First Person: Ten Years of Sounds from the Other City

Organiser Mark Carlin reflects on a decade of Salford's Sounds from the Other City festival, which brings together local promoters and fierce DIY principles and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year

Feature by Mark Carlin | 23 Apr 2014
  • Sounds From The Other City

Sounds began as just a simple coming together of really positive energies. Me and my brother, Morry, had been based at Islington Mill for about a year and the combination of really great people that were there at the time and the feeling of opportunity and anything being possible – combined with the myriad of really interesting and unusual spaces in and around the area – made us feel really excited about doing something.

A lot of the ideas are generated at the Mill – it provides the community that you can draw on, not just to come up with ideas but also to make them happen.

I think Sounds is genuinely democratic. There is no one person who makes all the decisions or choices in the programming; rather a large group of people, all representing their individual tastes and opinions. This is also a developing group of people and doesn’t remain the same each year. So while the event provides a cohesive umbrella, the actual things that happen on the day are often really disparate.

The idea of inviting a selection of our favourite promotors to programme a day event in some of the most interesting parts of our favourite part of the city was there from day one. But every year, it's the little tweaks and sometimes ridiculous ideas that change. These have ranged from the sublime, like 2010’s Telephone Showbox, which featured live performances phoned into the only public telephone box on Chapel Street for an audience of one (Dan Deacon did a live set from an airport and Andrew WK gave some heavy party advice before performing a specially written song!), to the totally debauched (last year's Chatroulette disco).

I really loved The Telephone Showbox. It was part of project called Box Office that Morry did with artist Pippa Koszerek in the week running up to the event. I clearly remember the months of effort he put into making it happen, getting close to so many unlikely performers (Fleet Foxes were signed up before flight schedules scuppered it) and then finally getting a ‘line-up’. On the day the audience member for each performance was pulled from a hat and went at the appointed time to the box – a drink, that each performer had requested, was there for the audience.

For me, it really summed up a lot of what's great about the event – on the face of it, it could seem like a massive effort for a very small return, but the actual outcome has stayed with a lot of people for a really long time.

I think the one thing that is really important for any performance or performer is commitment – commitment to the idea or the performance. When that’s lacking it rarely works. Someone like Christeene, for instance, who played at the Mill last year and I tried to book for FutureEverything this year – on the face of it she could be seen as a comedy act but the sheer commitment to the character and the performance is massive, and you really feel that when you come face to face with it in the live arena.

I think the scene is constantly changing. A lot of the people involved in it are really only there because they love what they are into and want to bring it to other people. That takes so much effort and energy that invariably it leads to burnout and people stop doing it. But then there are always younger people with bundles of energy that are ready to take up the baton.

This year we have a lot of new faces – the Video Jam Collective join us, as do Liverpool's Deep Hedonia, Liverpool/Manc duo Chew Disco, local ’zine and promotor Tru Luv, as well as dub reggae collective Dub Smugglers and local club night El Diablo’s Social Club. The longest serving promoters must be a tie-up between Comfortable on a Tightrope and Hey! Manchester – I honestly cant remember who has done more.

I would recommend having no plan whatsoever. That’s the best way to experience Sounds.

Sounds from the Other City, various venues, Salford, 4 May, 3pm-late, £18

Mark Carlin was in interview with Lauren Strain