This week – if you go down to Future Inns…

I don’t usually say much about this, as who knows why audiences come and go? But the number-of-punters issue has been raised by a player who visits Bristol regularly, so a few things to add…

As Tony Benjamin’s essential diary (here) notes, the tirelessly touring tenor player Simon Spillett is booked for Future Inns this week. That already caught my eye partly because I – and other folks – have been enjoying his writing since he recently adopted facebook as a venue for musing about all things jazz. He writes something there pretty well every day, and it’s always worth reading.

And he’s written now at some length about past visits to Future Inns, and the paucity of the crowd there. You can read the whole thing here.

Now, I’ve often wondered about this. Future Inns has a good weekly programme, often featuring touring outfits who probably wouldn’t be seen in the city otherwise. I quite often get email from hopeful young bands looking forward to appearing there. I usually assume word has got around among the tourers that this is a quiet one, and they put it in the diary anyway because it’s a useful stopping off point on the way to the West Country, or a gig that allows you to get back to London so only costs petrol (and wear and tear).

Still, it’s a crying shame audiences there tend to be so small. Maybe it’s just because there are now three weekly gigs like this. The Fringe on Wednesday often sells out its small room. The BeBop club at the Bear on Fridays usually does OK, though it has quiet nights every now and again. We’re not that big a city, and three weekly gigs like this – where there was just one a decade ago – are always going to compete with each other. All have, shall we say, mature audiences in the main. There’s not much crossover here with the listeners for newer-style jazz who visit other venues – featuring bands like the ones mentioned in this interesting recent piece about the Bristol scene, and who I confess I only hear occasionally, excellent though they all are. There’s a lot of music in this city!

What to do? I dunno. My story about the history of Future Inns is a little different from Simon’s – and a bit dull to go into here. But I’m pretty sure the hotel where the (excellent, which is why it’s frustrating) music room sits ain’t gonna feed in any subsidy. I also reckon a larger crowd would sustain itself at some point, though. Going to a gig where it feels there’s a significant risk of the band out-numbering the audience makes jazz feel even more like a fading cult than it usually does on a bad night. But people in the room make it come alive again. So the only thing, really, is for more people to go. If you’ve ever been tempted, and fancy listening to good music in comfort in a room that isn’t the back room of a pub (subject of another nicely-turned recent post by the sax player),  give it a try soon. And Spillett’s date this Thursday, with the excellent local team of Andy Nowak – Piano, Al Swainger – Bass and Andy Tween – Drums, is an excellent place to start.

As this will confirm…




  1. Jon your comments about the Future Inns venue are most welcome and, like you, I am mystified as to why audiences at this excellent location are so sparse. I have reached the point where I almost avoid the place because I feel so embarrassed that so few people have turned up to a gig. A recent performance by Julian Costello et al is a case in point but there have been many others where, as you say, the band almost outnumbered the audience. However, I think that there is a wider issue about the nature of the jazz audience in Bristol in general, particularly its demographic characteristics, which merits discussion. What seems to be needed is a strategy for jazz audience development in Bristol. This could begin with a few interested people gathering together to map out some sort of vision (yes that terrible word) for such a strategy. All that is needed is one or two well connected people who know the terrain to volunteer to convene such a group. Now I wonder who those people might be?

  2. Chris, greetings to my regular reader! Well, the first thing would be whether you could get the three or four key promoters on board. It’s my impression they are, shall we say, independently-minded? (You and I have had this conversation before.) Happy to chat more.if you are at the gig on Thursday… I’m pretty focussed on climate change stuff at the moment, tho.

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