Music to Our Ears: We Look Back at a Record-Breaking Year for Nottingham’s Award Winning DHP Family

Friday 22 December 2023
reading time: min, words

We caught up with our friends at DHP Family for their reflections on a milestone year for the live music company which brings hundreds of top tier artists to Nottingham, as well as giving a platform to our finest homegrown talent...

Rock City(2)

With Rock City, Rescue Rooms, Bodega and Stealth in Nottingham; Oslo, The Garage and Grace in London and Thekla in Bristol; a growing festival portfolio and a live division promoting acts nationally, the company has welcomed more than 1.5 million people through their doors in 2023.

Reflecting on the year, we kicked things of with the head honcho himself, DHP Family MD George Akins.

“It’s been a great year across the board for us in 2023, it feels like the gloom of the early 2020s is becoming a distant memory now that we’ve moved past our final pandemic rescheduled shows and all areas of the business are trading very well. We’ve won awards across our industry-leading venues and diverse festival portfolio, and I’m very proud of what we have achieved this year, from sold out events, to record beating club nights; exceptional funds raised for our charity partner Framework, and an expanded festival offering, which included for the first time, the four-day camping event Bearded Theory – a personal highlight of the year.”

Rock City

A classic night at Rock City

Anton Lockwood, Director of Live, was keen to highlight the live promoting the company does - programming shows all over the UK as well as an epic 30th anniversary run of shows at London’s iconic venue, The Garage and the 20th anniversary of Nottingham’s very own Rescue Rooms.

“2023 was a hell of a year! Cost of living crisis, and everything getting way more expensive in touring continue to be huge challenges for the industry as a whole, but I’m proud of the way our independent and flexible organisation at DHP is able to deal with everything that’s thrown at us, and deliver a stellar programme of tours and festivals. Great to see our venues The Garage and Rescue Rooms reaching the milestones of 30 and 20 years respectively celebrating with incredible shows from the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Frank Turner, Mogwai and Sugababes. At the same time we relentlessly developed new artists like Kneecap, Antony Szmierek, Cardinal Black, L'Imperatrice and Green Lung – this year we really showed both that we build things that last, but we don’t rest on our laurels and are continually moving forward. DHP promoters Scott Kennedy, Conrad Rogan and Josh Ward shared their highlights of the new artists they’ve been working with this year.

Josh: “There have been some great shows this year, and it’s been brilliant to watch a lot of the new artists we’ve been working with for the last couple of years really grow and come into their own. Nation of Language and Alfa Mist were a lot of fun for me.”

Scott: “The sold-out High Vis show at Islington Assembly Hall was a big step up. It was a massive moment for the band, and a very special moment for me as a promoter having worked with them from the beginning. It was a great night and they really deserve it.”

Conrad: “Seeing Prima Queen sell out Lafayette without a record was special for me as well, as well as the sold-out Viagra Boys show at the start of the year. Plus, we had one of our best ever Dot To Dot Festivals and the return of MIRRORS which has all supported our offering for new acts.”

Bearded Theory 2023

Bearded Theory Festival 2023

Josh: “The festivals were great! One of my highlights has to be a first sold-out arena show, with Tom Grennan, plus working with a number one artist.”

Scott: “I think my show of the year was probably combining the Zulu and Wiki tours for a one-off show at Bodega, but its also in general been a really good year for the hardcore scene with tours from acts like Narrow Head, Militarie Gun, Jesus Piece and loads more which has been fun to be part of.”

Josh: “It’s been a solid year all round, and it’s been good for us to be carving out our own niches as promoters. Ultimately, we’re all in it because we love music and discovering new artists. When we’re able to work with these new acts and help them develop from grassroots venues to big arenas, it’s an incredible feeling and something we’re all always really proud to be a part of.”

Conrad: “Yeah, it’s great to play a small part in their wider teams and getting to watch them grow.”

Frank Turner, Foolhardy Folk Festival

Frank Turner at Foolhardy Folk Festival 2023

Anwyn Williams, Head of Marketing, and Ben Ryles, Festival Booker, shared their views on the exciting and diverse festival roster - Beat The Streets, Foolhardy Folk Festival, Dot To Dot in Nottingham and Bristol; Bearded Theory, Splendour and MIRRORS in London.

Anwyn: “We’ve put on more festivals than ever this year and I feel like we’ve all had a really great time doing it. It’s been a great thing to be a part of, and the team have worked very hard to deliver all the successes we’ve had – from the incredible fundraising of Beat The Streets in January, to the hugely positive response to our first year at Bearded Theory, our second two-day Splendour Festival, the resurrection of MIRRORS in October and everything in between.” 

Ben: “I agree, it’s been a pleasure working across our festivals in what has been a really busy 2023. Highlights include programming our first Bearded Theory festival, bringing back MIRRORS, Dot To Dot continuing to go from strength to strength, and a third successive sold out Foolhardy Folk Festival. Winning Promoter of the Year at this year’s UK Festival Awards was obviously fantastic and having all of the team’s hard work recognised on a national level is brilliant.”

Anwyn: “Definitely! We’re all really proud of the amazing events we’ve put on and everything we’ve achieved this year, and to be recognised with the Promoter of the Year Award was incredible.”

Area manager Michele Somers is working hard to champion the night-time economy, heading up Nottingham Pubwatch and taking up as role as a Night Time Ambassador for Nottingham.

“2023 was an epic year for the NTE but it was not without its struggles. Safety, staff welfare, security staff shortages and financial pressures continue to threaten an industry still recovering from a long post-covid hangover. But when we are up against it, those who work and champion the industry rally together to support, protect and lobby the powers that be to cement change that will see post-6pm businesses thrive and make the UK’s NTE something we can be proud of.

“A personal highlight for me in 2023 was Nottingham Pubwatch, which I chair being awarded National Pubwatch of the Year. This was a huge celebration of the operators in Nottingham and the strength of partnership working."

Viagra Boys, Dot To Dot. Credit Ania Shrimpton

The Viagra Boys at Rock City during Dot to Dot Festival 2023

In what sounds like a truly amazing year, we asked George what he was most excited for about 2024...

George: “2024 outlook is looking good, with great sales for shows and festivals already in the bag.”

Ben: “In 2024 I think I’m most looking forward to being back at Catton Hall to welcome all of the artists playing Bearded Theory. We’re really pleased with our first announcement (which has gone down extremely well) and we have a lot more yet to be revealed…”

Josh: “I’m really excited for D2D, looking forward to booking more new acts who’ll end up going on to headline the festival like Jockstrap this year and our previous headliners, and just checking out loads of new music.”

Scott: “2023 saw another boom in hardcore and punk and I’m very excited to continue building that community I grew up in for 2024 with bands like High Vis, Jesus Piece, Militarie Gun, Zulu, Narrow Head and loads more absolutely smashing it.”

Anwyn: “I can’t wait to see what the team achieves in 2024, this year has felt like going from strength to strength, so we’re all looking forward to getting stuck into the next challenges.”

Michele: “In late 2023 I joined 49 other individuals as a NTE ambassador for the NTIA, I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together. I am also excited to reignite DHP Family’s Women in Music initiative and showcasing the amazing women I work with and hope to work with in the future.”

Anton: “Well I’ve got tours from two of my all time favourite artists to announce, but can’t tell you about those yet!! But most looking forward to seeing the achievements from everyone on our team, promoters, marketing, ticketing, production, accounts and beyond – our people have stepped up in 2023, and there’s more to come!”

Congratulations guys, we’re proud to have you repping Nottingham on the national stage!


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