Maryam Snape is a freelance PR and events manager based in Birmingham. Currently heavily involved with the popular Digbeth-based soul and retro venue The Night Owl, we spoke to her about her time living and working in the city.
You’re heavily involved with a lot of creative projects in Birmingham; can you give us a brief introduction to what you’re working on at the moment?
The Night Owl is a soul and retro club and live music venue in Digbeth. I helped to set up the business and run the events, bookings and promotion. We have events such as Northern Soul and Motown nights, indie and britpop, mod, disco and funk and much more. I also organise immersive themed nights there such as Stranger Things, Trainspotting and Bowie nights which are very successful. As well as the weekly club nights and gigs held there I also arrange events at other venues throughout Birmingham under The Night Owl banner, the next event being ‘The Big Birmingham Soul Night’ at Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday 15th April.
You’re known as a freelance events / dj / radio / PR person, what have been some of your highlights since going full time with everything?
A big highlight has been working on setting up The Night Owl, creating a buzz that had thousands reading my blog, growing and developing the brand over the past 18 months. I’d also say working on a unique city-wide musical project called for-Wards was a highlight. The project involves different composers working with the community in the different wards of Birmingham to create pieces of music that reflect the areas, the result will be a kind of sound map of Birmingham and some very special performances. I was delighted to be on the steering committee for Brum Radio, we worked together to set up the alternative online radio station, build up social media presence and so on. The station recently celebrated its first birthday. I also loved working on Swingamajig Festival; it’s such a fun and lively event and the team are the same. To be honest there have been lots of great moments and I’ve been working with lots of fantastic clients. I feel really lucky.
How did you get in to events, and what made you want to do it?
I have been passionate about music from a really early age and one day was outside a record shop with my latest stash, when a friend commented that for someone so crazy about music they found it odd I didn’t do much with it and suggested DJing. I started DJing in 2002 at The Sunflower Lounge. At a Bright Eyes gig in Manchester a few months later I met the band and told them I promoted nights in Birmingham, they wrongly assumed this meant live shows and connected me with their record label Saddle Creek’s booking agents. At the time I was getting frustrated with small to medium (and sometimes even the big ones) touring bands missing Birmingham and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to rectify it so I dived in head first!
You ran a well-known promotions company called Chicks Dig Jerks – what was your first gig and your highlights?
Our first live gig was Azure Ray who were on the Saddle Creek label, at The Jug of Ale in Moseley, it was a sell out and the band were so happy that word soon spread that we put on good shows and looked after our acts. Some of my favourite gigs included Gossip at The Bulls Head in Moseley, it was sweaty and crazy just like all the best gigs. Liars at The Flapper was a similar vibe, sold out and excitement in the air. The Faint at The Theatre in the Custard Factory was one of my favourites, the singer came on stage with a cherry bakewell, they couldn’t believe how well we’d catered for them! Over the years we put on thousands of bands; Q+NOTU, Klaxons, Metronomy, Chromeo, Professor Green, Thee Oh Sees, DJ Medhi, Coachwhips, Chinese Stars, Quasi. I just wish I’d kept all the flyers!
What’s the best thing about working in Birmingham?
The people. Everyone is friendly and collaborative… It hasn’t always been like that but I’m happy to say that’s the way it is now. I love the diversity and the different sub-cultures as well.
What are your favourite venues in the city and why?
I absolutely love The Night Owl, I helped to oversee it from the start so it’s hard not to love it. I also love the Hare & Hounds for live music they have an amazing set up for the venue size. The Sunflower Lounge has my heart as that’s where I first started and it’s perfect for up and coming bands, long may she reign!
Who are your favourite bands in Birmingham at the moment?
Call Me Unique is a fantastic soul/jazz/hip hop artist. High Horses are an incredible band with a fiddle, flute, mandolin and all sorts going on, they remind me a bit of The Faces or The Band, they’ve got an authentic vintage vibe but sound completely fresh. I love a bit of garage rock and punk so from the heavier side of Brum it’s got to be Table Scraps, Bad Girlfriend, Black Mekon, Youth Man and The Mighty Young. I’m also a big fan of Dorcha who are quite experimental; the singer Anna Palmer has a Kate Bush thing about her as well. Ruling the Rockabilly roost has to be Harry and the Howlers… to be honest I could go on all day! There are SO many great bands in Brum.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring events managers, what would it be?
Can it be two? 1) Stay calm, be happy, whatever the problem you can handle it. 2) Build your contacts and treat them well, problems are solved quicker and easier when you have back up.