SINCE opening last year the Cornerhouse Cafe in Berwick’s Castle Street has become a cosy haven for people wanting to shelter from the not too plesant weather but with two popular local performers at the helm in the shape of Hamish and Lizzie Bell it was only a matter of time before it echoed with the sound of music.
And that’s exactly what it has been doing of late, with its regular Friday night Half Hour gigs attracting a loyal following who gathered in front of an inviting fire to listen to the likes of Ordinary Son’s Ian Thompson and Lindsay Walker give small but perfectly formed intimate sets.
Not content with being restricted to the confines of their own cafe, Hamish and Lizzie have now established their own promotions atm, the aptly titled Cornerhouse Promotions, and have a number of performances in the diary for venues across Berwick.
Being one of the main men behind last year’s hugely successful Frontier Festival, Hamish is a man with a sharp knowledge of not just the local music scene but of talented artists who ply their trade further afield and his ear for talent lends itself well to his latest venture.
“I was really encouraged by the success of Frontier Fest and the feedback we had from it,” Hamish told ‘The Guide’ when we met up with him last week.
“My feeling is that if you live in a place you’ve kind of got a duty to make it a bit better. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Everyone knows that Lizzie and I are really into our music and the cafe has a slightly bohemian atmosphere that is ideal for small gigs.
“Once we got the Friday night half hour gigs going and we were getting a good crowd in and a good response we decided to branch out.”
Cornerhouse Promotion’s first show away from the cafe sees Newcastle based foursome Bridie Jackson & The Arbour, who were one of the star acts of October’s Frontier Fest, perform at The Watchtower in Tweedmouth on Saturday, February 2.
Since launching their debut at the start of last year the band have played festivals and headline shows across the UK and their tracks have been featured on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, BBC 6 Music and Folk Radio UK.
They signed with Manchester label Debt Records in November and are now gearing up for the release of their double A-side single ‘Scarecrow/All You Love Is All You Are’, with the Now Then Magazine describing “one of the most perfectly constructed and heartbreakingly beautiful ballads” they’d heard in a long time.
The single will receive its official launch at Newcastle’s Cluny 2 on Friday, February 8, meaning the Watchtower audience will get to hear it performed live six day’s before Bridie & The Arbour ‘s hometown fanbase.
Another radio favourite will also head north for a gig thanks to Cornerhouse Promtions. Ellen & The Escapades will journey up to Berwick from their native Leeds on March 8 to perform at St Aidan’s Hall.
Playing the venue which holds close to 200 should be no problem for the band after being chosen by BBC Introducing to play the Reading/Leeds Festival in 2009.
“The appetite is definitely there for an all singing all dancing hum dinger of a gig,” Hamish continued.
“We’ve found bands who are of a level where they’re getting airplay on the likes of Radio 2 and 6 Music and the great thing is that they’re really keen to stop off here.
“Berwick has got itself this reputation as a great tourist down so we’re keen to get lots of different people.
“If a band have a gig in Newcastle on a Friday and then one in Glasgow or Edinburgh two nights later or vice versa, Berwick is the perfect calling point in between.
“Bridie has just sold out a gig at The Sage and was absolutely phenomenal at Frontier Fest. Her band used belleplates which chimed out and put people in a dream like state.
“That kind of sound is going to be ideal for the Watchtower as it’s got amazing acoustics.
“People at the Bridie gig for Frontier Fest were saying it was the best gig they’d been to in months; they enjoyed her and she enjoyed the crowd.
“Lindsay is the perfect support act for them. She has an evocative, haunting voice that enchanted everyone at one of our Friday Half Hours. You literally could hear a pin drop when she was performing.”
Hamish was first drawn to Ellen & the Escapades after going to one of their gigs at The Cluny in Newcastle, but he said he hoped that soon people wouldn’t need to travel to see such fantastic music talent.
“I approached Ellen and the band after their show and they were really enthusiastic about coming up to Berwick,” he explained.
“That goes to shows just how highly people think of the town.
“It’s been said quite a bit over the past year but it’s such a great time for music in Berwick.
“In terms of what we’re producing and what’s coming into the town it’s building up nicely.”
Tickets for Bridie Jackson and The Arbour are now on sale from the Cornerhouse Cafe with a ticket and hot drink deal available for just £6.