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Anton Lockwood: The Man Who Made Rescue Rooms A Success

22 March 18 words: Malvika Padin

As Rescue Rooms basks in the glory of its fifteenth birthday, we sat down with the man who transformed the place from a run down sports bar to a renowned music venue...

The Rescue Rooms was inaugurated in 2003 and has since developed a rich history, making it an integral part of the Nottingham music scene. Boasting the likes of Rock City, Nottingham has always had a thriving music scene, and so the opening of the Rescue Rooms fifteen years ago was a welcome addition.

In 2002, the venue was a sports bar. As a renewed excitement in indie music swept through Nottingham, Anton Lockwood – a music lover and local promoter at The Boat Club – had just been laid off from his job at Boots pharmacy. He took over the sports bar after his friend, DHP owner George Akins (owner of Rock City at the time; DHP didn't yet exist) got in touch with him. And then, he gave it the name: Rescue Rooms.

Anton explained the start of his involvement with the DHP Family and the Rescue Rooms: “I started promoting gigs in Nottingham in 1991. I did a bunch of shows independently just as a hobby, mainly because I was bored of going to the same venues. Fast-forward fourteen years, when I got made redundant from my job in IT at Boots. I did two shows within a couple of weeks at The Social, now The Bodega: one of them was a band called The Strokes, and the other one was called The White Stripes. These kinds of shows got the attention of George Akins, who owned Rock City, and he had got in touch about a closed sports bar next to Rock City, wanting to turn it into an indie rock venue. And just like that, my hobby became my job,” he adds.

Currently Director of Promotions at DHP Family, Anton believes that every venue has its own unique history and vibe. For the Rescue Rooms, the history began with performances from the likes of The Strokes and The White Stripes, with an indie vibe to it. The venue is often said to be the perfect place for artists and bands “on the verge of a breakthrough”. Although Anton sees breakthrough performances from many artists, a few stick out in his memory. 

He mentions Lewis Capaldi's first ever show at the Rescue Rooms, after having played at other venues and festivals including The Bodega and Dot to Dot. “When I first saw him, I knew he was going to be really big. He played, and we caught each other's eyes, and I knew,” Anton explains.

Anton has always been into live music. And live music, for him, is all about the experience. The experience of being there, in the huge, sweaty crowds, with music blaring loudly in your ears. It’s about creating a memory, and that's exactly what you get at Rescue Rooms.

Asked to describe the venue in three words, Anton exclaims “Great live music!” The 450-capacity venue, though beginning with indie roots, welcomes all kinds of music. As it turns fifteen – having had everyone from The Killers, Calvin Harris, La Roux, Four Tet, Chase & Status, Bloc Party, Magnetic Man, Simian Mobile Disco, Ellie Goulding, Animal Collective and The Libertines perform – there are no better words to describe the venue.

This independent venue – a nominee in the Grassroots Venue: Spirit of the Scene category at the 2018 Music Week Awards – is a small one. Venues like Rescue Rooms form a critical part of music artists’ development process. “Venues of this size are so important,” Anton says. “It's a pathway to nurture acts and help them grow, and we’re very pleased we’ve managed to make it work these last fifteen years.”

The venue turned fifteen in February 2018, and an array of local acts joined in celebrating it. The celebrations welcomed BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq for a special DJ set. Lamacq’s appearance is one of nostalgia, as he played during the venue’s opening week in February 2003. His appearance capped off an all-day birthday party, featuring not only local acts but other live acts as well. Previous artists to have performed at Rescue Rooms include The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, local boy Jake Bugg, Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding, Rag’N’Bone Man, Wolf Alice, and The Libertines, who played at the venue during its first week. Anton reminisces about that particular Libertines gig: “They can be a bit hit-and-miss, but they were definitely a hit that night. That was a hell of a gig.”

Even after fifteen years in Nottingham’s scene, the Rescue Rooms remains an essential destination for those in tune with the movements of today's captivating band-led scene. Alongside Rescue Rooms, multifaceted venue operator and promoter DHP runs Nottingham's Rock City, Stealth, and Bodega, and its festival portfolio includes Nottingham's Splendour and Dot to Dot. It also stages more than 1,500 shows a year and will co-promote Ed Sheeran's 2018 UK stadium tour with Kilimanjaro Live.

To find out who will be tekking to the Rescue Room's stage over the next few months, check out their gig guide.

Rescue Rooms website

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