As the bells rang midnight on the 31st December, another little landmark was quietly ticking over. The Shed – Leicester’s much maligned small venue, but nevertheless an integral part of many band’s learning curves – came under new management, with Dreaming in Colour – the entertainment company headed by director Elisabeth Barker Carley – taking the reigns. Back in November we caught up with her to find out how she got here, and where she’s going with the project.
“I graduated uni in 2013, couldn’t get a job – no one would hire me” laughs Elisabeth. “I was either over qualified or under experienced, so I decided to make my own job, make my own luck so to speak”. It’s a story that will be familiar to much of Leicester’s creative community – when there is little music ‘industry’ in the city you have to create it yourself. “I started tour managing because back then that was all I wanted to do. I got over involved with some of the bands I was working with and became their manager without really being asked about it – it just sort of happened and from that I started putting more shows on.”
“I literally collapsed and sobbed for about half an hour. It was insane”
The rest, as they say, is history. Dreaming in Colour currently work out of a city centre premises which includes a rehearsal rooms and studio. They routinely promote shows, manage artists and as of 2016, operate a booking agency. The first big step was the funding to moving in to their Humberstone gate home. “I got a grant for £25,000 to renovate the top floor of the building we’re in now. I remember when I got told I literally collapsed and sobbed for about half an hour. It was insane – because things like that don’t just happen to people – it’s not a loan, it’s free money! We went through a year of paper work and ups and downs and I didn’t think we’d actually got it – I thought it was a horrible joke. Now we’ve got three rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, and we average about eight shows a week at the moment across the country.”
So with another year brings another string to their bow – a venue of their own. “We started looking at spaces, and I thought ‘this city doesn’t need another brand new music venue’. Everyone knows the shed needs a bit of love, it needs some TLC”. With the doors closed after their new year blow out, that TLC is coming explains Elisabeth; “On New Years Eve we have to drink the bar dry, we have the 1st January to recover, then on the 2nd we start renovations. It’ll re-open on April 1st”.
While they’re giving the place a lick of paint, there will be reverence for the venues history, and the people that have been pouring their heart and soul in to it over it’s 22 year history. “Kev (The Shed’s owner) taught me everything I know – they’re like family to me. I went to my first show there – The Heroes at the Original Band Showcase – so it just seemed like a logical step to help Kev a bit more. Originally I was just going to come in and do some more shows, but then I got presented with this opportunity and I realised it needed a lot of money putting in to it.”
“I didn’t want the shed to end up like the Charlotte did, when someone bought it out, made all these empty promises and then turned it into a block of flats and couldn’t have live music on there any more – so I got really ‘aggy’ about it, and you know… I found a way. I made a lot of phone calls and found someone who was willing to invest a lot of money in it.”
Despite keeping so many of Dreaming in Colour’s plates in the air, Elisabeth is confident about Dreaming in Colour’s future at the venue – but it’s clearly a mammoth task. “I think I’m insane. I have a really good team – three people are full time, then I have two interns on rolling six month periods – and I sort of just launched this on them a month ago. They thought I was playing a massive trick on them. They couldn’t imagine how we’d do it with the workload we have at the moment – we’re struggling to keep everything in place – but we’re going to expand our team a bit more, bringing In people that we know, that we trust, that have been loyal – we can’t afford to pay loads of staff wages up front, but the people that we’re working with are in it for the long game, they’re in it for the right reasons – they’re not money driven at all, which is where I think a lot of people in the music industry fall down, because they get greedy, and then that greed destroys them.”
With one eye on public opinion they broke the news of their takeover back in the autumn of last year, but their wariness was unwarranted. “I delayed announcing it because I thought there would be a lot of hate towards me – a lot of backlash. The Shed is such a cornerstone, and people just don’t like change. I thought they’d think I was trying to take over the scene or form a monopoly – just nasty rumours I’ve heard along the way – but it’s been the complete opposite of that. The Support has been tremendous.”
The Shed is currently closed for refurbishment, opening under new management on 1st April 2017.