Interview: Venues Programmer Joe Patten on Beat The Streets 2023

Words: Lawrence Poole
Photos: Beat The Streets
Tuesday 03 January 2023
reading time: min, words

We chat to Joe Patten, venues programmer of Beat The Streets, ahead of the 2023 festival...


January, hey? A melancholic blight on the landscape of every self-respecting gig-going music head. Scant opportunity for a mid-week jaunt to stand in front of the sound desk at Rock City or to perch nonchalantly at the bar at Bodega as you soak up the setlist of this year’s must-see new band. But fear not, dear readers, there is hope on the horizon - if you can hang on in there until January 29.

The last weekend of the month will herald the return with all guns blazing of the mighty Beat The Streets festival. Launched in 2018 as a response to the increasing homelessness problem on the city’s streets, the festival has gone on to raise more than £320,000 to provide specialist support and housing to rough sleepers.

And following a fallow year in 2021 when the festival was forced to move its fundraising online, Beat The Streets returns for a fourth edition with over 65 acts across multiple venues to get your gig-going groove on again. Staged by DHP Family, who control most of the city’s live music venues, we caught up with their venues programmer Joe Patten to find out more… 

The line-up is really strong, we’ve got Ferocious Dog headlining who have been amazingly supportive of it over the years

How are the plans coming together?
Well, thanks. Obviously last year we were still dealing with some of the COVID stuff, so it’s nice to have a clear run at it. The line-up is really strong, we’ve got Ferocious Dog headlining who have been amazingly supportive of it over the years so hopefully we’ll raise a lot of money. 

Gig-goers really looked forward to it each year now, don’t they?
Yeah, we put it at the end of January so it’s after pay day, as people are skint after Christmas and it gives them something to look forward to.

It got off to flyer when it was first launched, didn’t it?

Yeah, the first year was staggering really, we sold loads of tickets and had Sleaford Mods and Ferocious Dog playing – so you can’t really get better than that. We’d not done anything like this before and we weren’t sure how it would work – it’s was bit Wayne’s World 2, book it and they will come, you know? And they did which was great.

As the years have gone by, we have tweaked it and fine-tuned it. We’ve had live podcasts too, Stuart Pearce was really good. Cucamaras were another highlight. I love those guys – they’ve gone to do Rescue Rooms since then too. 

How do you go about booking acts?
The majority are local, because obviously we don’t pay any of the acts, which is quite unique, I think. We don’t want anyone to be out of pocket, so you can’t ask people to be driving over especially with petrol and fuel costs at the moment. We try to make it as easy as possible for them.  

Aside from Ferocious Dog’s headlining set, who else should we be looking out for?
We’ve just added Divorce to the bill, who are unbelievable. They had a gig at Bodega towards the end of last year and because they were basically Steve Lamacq’s (6Music DJ) favourite band of the year, they have just rocketed. They’re going on to bigger things so I’m looking forward to seeing them. ALT BLK ERA too. 

We’ve just added Divorce to the bill, who are unbelievable

What’s the best thing personally for you about being involved in it?
Obviously the money raised - £320,000 so far, that’s ultimately the best thing about it. On the day it’s just a really good vibe. It’s not the usual festival crowd or punters you see out all the time. My mum and dad go every year and they only usually go to one or two gigs a year.

You speak to people and they’re surprised by how good everyone is. We wouldn’t put rubbish on but also it’s nice to know there is talent out there and people want to come out and see it. If you see five bands, spend a tenner on a ticket and buy a few pints then you’ve donated money to the cause. There’s no guestlist and everyone pays – it’s nice to have a crowd that may not normally come out. 

When they money is in afterwards, do you get to see where it is spent as a team?
Yeah. It’s one of the great things of working with Framework. They’re ultimately transparent. In the first year it went towards keeping the emergency shelters open so when it goes below minus two or three degrees, then everyone has a space.

In the second year, I think it went towards hiring some mental health professionals to pay their wages. It’s also gone towards Mechanics House just off Mansfield Road (provides accommodation and resettlement support for single homeless people) – so yeah, you know where it goes so it’s tangible.

Homelessness is complex, the reasons it happens are always different and the way to treat it isn’t one size fits all. The cost of living crisis doesn’t help and next year, it’s likely they’ll be more homeless people. A lot of Framework’s work is about preventing it happening in the first place. 

So, with just under a month to go, is it all hands on deck?
Yeah. January is quiet month for tickets sales anyway across the industry. So, it’s just a case of hammering the point home, doing lots of press and trying to publicise it as much as possible.  

Homelessness is complex, the reasons it happens are always different and the way to treat it isn’t one size fits all

It’s not just ticket sales that go into the pot either, is it?
No, it’s all the bar takings too. The venues are largely DHP venues, and our MD and gaffer has been kind enough to donate the day’s profits. Rough Trade also give us a percentage of their bar too.  

You’ve employed quite a clever manoeuvre in the past in terms of scheduling, haven’t you?
Yeah, we’ve put the headliner on the middle of the day like Sleaford Mods. That was a way of getting people out earlier and then they stay longer, they’ll hopefully have a better day and see more. We still have about 800 people in at the end of the night for Rock City, which is incredible.

All the rooms tend to be full, so it’s a good selling point for bands that play. Sometimes they’ll get to play venues like Rock City, they may never get chance to again. They love playing it and we get great feedback after from them too. 

In terms of your own role, how did it begin?
It’s been ten years this summer. I started on the bar in Bodega and then I went to the office once and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. I read into it a bit more and saw they put on 1,500 gigs a year nationally and I tried to get a job in the office as much as could. I applied for everything and became a general office assistant and moved up from there.

I’m a venues programmer now and look after their diaries and do the musical programming for Rescue Rooms, Bodega and Thekla in Bristol and do the festivals too. Beat The Streets was a funny one as we had a team meeting, and we were asked who wants to take the lead on it and I was like ‘I’ll do it’ and then I started to wonder what I’d let myself in for.

But five years later, here we are! It’s challenging, because a lot of the bands don’t have management or an agent, so it can be hard to pin some of them down. Fair play, to those who respond quickly though! 

Beat The Streets takes place across Nottingham on Sunday 29 January 2023

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