How artists are saving Portsmouth's music scene with new compilation

They are the beating heart of Portsmouth’s precious music scene – but Covid-19 has threatened their very existence.

Saturday, 6th June 2020, 12:00 am
Sam Leadbeater, the man behind Save Our Scene. Picture: Sarah Standing

Pubs, clubs and other bustling music hubs have closed in line with government guidelines.

The closure has brought about a loss of revenue for venues and a gaping hole in the city’s arts and culture calendar.

But one man has launched a project to help them in their hour of need through the medium he knows best – music.

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Save Our Scene artwork by Myles Bartholomew.

Sam Leadbeater, from Southsea, launched Save Our Scene – a project which has brought together 24 artists and bands, who share a passion for Portsmouth’s music scene, to release a compilation.

‘Proceeds of the sale of this cassette-only compilation will go towards saving local music institutions; our independent venues, our recording studios and our rehearsal spaces who are all currently out of action,’ explains Sam.

The Save Our Scene cassette, which comes with a download code, costs £10. With a original T-shirt it’s £15.

The 30-year-old is the co-founder of Calamity Cratediggers, a music promotion business, which has put on gigs at Outside-In Food Court, Huis Belgian Bar, and elsewhere. Sam, who claims he’s ‘a big music geek’, says: ‘Two years ago, I launched cassette label Brutalist Records. I’m a teacher at a specialist needs school but for the past 10 weeks I have been working from home. This was something I could channel my energy into.

El Morgan. Credit: Joe Watson. All pictures contributed.

‘I feel like it's a time capsule of the current music scene in Portsmouth. These 24 artists provided a track to put something back into the venues they love and back into the city where they started.’

One artist who’s included in the compilation is Tom Wells, of Fast Trains, and he says he felt ‘honoured’ to be part of it.

‘The local scene has been very good to me. It’s a huge part of my life,’ says Tom, from Havant.

‘There’s a very real threat to the music industry. When we lost the Eastney Cellars lots of people were devastated. But some people think that if a venue closes another will open, but that is definitely not the case.’

Tom Bryan in recording studio. All pictures contributed.

The 31-year-old alt-pop artist, who works for a logistics company, says the impact of losing grassroot venues could ravage the music scene. He says: ‘Imagine Victorious Festival without all of its smaller stages. No big bands have made it without gigging in their local city first. If artists and venues start to suffer, it has the potential to dismantle the whole industry.

‘This compilation is a celebration of music which is generating so much good.’

Three music venues are set to benefit from the money raised from Save Our Scene: The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea Sound and The Wave Maiden. Sam adds: ‘These are three businesses close to my heart and a lot of the artists have played there.’

El Morgan, a folk artist from Southsea, founded Southsea Sound in 2016 with her partner Tim Greaves. She says: ‘Sam’s Calamity Cratediggers’ work of promoting bands is keeping the scene alive. He’s putting a huge amount back into the music scene. That kind of energy is infectious.’

Ban Summers practising. All pictures contributed.

El, 39, says she was chuffed when she was asked to submit a track, called B Road, for the compilation. But it wasn’t until afterwards she realised her business was one of the beneficiaries. She smiles and says: ‘It made me quite emotional. Southsea Sound has had great support from people saying they can’t wait to have us back. We have a lovely little music community, it’s very humbling.’

Geoff Priestley, the manager of The Wedgewood Rooms, is proud and grateful to be another venue reaping the benefits from Save Our Scene. ‘It’s a really nice feeling to know people are rooting for you to return and the community you’re involved in appreciates what you do, especially in times like these,’ explains Geoff, 62. ‘It features some amazing musicians and it’s a compilation of what is best about Portsmouth.’

While the government is planning for venues such as The Wedgewood Rooms to open for business on July 4, Geoff is sceptical. He says: ‘It’s hard to do what we do in line with social distancing. I think all music and art venues have a long struggle ahead but knowing you have the backing of your community helps you get through that.’

It’s not just musicians who have supported Save Our Scene. Myles Bartholomew, a graphic designer and musician behind Highlights Of The Modern World, created the artwork (see page 1) and T-shirt design for the project. The 31-year-old says: ‘What attracted me to the project was knowing Sam had his finger on the pulse and I had confidence he would be able to pull this off.’

Talking about the artwork, he explains: ‘The touching hands was important because you can’t do that at the moment. The clothes, coffee cup and plant pot are basic household items to highlight how we’re all at home. I thoroughly enjoyed putting it together.’

Save Our Scene compilation will be out by August 1. However 65 out of 100 cassettes have already been pre-ordered. Sam says: ‘I was hopeful the reaction would be this good. It’s good for everybody involved. I would love an opportunity to continue this project and reach more people.’

Tom Wells performing. Picture: 16 Beasley St Photography. All pictures contributed.

‘I’m proud of my town, proud to be involved but also proud of Sam for putting this together. He’s an unsung hero,’ adds El.

For more information or to pre-order, go to brutalistrecords.bandcamp.com.

Dad Hair band rehearsing.
Simon Brookes, of Fake Empire, in his home studio.
Stone Birds recording.
Hallan recording in a studio.