First Timers are a London-based DIY community of musicians and activists who believe that having access to creating & playing music should not be a privilege, it should be a joyful and social experience that empowers everyone. They encourage people from all walks of life – particularly those who identify as non-binary, LGBTQ+, disabled or female – to attend their workshops and gigs in order to experience and create music in a non-judgemental, low pressure environment. They aim to build people’s confidence, as well as forming a community of like-minded individuals who feel empowered to tackle the lack of diversity in larger music industry spheres.
Their next event, First Timers Fest, is happening this Sunday (8th May) at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. 14 newly formed bands will take to the stage for the first time to perform in front of a crowd, and we’ll be there cheering them on and witnessing this brand new talent!You can grab a ticket for the First Timers 2022 Showcase here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/first-timers-fest-2022-tickets-309402048857
We spoke to Deena, Ishani, Sian and Ripley from the First Timers team about how the initiative began, what they’ve learned from being part of the team and what we can expect from this year’s showcase…
Hello folks! Please introduce yourselves and explain how you joined the First Timers team & what it is that you do…
At the moment the core First Timers organising team is Deena, Ishani, Sian and Ripley. None of us founded the fest – that was Bryony who now runs the Good Night Out campaign – and all of us got involved through playing it! Making the fest happen is a fairly big endeavor, and involves booking teachers and workshops, publicizing, finances, liaising with teachers and bands, and a million other little things that crop up.
It’s a lot of work, but it seems to be paying off. You’re a fantastic grass roots organisation and you do so much for the DIY music scene.
First Timers Fest itself was a big thing for us and got most of us into playing music! Also, its easier to be what you see, so seeing other London initiatives like Girls Rock London and Decolonize Fest flourishing is super inspiring.
They’re both great organisations too. What would you say are the highlights of being involved with organising First Timers Fest?
Jam on your hands is one of our favorite bits, even though its probably the most difficult thing to bring together and is always chaotic. It’s a workshop where people get to try out a bunch of instruments then learn a song then we play it all at the same time – so you have three drum kits and five basses and guitars and a tonne of people singing – it’s fantastic! Seeing people having fun at workshops and then telling us they never thought they’d be able to play an instrument and now love it is also amazing.
I attended your Bass Workshop with Jodi this year and I felt the same, it was such a fun day. Tell me about the other teachers and volunteers who are involved with the workshops. I know that Joni from Fraulein ran your guitar workshop and Chuck SJ taught songwriting this year. How do you connect with teachers and get them involved?
Our workshops this year have been really very good and luckily it’s been easy to find great people to run them. Sometimes we put call outs for teachers on our social media, sometimes we source them from the pool of people we’ve got to know over the years, or musicians we rate, or even people who have played the fest before! We love it when our teachers are First Timers at teaching too!
What are your anticipations for the First Timers 2022 showcase on Sunday 8th May? Tell us all about the bands on the bill…
It’s going to be fairly eclectic- it always is! Floralis is bringing us art pop influenced by goth rock and hip hop. Achers will be playing hardcore. A N T I A are putting harmonicas into grungy punk. Melhole are combining synths and ukelele, and there will be THREE kinds of hand percussion in ROAD. Many of the the main food groups really.
Because of Covid, for most of us this will be the first Fest we’ve organised from start to finish so we are just really excited to see them all up there!
I’m excited too! If someone was considering coming to a First Timers event, but felt a bit too nervous to get involved, what advice would you give to them?
We are all really very nice and we also all understand how scary it can be to take those first steps! Advice? Bring a friend, or reach out to us before you come.
And if a musician reading this is interested in volunteering for the next set of First Timers Fest workshops, what should they do?
Keep an eye out on social media as that’s where we tend to put out calls for artists, teachers, photographers, and other volunteers. Aside from Jam on your Hands, the workshops are paid for teachers, but the rest of us are volunteers. We are always needing more hands on deck with organising so do get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved – it’s good fun and very rewarding!
Finally, any bands or artists that you’ve been listening to recently that you’d like to recommend?
Lots of them are still going. Breakup Haircut are playing their album release gig on the 22nd of July, Big Joanie are touring soon, Charmpit released an amazing album over lockdown, Bitch Hunt, Whitelands, Panic Pocket, Irn Brunette and Trouble Wanted have been playing live recently. If we’ve missed anyone out please do add your current stuff to the spreadsheet!
But we are equally as in awe of every band that played the fest the one time then dissolved or morphed or started other projects. We’re proud of them all!
Thanks to the First Timers team for answering our questions!