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Aspiring musicians get chance to perform live

Musicians across Strabane are being encouraged to sign up to a unique opportunity to appear live at a local theatre, receive a share of the takings from the night and secure an EP of their set.

The Balor Arts Centre’s monthly original live music night The Ghostlight Sessions recently received a significant shot in the arm following a funding boost from The Arts Council.

The Ghostlight Sessions was launched in October 2017 headlined by Donegal band In Their Thousands and has since become a regular fixture of the North West live music scene.

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Held on the first Wednesday of each month in the Ballybofey venue, each night features four acts each playing a 30 minute original set. Neither the venue nor the booker – Dean Maywood – take any money from the night with the door revenue split equally between the four acts.

 To date notable names such as Ultan Conlan, Sam Wickens and Cherym – recent winners of the NI Music Prize – have appeared along with a host of other exciting, emerging talent.        

It’s a labour of love for booker Dean Maywood, himself a singer-songwriter of some repute – he released his eponymous EP last May to considerable acclaim, earning an invite to appear at AmericanaFest as part of AMA UK this coming January.

Dean said, “There is a crazy amount of musical talent out there just dying to be heard.

“Some of my favourite acts have been hidden under the radar, gems that don’t have a chart or radio presence but have been really, really excellent.

“What we do in The Ghostlight is provide them with a great room, a listening, appreciative audience and hopefully a decent wad of cash at the end of the night to make it worth their while. I know from experience how hard it can be to get your name out there and draw any kind of a crowd or make any kind of money playing original music. We’ve tried to design the kind of night from the artists point of view and make things as good as possible for them.

“So far it’s worked really well – it’s not just artists from the locality – I’ve booked bands from as far away as Galway, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan and Dublin.”

The name The Ghostlight Sessions comes from a story told by John Prine guitarist Jason Wilber at a solo Balor gig a couple of years ago. As Jason told it, the vibes and energy of theatres and the memories they contain make them a natural environment for ghosts and spirits. A tradition emerged in US theatres among technicians that when closing up, one light would be left on to keep the ghosts happy. And so The Ghostlight Sessions was born.

 Funding secured from The Arts Council for 2020 will allow The Balor to furnish each artist appearing at The Ghostlight Sessions with a mixed and mastered Live At The Ghostlight Sessions EP of their set.
 According to Balor venue manager Conor Malone it is a potentially game-changing development.

“We all know the expense of recording. It’s a huge thing for an emerging artist to be given a live EP which they’ll own and can use for promotional purposes to send to radio stations for airplay, other venues and promoters for bookings, sell on digital platforms like iTunes and Bandcamp or use as the master copy to press a run of physical CDs for sale at future gigs.

“The hope is that the additional carrot of the live EP will attract bigger names which will attract bigger crowds which will mean more money taken in at the door and more money paid to the artists themselves. It’ll be one big virtuous circle.”

• The Ghostlight Sessions returns in February and the February and March line-ups have just been announced.   February sees Derry folk/rock four piece Seeds Of The Oak Tree, Donegal duo Without Willow and singer-songwriters Barry Jay Hughes from Monaghan and Donegal’s Danny Martin on the bill.  In March Leitrim band Freespeakingmonkey are joined by Northern Irish hard rock three piece Fast Thursday and Donegal bands Happy out and Stolen Relic.
 Bands or solo artists interested in acquiring a slot at a future Ghostlight Sessions should send a press kit to Dean at deanmaywood@hotmail.com.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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