Local Portrait: Andrew Bunsell, Dalston Music Festival

Written by: Claire Holly Davies

In our ‘Local Portraits’ series we get to know the Inner North London personalities doing amazing things in our corner of London.

Andrew Bunsell immediately strikes us as earnest. A genuine enthusiasm to create something worthwhile and support his local community emanates from his pores. Despite being less than two weeks away from this year’s Dalston Music Festival, he appears almost unnervingly calm. The chaotic nature of organising a multilayered public event is only hinted at when the odd member of his team bursts into the room, each one a ball of fervent energy and urgency but still bright-eyed and smiling. Starting out as a musician himself, Andrew set up his own studio eight years ago in Old Street before moving to Gillette Square (N16) in 2013. Andrew took over an empty shell of a space and turned it into what is now Dalston Studios, featuring five floating rooms used as recording, rehearsal and production studios.

Arriving in the area as a new business Andrew encountered suspicion. The difficult economic climate had fostered a lack of cooperation and a disjointed community. Further tensions were rising with the influx of new people and businesses to the area, Dalston Studios being one of them. In an effort to get to know his neighbours, Andrew began to introduce himself to those working in and around Gillette Square. Recognising that a shared cause could go some way to bring the community together, whilst helping to stimulate local culture and commerce, Andrew had the idea of curating a festival.

We started meeting with the local community and realised there was conflict. Dalston Music Festival was about getting businesses talking and building bridges

Andrew set out on his mission to build relationships with the local councils and organisations, finding some businesses slightly reticent before realising his good intentions.

It was about speaking with people and letting them see I’m genuine. Initially, people were like ‘well, who are you?’

After some early communication problems, Andrew built healthy relationships with the local community creating a common goal for the venues, businesses and inhabitants to all work towards together across the central hubs of the area: Bradbury Street, Gillett Square and Ridley Road Market. Parts of the neighbourhood that were almost at war with one another now see each other as friends instead of competitors.

Although not entirely dependent on funding (much of the festival is financed through money generated by Dalston Studios), it’s with the help of the Vortex Foundation, Arts Council England and Hackney Council that the Dalston Music Festival manages to progress whilst managing to hold onto a certain amount of freedom. Financing such a big endeavour is always a worry. As an increasing number of venues fall victim to the plague of closure, partly due to rising rents and the inability to self-sustain, the future looks bleak for British independent music culture. Andrew explains that he has attended many meetings about nightlife economies and seen firsthand the worry and stress experienced by venue owners and workers.

It’s partly because of these problems within the industry that Andrew insists upon paying each musician who performs at the festival. It’s a worryingly unusual attitude, the industry is rife with ‘pay to play’ or play for free events. As musicians struggle to be heard above a sea of other artists in our internet age and fail to generate enough revenue to make music their career, business models such as the Dalston Music Festival offer some relief.

andrew bunsall, festival producer dalston music festival, dalston music studios, North Four magazine
What’s really going on underground is not reflected in mainstream music and media

Many of the musicians performing at the festival are Dalston-based and have been helping the music scene thrive for tens of years. Newton Dunbar, for example, has been particularly supportive. Newton set up the Four Aces Club, a legendary local hub of music which had the likes of Bob Marley and The Prodigy gracing its stages before its closure in 1997. The Four Aces was central to infusing some of the Caribbean vibes into the British music scene and was an integral place for the development of London music and culture.

The music scene in Dalston has traditionally been very jazz-centric with Caribbean and electronic influences. Andrew comments: “you’ll find real mixtures, from synthesisers to Caribbean rhythms to jazz melodies. As music evolves and the diverse communities inform each others’ styles, music making is becoming more flexible, particularly with recording equipment more accessible.”

It means you can be at home or in a small home studio and you can afford to make beautiful mistakes. That wasn’t an option before because recording studios were so expensive

The festival straddles two postcodes, it’s essentially where North meets East with the more highbrow Stoke Newington on one side and the grittier Dalston on the other. The festival is largely Dalston focused however – although both sides of the coin are well known for their music and artistic scenes. The neighbourhood around Gillette Square has suffered from rising rents and triple dip recessions. As property developers and corporations start to take over, we discuss the strength of the local community in keeping the area vibrant.

Andrew describes the ecosystem in Dalston as balancing on a knife-edge and imagines there’ll be uproar if things aren’t done in the correct way. He wants to keep the conversation flowing between the three different parties concerned with neighbourhood development: the property developers, the council and the community. Gillette Square itself is an example of successful development, where all three parties were consulted and lines of communication fostered.

