On Tuesday evening at Cluny 2 five student bands took part in the local heat of national music competition iSessions to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The gig, organised by The i Paper, the concise student newspaper, saw a great turnout and £150 raised for the charity. Out of the five bands, one was selected to represent Newcastle in the final stage of national online voting. The winners were alternative duo Mama’s Kumquat.
“In a way I feel guilty that we won due to the arrange of talent on display!” Jack, the drummer of Mama’s Kumquat, told The Courier. “It was a great night though - everyone seemed to be having a great time and it raised a lot of money for a good cause.”
Also performing in the event were solo acts Sarah Stephenson and George Suddaby, rock band Dune Alley and folk band Twisted Folk.
Sophie Ahmed, student brand ambassador for The i Paper and organiser of the event, described the process as initially “terrifying”, since there were a lot of little details that needed tinkering over time. Finding the venue was perhaps the most challenging part, however Sophie felt lucky to have secured one of the top student gig spots, The Cluny.
“Once The Cluny agreed to let us hold the gig there the excitement started to kick in,” Sophie said. “I wasn’t expecting to get permission from such a renowned venue in Newcastle so that felt like a massive success. I think they just felt honoured to be asked on behalf of the i Paper and The Independent, the two great publications behind this event.”
As part of her job as the i’s brand ambassador, Sophie had to find a maximum of five student performers to take part in the local heat.
“It was really lucky that I already knew some brilliant musicians from uni,” she explained. “I’ve jammed with Mama’s Kumquat a couple of times before, and Sarah Stephenson and Olly (of Twisted Folk) are on my course. Newcastle’s Music Society also gave me a hand and with their help I found George Suddaby and Dune Alley who were thrilled to play their first ever gig at Cluny 2. I kind of just used all the links I have at uni and around Newcastle to make the night work.”
The night opened with solo acts George Suddaby and Sarah Stephenson, both jamming on their guitars, performing original songs as well as covers.
“The event was fantastic and was in an amazing venue!” George, who also took part in last year’s edition of iSessions, said. “I’ve been wanting to play The Cluny for a long time, and it was definitely worth the wait. Sophie did a brilliant job with organising everything, and all the other acts did great performances. With a packed out room, I really felt that I could get the audience to have a good time so I put a lot of energy and effort into making sure that they enjoyed themselves. And it seemed as though they did!”
The night moved on to the bands, who electrified the crowd and kept the atmosphere buzzing. In the end, Mama’s Kumquat topped the narrow vote, both thanks to their musical talent and their creative name.
“The capacity for Cluny 2 is 180 people and although we only had a crowd of around 50-70 people it still felt nice and intimate and there was a really enjoyable, laid back atmosphere, despite the fact I was running all over the place keeping everything in check,” Sophie explained. “Dune Alley even jumped off stage to rock out with the audience at one point. I got so much positive feedback from the audience about all the acts, and some people even struggled our outright refused to vote for their favourite.”
In last year’s edition of iSessions, alternative rock band Ali’s Love Child battled the online vote and came in the final five student bands in the country. They represented Newcastle University in the iSessions final in Manchester. They came third, as winner performer Man Like Nells from the University of Westminster emerged victorious.
Winners of the national iSessions competition get the opportunity to record their music in studio, as well as festival tickets.