Stayfree Music, based in Frog Island, has been in at the heart of the Leicester scene for 25 years as a rehearsal studio and general music hub. In recognition of this amazing achievement we asked Caroline Wright, one of the directors, some questions about the past, present and future of Stayfree.

Stayfree is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. How did it come about? Who runs the place now and has anyone been involved for the whole 25 years?

Caroline: Stayfree was founded in 1992 by Ian Redhead, also known as Otis Oblivion of The Hunters Club; a Leicester grebo band of the late 1980s. The Hunters Club had a six year career, over that time they experienced a variety of rehearsal rooms – all that had plenty of scope for improvement. At the end of the band Ian decided to set up his own rehearsal space based on the core value of good customer services and decent clean rooms, which at the time rehearsal rooms woefully lacked! In those days Stayfree had three rooms but also did resident rooms, band management and a record label.

Ian is still the owner and Managing Director of Stayfree, alongside me.

What does Stayfree offer its customers – are you simply a rehearsal space?

There is nothing simple about Stayfree! Currently we have nine hourly rehearsal rooms, we also have ten residential rooms, an equipment hire department, a spares shop and, of course, 25 years of experience.

You must have had many bands pass through over the years. Are there any particular names that you are pleased to have worked with?

We’ve had bands that have gone on to be famous, the obvious one being Kasabian, in those days though they rehearsed under a different name. We’ve also had bands that used us who were charting at the time. From our perspective, we have users from every style of music you can imagine, from all ages and all backgrounds, sometimes they are well known, they are all relevant. Some examples would be Bill Drummond from the KLF, Cornershop, Reef, Doom metal band Cathedral and Mark Ronson who are just a few names that have used Stayfree facilities. We’ve also had equipment given to us by many name artists like Oasis, Eurythmics, Judas Priest, Kylie, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. In Lock42 we put on Foals, Vaccines, Pure Love, Red Apparatus Jumpsuit, Twin Atlantic amongst many others. These days we have great up and coming bands like Mage and Temple of Lies in our resident rooms.

What is the ethos behind Stayfree? How has this enabled you to be active for so long?

Never giving up! No, seriously, I think it’s having a love and understanding of what you do and what you want to be. Being able to adapt and constantly tweak to make our services improve with time. Having provided rehearsal rooms for 25 years gives us a wealth of knowledge and depth to our product. Everything we do comes from experience – there is a reason behind it. This kind of business on the surface can look easy to replicate but the mechanics are built on years of getting it right, getting it wrong, trying again – you can’t buy that – you have to live it.

If a new local band was looking for rehearsal space why should they come to Stayfree?

We pride ourselves on our customer services. Bands who use us have a wide range of skills and experience and we are here to assist in whatever way we need to. First time or inexperienced users are always welcome to ask for assistance setting up their rehearsal room. There are no dumb questions and we’ve heard everything before so there’s nothing to worry or be embarrassed about. One of the reasons we do what we do is to help people get started, it’s a privilege in a way to be there for them at that time.

Do you have any great memories of the last 25 years? Any great stories?

You’ll have to wait for the book to come out 😉 In this kind of business, there’s so many crazy random things that happen, and just when you think you’ve seen it all – something else will come up to floor you! What I can say is that it’s very rock ‘n’ roll!

Do you have any special plans to celebrate your 25th anniversary this year?

We will be running a series of events throughout the rest of the year. We have plans for an open day where we’ll be giving people the opportunity to experience our rehearsal rooms as well as running some music workshops and showcasing some of our awesome bands and other services here at Stayfree. We also intend to have some random days where we’ll be going back in time with the prices, these will be announced on our Facebook page.

Are there any plans for development in the future as you move into your next 25 years?

Another 25 years! Wow that seems like a lifetime! Our heart and soul has always been rehearsals and we are constantly looking for new ideas to enhance what we do. Currently we offer drum lessons through Adam Reeves and we would like to expand this into other instruments; guitar, keyboard, vocals etc. so any music teachers interested in working with us – please get in touch. We are also developing photo and music video services for bands as well as small scale merchandise. We are almost at the end of a major overhaul of all of the Hourly Rooms. They’ve all been redecorated and the equipment upgraded. We strive to equip our rooms with the kit you’d see your favourite band using.

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Adrian Manning is a Leicester based writer. He has had hundreds of poems, articles and reviews published in print and on-line and has recorded and released some of his poems with local musicians. He is the editor of Concrete Meat Press and can often be found extolling his passionate views about the incredible Leicester bands and venues that he loves.

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