Ahead of the reopening of The Ironworks, Caroline Campbell, Venue Director answers a few questions for IGigs.

How are you feeling about opening the Ironworks doors to an audience for the first time since March?

Feeling excited at the prospect of hearing other voices within the Ironworks building other than my own, but obviously it comes with significant pressure and trepidation with us being the first music venue in Scotland hosting a small seated  event.  We want to get this right, not from a profitable point of view, but from a safety point of view for staff, customers and the community.

We are looking forward to leading the way which will then hopefully get the sector slowly back up on its feet.  It will take a long time for things to go back to the way we knew them, but we are hopeful that we can get the ball rolling for the industry with baby steps with everyone’s safety being paramount to any other objective.

How difficult is it to manage all the logistics of opening again?

Hosting any event, no matter what the event is or what size, comes with intense planning and preparation.  It’s not a case of just throwing some musicians on a stage, get some staff in and hope for the best.  An entire catalogue of things is required to take place beforehand and then on the event day itself. 

 However, with this in some ways it has been easier to manage given we have strict guidelines to adhere to.  There are rules to follow that we cannot bend or “interpret”.  You have to follow them or we simply cannot host the event so in some ways it has been easier to manage, because someone has already dictated what you can and cannot do.

As a team, how hard has the last few months been and is it possible to take any positives from the time?

We are lucky because we are actually a very close team, you have to be in order to put on events successfully and the people I have worked with I have done so for years, so they are not only just colleagues; they are friends.  So yes, it has been hard on us all not seeing one another day in day out and beavering away as we always do.  It’s been hard not being with my team of dedicated staff each day, but we adapted as quick as we could. 

Zoom meetings were a big part of our “new normal”, or multi-tasking by going for a run with a colleague, or dog walks. There are always positives to be had in everyday, no matter how bleak a situation can be, it’s just a case of finding the positives.  Some days obviously are harder to find positive things, but you just have to look even harder.  You take each day as it comes.  You wake up, you turn up and you show up and what will be will be.  It’s like we have all taken a well-earned, albeit much longer than initially thought of, break. 

So we do feel refreshed, we do have a new buzz about us all, and we have fresh ideas to try to adapt to our new world to see what can we do and what can we offer.  It’s almost been a self-discovery journey to find out exactly who you are, what motivates you, what makes you tick and what were you doing previous to the pandemic that wasn’t so good for you, for your physical and mental health, for the business, things that need to be changed or cut out of your life.  Lockdown and this year in general have been a complete learning curve and I am sure a lot of people feel the same.

How easy was it to choose Torridon as the band to reopen the Ironworks?

Torridon Ironworks Inverness December 2020 a2 1 - Caroline Campbell of The Ironworks - Interview
Torridon front man Kenny Smith when the played Ironwork in February 2020.

There was no having to decide between bands as the opener to the new normal, Torridon was always going to be the right band.  Torridon and the venue have a wonderful history with one another having played here for many many years.  Every time they hit the stage its like your favourite family members who you haven’t seen for a while have come over for a visit. 

It’s friendly, it’s comforting, it’s familiar, it’s entertaining, it’s happy, it’s uplifting and you just know that you are in for a good time and come away smiling.  The boys always bring a party to the stage, but equally I have full faith that they will act accordingly to all our guidance as will hopefully our audience.  Torridon are a feel-good band, full of energy and positivity and I think right now that is what we are all needing, and these boys are the right people to uplift us all.

Did you expect tickets for Torridon to sell-out so quickly and what do you think it says about the demand for live music?

The tickets sold out in record time, however in perspective it was 100 tickets for a band that usually sells out 700-800 tickets a night so to be fair, we knew it would go quick. The argument is there and it is definitely one that has its right to be listened to that since lockdown and this entire year, peoples priorities have massively changed.  There is not the huge want ,or requirement, for a “night out” now as there used to be. 

There is a definite segment of the population that are happy to have a “night in” now, however the demand for music, especially live music has always been there and always will be.  It never even left, right in the midst of lockdown where many a person was tuning in to live stream gigs.  That was hugely popular which shows you the power of music and in particular live music.  Music is a part of life, and live music in particular will never die. The music industry has suffered greatly over  over the past months and all we can hope for is a brighter 2021. 

It must be a difficult balance to be trying to make short term plans given, but what are your hopes for the next few months for the Ironworks?

I’ve said time and time again the Ironworks is a team, not just the stage within the building so we will adapt and diversify our skills to however this pandemic rolls out.  It really is impossible to say, who knew this time last year what lay ahead.

Life takes funny turns and you just have to be able to roll with it as unbruised as possible.  You absolutely fall down but you make sure you don’t stay down. You get back up, dust yourself down and try again.  I don’t think any business owner, no matter what sector they operate in, would tell you that the way we are having to work now would be their preferred choice, but when its out with your control, you just have to try your best and that’s all we can do. 

My priority from day one is looking after my family, staff and loyal customers and I will not put anyone at any unnecessary risk, but equally – someone has to take the first step.

Details of Ironworks forthcoming gigs can be found on the Ironworks website.

Read about Torridon’s last gig at the Ironworks in February 2020.