The Eggtooth Project, a Hastings-based social enterprise that works with young people and families, is the organisation working alongside the Hastings Pier Charity for this year’s Zooquarium Festival. The Eggtooth Project is presenting young people aged 14-24 in the local area with an incredibly unique and valuable opportunity – to write and record an original song as well as performing at the festival.
With a team of 5 mentors, director Sally Greig has been visiting schools in the local area to find creatively talented young people and helping them hone in on their skills. “We were commissioned by Hastings Pier Charity’s Learning and Education department thanks to the funding they received from the Heritage Lottery Fund to engage young people with the pier’s heritage and performing arts.” Sally explained, “My idea was to form 12 acts using our 5 mentors who will be given the opportunity to perform two songs, an original and a cover, and to also record in a professional studio.”
Eggtooth works in partnership with a lot of schools and specialises in youth engagement and hatching potential, and this Eggtooth Legacy Project is one of many effective programs already set up, “We seek out young people and give them the best opportunity to show what they can do and encourage and support them. We do a lot of other stuff at Eggtooth such a summer schools, working with young people around mental health and we also run courses for young people who aren’t achieving what they should be, either academically or personally.”
Eggtooth’s team of mentors is extremely diverse, consisting of local political icon Solomon Curtis, prominent Hastings musician Marie White, science communicator and drummer Brad Gross, self-professed “Punk-Pop-Poet, Songwriter & Feminist-Showgirl” Brigitte Aphrodite and Quiet Boy Gaz Tomlinson; all talented musicians in their own right, and all incredibly passionate about Eggtooth. “It’s an exciting collaboration we’re embarking on with the pier and Zooquarium Festival,” said Brigitte, “all of our mentors are all such incredibly creative, hard-working & giving human beings who genuinely love young people. The people we’ve met are really open creatively because all of the social conditioning we experience as a society hasn’t yet infringed on their brains yet. When we visit schools one of my main angles is to urge young women to take their space and make music. The percentage of PRS that goes to women is so small.” It’s important to note that fewer than 5% of recognised record producers are female, only 13% of PRS’s 95,000 members are women, and men occupy 68% of music industry jobs. “It’s not the men’s fault, its years of inequality. Things need to change and we need to urge young women to get up there and thrash a guitar, make electronica, rap, scream, punk or start a Riot Grrrl band, become sound engineers, lighting designers, set designers – be roadies! Diversity is also so important, I think the more inclusiveness there is in a line-up the richer the art-form.”
As well as being a mentor, Brad Gross is performing as part of Dr Savage & The Incurables for Zooquarium Festival, “More importantly, as an Eggtooth facilitator and mentor of young people I am really looking forward to meeting with some young, new, fresh musicians who are looking to get fired up about the opportunity to play live and to collate and organise bands. This is something they can really use as a springboard – or even just to play for their friends which is also a big thing for young people to experience. There will be four different stages, one with a more acoustic flavour, a spoken-word kind of thing, a small band set-up and then the bigger stage – there are quite a few different options for musicians to express themselves.” Originally from the USA, Brad has experienced various music scenes which contrast Hastings’, “In my experience as a musician I think you really need a lot of people to come out and hear the music. What makes Hastings so special is that not only are there lots of amazing players but also a lot of people who come out to hear bands. In Hastings, anything goes: there’s blues, jazz, rock, funk, spoken word and theatre. For such a small town on the seafront, there’s a lot going on down here but a lot of young people aren’t tuned into that because they’re not out-and-about.”
Someone with an in-depth knowledge of the Hastings music scene is 21-year old singer/songwriter Marie White who also has a history with The Eggtooth Project. “I’ve worked with Eggtooth quite closely in the past, and now as a mentor, I’m hoping some really talented people audition. I think it’s good to have someone of my age coaching them because I know about the local area and how difficult it is to get gigs. Zooquarium is a good festival not only for local, established artists but also for up-and-coming musicians who have not had the opportunity in the past to do something like this. It’s difficult because a lot of people don’t know how to get into stuff like this, so us running an audition process makes it a lot easier for people to come and get involved.”
Whilst programs such as these are incredibly beneficial, it’s a shame that they have only really come to fruition in recent years, “If there had been something like this when I was in school I would probably know more about what I want to do,” Marie admitted, “I’m now doing what I wanted other people to do for me, so I’m either trying to get young musicians to play with my band or play during my interval or break. I feel there are not enough people who want to help younger people so if there was something like this when I was younger it would’ve been amazing.” Fellow mentor Gaz Tomlinson agreed, “This is definitely something I wish I had had when I was 17/18 years old – I had a music teacher who would literally every lesson get out the xylophones and have us play The Exorcist. That was what my music education was.”
Gaz Tomlinson is the frontman for multi-instrumentalist 5-piece band Quiet Boy and part of the line-up for Zooquarium Festival. “I’ve been involved in a few projects in my life but this is something that I’ve taken about 4 years to write. I put together a 5-piece band for it and we’ve just started getting played on the radio, we’re doing our first tour in July and we’re releasing our first EP Earwig on June 2nd. We’re also doing an EP launch in London at Total Refreshment Centre in Dalston on May 25th. Am I allowed to plug that?”
“I got involved with Eggtooth 4 years ago and we were working with young people to record a pop song, I got to work with some incredible young people who were massively talented and inspired me to continue working with young people in music. It’s a really important time at the moment since there’s a lot of new music but not really any direction as to how to hone in on your craft. There’s all the direction in the world to be famous, put your music out, be good at twitter and self-promoting but that’s nothing to do with the artistic side of what we’re doing – I think that’s what Eggtooth is promoting.”
A matter which people differ on in the Hastings music scene and something I’ve previously explored is whether to maintain our tight-knit Old Town collective or make a concerted effort to push new movements. “I lived and worked in Hastings for many years and I don’t see a lot of new, original music going on at all,” Gaz shared, “this [project] is the first thing I feel I can really invest in. I feel like this needs to be opened up and Zooquarium is offering such a good opportunity for people to show what they’ve got. It would be beautiful to be proud of Hastings and show off what we have to the rest of the country rather than stay in a fish bowl. I don’t want this to sound negative, it’s just movements like this are making such a difference; it’s the kind of thing we should really heavily support. New movements are important.”
On May 27th & 28th, Eggtooth will be holding “fair, fun and supportive” auditions for those interested in getting involved. Those who booked slots will be auditioning between 9.30am–4pm, and there will also be open auditions for those who wish to attend between 4pm-6pm. “The auditions aren’t going to be strict,” Brigitte confirmed, “they’ll be very warm and open drop-ins with tea and biscuits and we get to listen to people about what’s in their hearts and their heads – listening to young people is the most important thing.”
Zooquarium Festival will take place on July 15th, 2017. Tickets are available to purchase here.