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Meet Jeremy Hibbard and Grace Lightman, Plymouth’s newest Music Ambassadors.

Jeremy and Grace are the newest members of a team of Music Ambassadors recruited by Plymouth Culture and tasked with developing a Music Action Plan and piloting music activity with the aim of making Plymouth into a gigging city.

Jeremy Hibbard is an ex TV and radio journalist and producer/presenter. In his career he helped launch the careers of Pulp, The Housemartins, The Wedding Present, CUD and The Inspiral Carpets (when Noel Gallagher was roadying for them!). Grace Lightman has been living in Plymouth for over 5 years as a musician. In that time she has developed a music practice for young people, while working on recording her own records and singing and songwriting on other artists’ records.

Jeremy and Grace are the newest members of a team of Music Ambassadors recruited by Plymouth Culture and tasked with developing a Music Action Plan and piloting music activity with the aim of making Plymouth into a gigging city.

Made in Plymouth’s Bracken Jelier caught up with them both to find out what drives their passion for a better music scene in Plymouth.

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What was your career pathway before – and how could it inspire others?

Jeremy meeting Jason Dorman at the Forum in Tunbridge Wells. Jason co-founded the venue with Mark Davyd and it became the inspiration for The Music Venues Trust which Mark now runs.

Jeremy:

BBC radio – as a journalist but also producer/presenter of a long running late-night weekly radio show showcasing emerging bands in the North. Then I moved into BBCTV and then ITV. At the BBC I was lucky enough to produce tour documentaries for some huge artists like Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Genesis & Simple Minds. Touring Europe with those artists was eye-opening and a great privilege.   

After that the Independent production sector as employee then launched my own company which ran for 20 years making programmes for BBC, ITV, C4, SKY etc. Won lots of awards and had great fun. My maxim in life was always: don’t always follow the path most lucrative…sometimes the path most interesting is the more rewarding. 

Grace:

I always wanted to be a solo artist that had fame and notoriety but as the music business feels more and more hostile I decided to channel my music into the process of making, and help others find their voice.

You are going to be a key part of evolving music culture in the city. Tell us about that – what is that been like, what keeps inspiring you, what’s the future?

Jeremy:

I get really inspired when I see young people with playing and songwriting ability that’s come from nowhere and I want to help them fulfil their potential and take their music to whichever level is right for them. To do that we need to bring more and bigger artists to the city and find ways for the money to trickle down from them to grass roots level. A ticket levy is an obvious way to do it but we need bands to come to Plymouth first. 

Grace:

As I have been working as a music practitioner, I have realised the power of the next generation. The future is in how genZ take in music and we are responsible for making sure they are surrounded by it. I love working with the young people every week, seeing how enthusiastic they are about making music and playing live is what inspires me to keep creating!

What do you generally hope to achieve through your work? Has this changed over time – and why?

Jeremy:

The brief is to create, for Plymouth, a national and international reputation as a great place to watch, play and learn music. It’s a big task and we’ll  take small wins. The job will always be a work in progress and talking to counterparts in famous music cities (Nashville, Liverpool) they say the same.   

Where does your inspiration come from? Is it possible to pinpoint or is that too broad a question? Can you talk about specific people in Plymouth, local training etc.

Jeremy:

I love creativity…the idea of creating something from nothing. I love people with great ideas and the energy to make them happen, but little is achieved by lone geniuses…you have to bring people together and get them to collaborate…and to have good ideas you have to have lots of ideas and to know which ones to follow. I hope to keep nurturing this idea of music prioritisation for the next generations to come. I’d love to foster a culture around music that sees young people viewing music as important and worthy of investing time and energy into, to then see them grow up to build a society where music is at the forefront of our culture.

Grace:

I am very inspired by the specific young people I work with. There was a young boy who I met on an intensive workshop called ‘Write, Record, Release’ who went onto join the regular youth club as a result of that workshop and he said that he had really found his place there. This is what music can do! Music fosters community, a sense of belonging and well being.

How do you think your work impacts the community in Plymouth? What do you hope people will take away from it?

Jeremy:

Plymouth is a great place to live and work – it needs to be a great place to relax and have fun too. The most exciting cities in the world are the ones that buzz ‘after hours’. I’d like to see that happen in Plymouth – all year round if possible. 

Grace:

I hope people will be inspired to try making music, or performing it, or making artwork or videos for it, or any route of creative practice surrounding music really! I want people to realise how accessible it is a medium of expression, and how many routes into music there are.

Why Plymouth? Why are you based in Plymouth? What is it about living and/or working in Plymouth that attracts/keeps you here?

