Guest of the Month August 2016: Huey Walker
Q: Please give us an introduction to who you are, what you do, and your interests/background?
Huey Walker, Music Relationship Manager at Arts Council England.
My job involves helping music makers and organisations realise their artistic ambitions and supporting them to navigate the numerous options available to progress their careers. This can involve linking musicians with some of the many talent development organisations that Arts Council funds across England (such as Urban Development, Jazz Re:freshed, Sound & Music and British Underground) or through helping people to apply for funding through programmes like Grants for the Arts or the Artist International Development Fund. Between 2015 and 2018 Arts Council will invest almost £2bn of tax payer and National Lottery funds into arts and cultural projects and it’s my job to help ensure the best music projects, with an ability to inspire audiences across the country, have access to as much of that money as possible.
I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by music and the process of talent development, from falling asleep to heavy bass lines as a toddler whilst my dad promoted shows with the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott Heron and Aswad, to tour managing for some of the biggest names in reggae and setting up my own grass roots music venue and now looking on proudly as my kids perform in their local junior orchestra. It’s fantastic to have a job where I can continue to help ensure the greatest music reaches as wide an audience as possible and that music creators have the widest possible range of development opportunities available to them.
Q: What is the best thing about your role at Arts Council England?
The most fulfilling part of my job is when I get to see fantastic projects, that might not have happened without Arts Council support, come to fruition. For example, over the last few weeks I have been lucky enough to have attended a number of amazing events including:
Jazz Re:fest – a day long celebration of some of the most forward looking Jazz artists. Organised by Jazz Re:Freshed, the day saw well over 3,000 people experiencing some amazing performances from the likes of Moses Boyd Exudos, Mark de Clive Lowe, Native Dancer, Robert Mitchell’s Panacea, Ayanna Witter Johnson and many more.
Palestine Youth Orchestra – the PYO’s first UK tour saw 85 young Palestinian musicians give fantastic performances of traditional Arabic and Western Classical pieces alongside a new composition by British composer Graham Fitkin.
Future Bubblers – a showcase of the first year of Brownswood Recordings’ new talent development programme which supports emerging left field music makers from across the country.
Newham Festival of Youth – a celebration of music making organised by Newham Music, the Music Education Hub for the borough and featuring 100s of talented local young people. The Festival also featured the premiere of a fantastic PRS Foundation supported commission by choral composer Gabriel Jackson.
Principe Discos – Just Jam and Warp teamed up to present a night of contemporary dance music from Lisbon based label Principe. The night featured some thumping performances alongside JUST JAM’s trademark live visual production.
It’s great to be able to help ensure such a different range of events featuring a real diversity of artists is experienced by appreciative audience around the country.
Q: What is your involvement with PRS Foundation and are you a fan of any particular music creators that we have funded?
I’m the main point of contact at Arts Council for PRS Foundation and am in weekly contact with the team, particularly around Momentum and the International Showcase Fund, both of which benefit from Arts Council investment. We also have a funding relationship through the New Music Biennial and share much common interest in many other areas of work, often signposting potential funding applicants towards each other.
There are so many brilliant creators that have been supported by PRS Foundation but some personal favourites recently have included Floating Points, Eska, Lil Simz and Swindle. A group that I recently discovered through the International Showcase Fund is Babeheaven who I am hoping to see big things from in the future, especially seeing as they come from the same part of West London as me!
Q: What advice would you give to artists starting out right now and hoping to make a career out of music?
Make the most of all the opportunities that are out there. There are so many places to go for support when you’re starting out, all the way from Music Education Hubs up and down the country through to more specialist development organisations like Tomorrow’s Warriors, Midi Music, Generator, Serious, I Luv Live, Higher Rhythm, Brighter Sound, Baby People, Continental Drifts, NTS Live, Punch Records, The Warren, Liverpool Soundcity, Small Green Shoots, Roundhouse and many more who may be able to give you some level of help or at least point you in the right direction. Most of the organisations I’ve mentioned receive some level of funding from Arts Council.
Q: What’s the weirdest or most unique experience that your work has led you to?
In my time working at the Arts Council I’ve seen a lot from a rave in a lift to a whole concert played just on cardboard boxes and to be honest, not much surprises me. It might sound a bit odd but the most unique experience is working for an organisation that is able to support talent across all levels from first access to music making through to some of the most elite artists in the country. Over the time I’ve been working at Arts Council the music industry has gone through some seismic changes but it feels that pathways for musicians are now beginning to become a bit clearer. It’s great that Arts Council funding is playing a role in that process, with support available at all career stages.
I’m particularly excited that Arts Council has recently been able to allocate an additional £1 million to PRS Foundation to continue delivering the Momentum Music Fund for another two years, sending a clear indication of our commitment to ensuring support reaches a diversity of artists and audiences.
Q: Please list 5-10 songs/artists that you are currently listening to, including some top picks for the future!
Some current personal favourites who have benefited from ACE support:
Supported through ACE funded organisation Midi Music and representing UK internationally at Womex later this year.
Funded through Grants for the arts for her first support tour (with Little Dragon) and now just about to embark on a massive international headline tour.
New album from prolific musician who received early support from ACE supported organisations Serious and Tomorrow’s Warriors.
The first female Kora virtuoso to come from a prestigious West African Griot family as well as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer from the Gambia and the UK. Supported by Yaram Arts and performing
Wednesday 16 November at Richmix as part of the Serious’ London Jazz Festival.
Recent Momentum artists
Recent ISF support
Some support from Continental Drifts
One of the first year alumni of Brownswood’s Future Bubblers programme.
Lots of support from Tomorrow’s Warriors and Jazz Re:freshed
Some support from Continental Drifts
All female Jazz band made up of Tomorrow’s Warriors alumni
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Listen to some of Huey’s tips>