The Magical Music of Harry Potter

The Music Exchange

27 April 10 words: Ashley Clivery
"There have been people volunteering their time since day one and it’s the most valuable thing we can give them. Their loyalty is amazing"
The Music Exchange Logo
Let’s kick things off with a cliché: everybody loves music, no matter what it is or how questionable it may be. The love of music is a common ground that brings people together. This actually has a literal context when applied to the Music Exchange - the not-for-profit music shop that uses this musical connectivity as its reason for being.
I’m speaking to Andrew Thompson, sat in chat show-style leather seats, facing the huge window that looks out into the West End Arcade. Andrew is the manager of Framework’s accommodation-based Michael Varnam House (which helps those with alcohol issues), and the advice and day centre that is Handel Street (the drug-related counterpart); it's their shop.
"Framework is a homelessness charity that provides support, housing, training, care and resettlement services to Nottingham’s vulnerable population," explains Andrew. “The shop is owned by the Handel Street centre; it came about through a service user  meeting, where we talked about things that could help in their rehabilitation process. They wanted a shop to work in, but not what they called an “old man’s trouser charity shop" -  they wanted somewhere that they would actually like to work in.”
The shop gives service users the opportunity to build their confidence and develop the necessary skills to live independently, and gain employment. “A lot of the Big Issue guys wanted  work experience that they could use to get a job - because whenever they were going for interviews, employers didn’t count selling the Big Issue as work experience. We’ve got people going into jobs now on the back of volunteering in this shop, thanks to the the confidence they build by coming in every day and building a new social network. It’s these important things that allow them to move on.”
The Music Exchange - Outside the shop
The Music Exchange - Outside the shop

The shop may be very small, but the collection of records, CDs, DVDs and memorabilia is surprisingly vast. There’s contemporary and rare vinyl, new releases from Nottingham labels, stuff from back in the day, and stuff you’d never think to listen to had you not seen it - all of it donated, generously, from collectors, DJ’s and the public. Since the demise of Funky Monkey, Selctadisc and other independent record stores, the options that this kind of shop offers is running thin in Nottingham.

The shop is also looking to progress more into Nottingham’s live circuit, bourne out by the shop's policy of stocking records by likes of Hello Thor, Dead By Mono Records, Gringo Records and other local labels commission-free. “All we ask for in return is that they let us have their band for a gig night. We put Fists on in December at The Rescue Rooms, and we had Gold Sounds earlier on in the year," says Andrew. "We’re looking at venues for a monthly night, and we’re currently in talks with a few pubs and clubs. We’re also looking at bringing in bands from outside of Nottingham to inject new music.”

The Music Exchange - Inside the shop
The Music Exchange - Inside the shop
The list of people already inputting their skills into the shop is already broad. LeftLion contributor David Baird - one of the top gig photographers in town - has donated a swathe of signed pics - some for the shop, some earmerked for auction. The legendary Jon Burgerman has volunteered to design a t-shirt for free. Local students donate their time, while a Dead By Mono rep helps out. "There’s a heady mix of people volunteering - the art community, the music community…it’s nice to get everybody involved in Nottingham. It’s lovely that everybody seems really happy to do it. Loads of people just love the idea of the shop” 
But how is the shop coping in the current climate? “It’s all going very well. We would like to start employing people and keep ploughing away with the bands, but we want to go that bit further. There have been people volunteering their time since day one and it’s the most valuable thing we can give them. Their loyalty is amazing.”
So, the next time you swing by the West End Arcade, remember to take plenty of cash - partly because they have so much quality stock you won’t want to miss out, but mainly because they don’t accept cards. Go in! Buy! Help those people with so much determination! Donate! Volunteer! Throw your skills in! Believe!
The Music Exchange, 18 West End Arcade, Chapel Bar, NG1 6JP  (Opposite Nottingham Central Library on Angel Row)

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