Spotlight on Venues: Cobalt Studios CIC (Part 1)
It was four artistic souls that created a community-led venue for artists to offer them affordable workspaces that they could create their new masterpieces in.
Cobalt Studios was founded twenty years ago, and today we had the honour to have a chat with one of the owners, Kate.
Driven by passion, kept alive by dedication and determination, Cobalt hosts fourteen studios, an arts venue and a co-working project space which is currently under construction.
What is currently going on at Cobalt and what exciting events are coming up?
“It is really hard actually to answer that, we are programming about 80% of the live music, so we are really excited about everything!
To divide it up, we have started working in three seasons: autumn, winter/spring and summer. Within these seasons we are following the same pattern every week, on a Monday and a Tuesday we have Change, which is a community-led program.
We make space available for organisations that want to, basically, do something good.
We are actually looking for groups to arrange activities on a Tuesday, as long as it is open for all we are happy to facilitate that.
Wednesdays are ‘learn and do’, it’s our interactive art night. It ranges from life drawing to writing workshops, zine workshops, make your own instruments et cetera.
Thursdays are all about new music, we also sell food with the tickets, a ticket is £8 and as long as it’s bought in advance, our visitors get a home cooked meal with the gig. It is all vegetarian and we have also got vegan options available.
There are some really exciting musicians coming to play for these gigs and genres range from folk to electronic and contemporary.
Friday is also about live performances, they tend to be bigger bands and there will be more dancing, with quite a focus on what is coming
from the jazz scene. We really want to offer local artists a stage and try and pay them as fairly as possible.
And then Saturday night is our club night!”
How does Cobalt generate their income and how do you keep existing?
“When we have bands playing, we have them pay our tech-guy and they will get all of the ticket-money, all of the bar, we are never trying to make money.
We keep existing because of club nights.
It is the kind of sheer dedication and determination, that keeps it going. Ernest is the business that we own as well, and Ernest pays for Cobalt which is basically a community-interest company.
We don’t charge hire for community groups that are using a space. The same goes for SOUP.”
Could you tell us a bit more about SOUP?
“SOUP came from Detroit and is a micro-funding event, there are four speakers that are pitching a project, everyone who comes pays £4 and after having heard all pitches everyone shares a bowl of soup and some bread together.
Then the audience votes which project will receive all of the door money and on an average that is a boost of £200.
We are setting up a creative one as well, mainly for artists who, for example, would like to record an EP.
However, if a blogger would like to publish their blog on paper, that would be possible as well.
Projects can be sent to the Newcastle SOUP Facebook-page.”
What other events would you be interested in hosting at Cobalt?
“I am really interested in women in the music industry.
We hosted Women Are Mint and before that I did a week-long festival called Violets, which was about blooming artists.
It was a whole week of female musicians and I am working on making that happen again.
We have also just received a grand to create a group of female mentees.
There will be money to set up workshops and Q&A events to connect female musicians, or women that would like to be a musician, with each other.”
Cobalt, like many other independent venues, are struggling to get visitors in, what do you think the reason is for this and what do you think would help solve this problem?
“A lot of visitors scan down listings and go “oh yeah, I know them, I know them…” and I think there is a slight fear of trying new stuff.
We are trying to build a culture of trust. I’m really excited about finding unknown names and unheard music and bringing it to Newcastle.
It drives me to bring people to Newcastle for the first time.
I always do research about new artists and I’ve always got my earphones in, listening to new music.
It has become easier as we value hospitality a lot and artists that have played at Cobalt will spread the word for us, which is great.
We are genuinely accessible to all, so we have got a very diverse programme in all sorts of ways and we want the audience to be diverse.
To us it is really important that we make our events affordable.”
Your final message about Cobalt?
“The crowd that we are building are hungry for an alternative space, that’s what we’ll always be.
There will always be an alternative program here, it is quirky, and our audience are people that are looking for a different offer.
There is a lot of genre-blurring, and we are really interested in somebody being on stage that might have equal attention to their outfit and projections behind them as they do.
Cobalt is not just a venue or an artistic workspace, it is sort of an arthouse. Welcome to all.”
For all updates on Cobalt Studios keep an eye on their social media accounts here:
Watch out for Part 2 of this series, we’ll be speaking to some of the fantastic artists that have benefitted from Cobalt and the team behind it…
Cover Photo: Ladies of the Midnight Blue
All photography by Holly Olivia Photography