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Providing early platforms for now-renowned artists like Jake Bugg and Sleaford Mods

Updated: Apr 26

Will Robinson founded I'm Not From London in 2005, a dynamic force in the music industry; specialising in event management, band promotion, management, record label operations, and music video production. With a remarkable journey that began by providing early platforms for now-renowned artists like Jake Bugg and Sleaford Mods, the enterprise has evolved into a multifaceted powerhouse. Will has helped us connect with some really great local bands and musicians and we have booked some of them for Boho Festival, Newton Nottingham, July 26th - 28th 2024. We caught up with Will and asked him a bit about his career in the music business so far....

Why are you called 'I'm Not From London' ?

When I was 20 my parents told me they were moving to Mansfield to be nearer their aging parents. I was still living with them and I was skint and not in further education and moved up with them with my younger sister. Watford is in Hertfordshire and one of the last towns before you hit London so when I moved up, people would assume I was from London, and I'd have to quote the INFL phrase quite often.

Once I got here I went out with a girl who's brother managed a Mansfield indie band called Bosco, the lead singer was an energetic teenager called Liam Bailey. He moved to Nottingham shortly before I did and soon after moved to London. Other's like Natalie Duncan and some of my fellow See Tickets colleagues who later formed The Klaxons did the same. The industry was very London-centric at the time and "I'm Not From London" seemed to me to be addressing the fact that there was lots of creativity outside of the centre and in fact much of the capital's creative talent stemmed from elsewhere. It was meant to be tongue in cheek and more of a statement than an insult although we'd often get wry smiles and questions from people in London when we'd go down for meetings and conferences. It was also a line from my favourite film 'Withnail And I' starring Richard E Grant and Paul MCgann about two actor friends who go on holiday by mistake in the country and utter that line in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the locals. I later found out there were a lot of Nottingham connections with that film. My sister's mate Rich suggested the line to me when I was first talking about the idea of becoming a promoter, we'd spent a lot of evenings at their student accommodation watching it and it seemed to make perfect sense for all the reasons I've just explained.

How did you get started in the Music industry ?

I always enjoyed gigs and watching bands, the tour stories, the theatrics and the alternative lifestyle that rock and roll offers obviously appealed to me more than any sort of traditional career. No other industry would have me.  I'd been a bingo caller, a student nurse, a damp proofer, sold advertising space, waited tables, worked bars, was a welder's mate, a driver's mate, postboy, did a lot of care work. Like lots of music types in Notts. I was a time served See Tickets 'phone monkey' when I first moved to Nottingham from the mean streets of Watford. It taught me a fair bit about the local scene and how the promotion side of things worked. I'd played a bit of punk and folky guitar but I think I enjoy being behind the mic more than in front of it. I was never very happy working for anyone apart from myself and I'd always had a few entrepreneurial side, I imported wine for a bit before I started INFL and I'd been selling 'designer' clothes since I was at school from my family's mates in Nottingham. Working at See gave me my first network of promoters, musicians and music fans, a lot of whom I'm still friends with and work with regularly. I got my first gig at Rescue Rooms in the red rooms through Anton Lockwood, DHP's head of Live who managed my sister's boyfriend's band 'Punish The Atom'. The night did well and I got the promo bug. It was hard to establish myself due to there already being indie/rock promoters in Notts and no one knowing who I was outside of my work. A call came through one day asking to speak to the head of promotions as the guy had a rock club in Blackpool and wanted some music nights to take place. There wasn't actually a 'Head of Promotions' at See so I said that was me and set up a meeting with him at his club that had a flat above it that the bands and I could stay at. I spoke to all the bands who were doing well in Nottingham or working in my call centre and asked them if they wanted to play out of town for me. I put about 5 nights on with half Notts lineups and had loads of fun with them all. By the time we got back we were all friends and funny shared experiences of our road trip and gigs so the bands were happy to play for me in Notts. That was back in 2005 - Things took off from there really...

How do you find your talent? 

My niche in Nottingham is developing new bands starting out. Once they get to a certain point, booking agents normally get involved and many of those agents are tied to venues I don't work with. As a result I take a lot of pride and enjoyment helping those starting out that I can see have potential.

I'm not particularly cliquey or genre based but I really enjoy garage bands, psyche, post punk and hip hop. A lot of times people come to me and let me know about their bands or I see them play or hear about them from friends I know with good musical taste who's recommendations I respect. Local festivals and gigs are probably where I find most of the acts I work with regularly but Nottingham's a very connected city and if someone shines though, it's not long before everyone in town's heard of them. 

Tell us more about the Old Bus Depot?

