Sofa Sessions 1-4 took place in my home in south Belfast – a rare opportunity possible only because of the apartment’s high ceilings, and the fact that the neighbours attended all of the gigs! These early gigs were private invite only (invitees could bring their friends) due to space restraints. I fit about 30 people in there, of all nationalities – there were many multi-lingual conversations around the fireplace. (People who arrived later in the evening got bumped up to the fireside to dry out, and I spent half of the evening running around with wine bottles and checking people had beers. Loved them! I do actually have some video from those nights, but its very, very dark (firelight/candlelight only), and it’s a bit sweary in places. One day I may edit them into high(low?)lights.
I moved to the Ulster Hall for number 5 (the Ulster Hall 150th festival), at the suggestion of outgoing outreach officer Róisín Whyte, and the invite of her replacement Jan Carson – thank-you both! Gone were the open fire, my sofas and an increasingly-grubby carpet, but the Ulster Hall had similar-looking brown leather sofas and better floors, and I used battery-operated candles in decorative bags to recreate the cozy ambience. I wasn’t sure it’d work, but it was magical – the feedback was so good I was invited back for Culture Night Belfast (#6), Belfast Music Week (#7) and International Women’s Day (#8). Jan and her colleague Eimear Burton were fantastic to work with, and Tim Bates was a superb sound man (and a gent) – I am very grateful to them all for their support for that year of events!
For number 9, I moved again – to the Duncairn Arts and Cultural Centre, a gorgeous deconsecrated church in Belfast. I visited a few months ago for a superb gig by Ross Ainslie, Jarlath Henderson and Ali Hutton and loved the venue and atmosphere; I asked Ray about hosting the Sofa Sessions there and he was all for the idea! Huge thanks to Ray and to his team (the “C&C music factory”) for giving their space and time for free in support of NIAMH Wellbeing – #9 was beautiful! There were sofas, and real candles, and a gorgeous stage set-up with draped lights.
I didn’t get to host one in Finland since I was absolutely flat out with my music & wellbeing thesis research project – helping 10 people learn Finnish kantele and coaching each of them once a week, on top of a tonne of lectures and other Soul Ambition work! We’ve since moved to Spain, but have to return to Jyväskylä for a ‘maturity exam’ (cue childish sniggering), so watch this space!
I also can’t wait to start sussing out venues here in Andalucía for Sofa Sessions Spain [rubs hands with glee]… Hasta pronto!