Jeremy:

I grew up in Devon and have always loved the pace of life, the lifestyle, the coastline and the countryside. But I spent ten years in Leeds and loved what a city could offer too – I guess Plymouth is as close as you could get to ‘best of both worlds’ in the South West.

Grace:

I moved to Plymouth to be closer to people I make music with! This has evolved since being here, and there are just so many wonderful artists and musicians in and around the city to collaborate with. It’s also amazing to be by the sea, and have so much more freedom than I felt I had in London!

What path did you take to get to this point? Were there any particular organisations that stand out to you that have been crucial on your journey?

Jeremy:

The BBC gets a lot of flack, but to me it is still the best and most respected broadcaster in the world and the ten years I spent in BBC Radio and TV News shaped me as a journalist, producer and as a person. Accuracy, impartiality and clarity were drummed into me and I like to think I still apply those values in everything I do. At the end of the day it is still a bunch of people but it attracts the very best there are.

Grace:

Help Musicians funded me to do a music production course that was female and gender expansive led in collaboration with the F List. Although I was making lots of music by this point, I did find that this helped my confidence massively, being immersed in a studio setting that was representative and inclusive. The F List have also offered me some future opportunities that I am very excited about to progress my music practice. In regards to being a practitioner lead to young people, The Barbican Theatre in Plymouth has given me the opportunity to create workshops and have been really enabling of my practice. They have also introduced me to movement practitioners Far Flung, who enlisted me to create live soundworlds for their sessions. This project has honestly been enlightening!

What would be your advice to other creatives starting their careers or people that want to work in a similar field?

Jeremy:

Have a sense of exactly what you want to do. I meet a lot of young people who want to work in ‘the media’ but have no idea which bit. It’s a huge field so talk to as many people as you can and seize every opportunity to get a foot in the door – even if it’s only for a few hours.

Grace:

Create music and art because you want to, not because you feel like you should.

What are your hopes for your work in the future? What do you hope to achieve?

Jeremy:

I’d like to create a blueprint for ‘how to make music work in a small city’ – we’ll do that if we can actually make it happen here….others will follow.

Grace:

I hope to create cultural change for future generations in their approach to music. I have some big ideas on how to do this!

What are your hopes for Plymouth? What do you think it should aspire to be? What do you hope it can become? How do you think we need to evolve or change? What does the city need to do better?

Jeremy:

My big hope is that the community will get behind us. We can do lots to improve venues and energise the local music scene but it’ll all be for nothing if people don’t go out and watch music. As a music fraternity we can get excited about live performance but we need the audiences to perform to. 

Grace:

Plymouth has a bubbling undercurrent of musicians and artists, it just needs to come out of its shell. Music in the city needs to be regarded as highly as science and history, even visual art. This begins with the younger generations.

Where do you go for a night out or a day out in Plymouth – do you have a great recommendation of a great place to eat, to listen to live music….

Jeremy:

I love the small, raw independent music venues that remind me of the places where I used to see bands in the 1980’s – Leadworks, The Junction etc. And we mustn’t forget that we have a world class theatre right in the middle of the city – TRP is outstanding in pretty much everything it does.

To eat – I love a good curry or food like Turkish or Lebanese which can be too complicated to make at home but Plymouth does also offer some outstanding Fish and Chips. 

Grace:

Go and eat in the market in the West End. Some of the best food from independent vendors, which so much variety that you cannot go wrong! For live music, Leadworks on Rendle Street has some really interesting gigs coming up. I also love popping into the Dolphin on Southside Street for their folk nights, usually the second Monday of the month.

What’s the one cultural venue/place/work/person you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth?

Jeremy:

I’d tell them to go have a drink and some fish and chips on the Barbican and then head to Leadworks, The Junction, The Summer Sessions on the Hoe or TRP. 

Grace:

I’ve already mentioned it but the West End market, it’s full of culture in a culinary sense. Imagine if they had some live music in there too!

How can people find out more about you online – please include your social media details etc. Can they see you, your work or meet you in real life – if so please include this.

Jeremy:

The story is not about me – it’s about Plymouth’s musical ambitions. The Plymouth Music Forum is open to all and is a good place to find out what’s going on and express views. It meets every 3 months. And the Made in Plymouth website is a good place to advertise gigs or to find something to go and see.   

Grace:

I am most active on instagram – @GraceLightman and my music is available on all streaming platforms. If you’d like to meet up to discuss any culture related thoughts, send me an email on grace@plymouthculture.co.uk

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