With a Live Music Business Award for National Promoter of the Year already in the bag last year for Nottingham's DHP Group, promotions director Anton Lockwood has now also been nominated for Live Promoter (Individual) in the highly respected Music Week Awards taking place at The Brewery in London on April 11. He spoke to Nottingham Confidential about nominations, the city's burgeoning music scene and how Rock City initially brought him to Nottingham.
Together with running Rock City, Rescue Rooms, Stealth, Black Cherry Lounge and The Bodega in the city as well as Thekla in Bristol, Nottingham's DHP Group oversees 1200 gigs and nine festivals a year nationally, working with artists such as Rufus Wainwright, Flaming Lips and Ed Sheeran, whilst also now managing Nottingham band Dog Is Dead. "It was brilliant to win the Live Music Business Award, absolutely amazing," says Anton, "and this one's nice too because Music Week is the whole music industry, not just the live sector, it's a wider scope of people." All these award nominations are now coming! "I suppose it reflects that we've got to a certain level now where we're being really taken seriously and we're making an impact, in London especially, but all over the country."
The Music Exchange record shop in Stoney Street in Nottingham has also been nominated for a Music Week award in the Independent Retailer category. "It's great, because post-Selectadisc there was a bit of 'what are we going to do, it's the end of the music scene in Nottingham!' So it's great to see people come through there, doing really well and it's brilliant to see those guys getting somewhere. And Joey, the manager of The Music Exchange, is a really good friend of mine, I used to manage a band called Punish The Atom and he was the lead singer so I know him very well!" Two music award nominations is also great news for Nottingham. "Things seem to be really coming together for Nottingham at the moment, with that Jake fella doing all right for himself and we manage Dog Is Dead who are doing really well and there's another whole wave of people who are coming through, whether it's Harleighblu, Ady Suleiman, Indiana and many more."
What's caused this recent Nottingham music explosion? "It's just getting momentum, once you get a few things together the council starts taking notice and supporting things, and we try to put Nottingham acts on at Splendour festival, last year Jake Bugg opened the main stage, he was in the courtyard the year before and this year with him headlining we'll also have some more of the latest new people. Then there was the Guardian article and all these things conspire to mean people are taking notice and the artists think, I'm not just stuck in a box, I actually can get somewhere, I can be ambitious, they can see a future and think yeah, it's worth the effort."
Are you from Nottingham? "I'm from South Yorkshire, from Mexborough. I came to University in 1984 and this is absolutely completely true, I had good offers and it was down to Manchester or Nottingham, and I saw Echo and the Bunneymen were playing two nights at Rock City and Rock City was pretty unique as there weren't many proper dedicated music venues where bands would play that weren't municipal concert halls or bingo halls, so I thought yeah, I want to go there. I came to Nottingham and spent fourteen years working for Boots- my background is in IT- and I started putting on gigs as a hobby, basically. And then eventually Boots had a restructuring, I got made redundant and at about the same time I got offered to come and do what became Rescue Rooms, so I started from there and have been working for DHP for just over ten years."
With a recently opened London office, their successful Dollop dance music brand and their Alt-Tickets ticketing operation ticking over nicely along with everything else, are there any more future plans in store for DHP Group? "Will we do more festivals, maybe, will we look at more outdoor events, definitely, we really want to keep growing and getting bigger and better tours and also growing the dance music as we have a really strong brand in Dollop. We're also expanding the venues, fingers crossed, we'll have more news soon on that in the next few weeks. Dog Is Dead is doing very well so band management is something else we'll be looking for, if we see the right thing, we'll support that. We like to think we're big enough to deliver but small enough to be personal and a bit more rock n roll and with everything that's now happening with the music scene in Nottingham, we need to work together and we're trying to take our message around the country."
The Music Week Awards 2013 take place at The Brewery in London on April 11. A full list of all the awards finalists can be found on the Music Week website here