After a covid-hit year, Newbury's ACE Space looks forward to great gigs ahead
And so another year begins at the community venue ACE Space, and organiser Stephen Ottner anticipates a better one ahead, with some great live music.
As well as providing a space for community activities - from meditation to marshal arts classes - the ACE Space trustees organise monthly open mic nights and gigs.
The Unplugged open mic nights on the first Friday of each month have been running for 17 years and are hosted by ACE Space chairman Adam Kotz. They have gained an enviable reputation within and beyond West Berks for providing a supportive platform for music and spoken word performers. Seven years ago the trustees changed from putting on an occasional gig to one per month, the music on offer being broadly categorised as folk/roots/Americana.
The normal pattern of these events was, like everything else, disrupted back in March 2019. The first gig to be cancelled was the much anticipated return of Phil Beer - half of the folk legends Show of Hands who have filled the Royal Albert Hall five times. The gig was rescheduled to March 2020.
At that time, the expectation of the ACE Space team was that gigs would restart after the summer holidays. Little did anyone anticipate that it would be July 2021 before music would fill the hall again when a socially distanced audience welcomed back Emily Barker with Lukas Drinkwater. In the remainder of the year another five gigs happened, despite poor advance ticket sales. The audience sizes were modest compared to pre-lockdown, however, both the audience and musicians thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to experience live music once more.
A full programmes of gigs is planned with a mix of musical styles - gigs rolled over from 2020 and new bookings featuring local, national and international artists.
Things kick-off this month with some lively bluegrass from Bristol-based band Old Baby Mackerel, with local musician Richard Cox-Smith starting off the evening.
February's gig sees a musician closer to West Berks - Wantage based Jackie Oates. Since winning BBC Folks awards Jackie has become a much respected and admired musicians in the English folk scene.
Staying fairly local is the Oxford-based band The People Versus, who appear in May. This five-piece band formed in 2019, but despite lockdown have built a strong and enthusiastic following and have recently been signed to a major agency. Up and coming Basingstoke singer/songwriter Anna Renae brings her folk/pop mix, sharing the billing in April with Finn Collinson, the folk recorder pioneer, and his band.
It’s not just local artists appearing at ACE Space in 2022, but international ones too. Madrid-based band Track Dogs have become a UK festivals favourite and their previous ACE Space gig was very enthusiastically received.
Hannah James, of Lady Maisery, may be British but is now based in Slovenia, where she teamed up with French cellist Toby Khun. Nashville based Amelia White’s tour of the UK in July includes ACE Space. Amelia has been described as “a leading light in America’s most musical zip code”. Husband and wife duo Truckstop Honeymoon were on tour with their children, when hurricane Katrina struck their home in New Orleans. They took on a nomadic life finally settling down in Wales. They will be bringing their highly entertaining tales of their life and observations to ACE Space in December.
The future of the gigs is dependant upon the way things progress with Covid and the associated rules. The ACE Space trustees are determined to continue to bring quality live music to Newbury as long as it is safe to do so. The ventilation in the hall has been improved. In the event of cancellation of any gig the ACE Space policy Is to refund any tickets sold. Tickets for all gigs are available direct from ACE Space by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by ‘phoning 078911 76940 or online at www.WeGotTickets.com
January 21 Old Baby Mackerel, Richard Cox-Smith
February 19 Jackie Oates & Mike Cosgrave, Malcolm MacWatt
March 12 Phil Beer, Odette Michell
March 26 Hannah James & Toby Khun, Katie Grace Harris
April 8 Finn Collinson, Anna Renae
May 21 TPV, Hannah Scott
1June 18 Benji Kirkpatrick & The Excess
July 9 Amelia White, Robbie Cavanagh
September 16 Miranda Sykes and Hannah Martin
October 15 Fred's House
November 11 Track Dogs
December 10 Truckstop Honeymoon