At the end of this month, Brighton will see the launch of a brand new music festival. Taking place on Saturday, July 29th, at the Green Door Store, the Rock House Festival will be a unique event bringing together musicians with and without learning disabilities.
We talked to event manager and Carousel music producer, Gareth Evans, and Ryan O’Donovan from Zombie Crash, the world’s premier learning disabled metal band. Here is what they told us about their expectations about the upcoming festival.
What is special about the festival?
This may seem like a mere extension of the event that’s happened every month, apart from August, for nearly 8 years, but it’s also the next stage of The Rock House’s evolution. It’s brought together a lot of bands both learning disabled and non-learning disabled alike to make a spectacle for as many as will pack into the Green Door Store. It’s a celebration of both the artists who’ve made it what it is since September 2009 and the visitors from outside who’ve brought further value to it. It’s a good time now to amplify things even more for a bigger impact. (Ryan)
Carousel is the organisation that stands behind the event. What do you do exactly?
Carousel is an arts organisation based in Brighton. For over 35 years, we have been supporting learning disabled artists to develop and achieve their artistic ambitions. We currently work in music, radio, film and digital arts, and our support ranges from 1-2-1 artistic development to hosting large events such as the Oska Bright Film Festival. (Gareth)
When you decided to create the festival, what was the aim behind it?
Rock House was started by two local musicians, Richard Phoenix and Tom Cook. Through their work with Carousel, they recognised the lack of performance opportunities for learning disabled musicians and the events were a response to this. The Rock House has developed over the years but still maintains the original ethos of providing a stage for learning disabled musicians to showcase their talent and so this remains one of the main aims of the festival. (Gareth)
How many people do you expect?
We expect between 150 and 200 to come down to the Green Door Store on that Saturday. (Gareth)
What do you think the audience will be like?
We run six showcase events a year at the Green Door Store and they are always very busy! People come for all sorts of reasons. There are those who have been Rock House regulars since the beginning and so are very familiar with the local learning disabled scene, but we are also very enthusiastic about bringing new audiences into the Rock House. I think that the non-learning disabled guest acts we booked will bring their following to the show and we work closely with the venue to reach the local music scene as well. Apart from that, we use our networks to encourage more learning disabled audience members to come to the shows. (Gareth)
Will there only be bands performing or will people also get to see solo artists?
There will be ten bands in total, but no real solo artists as such. Daniel Wakeford will be playing with his full band, as will 2Decks. These artists do often do solo shows, but they’re going all out for The Rock House Festival. (Gareth)
What kind of music do they play? Which genres will be represented at the festival?
Well, as it’s The ROCK House Festival, it’s mainly rock music. However, we do have a wide range of music represented. 2Decks will bring an element of rap, Sauna Youth are punk, Zombie Crash are heavy metal and there’ll be some acoustic sets too! (Gareth)
How did you choose the artists?
We were careful to approach bands who have proved popular at previous Rock House events, and of course, we’ve scheduled many of Carousel’s own bands. (Gareth)
How much experience do the bands have when it comes to performing live on a stage?
They need to be among the best. The learning disabled bands that you’ll see at this event each have their own measure of success when it comes to venturing out and about to get new audiences’ attention. I believe they were the best to be selected for this event. (Ryan)
Are there similar events in Brighton or in the area?
There is Carousel’s Blue Camel Club event which has existed since late 2000 and is the event that puts all the main activities of Carousel to use in live bands, DJs and club management. There is also Grace Eyre’s Purple Club House that currently features no more than one live act per show, although on the rise nonetheless. Other events that have this kind of accessibility to learning disabled people vary depending on who can succeed in making them a reality. Not all of them have lasted, but the morale to keep going is still there which is most fundamental. (Ryan)
What would you say to people as to why they should come to the Rock House Festival?
I recommend that anyone who wants to have a good time and possibly learn something along the way should come along and watch. For all the stories on hate crimes and benefits that learning disabled people become synonymous with in the media, it’s important to know that they too have talent that should never be denied any more than non-learning disabled entertainers trying to make something of their craft. Whether any of us have a disability or not, if we have a talent for something that not necessarily just anyone can do, we should be treated equal and have the platform to build ourselves upon. (Ryan)
So, what is it like being a learning disabled artist?
As an artist with special needs, singing and playing guitar in studios and on stage has always been where my worth as an individual lies. There’s nothing else that can equal that. Whether it’s with Beat Express, Zombie Crash or when playing solo, there’s a reason my catchphrase is “Always out to rock out”. It’s because I don’t let anything get in my way to do what I love. And even if I never become some massively successful rockstar selling out arenas worldwide and charting high, I won’t give up what I already have. I make all the use of it that I can. (Ryan)
Are there plans on doing a similar festival in the future or to turn it into an annual event?
Indeed! We are already planning how the Rock House Festival can grow even bigger next year! (Gareth)
Brighton’s first Rock House Festival will take place on Saturday, July 29th, at the Green Door Store. There will be two time slots, one running from 1 pm to 5 pm and a second one running from 6 pm to 10 pm. Half day tickets and day tickets are on sale here.
Featured Image shows Zombie Crash on stage. Credit @ Paul Mansfield.