During the year or so of the Hobo Workshop 74 -75, I was also a full time student at Henley FE College on a Social
Studies Course. I was involved with the Student Union and the college magazine - Flex. I was hoping to be able get Hobo printed through the Student Union but that didn't work out somehow - otherwise it may have continued. However I had to do a social work placement and as we had started the Hobo Workshop with a social element - the detached youth work with CCVS - I was able to nominate that as my placement! I had to do periodic reports. This one gives a synopsis of the Hobo work -
HOBO - Brief Histroy - 1974
Hobo began as a magazine in June 1973. It grew out of the need for a central grapevine to promote, in this culturally dormant city, anyhting that was happening in the area of music / arts and community ventures; to be an outlet for the creative talents of who ever took the trouble to contribute articles, poems, graphics etc. - and possibly inspire a bit of life into the city. The magazine was voluntarily staffed by myself and frineds and, although open to anyone, was youth orientated. It was financed largely by adverts and voluntary contributions but lack of substantial finance to keep up with rising print and paper costs, clamped a straightjacket on the magazine's potential. Also the quest for a relaible community based printer, that was less expensive than the commercial firms, was an equal burden. Many of the original ideas and intentions were kicked in the face by the cold facts of reality.
During this time we wanted to (having been involved with the Coventry Arts Umbrella) fill in the gaps caused by its abscence through it's lack of premises. We therefore wanted to start a music and arts workshop where people could come along and do whatever their particular 'thing' is. Somewhere where young people could do something contructive. However premises could not be found, that wouldn't involve paying a lot for the use of. Even somewhere for one evening a week only would have done. Beer bar rooms were reluctant to hire out their rooms from past experiences.
In June 1974, through the Umbrella contacts, we met Bob Rhodes, a newly appointed Detached Youth Workser fro the Coventry Voluntary Service Council, who wanted to be put in contact with young peole who may have problems with drugs or alacahol abuse, unemployment, homelessness etc. He was able to help facilitated use in regard to a venue to hold the Hobo Workshop and we asisted him in providing a base to operate an informal youth advisory service where people could get help with problems discretely and informally. This had been also been one of the aims of one of the founding editors of Hobo..
Thus we began to run the Hobo Workshop every Monday evening, in the Holyhead Youth Centre theatre. This served us well for a while. There we had use of the theatre and several small rooms. and held concerts with locla bands (rock, folk, blues, Jazz rock) and local folk or acoustic players, songwriters, poets etc. We also held a number of jam sessions ( a few unsuccessful ones too!). We tried against overwhelming oddities, to break down the 'them and us'' between audience and performers, and make people aware that, although we run the basic programme, they are welcome to participate or if they don't like what happens, to suggest things they would like to see happen. We wanted them to feel like they had a stake in it - that it was their place. Several acoustic workshops were held in the smaller rooms (where refreshments were served) and people could jam, swop songs, play to each other. The more competent musicians passed on tips to novices. Quite a few bands got together as a result of the jam sessions. It was somewhere to meet and try out musicians. Some of the musicians, notably Neol Davies, ventured downstairs and jammed with the West Indian musicians in the cellar youth club. Meanwhile Bob Rhodes were able to operate informally with their youth advisory service as well as building up a group of volunteers to train and assist with a projected Drop in House for Young People. I was one of the volunteers.
At first the venue was well attended, but the Youth Centre was too off the beaten track to consistently attract the youth that flocked into the city centre pubs. The Holyhead lacked a bar and many in the audience would disappear
half way through to the pub, returning later or bringing back bottles. When the Golden Cross appointed a new and enterprising landlord, the Hobo Workshop moved there. We had use of the upstairs room and a programme of music events bagan at the Golden Cross. The Cross was already popular among students from the Lanch Plytech and musicians and this cut the cost of advertising. However we wer more restricted interms of rooms.
There was no entrance charge as a) that would probably have reduced the number of people coming along. B) it meant we would have to put on 'a good show' to give people their money's worth, which would dampen any attempts to promote the creative element and get people involved or join in the jam sessions which might not always work out. C) it would contribute to the 'them and us' concept which we wer trying to break down. Instead we passed the hat around and encourage people to make voluntary donations to cover ours and the band's basic expenses. Usually this worked well with those unable to pay still able to come along and those more wealthy contribute more. It usually worked out the same as if we had a fixed charge for everyone but with a larger audience. however there was some heated disagreement between members of the organising team on this policy, but it ws more conducice to our aims.
POSSIBLE FUTURE ACTION
We are trying to expand the range of music and encourage people to attend and contribute ideas. Some of us are trying to form a Street-theatre group with some students from the Lanch Polytech. We also aim to try and organise something for the workshop in ocnjunction with the Lanch Arts Festival in February. It is also possible, time and money permitting , that we produce another issue of Hobo magazine for Christmas or January. Bob is trying to organise a Youth Drop in House and we want to put on a Hobo - Coventry Arts Festival., embracing all kinds of arts and people who are doing things in the city. If this materialises, it probably will be later in 75 when the weather improves. Amen!!
Vallhalla was a band from near Birmingham who John Bo suggested for the Hobo Workshop - here is their letter and card.
MENTIONED IN BOOKS
The Holyhead Youth Centre in the mid 70's has been mentioned in two books that I know of -
- In the work of Rock Sociologist Simon Frith who was at the Lanch Poly Technic in Coventry for a while (80's I think). I can't remember which of his books but it was only a pargraph. If I find it, I'll put on here. His Books include The Sociology of Rock and Sound Effects
- Also more recently in Coventry's own retro music expert Pete Chambers's book The 2-Tone Trail (The definitive guide to Two Tone Coventry) which has a forward by Neol Davies. The book is in the side bar under books. In this guide to all things Two Tone - the Holyhead Youth Club (Lower Holyhead Rd) is mentioned. "Just a basement in the mid 70's, but a defining moment in 2-Tone history. It was here that blues influenced reggae was mixed by the likes of Neol Davies, Ray King, Lynval Golding and Silverton. "it was here where I first met Jerry Dammers". The Hobo Workshop was in the ground floor theatre. Neol Davies had gone downstairs and jammed with some of the guys as early as autumn 1974. The hope was that the guys from the basement would play upstairs at the Workshop. Already by the time the Workshop moved to the Golden Cross - Neol had a good working relationship with the guys (which included Charley and Desmond and Silverton, and some of them came to the Golden Cross although they didn't play for us. There would be a good four years worth of development before Two Tone would emerge on the world stage. Two years later (Neol was playing in Hardtop 22 - an early incarnation of the Two Tone bands).Selecter to be Charley Anderson, was a Voluntary Youth Worker with Coventry City Council at the Holyhead. After the Hobo Workshop finished, the basement of the youth centre became the base of further developments leading to the Two Tone phenomenon. Pete Chambers reveals that Jerry, Lynval, Horace and Tim Strickland reheased there. Again according to Chambers, the Holyhead later recieved a rennovation grant from the Cadbury's trust and Amos Anderson created a youth based recording studio there - later the Glasshouse. It's clear the Holyhead Youth Centre story didn't end after Hobo finished in the autumn of 1975. After I moved to Teesside in 1980, I used to get reports of the developments at the Holyhead from some of the people involved.