 Myself and my venue partners Ian and Trish Gardiner first met while I was presenting a Youtube series meeting different creatives around Nottingham. I interviewed Ian Gardiner who had the Vintage Warehouse and we ran a few nights there. Ian and his wife Tricia used to run some legendary Nottingham venues such as The Garage, Double Bubble and Kool Kats. The Vintage Warehouse wasn't ideal for them so later on they took on The Lofthouse and we rented part of the building from them for I'm Not From London Recording Studios. It was nice but not ideal as we had another recording studio above and a Yoga place below so whenever I'd run nights in the venue the studio above would get annoyed and when the studio above recorded in the day, we'd get the blame ha! Loads of stairs and no lifts, it was a long way to the top if you wanted to rock and roll. We left there and Trish and Ian came to work with me in my office for a couple of years. We talked about how great it would be to have our own venue. After a lot of looking around we found what is known at Fishergate Point , The Old Bus Depot is what we call the upstairs event space), the venue used to be a bus factory. We signed a ten year lease and set about making it a community hub for the arts. Two weeks after signing the lease Covid struck and the government lockdown plans started coming in. It was a scary time for everyone but for people who rely on lots of people being in the same place, the pandemic meant all our plans had to change. Luckily Ian and I had started a community interest company which meant we could write bids and pitch for investment in community projects. The venue was to host The Light Hustle, part of the Hockley Hustle. As we could no longer host gigs we had it as an online fundraiser for independents and musicians whose income had been halted which gave out free, no questions asked bids. As no one was playing any gigs anywhere the venue became the first in the UK to host an online music festival. On the back of that we hosted NottsStopping Festival and To Hull And Back, a live online festival featuring Nottingham and Hull musicians. We now have local Nottingham music organisations The Hockley Hustle, Acoustickle and CYF (Children and Young Families), Circle Of Light, Notts Music Hub as regular tenants running workshops there. Refugee Forum hosts weekly events. The Actors Workshop runs weekly sessions and we have artists renting studios for their fashion, art and creative endeavours. My role is Head of Live at the Old Bus Depot so oversee most of the music events there and work with the promoters wanting to rent the space and curate monthly gigs there. INFL were successful in securing an arts bid to put 50 gigs on over the year and it's now getting regular use from local promoters who like the low hire fees we offer and we're soon getting a stairlift and downstairs cafe built in our downstairs gallery space.  The venue now boasts Hoam studios thanks to some successful project bids from Tricia (Circle Of Light ) and hosts regular women only arts groups under the name Sugar Stealers. There's a two year project called Man Up Man Down that tackles male mental health, my team were all canoeing down the canal across the road as part of it. It's now home to lots of Nottingham artists, producers, promoters, community interest companies and generally a nice place to be based. Come see us and we'll give you the tour!

Tell us more about I'm Not From Brooklyn ? will Liam and more acts like him be on the label?

I'm Not From Brooklyn was born out of the hip hop nights we used to put on around 15 years ago at The Alleycafe. We'd tend to have more eclectic or off the wall acts play like Professor Elemental, Furious P, Deaf Bridges and DJ Switch as well as giving local acts like Kane Ashmore, Youth Oracle and 1st Blood a stage as there weren't too many hip hop nights happening in Notts at the time. Louis Cypher from 1st Blood was another friend from See Tickets who's is a great rapper and hip hop head (also a great collage artist) and came on board helping me curate acts for the gigs. He wrote an album 'Cypher Sore Eyes' and we put the launch gig on at The Maze, we decided to start the label up as a sister label to I'm Not From London Records which dealt with more rock and punk sort of music. The album was followed up with a couple of singles from 'Local Healers' and now we're working with other younger Nottingham artists on our gigs and helping develop them to become independent practitioners, producers and promoters. Yes, Liam Bailey who played a lot of our earlier nights and the launch is going to be on the next compilation, it's all really exciting and we love doing it. A couple of months ago we held a big night with Leftlion called 'Artistic Spectrum/ featuring Nottingham artists who also played and produced music. ‘Leftlion featured Louis collage poster for the event as their front cover that month’.

How did you help Jake Bugg and Sleaford mods ?

We did what we do with all the artists we work with, we gave them gigs! Haha!   Jake used to play for us when he was about 14/15 at Rob Gibson from The Running Horse's former venue, Hotel Deux for our Cafe Boheme night and at Ben Rose from The Angel's old place The Alleycafe. He was always brilliant, quite quiet but had that amazing falsetto voice and songwriting skills way above his years. My mum is still friends with him on Facebook. He asked me for some advice before he signed to his label which I was happy to offer. I had no idea it was a massive major multiple release deal but it seems to have done the lad well. It was funny to see the people who you'd have to tell to stop talking over his set then talk about how brilliant he was after he'd been signed. I couldn't hear him for the chatter before but I suppose it's gigs like that where a lot of musicians learn their craft!  Jake ended up playing the Light Hustle festival we did at the Old Bus Depot which helped raise £6000 for local artists so if there was any help we gave him, he definitely returned the favour. Sleaford Mods used to play our gigs at Jamcafe, The Central and Alleycafe too. We did a big Messy Christmas night with him at The Arts Organisation (Now Hopkinsons)  He'd tend to come down with his wife and we'd put him on our Wire & Wool nights at the end, it was all acoustic acts for the bulk of the gig (They were the wool) followed by Jay headlining (The Wire). Jason used to live on the next road from me in Sherwood and was another See Tickets alumni. He was a one man band at the time ranting over Sex Pistol and punk riffs, 'Swarfega' was my favourite. I'd vainly like to think I was an inspiration for the pot bellied promoter he mentioned in 'Don't Want A Disco or Two'. Ben the owner loved him playing as he'd headline and everyone would have left by the time he finished, you wouldn't to hurry anyone. To be fair no one talked over HIS set! He was very funny to work with and I'd have loved to have signed him, although he had written songs about how he hated lots of my mates in various bands so that would have been a bit awks. Apparently Ferny (Andrew Fern) saw him play at one of the Jamcafe gigs and later approached him at the Chameleon to start jamming together. Although his songs are as angry as they always have been, he seems a lot happier in himself than when I first met him and that's a lovely thing. I imagine he gets paid a bit better than when he played for me which probably helps...

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