Spotlight: Jayney Wright [Off The Road]

With the influx of venue closures across the country, pubs and bars that advocate the arts are worth their weight in gold. Off the Road on Hull’s Princes Avenue is […]

With the influx of venue closures across the country, pubs and bars that advocate the arts are worth their weight in gold. Off the Road on Hull’s Princes Avenue is a blossoming live lounge, supporting the burgeoning music scene and the city’s creatives. Jayney Wright, a promoter who was one of the people who had the faith and confidence to start Off the Road, is now the manager of the venue. What are her inspirations, successes and goals for the future?

S] What did you want to achieve with the bar and with the space? How did Off the Road start out, and how has it changed and developed?

J] I’ve always been interested in the arts and music. I was inspired by The Boathouse and something that happened at Pearson Park when I was a youth worker. I had forty kids, and these CAPS (Creative Arts in Public & Private Schools) built dragons out of bathtubs and cars. It was absolutely brilliant. These kids were little monkeys. They were struggling with difficult backgrounds, and I realised after two weeks of being with them how much art and music can influence people. One of the artists we worked with was a renowned underground artist. The kids were really privileged to work with him. It was absolutely amazing for the kids. That was what really inspired me to carry on working with arts, music and youth service. I ended up wanting to do variety shows, so I started off in the New Adelphi, putting on really mad-cat stuff – the crazier the better. Then I started doing Off the Road in various pubs showcasing my variety shows. After that, I was asked to be part of Cottingham’s Springboard Festival as its coordinator for a couple of years. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do: to join in with the artists and creatives.

S] Putting on shows as a promoter and managing your own space are very different things. What have been the challenges since you came to own Off the Road?

J] It was a minefield of new stuff that I needed to learn. Obviously, there’s a lot more involved in running a venue than just putting music on. It was a big learning curve really; we’re just picking things up as we go. There are a lot of people out there who want to do arts and music that appreciate the space to do it in. People from off the streets are having a go. It has made me quite excited because it firms up what I thought in the first place about a place around Hull. Community centres are getting hit with funding cuts, so it’s vital that we have a space which is there for everyone to use. That’s massive for me.

S] What do you want to achieve with Off the Road in the future?

J] What I want to continue to do is book people to perform at Off the Road. I want local artists, national artists, international artists. I want it to be globally known. What I’m going to do is get people more involved with workshops and take stuff to the Cottingham Springboard Festival to showcase it. I want everyone to be able to take something from our venue. I also want to be able to sell local merch and artwork. A great thing is a lot of customers are interested in people’s products.

S] What advice would you give to any young person who wants to follow in your footsteps in terms of promotion and managing a bar?

J] You need to be self-motivated and to work hard. Try to get a mentor who you can look up to – someone who is successful, and doesn’t just talk the talk. Find someone who is actually doing things with a good heart, for the right reasons. You can always come to us if you need some help. We’re all about networking and supporting each other.

S] What are your career highlights so far?

J] The Boathouse was one of the biggest of my career. There are kids from the ages of 14-16 who were on the cusp of dropping out of school or ending up in prison, and it has turned their lives around. There are some who to this day are saying “That really changed me”. That was the highlight of my life. Art and music should be for everyone. Springboard has been a personal highlight, too. We’ve done really well, with so many people coming out to visit us at Off the Road. We’ve been included in Cornucopia Festival when it’s on. But the main thing is seeing an artist come to us with so much potential, putting them on our stage and watching them go to big main stages. I always like to challenge those who always go into the same pub or listen to the same music. I love it when people come off the street and are recognising and appreciating us.

For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/offtheroad.hull/

Sophie Walker

About Sophie Walker

Writer.