Glen Rowe: NEKO Trust
Opposite: Glen Rowe proudly announces the NEKO Trust.
Stepping away from his position as Touring Director for Muse, Glen Rowe is setting out on a new mission. In light of the dramatic number of small venues disappearing from cities across the UK, Rowe has created the NEKO Trust. The goal; to open 5 new venues up and down the UK for upcoming artists, while creating a central community for the industry to share resources and knowledge to develop the next generations festival headliners and crew.
A familiar face in TPi, Glen Rowe is perhaps best known for his 18-year involvement with UK stadium-fillers Muse. However, throughout his career he has been passionate about giving a helping hand to upcoming artists and crewmembers finding their feet in the live events industry. As Managing Director of Backstage Academy and a Governor at BRIT School, he has already worked with a selection of youngsters looking to break into live events. Under the banner of CATO Trust, set up in 2005, Rowe has been looking at ways to give something back from the lucky few that already work in this world. But now, “it’s time for something bigger!” stated Rowe as he proudly introduced the NEKO Trust.
This year at the TPi Daytime event, Rowe sat on a panel that included Adlib’s Andy Dockerty, Talks On Tour’s Estelle Wilkinson, UK Music’s Oliver Morris and Clock Your Skills’ Denise Stanley. The subject was education and the development of fresh talent. “It was at TPi Daytime that the NEKO Trust was really born,” stated Rowe. “It was during that panel and the subsequent conversations that night that it clicked. We talk about the ‘live events industry’ but there really is no collective space where we can all help to ensure that the grassroots of this world is still a vibrant place. I’m talking about the 300 capacity venues where bands and crewmembers cut their teeth!” Having already had the idea of opening new venues in the UK, Rowe is now on a “call to arms” mission to get each sectors of the industry to come together and share their resources.
The aim of the NEKO Trust is a relatively simple one. Open 5 new venues in the UK (London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh). Each venue will be run by students of the events industry, which are located in the area. Effectively, this gives bands a way to do a 5-date tour of the UK as well as giving students on the ground experience and perhaps even be taken on by one of the bands passing through. “Each venue with its fully stocked equipment and crew also means that band’s overheads will be significantly reduced. All they really need to do, is get themselves to each venue,” stated Rowe.
Simple in conception, complex in delivery. “There is a hell of a lot of work to do!” laughed Rowe fully excepting the long road ahead for him and the NEKO Trust. But the charity organisation has already made notable headway with the venue in London already being sorted, with construction taking place. “I’m afraid the location has to remain secret for the time being,” winked Rowe. “But what I can say is that it’s in an
amazing location, and it’s going to look and sound great!”
But Rowe can only do so much on his own. “At the moment I’m really just out spreading the word,” he explained. “My time with Muse has come to an end and I’m visiting everyone from rental houses to universities and colleges to explain how people can get involved. Whether that is a donation or even providing technical support once the venues are up and running, there will be plenty of ways people can be part of NEKO Trust.” But there is a grander goal for the trust - to become a central space where the industry can meet and work together to inject life into the grassroots, away from politics and competition. “We all want to see the events industry progress, but I think it’s going to take the collective weight of the industry to make it happen,” stated Rowe.
You don’t have to look very far to understand Rowe’s concern. Earlier this year the UK’s first live music census discovered concerning information, including that a third of Britain’s small venues outside of London are fighting to survive in the face of high business rates and noise restrictions. “If you lose the small venues, you will lose the breeding ground for those headliners of the future,” said Rowe. “I always use Reading and Leeds festivals as an example. The headliners of the last few years are getting less varied and we need to start finding the acts who will start taking their place.”
As well as scoping out various plots of land for the next 4 venues, Rowe is also starting to organise various incentives to spread the word of NEKO. “The first is a bus tour,” he explained. “My plan is to bring several industry veterans out on the road to inspire students to seriously consider the life in live music.” Not only that but next year The NEKO Trust will put on a student run festival at the House of Vans in London called HULLAbALOO. “Again, giving the touring crew of the future a chance to showcase what they are capable of,” he stated.
As we eagerly wait to hear where the next venues will be and the first bands that will grace its stages, Rowe askes for one thing, “keep in contact”. He concluded: “At the end of the day, some of the bands that will come through the door are likely to be your clients of the future, and the crews in the venues will be your the employees.”
In the meantime, more information can be found at https://www.nekotrust.org/ TPi