As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post today, ambitious plans are today unveiled to found a new music academy in Leeds. For decades club promoter Dave Beer has occupied semi-legendary status among clubbing officionados.
As the founder of one of the scene’s most influential nights, Back to Basics, which the 49-year-old began when he was 26, he’s entertained thousands and helped relative unknowns break through into the mainstream. He’s used to setting the agenda and now the music maestro has come up with his most ambitious plan yet – to establish a new music academy right in the heart of Leeds. In a first for the city, he also wants it to house a new nightclub, where students would get hands-on experience.
Far from being a pie-in-the-sky project, he’s already secured backing of businessman Joseph Corre, the co-founder of Agent Provocateur and son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren, otherwise known as the mother and father of the punk movement. And he’s won plaudits from Leeds city councillors, who are keen to see his dream become a reality. Speaking to the father-of-two on the phone, he’s charming, energetic and even rhapsodic about his achievements. He’s kept his thick northern accent and has a laid-back demeanour. But his down-to-earth exterior and working class upbringing – he grew up on a council estate in Pontefract – belie a serious businessman, one who has survived where many have failed.
After decades of redrawing the UK dance scene and giving breaks to acts such as Daft Punk, Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx, not to mention hosting major US artists such as Frankie Knucklels, Danny Tenaglia and Masters at Work, Dave says he now wants to create a legacy for the city.
“I want to create a new music academy in Leeds. I have always wanted to open a music academy. It will be a creative space. This is all about leaving a legacy for the city and giving young people another set of options. We want to open a music academy and have a nightclub in the same building. It will offer BA honours and national diplomas in music technology, film, photography and we’re also looking to work with dance groups. Students will be able to get hands-on training because there will be a venue on the premises, which will essentially help pay for the academy.”
Under the working title ‘Back to Basics Academy’, it would offer degrees in DJing, music production and sound engineering. Dave likened it to the 1980s hit film Fame, envisioning a hotbed for music production, the technical side of the recording studio and the kind of performance art to which the humble disc jockey has now been elevated.
“The main objective for me is for people from all walks of life to be able to come and express themselves as a collective, which is why it’s important for me to get the right venue, so students see Leeds in its full glory.
“I want it to offer apprenticeships and degrees, to kids from difficult backgrounds, to give them a tangible option in life, to offer them another route and something they can become technically proficient in. We have the idea, we have the financial backing to make this happen, we’ve started talking to the council about it and, until a short time ago, we even had a venue.”
The idea has already won the backing of Joseph Corre, a successful businessman in his own right who now works with British cosmetics company Illamasqua, which has an outlet in the Victoria Quarter. He told the Yorkshire Evening Post he was fully behind Dave Beer’s plan, adding he had already been to Leeds to look at buildings.
“I think it’s a great idea and like all the great ideas, it comes from someone who is passionate about what he does and wants to give something back. Dave has a long history of working in nightclubs and I’ve already been up there and we even fell in love with a building which was perfect but the deal fell through. We were very disappointed about that. It’s something I still believe can happen and if we get the right building, I’m interested in helping to get it off the ground.”
The subject of the dashed property deal, centred on a building on East Parade, a stone’s throw from The Garage, one of the last venues to house Back to Basics, is something of a sore point. Dave was less diplomatic about it: “We were gazzumped. It’s a real shame because the building would have been perfect. At the moment, we are on the lookout for another building, so if there is anyone out there who can help us, we’d love to hear from them. At this stage, that’s all we need.
“What I’m trying to do here is to turn Leeds into a world-renowned centre for recording and technical music skills, in the same way Detroit and Ibiza are. As a city, we’ve got a reputation already for developing good music – we’re not quite world class but we would be with this academy.”
He added: “We have the idea, we have got backing from councillors and the investment is there, we just need the building. If you can help us, get in touch through the YEP.” Coun Alex Sobel (Labour, Moortown): “He has a plan and we’re just working through it with his partners. We’re looking at buildings in the city centre. It’s just a case of turning the plan into a reality.”