Blackpool, Summer 1979. A young lad comes back in from playing “sevens” with his mates after school one Thursday night, has his tea and sits down in the front room and turns the telly on.
After seeing a pop group called “The Specials” do a song called “Gangster”, it is then followed by more monochrome mad men.
“I fell in love with music around 79/80, I was only 10 or 11 years old and was very aware of punk but just didn’t really know what it meant, it just looked colourful and shouty. Then Two Tone came out. As a kid I always watched TOTP and there was an episode where The Prince and Gangsters were on together, that was it, hooked and buying records."
For the several years, Mark “Chinny” Davis has been hosting and promoting expansive events under the “Alfresco” umbrella. His crown-jewel each year is the Blackpool bash, held late May Bank Holiday weekend. This year it features a headline set from Edan & Paten Locke, and as usual closes with “A Love From Outer Space”, the cosmic-disco religion fronted by Andrew Weatherall & Sean Johnston, who has called the venue “the best cricket club he has ever played at.”
From that couch in the late Seventies, Mark’s stereo chewed through C90’s of Ska, New Wave and then into Hip Hop, which led to his first foray into promoting.
“I got into promoting with a group of friends doing a night called “YoMoFo” around 1999. I ran a little bar in Blackpool and some people came in and commented on the music I was playing and thats the start of it all.”
It wasn’t easy, and several fuck-ups later, in August the following year Mark set up a club called “Blue” with his business partner Andrew Purdon.
“That was a glorious time and we saw massive acts come to Blackpool to our small and seedy sweatbox. James Lavelle, Kool Herc, Stanton Warriors, Scratch Perverts, The Unabombers, Avalanches and many more graced our decks.”
Here is where he first realised a key thing in promoting. Respecting your friends and the breaks.
“Darren Laws and all the Fat City/Grand Central DJs. They were the first people I dealt with and remain the very best of mates today. It was a fantastic era for us. We had a fantastic time, doing “Snowbombing" for 4 or 5 years. We were in all the music mags and we really put Blackpool on
the map, being regarded as a 'naughty' night hahahaha…”
Second thing in promoting. Honesty.
“I have just always been straight with people, both DJs and clubbers. We've been pretty lucky and dealt with some great people but we have always treated everyone well without being too much. Go the extra yard with hospitality if you can, you don’t have to suck up to people but by just doing that bit extra shows you in a good light, be remembered for the right things and people will always come back.”
This is a promoter renowned for sharing his mobile number on event listings in case any of his paying guests have a problem.
Thirdly. “DON’T BE A DICK!”
“I think the basic thing is just be sound with people and don't be a dick. Respect the fact people are supporting you and give them a great night that doesn't cost a fortune. Stick with it though, it's hard but play the long game and it will work out. I know we are on the cusp of something amazing at the moment and i'm loving every minute of it but also grateful too.”
“It can also be soul-destroying. Twice a fucking day I say ‘Fuck all this shit’, because of those that don’t see it like I’ve said to you. And trying to break ground in a place that has been starved of musical culture for decades.”
Blackpool, Summer 2015. Everyone has either their illuminated memories or their pre-conceptions of this maligned, working-class Northern beach town. Must be tricky getting support for such diverse acts and events. Must be easier to do on The Isle Of Wight.
“It's just because I live here. I have been doing stuff here for years because for the crowd that wanted something different, there wasn't much to choose from. The town's reaction? That’s a tough one, but the crowd we have are incredibly supportive, loyal and just about as good as it gets, the problem though is it's too small.”
“Alfresco would sell out in a heartbeat anywhere else, but here we are always chasing our tail and I haven’t paid myself a penny for five years. I feel this is the year though that we shine or perhaps move the bigger events to the city and take less risks here.”
“I say that but I’m already planning next year, and it being even bigger so sometimes I just obviously talk crap.”
Exemplifying this pride in his hometown roots, Chinny advocates several other Blackpool projects.
“‘Blackpool Through The Eyes Of Others’ is a film several friends and myself set up via Crowdfunder. Basically sick of the stereotypical image thats portrayed and we want to show what’s really going on in the town. There is a massive undercurrent of art, culture and events organised by some pretty inspirational people, its not just rock and roller coasters.”
And then there’s Cowbell Radio.
“Cowbell, named because of the use of cowbells by our favourite son, James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem. We love DFA at Cowbell. In general though its a labour of love, loads of presenters and music lovers of all genres playing their favourite music. No adverts , no pretentious bollocks just people talking crap and playing great music. We also host nights in Manchester that are doing extremely well, not financially more in reputation and atmosphere which is far more important.”
Fourth thing in promoting. Build & Breed & Leo Sayers.
It’s this movement away from Blackpool which has seen Chinny’s events take on hysteric momentum.
“Doing events in Blackpool is a struggle. Coastal town, small catchment and steering clear of commercial music, etc. To make Blackpool work we have done nights in Leeds and Manchester through Cowbell, with ALFOS, Dan Avery, Ewan Pearson, Ivan Smagghe and many others. We are currently about to do loads of work with Man Power too that we are really looking forward to.”
And then bringing Cowbell’s sweaty Antwerp Mansion raves to London.
“For two reasons really. We wanted to build up the brand all over the country to attract people to Blackpool. However… with Miss Nicky Chanot (my ‘better half’ since meeting at last year’s Alfresco) living in Greenwich, we decided it was logical to work and play in London town. There are several other nights, Vanishing Point and Nibiru to name just a couple that are on a similar tip so by working together we create a scene rather than just the odd night. There are some incredible people involved and we are looking forward to putting on bigger events and eventually a full on Alfresco down here. Our event on 4th July at Shapes Hackney is our first biggie, Man Power, Crimes Of The Future, Sean Johnston, Heretic and many more getting involved for a quality ‘Leo Sayer’”.
Chinny. Holding great parties without being a dick.
Alfresco Blackpool takes place on 24th May at Blackpool Cricket Club – click here for more information.