It’s a brilliant model. If that’s something that could be replicated throughout London or the country, that would be very beneficial. Maybe it takes longer to make decisions because there are more voices to be heard, but you get something very positive at the end of it.

We asked Andrew how local businesses can help Dalston Music Festival and get more involved with the event. He believes they already are doing a great deal, with a number of venues, food traders and record stores all involved with the festival. Over the next couple of years, Andrew wants to invite more local artists to join in by using interesting curators who will pick great local talent. Culturing creativity and supporting the local music and cultural scene is more important to him than expansion for the sake of expansion. He has no real desire to turn the event into a monolith, to him musical evolution and nurturing a strong community takes precedence over growing a mainstream festival.

The ethos of the festival is getting local people, communities and different cultures together. It’s about celebrating diversity in music and culture and having a great experience with brilliant music.

Photographs: Michael Barry

North Four, North London magazine, mammory tapes, club night, cheese music, vfd, dalston, stoke newington

Bring Your Bedroom to the Club at VFD

If only there was a club night that could tap into that special pre night out time. Or at least play your taste in music, sometimes on repeat. Imagine! Lucky for you musical homebirds, bi-monthly club night Mammory Tapes intent to do just that at VFD in Stokey. All night long you can expect an all girl playlist and the best of your bedroom beats on the dance floor. So get ready to finally showcase your once unseen pyjama/half ready outfit based choreography.

North Four, North London magazine, kerb, street food collective, donuts, ice cream, milkshake
Eat & Drink

Kerb’s Guiltiest Pleasures, All Weekend

“He said, I know It’s only arctic roll but I like it like it yes I dooooo” Those are the lyrics right? Well this weekend they certainly are, at Kerb’s Guiltiest Pleasure in Kings Cross featuring an arctic roll of pure indulgence. Over Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd July, the street food collective from your wildest dreams are hosting the most indulgent hits from all their pop ups at Granary Square.

North Four, North London magazine, hivemind, theatre collective, hen and chickens theatre bar, improv show

Theatre of Choice: Stick and Twisted by Hivemind

Hivemind are coming to the Hen and Chickens Theatre this Summer with a cracker of an innovative show. Three directors try to win over the audience with improvised stories acted out by the rest of the Hivemind cast on the spur of the moment. As each scene ends you decide whether to “stick” and see where the story goes or “twist” and let the next director take over. The director who ends up with the least scenes acted out has to pay a ‘terrible forfeit’. Told you it was harsh.

North Four, North London magazine, the lacy nook, stoke newington, balkan fusion, cuisine, bar, restaurant, menu, review, beer garden
Eat & Drink

Hidden Culinary Gem: The Lacy Nook

We have been wondering whether or not to share this secret gem with you for a while now. Having walked past Cazenove Road on many a drunken occasion, we’d spotted The Lacy Nook A Board luring us inwards with a siren’s call of cocktails and beer garden. But unfortunately we’d get the timing all wrong and they’d rarely be open. “Closed at 4am! How ludicrous?” we’d holler, slurring and swaying up the road. Until now. Opening last year, The Lacy Nook is a collaboration between two friends who turned to Kickstarter to help them achieve this culinary dream . Think small and large plates of fusion Balkan BBQ, salads and carpaccio alongside

North Four, North London magazine, NYT, Theatre, new play, playing up, acting course

Playing Up: New NYT Show, Three

This year, Playing Up have commissioned a new play by Sophie Ellerby (HighTide First Commissions Writer and NYT REP Company 2013), Three, which will be staged at the Arcola Theatre from 20th to 22nd July. The urban and domestic drama, directed by NYT Associate Director Anna Niland follows three sisters who fight to keep track of reality as their world is turned upside down.

North Four, North London magazine, amusical, backyard comedy club, comedians, acts, tickets, bethnal green, josie long

Laughable Acts at Backyard Comedy Club

Tonight, on this dull yet sweaty Monday, what you may well need is to show your confectionary based fillings to the ceiling and let it all out with a huge bellowing guffaw about nothing in particular. Let the likes of quick witted Josie Long, surreal twosome Max and Ivan and the downright uproarious Tom Parry help you escape the chocolate lacking reality of 2017.

North Four, North London magazine, staffie, rehoming, dogs, adoption, foster, staffordshire bull terrier, all dogs matter charity

Fur Dates: Lottie is Looking for Love

Registered charity, All Dogs Matter are a dog rehoming centre based in Archway. They use a mixture of foster homes and kennel spaces to house their dogs, who are each looking to be fostered or adopted. Occasionally we look through their profiles of beautiful singletons looking for love and feature one at random. We interviewed one newly single lady in particular called Lottie. A fun spirited character with smooth hair and a huge grin, Lottie was a right laugh.

