There is an open meeting next Monday 23rd March to discuss the right strategy for the Vortex. The Vortex has a global reputation, and is a magnet for artists, but is emerging from a tricky period. Sebastian asked Oliver Weindling to explain the background:
Why have you called a meeting?
The Vortex is a not-for-profit venture run mainly for musicians and lovers of this music. The club has had at least one musician on our Board since it moved to Dalston a decade ago. But it hasn't actually had a meeting of musicians for several years where we can discuss together where we are now and where we could be going through ongoing collaboration. It can help keep the club 'on the straight and narrow'. This meeting now follows on from a lot of discussions that I personally have had with musicians over recent months. A meeting, as suggested by some of them, is a logical next step. Musicians can be regarded as a very broad group of 'communities' which overlap. So we have to make sure that they are all kept properly in the loop.
Who do you want to attend?
Mainly it's meant for musicians, but also anyone else interested in the well-being of the club.
There is a community / volunteer ethos to the club. Presumably you would like that to be reinforced and re-affirmed?
For a club which puts on as many gigs a year as it does (up to 400), the Vortex does indeed have a strong community/volunteer approach, which helps keep its costs down. It plays on the passion of so many for the music in general and the Vortex's role in this in particular in London.
Who will be leading the discussion?
The discussion will be led by some of those most actively involved in the day-to-day activity of the club, and thus are able to implement some of the conclusions that might be reached (such as myself who has taken on the role as programmer for now).
Were you in trouble? Why do you think rumours like that went around?
Towards the end of last year, the club was plunged into quite a crisis (though not necessarily the first in its 28 year history!). A combination of various increases in costs associated with lower takings during the World Cup didn't help. There was also a discussion about how the club should be balancing the genres of music and jazz that it was promoting and whether there was a degree of 'staleness'. News in this small community travels fast!
What have you done in response?
The first essential action was a reduction of costs; but there was also a reaffirmation of the role of the Vortex as a club mainly promoting jazz and (re)connecting with its supporters in the jazz community. We managed to staff our office for three months mainly with volunteers, and have managed to improve income, all of which has meant that we have fully caught up with rent and rates arrears and a lot of our other creditors. Meanwhile, the programme remains as active as ever, balancing the different styles of jazz on which the club has built its reputation.
Where would you like to be at the end of this process? Or is it ongoing??
With the changes beginning to put the club back on a more even footing, we need to think how to accelerate this process and certainly give the club more of a cushion from which to build over the long term. We are looking at how we can ensure that all the present range of concerts can be supported as well as how to improve the venue.
Sebastian Scotney facilitated this interview in a personal capacity.
Vortex Jazz Website