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With your help, we can bring the joy of live music to thousands more people across the UK

BBC Radio Kent interview with Live Music Now CEO Janet Fischer

Live Music Now’s CEO, Janet Fischer, had a lively interview with BBC Radio Kent presenter Dominic King about our upcoming songwriting project in her Medway hometown inspired by local memories. Have a listen here.

Transcript below:

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
A new songwriting project for the over 55’s is being launched in Chatham. The creative workshops run by Live Music Now are bringing together singer songwriters, Zoe Wren and Thomas Harvey to create a new piece of music. It’s all inspired by personal stories and memories of the Sun Pier to Star Hill area. Of course, for us at BBC Radio Kent, we know Sun Pier so well. It was our home for many years. Janet Fischer is the CEO of Live Music Now, who lives in Chatham and is with us on this Valentine’s evening. Thank you for being my on-air radio date.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Thank you for having me Dominic, what a pleasure to spend Valentine’s with you.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
And you too, really good to have you here. And this sounds like such a good project, really bringing people together and just a way of being able to communicate, story tell and have fun.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Yes, absolutely. At Live Music Now we think it’s really important that we embrace creativity throughout our entire life. And a strand of work we’ve been doing has been about connecting local communities with their heritage sites. There’s so much about what we see in our built environment, those buildings we walk past every day or the places that you know that person asked us out on our very first Valentine’s day. We’ve got a lot of memories there. And alongside that we have a real soundtrack of music that accompanies our lives. And part of this project is about pulling those pieces together to create a great new piece of work.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
You’re so right though, about how often we have these places and spaces in our lives, and we kind of just get almost so used to them being there, but when you really dig into it and you can say, “Oh, I met my friend just over there and over there of course was where that big event happened in our lives as a family, because we all went there together.” There are so many strands, I say, strand, that’s the name of a place in the Medway Towns! There’s so many different areas that can connect with us and are you looking for people to sort of use that then in a big way to say “Look, pull some of those ideas out with us.”

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Yeah. We’re looking for people to come and join us and to give it a go really, it’s really important that people know there’s no musical experience required. We’re not asking for people who are already songwriters, but for people who have a memory, maybe it was shopping in a Featherstone’s boutique 50 years ago, maybe it was standing outside the Nags Head at three o’clock in the morning having a great conversation with an old mate. These things really are part of the rich tapestry of who we are. And so we’re looking for people to bring those to us over a series of workshops, work with Zoe and Tom to pull together into a new piece.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
When you think about Chatham, the stories that must come from the dockyard area alone, that would’ve infiltrated those areas around Sun Pier and Star Hill and people living nearby.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Yes, colourful, I think is perhaps the term we might want to use. But I think it’s also important to recognize, and it’s been a piece of work from the wider High Street Heritage Action Zone with Chatham Intra, about understanding some of those stories that maybe have been less told. There’s been a huge LGBTQ community in Chatham Intra. In fact, the area was a real refuge for them. The synagogue is right across the street from the main pub where the LGBTQ community used to congregate. And so there’s actually been a whole history of Jewish people and LGBTQ communities and other communities that have lived within the Intra that whose stories maybe haven’t been celebrated or talked about so much.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
Now that area is a really interesting one, isn’t it? The Intra part, just explain that to us and where that forms.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
The Intra part is in essence, the bit between Rochester high street and Chatham high street, and it would’ve been the area where a lot of the dock workers would’ve lived, there were a lot of warehouses and factories there. We obviously have Sun Pier and also Star Pier within that. And I think it’s really important to understand that the River Medway, the Medway estuary is a really important part of that.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
What I love about the idea of the River Medway is that, you’ve got that stretch where stories have been told for generations and it almost weaves its way through, doesn’t it? From you imagining people traveling, whether it be on a boat or just that sense of a ship coming through. The stories that come with that, the stop off points, the very fact that someone would’ve come to our area and their whole life would’ve changed as a result of stepping off.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
I think also for me, it’s about ‘what is the music in that space’? Think of the sea shanties that would’ve come in the 1700’s, the Naval war songs that would’ve come down all the way through to things like the Medway sound, which was really born in Chatham Intra. I like to think of this as a giant musical tapestry as well. People connecting with each other through music, maybe they didn’t even speak the same language, but they were able to connect from some common ground through the music that they sang enjoyed and shared.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
The Intra community arts venue, is where it’s all taking place. This is in high street, Rochester.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Yes, it is. It’s right in the middle of that strip, there will be workshops on the 20th of February and then the following three Thursdays. And then finally on the 21st of March, we’re so grateful to Intra arts, which is a phenomenal local arts organization who have shared their venue with us. That’s also home to the Medway Print Studios.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
And when you think about how people can come together. At this stage, do not know what’s going to come out in people’s mouths. I think that’s, what’s fascinating about when you bring people together to create something new.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
That’s absolutely right. What we’re hoping for is something much greater than the sum of its parts. And the interesting thing is that, Zoe is a folk singer and Tom works in alt pop and they’re both… Tom is just about to release his next album. Zoe has just released hers, but they’re going to create something with people that might be totally different. And I think that’s such an exciting idea to be able to say, I’ve just come with an idea or have actually just come along to give it a go. And I’m interested in seeing what might happen out of all of this.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
We’ll come back to details of how people get involved in just a moment, but let’s talk a bit about you, Janet, because you’re, you’re based in Medway. You’re based there in Chatham. You now live there, but you’re the CEO of Live Music Now, which is across the country. It’s a nationwide place.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
It is indeed. Live Music Now has been in operation since 1977. We were founded by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. And we have always, well, we spent 44 years bringing music to people who could have the most opportunity to benefit from it, but the least opportunity to access it.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
One of the joys of my life was seeing Yehudi Menuhin play at the Lees Cliff Hall in Folkstone when I was a kid, when he was part of the international violin competition, it was just the most amazing thing to watch.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
How wonderful and how amazing that you can pull out that memory of that first piece of live music, and think now about the people, perhaps older people living in care homes, or someone in a hospital or a hospice or a child with profound and multiple learning difficulties in a special school, think about the richness that music can bring in that space and the real sense of agency they can have through communicating with other people using music.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
Well, it’s a global language, isn’t it? You don’t have to speak the same language to appreciate music. You can listen to a piece of music and get absolutely touched by it.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Absolutely. We did an amazing project up in Merseyside and actually we had translators within us because most of the participants had English as an additional language. And actually after the second session, the translators took a walk out the door because they were no longer needed. The musicians and the participants just could speak to one another so simply just using music.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
For you living in Chatham, is this a recent move? Have you lived here for a while?

