Meet Portsmouth’s female music promoters with a difference

For Lizzi Kenyon and Debs Stone, music has always been a huge part of their lives. Several nights a week, you can find them watching their favourite bands on stage at popular gig venues such as the Wedgewood Rooms, The Loft and many more.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 5:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 10:31 am
Lizzi Kenyon, left, and Debs Stone, founders of Idols Promotions are putting on their first ever concert on July 27 at The Loft in Albert Road, Southsea. Picture: Sarah Standing.

After crossing paths at a Southsea gig earlier this year, Lizzi and Debs – nicknamed the ‘girls that gig’ – decided to turn their passion into a full-time hobby.

They are the co-directors and owners of Idols Promotions – Portsmouth’s newest music promotion company that welcomes everyone through the doors.

‘We kept turning up at the same gigs. I mentioned the idea on the off because I have always wanted to promote bands, and we were both serious about it,’ explains Debs, 57, who works full-time in administrative support for adult social care.

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Lizzi Kenyon, left, and Debs Stone. Picture: Sarah Standing.

‘The idea has just grown. It has been quite exciting but hard work,’ smiles Lizzi, 25, who is an estate agent.

And now, the duo are looking forward to their first gig on Saturday at The Loft, Southsea. For months, they have planned, networked, advertised and organised as their company acts as the link between the band and the venue.

However, they explain that promoting music is not easy work.

Debs, from Portsmouth, says: ‘I hear people say that the live music scene is dead. I don’t buy into that when you’ve been to a hot and sweaty gig at the Wedge and feel the euphoria of the crowd.

‘There’s no feeling like the emotion you find when a band gives its all and the audience give back. That’s true love.

‘But bands need venues and venues need people. It’s about bums on seats at the end of the day. We’ll be racking our brains trying to think of ways to attract new people through the door.

‘The planning is simple. The hard bit is selling tickets.’

Lizzi and Debs are determined to not just be another music promotion company – they want to encourage solo gig-goers, more women and impaired music fans to enjoy Portsmouth’s live music scene.

And Debs is no stranger to going alone.

‘Now, big gigs, small gigs, festivals, I just go. Initially it was hard to get through the door, sometimes I’d be crippled with anxiety, my heart pumping, hands shaking – it’s really hard to walk into a room on your own,’ she says.

‘I’d really like to welcome solo gig goers to our shows. I see so many people posting on Twitter asking for people to go with them to gigs and I want to shout “go on your own!”

‘I feel there’s still a lot of stigma about going alone. But there’s safety in numbers. You’re more vulnerable when you’re solo.’

Lizzi, from Hayling Island, became interested in the live music scene because of her sister but she’s disappointed in the amount of women involved in the city’s music scene.

She says: ‘My sister got me into gigs at quite an early age. But there aren’t many female promoters.

‘Sound engineers, music shops, bands, venue owners are male-dominated sectors,’ adds Debs.

‘We do hope that we can encourage more women to take an active role in the local scene.’

Idols Promotions also wants to ensure their gigs are accessible for the impaired, which is a subject close to Debs’ heart.

‘I’m actually registered blind but that makes you think of dark glasses, white sticks and guide dogs. Well, I don’t have that but I won’t recognise you if you’re walking down the street,’ she explains.

However Debs’ condition, called macular dystrophy, has not stopped her working hard on the project. She says: ‘Going to gigs has hugely boosted my confidence.

‘Lizzi and I work well together – we complement each other. Our roles have changed since we started, I love doing all of the backstage stuff and Lizzi is all over social media.

‘We have made mistakes but that’s how we learn. We want to encourage more people to start gigging and want to make it more accessible for all.’

Lizzi adds: ‘We have had a great response to Idols. We can’t thank everyone enough.’

The duo claim they would love for their hobby to become their job and that their upcoming gig will be the first of many. But for now they run Idols Promotions because of their undying love for music.

‘Music is such a huge part of my life. There is never a moment when I’m not listening to music,’ smiles Lizzi.

Who will be playing at Idols’ debut gig?

Idols Promotions will host their first gig at The Loft, above the Kings Pub, on Albert Road on Saturday at 7.30pm.

Debs explains: ‘We’re taking a big risk with our first gig because we’re putting on two out-of-town bands as well as two local ones. But every time I go to a gig now, I think about the bands we are putting on and I get very excited.’

Debs and Lizzi have chosen Sheffield-based band Floodhounds as their headliner. Lizzi says: ‘Expect an intense, tight, rabble-rousing live show.’

Drool are a band Debs saw at Camden Rocks and knew she had to get on board for Portsmouth. Featuring Martin Söderin, formerly in Vant, on drums, they describe their music from the ’90s grunge era with the spirit of ’60s garage-pop records.

Gosport's The Smokey Chimps are a ‘fun’ indie band. They took part in the Unsigned Showcase 2018 at the Wedgewood Rooms. Debs says: ‘I love the way they’re producing music without taking themselves too seriously. They’re different but fun.’

Lastly, the ex-frontman of Shoot The Duke and Portsmouth-artist Tom Bryan will be dazzling the crowds with new tunes.

Buy tickets at seetickets.com.