Every town and every city – regardless of its size and significance – has its own cultural epicentre: a place from which it can carve its own identity; a hive of talent, of music. Places like these can be a sanctuary, acting as an umbrella to shield us from the banal, grey world beyond its doors, and for a while, its luminosity can distract us from a less than perfect world. Undoubtedly, a place such as this will have emerged in your mind’s eye, but if you ask anyone what this place is for people in Scunthorpe, the name Café Indiependent will be the resounding answer.
Perhaps many of you may recoil at the mention of Scunthorpe: a small industrial town in North Lincolnshire, neither here nor there, its name synonymous with deprivation, treated like a stubborn stain on the nation. Aside from its infamy for having an unsavoury word wedged right in the middle of its name, leaving it unfairly victimised by profanity filters, the only shaft of positive light on this town, among otherwise unjust public contempt, was when Disturbing London rapper Tinie Tempah, in his meteorically successful debut single Pass Out, sang “I’ve been to Southampton, but I’ve never been to Scunthorpe” – but no matter how much hysteria these lyrics whipped up for the town, the fact of the matter remained, nonetheless, that he has still never been.
Café Indiependent is – and this is by no means exaggeration – the greatest thing to have ever happened to Scunthorpe. Aside from serving drinks with mismatching cups and teapots, this is the musical epicentre of the local scene. With big-name bands running through its veins, Café Indie has been the medium for Model Life, an infectious four-piece indie band with post–punk sensibilities who are now, after having garnered recognition from being played on the BBC Introducing show, touring the length and breadth of the nation. Accompanying them among the crème de la crème of the scene are Years Young, an anthemic alt-rock band with raw, dark compulsion, who are now touring alongside Funeral For A Friend and October Drift, as well as having an album and various EPs under their belts.
Naturally, having been a DIY project itself, Café Indiependent is devoted to cultivating DIY bands on the brink: The Claxbys, an effervescent, youth-injected band with Libertines-esque reverberations, have just released their debut EP, Osnabrück, and chose to have the release party hosted by the venue that has been the centre of their support; The Last Hearts, a three-piece rock band with the guts and grit in their socially charged, confrontational music; and Reality Puppets, a psychedelic, effortlessly melodic band, as a side-project for musicians on the scene.
Since its establishment by a dedicated collective of volunteers and youth workers in 2013, Café Indiependent has been the conduit for the community: they develop young people. Good, talented people. Despite already having the distinction of hosting bands who are now attaining a festival-worthy eminence – such as Slaves, LIFE and Blossoms – to a small, intimate crowd, Café Indiependent is only in its infancy.
The second floor, baron save for sparse lights, strewn-about chairs and Fentimann’s bottles hanging from the ceiling, is completely unoccupied. Empty. Tom Powell, a youth worker who was key figure in the venue’s conception, told me of the ambitions for the future: “The second floor has a great deal of potential. We have plans to create a community radio show in one of the rooms, a recording studio for young people to be able to come in and record with experienced producers in another, and the rest of the space we might covert into a gig space – a more intimate alternative to the one we already have downstairs”.
But the people – aside from the volunteers and supporters – who will define the future of Café Indiependent are the young musicians that pass through it. One such band, a triptych of 16-year olds William McCullion, Morgan Odlin and Marcelina Jasek going by the name Finno, is perhaps the most notable band – hardly a month old – who have achieved gigs and recorded their debut single Knives Out in the developing recording studio, produced by Aaron Kitson, who’s the credited producer for The Claxbys’ EP. The café also lends its stage and second floor out to their nocturnal practise sessions. Without them, I don’t know what would have become of the young people in the area, bands like Finno or the community in general. They open their doors warmly, making all the difference to talent that may have otherwise fizzled out in a careless environment.
The best way to draw this article to a close is a call to action: support your local scene. If you’re unaware of it, get familiar. There is no pleasure quite as great as the sense of community when a band’s victories feel like one of your own. But, perhaps, an even more significant invocation would be this: to support your local venues. Without our venues, no music. It really is quite that simple. If we allow our scene to go under, dragging the venues, passions and livelihoods along with it, there will be no more music. So rather than staying in, go and have a good night out, with good people and good music.