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Well, as you can tell by my accent, I am not a Chatham native. I have been living in Chatham recently and I’ve also lived in Gillingham and Borstal. A real spread of the town for now seven years. It’s a place that’s got under my skin a little bit. I think there’s so many exciting and interesting things going on here. It’s a place that I’ve learned to love and really want to celebrate.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
Now. There’s always a difficulty when a radio presenter on the BBC asks this question, are you Canadian or North American or from the Eastern seaboard?

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
I am Canadian.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
Yay. Thought you were, you can just tell the sound, I think. And Canada, is it something that moving from there to the UK, was that something that music brought you there?

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
Absolutely. I moved when I was 19 years old to study at the Royal Northern College of Music and before that I had toured the world as a fiddle player. For me, it was a real exciting opportunity to step foot in and make my life in a new country. I fell in love with England and I’m delighted that Medway towns are my new home.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
It’s really great having you with us. And I’m talking to you via a Zoom call tonight, and I’m loving the fact your cat thinks this is TV, because your cat occasionally just looking over and going, what’s going on there? What’s on tonight?

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
It’s cat parkour every night at 8:30.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:

I like the idea of that!
INTRA community arts venue is 337-341 High Street, Rochester. These are the dates you need to know. They are:
Monday the 28th of February,
Thursday the 3rd of March,
Thursday the 10th of March,
Thursday the 7th of March and
Monday the 21st of March.

It’s between 10:15 and 11:30 in the morning. www.livemusicnow.org.uk/chatham-intra-songwriting. If you just go to the Live Music Now page, you’ll be able to see all those details. It’s quite easy to click on and find out what is going on. I’ll give that another mention a little later on in case you didn’t grab that right now, but it’s been absolutely brilliant, Janet, having you on the show, we look forward to hearing what happens and we would love for you guys to maybe record some behind the scenes of what happens at those workshops for us on the show. We’d love to play that out as part of our open access here on the Dominic King Show.

Janet Fischer, CEO Live Music Now:
For sure. And thank you so much for having me. We look forward to sharing Chatham’s latest composition with you very,very soon.

Dominic King, BBC Radio Kent:
Yeah. Well hear it here on BBC Radio Kent on Kent arts and culture show, we can’t wait to hear what that sounds like. Stay listening.