Dear First Timers Fest,
Thank you for existing and for the best Sunday afternoon spent at the Amersham Arms, watching new bands perform live together for the first time.
I (and the GIHE team) have been following your work as a non-profit organisation, encouraging people from all walks of life to start making music for a while now and I think what you do is vital and beautiful – and I hope you feel appreciated!
For those who don’t know, First Timers are a London based initiative who run workshops and festivals that aim to make music accessible to all. They focus on creating fun, low pressure environments for people to learn instruments, form their own band and aim to build a community of like-minded people who think access to music shouldn’t be blocked by financial or social barriers.
I have seen and felt the joy of the First Timers community first hand, having attended their Bass Workshop with Jodi earlier this year and their Festival earlier this month. Turning up alone to these events can feet a bit daunting, but from the moment I walked into an event, the team of volunteers were warm, approachable and always willing to chat. It’s a human-centered initiative designed to make you feel comfortable, and it’s always a pleasure to be in the room with other people who are seeking a connection through music.
Between sets at the festival, I spoke to volunteers and organisers about how much I was enjoying the day. They took the time to stand and talk with me, which was no small feat considering that logistically, organising stage times and supporting 15 new bands must have meant they had a truly chaotic day. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay for the full festival!
It was inspiring to watch new bands like Wormdriver, Poorly Trained Radicals, Pig City, Egg Doggs and Achers share their music with a crowd for the first time. Considering it was a festival for beginners, there were so few “mistakes” in the performances, and if any person on stage looked like they were unsure, the crowd immediately applauded or cheered them on to dissolve the uncertainty. It’s this shared supportive attitude that makes First Timers Fest such a pleasure to witness. It’s an attitude that often gets lost in the pretensions of wider, more “serious” music spheres. It’s easy to forget that everyone has to start somewhere and ultimately – so what if you fuck it up? That’s half the fun anyway, and that’s what First Timers are here for.
I grew up as a working class girl in Essex and despite secretly wanting to, I never learned how to play an instrument. I was one of four kids, incredibly shy and had no idea where to start. My brother taught himself how to play guitar and synths via Youtube videos, but I couldn’t grasp any of it through a screen. The one bass lesson I had with Jodi this year made me feel like I might actually be able to get somewhere with an instrument, if I just make the time to practice it more often. If First Timers had been around when I was a teenager, I think they would have helped me get to where I am today a little bit quicker. I’m grateful to have found them now as an adult, and I really hope others will read this and reach out and join the First Timers community too.
Keep up the good work folks and I’ll see you again soon.
Love & solidarity,