or spoken-word or anything, M20 aim to fill any cultural gaps that exist between the native groups of Manchester. More precisely, they want to help people, students or whoever else, to create and take part in events that will benefit everyone. “We want to help people to contribute to the scene. Students are part of the union and the union is bad at advertising it. Bring the energy back to student life! Don’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on around you and what you want to get out of university. Maybe break the routine of club nights and the segregation between universities and introduce some diversity in the options students have. Expand people’s horizons and re-introduce the DIY ethic”.
“We want to create opportunities for people to meet and work together” explains Joel. “Yeah, we’re not starting a new phenomenon, we just want to make a new platform. We don’t want to be do-gooders but we’ve been here long enough to see how dull things can get around here”. “Yeah, very dull”.
So I’m taking you’re not fans of fresher’s week? “It’s terrible. It just feels like we’re feeding corporate machines and it gives a warped view of Manchester”.”I agree, students are in a bubble and not enough is going on around these parts. We don’t want people to stick to the oxford road corridor, or stick to the same clubs. Local gigs are almost invisible and I think a better local scene would definitely appeal to a lot of people”.
But this sounds a bit ambitious to me; after all it does rely on people getting off their arses. “Yeah it’s ambitious but there’s incentive; I personally care about local music and it’d be great to have more students playing the music and contributing to the community, instead of being in the crowd. Plus it will give coverage to anyone who wants to be heard”. “We’re also giving people opportunities to develop their initiative and entrepreneurial skills” Yemi explains.”It’s a great way to use the marketing and advertising skills I gained during my degree”.
So what is currently in the pipeline? “An idea in the making is holding gigs in small spaces with small crowds. We’ve been thinking a lot about living rooms”. That’d be pretty darn cool. “We’re also planning some more events at Antwerp Mansion, we really like those guys”. Antwerp Mansion recently held a £1 gig showcasing a wide range of local music. “We’d also like to start increasing ouradvertising and have students contributing to that too, making posters or art for events. We want to bring out the creativity in people”.”Yeah, the bedroom artists. If people have ideas, then we want to make them happen”. It seems it’s up to you people, get out there and contribute!
M20 are holding Solomon Sessions #1, an evening of free live music, art, spoken word and fashion later this month. You can also hear Joel and Yemi’s band, Pareidolia, on facebook.
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