Long-known as one of Bristol’s go-to gig venues and dedicated community spaces – home to everything from city dance groups and rollerdiscos, to creative, educational workshops and exhibitions, and its own recording studio – the 19th-century built, grade-II Gothic beauty that is The Trinity Centre has been an outlet for local youth culture and a whole lot more since the Seventies.
Having welcomed the likes of U2, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division and New Order in the Eighties, it began to earn international recognition during the following decade, as an important landmark for the globally exported ‘Bristol Sound’, hosting the likes of Roni Size, Smith & Mighty, and Portishead.
But as well as being a historic city landmark, key arts provider and accessible cultural hub, Trinity has a rich vein of philanthropy at its heart – and if you’re one of the 50,000 or so folk who use the venue in some way each year, you’ll probably know of the invaluable youth, welfare and education work that goes on under its ancient roof.
Said roof is now feeling its age, however – as are its fabulous imposing towers and beautifully intricate stained glass windows – with £500,000 of funding now urgently required to prevent the building’s Bath stone and glasswork from deteriorating further, and to repair the lead on the roof so the team here can continue with their admirable work beneath it.
Enter world-renowned musician, songwriter, composer and record producer John Parish – long-term collaborator of PJ Harvey – and Adrian Utley, one third of ‘Bristol Sound’ pioneers Portishead and creator of Adrian Utley’s Guitar Orchestra, which performed for Trinity’s relaunch in 2014. The pair, both local to the area, visited the centre recently to help launch new campaign Notes for Notes – which aims to raise £20,000 towards the cost of the repairs and will feature as its centrepiece a unique piece of music composed, performed and produced by John and Adrian, celebrating Trinity’s rich 40-year musical heritage and providing the impetus to drive donations. Each £5 raised will represent one virtual musical note, and when the charity reaches 4,000 notes, John and Adrian’s track will be released for download, under a ‘pay what you can’ music model; previously used by artists like Radiohead, to give people the freedom to pay what they can afford towards the track, in support of Trinity’s ongoing capital works programme.
“Trinity is one of our important venues in Bristol, and there are few of them,” says Adrian. “When I played here with Portishead, in the very early days, it was quite a different space. It was absolutely wicked and great to play. We’ve all seen shows here over the years – it’s a great place with a team doing really good things, not just with their gigs, but with their recording studio and community projects, which are massively important. We need as many of these sorts of venues as possible in Bristol, because we’re losing them quite quickly.”
“we’ve never actually composed anything together so we’re both really excited about this opportunity”
“There’s pressure on a lot of places to close down at the moment because there’s more money to be made by selling buildings and redeveloping them as apartments,” agrees John, as we stroll around the Graffiti Room and music studio. “But what that gradually causes is a hollowing out of the cultural and artistic sides of the world’s great cities. The Fleece has been in trouble before – as has this place, which has been on the scene as long as I’ve been living in Bristol.
“I remember coming to gigs around the end of the 1970s, not long after it became a venue – I think the first show I ever saw here was Magazine. Astonishing atmosphere – quite violent – but it was an amazing gig. Now my daughters are coming to shows here. It feels like Trinity is part of the fabric of the Bristol music scene and, for me, it’s absolutely vital that we hang onto these places. Cities need them, young people need them, everybody needs them.
“While Adrian and I have been involved in many projects together over the years, we’ve never actually composed anything together so we’re both really excited about this opportunity. We just want to make it as interesting and inspiring a piece of music as we can – the nice thing about collaborating with someone you really respect is it helps you to set the bar high. Hopefully we’ll encourage each other to step things up a gear.”
“It’s hard to have any input into everything that’s happening in our country at the moment, politically,” adds Adrian. “It’s frustrating to experience the things that are happening around us and not be able to do anything about it. But we can write music and in this context, it feels like there is something we can give, and help change and contribute to. It’s nice to be part of the bigger picture; part of a group of people raising awareness of the work the centre does.”
Also getting involved in the project is artist Jimmy Cauty (formerly of acid house band The KLF) who launched his Aftermath Dislocation Principle Riot Tour – an experimental, off-grid artwork touring sites of historic rioting in the UK – at Trinity earlier this summer. “We approached him to produce the artwork to complement the Trinity Anthem, and it’ll be produced later this year,” Trinity fundraising officer Tony Goring explains.
“And we’ve launched a new beer for the campaign. The Notes for Notes beer is a holsten weis beer produced by our main supplier Carlsberg for us, and it’s now on sale at Trinity – with 10p of every pint sold going directly towards the appeal. Thrugh sales of the beer, we can raise awareness of the appeal and the need for urgent conservation repairs to the building to the diverse audiences using the space during our live music events.”
“This really is a total one-off project for us,” adds Dave Thomas, training coordinator for Trinity’s youth music programme. “We’re working right at the coalface within the community, and this campaign should really help to raise the profile of what we’re doing.”
Donations can be made via Just Giving on the Trinity website, or by texting ROOF31 £5 to 70070