Last week was a momentous one for Cornish culture: Aphex Twin’s new LP ‘Syro’ went Top 10, becoming the highest-placing record by a county act since Thirteen Senses a decade ago. Not that Richard D James would care, but the local press largely ignored it, instead celebrating a crowdfunding campaign to bring Foo Fighters to Cornwall. At the time of writing, 1,844 backers had pledged over £214,000 in three days, acing the £150,000 target with eight weeks still to run. The Foos haven’t yet accepted, but a recent scheme to bring them to the US city of Richmond proved successful, so there’s every hope.
It’s impressive in a way. Cornwall isn’t on touring circuits because it’s miles away from everything. The main chance to see big acts comes at the Eden Project’s summer Sessions or the Boardmasters festival. An under-served audience is making themselves heard. I grew up in Falmouth, so I know what it’s like to frequent the one covers band that do Franz Ferdinand because it’s something, but while I admire these fans’ energy, I’m also sceptical.
Crowdfunding schemes like these are billed as grassroots victories, but it’s not so simple. Ultimately, this money will leave the poorest county in the UK and benefit businesses muscling in on local independent promoters: a company called Warner Young started the funding drive after noticing a Facebook campaign. An associated businessman chalked up the campaign’s swift traction to “agile methodology” leading to “positive impact”. There are expensive corporate funding packages and noxious “exclusive” benefits available. They’re upfront about their involvement, but it feels slimy, and it’s the opposite of what Cornwall’s music scene needs.
While regular people have been supporting the campaign, their willingness to stump up for a gig that might not happen is sad news for indie promoters who struggle to get people to pay to watch local acts. Even Peace barely filled Falmouth’s Princess Pavilion earlier this year. The harsh truth is that the arts aren’t most Cornish people’s priority, while those involved have to be self-sufficient. Cornwall Council are “unable to offer direct financial assistance” to the arts, but funnelled £35m of Lottery money into the deserted Heartlands project, a new cultural centre.
So you see this Foos-designated £214,000 (and rising) and imagine what else it could fund: sustainable community projects in poor towns like Redruth, which recently hosted the inaugural Inland Art Festival with a hard-won Arts Council grant. It could better equip Troubadour, a brilliant studio/venue in a Falmouth harbour warehouse frequented by the town’s great bands – The Black Tambourines, Red Cords and Lost Dawn among others. Penzance punks Crows-An-Wra could press a record. Knee Deep Festival could ensure its future.
It’s this kind of musical people-power that Cornwall should take pride in. Fittingly, Foo Fighters’ ‘Sonic Highways’ project illustrates Grohl’s love for homegrown music scenes: the best thing he could do for the county is to say, “Keep that money. Build something that’ll stick around.”