North Four, North London magazine, jumble trail, vintage clothing, caledonian road, car boot, stalls, bric-a-brac, treasure trove

Get Involved: Cally Road Jumble Trail

Next Sunday it’s the Cally Road Jumble Trail, run by the community. Think a car boot sale but on the street with vintage clothing, accessories, toys, original creations and cakes if you’re lucky. The whole of the trail is set up online over at jumbletrail.com where visitors get a colour coded map to explore and discover all the hidden treasures on offer from your neighbourhood.

North Four, North London magazine, wimbledon, tennis, screenings, lifestyle, list, article, what to do, white socks
Lifestyle List

Top Four ‘What the Deuce!’ Wimbledon Screening Spots

You’ve got your socks pulled up but no Cliff Richard in sight. You’re all white shorted up with nowhere to go. It’s time to find out where your white headbanded self will fit in. Here's our top four Wimbledon screening hang outs to try this Summer.

North Four, North London magazine, yield n16, cheese, wine, newington green, wine, wine tasting
Eat & Drink Events

Midsummer Fizz Masterclass at Yield N16

Until five minutes ago I would’ve believed Pet Nat was a holistic dog food brand / veterinary business in Wood Green. I’m half right actually*, but in the boozios world it’s a fizzy wine. Pétillant Naturel is light and fizzy, usually pretty low on the alcohol scale and rather sweet. Think the opposite of a dry red wine.

North Four, North London magazine, stoke newington, abney park, dogs, dog walking, dog training, north london
Eat & Drink

World Foods Market, Abney Hall

Abney Public Hall is hosting a market of world food delicacies next weekend, having gathered together the creme de la creme of planet Earth’s cuisine. Prepare for a mass fusion of cultures, great food, drink and music just off Stoke Newington Church Street.

North Four, North London magazine, avocado, brunch, eggs, breakfast, gentrification, city

Quiz: How Gentrified Are You?

Otherwise known as the shoredification of London, there are four stages of denial when it comes to dealing with the inevitability of gentrification. Are you a dilapidated ol’ boozer clinging on to the same threads since 1989, or more of a craft beer-swilling/moustache-bearing pop up type propping up the bar at a cookie dough cafe? Let’s find out before your bedroom’s transformed in to a pop up belfie gallery.

North Four, North London magazine, the literary hour, supper club, wind in the willows, kenneth grahame, themed event, dining, food, drink
Eat & Drink Events

Poop poop! Supper Club Banquet at Toad Hall

Poop poop! Get your driving gloves on and tweed jackets ready, for Toady has invited us down to Toad Hall for a banquet on the riverbank. Join The Literary Hour for their all new immersive supper club experience this Summer. It’s the eighth in their series of book themed events with multi-sensory five course meals featuring additional surprises… Ooh ratty!

North Four, North London magazine, open mic night, the mosutache bar, stoke newington, events, comedians, acts, music, singers, actors

Comedians, Rappers, Actors: Open Mic Night in Stokey

Every last Thursday of the month a motley crew of performing acts shuffle off to the skinny little Moustache Bar on Stoke Newington Road for a night of microphone hogging. It’s Open Mic night and the stage isn’t just available to acoustic guitar yielding crooners. The floor is open for all you comedians, rappers, poets, hell even actors are welcome to come tread the boards at Moustache Bar this Thursday 27th July.

North Four, North London magazine, stoke newington, walking tour, history, guided tour, event, to do, streets, shops
Events Lifestyle

Walking Tour of Stokey's Rebel History

Ah Stokey. You chilled out little rebel of North London. The seemingly easy breezy, laissez-faire attitude that appears to exude from every award winning eatery and baby clothes shop of Church Street is all but an organic hessian veil over it’s anarchic and rebellious history. Nonconformists, anti fascists and dissenters built the area as we know it.

North Four, North London magazine, joginders supper club, punjabi cuisine, eating, dining
Eat & Drink

Eating North London: Punjabi Supperclub Recipe

Trying our luck, we decided to ask the wonderful Raina and Saira of Joginder Supper Club to give us some unseen insight in to their centuries old Punjabi recipes. Amazingly they agreed to shed some light on one of their most tasty dishes: the Bhoolghobi Tamatar (cauliflower with tomato and potato). Over to the experts...