Sitting Down with Moving on Music

CEO Brian Carson on bringing niche artists to Northern Ireland and providing a stage for indigenous acts

For those unaware of your work, explain the ethos behind Moving on Music.

It's basically a music promotions company, but it tries to do something that's a bit different from other music promoters. We work in the funded sector, I suppose, and we have to use the funds that we get from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and elsewhere to bring artists to Northern Ireland that would not otherwise have the country on their itineraries.

That's our role in the business, as it were. We try to keep it vibrant and exciting and provide music for a lot of different audiences. We also run educational workshops throughout the year for musicians of all ages and abilities.

You bring artists working in what some might describe as niche genres to Northern Ireland – jazz, bluegrass, contemporary classical, electronic and traditional. But is the term 'world music' still relevant in the global digital age?

World music? I think a better term is 'roots music'. For instance, Celtic Connections – a very successful convention and festival that's held in Glasgow every January – refer to themselves as a roots music conference. I'm not sure if the term 'world music' is a helpful one anymore. That could take in any form of traditional or folk music from any country. We do lots of different music.

You're now based in The MAC in Belfast. How are you finding working there?

It's a great building to work in. It's good to be in an environment where you can bump into other people doing similar things but perhaps in different art forms. For instance, just down the corridor from us there's Prime Cut Theatre Company, which engages with other theatre companies from around the world. That's healthy, I think. A lot of our shows are in The MAC, but not exclusively. We also use other venues, like the Black Box, the Belfast Barge, the Crescent Arts Centre.

What should gig goers expect from a Moving on Music concert?

We cover music that isn't otherwise covered. We do quite a lot of jazz and improvised music. That could mean giving artists from Northern Ireland opportunities to perform, or bringing in other artists. For instance, we're doing quite a lot of work with contemporary classical artists at present.

Our next concert is with the Danish String Quartet. They will be playing four shows around Northern Ireland, and a couple of them are going to be recorded for broadcast with the BBC. They're a fantastic act that we're proud to introduce to Northern Irish audiences.

Were there any recent gigs that were of particular interest to you personally?

Last week we had Alasdair Roberts playing on the Belfast Barge. He's a Scottish folk musician who writes original songs, but they're very much in the traditional vein. He was supported by a local folk musician, Mark McCambridge from the band Arborist. At the Belfast Festival at Queen's this year we had a couple of featured events too, like the indie alternative rock band Efterklang. That was a great show and was nominated for the gig of the festival.

What kind of music do you listen to at home?

I listen to the radio a lot, to be honest, because I like the fact that someone else is choosing the music. I listen to a lot of BBC Radio 3 and 6Music, especially in the evenings, shows like Jazz on 3, Stewart Marconi's Freakzone, Late Junction, and a little bit of RTE. I like that kind of alternative take on music.

Listening to good radio is very good for research as well. Because we're kind of removed from the big cities, as it were, it's good to be informed about what's going on elsewhere. I also listen to a lot of contemporary classical music as well. People like Brian Irvine.

You mentioned that you also work with indigenous artists. Which artists should we look out for in future?

We work a lot with Irish musicians. We're working with a young composer named Ryan Molloy at the moment, and one of his compositions will be featured on the tour with the Danish String Quartet. We have a whole programme of chamber music featuring players from Northern Ireland happening in The MAC in January and February 2014, which we're very much looking forward to.

The jazz drummer David Lyttle is exceptional. He also does a lot of urban work. There's Michael McHale, a classical piano player. Then there are traditional bands like At First Light, who have been going for a long time, but they have world class pipers like John McSherry. There's plenty of talent around. We just toured larla Ó Lionáird, probably the premiere sean-nós singer from Ireland, supported by the acclaimed Australian guitar player Steve Cooney.

Do you work with other similar organisations to bring in new artists?

Very much so. We work very closely with the Music Network, Note Productions, the Improvised Music Company, all based in Dublin. We work with various agents, of course, from the big to the small. We try to co-operate with others as much as possible. There are people in Northern Ireland that we work with too, like the Walled City Music Festival in Derry. We did a very big project for the UK City of Culture, Beyond the March, with two contemporary composers, Brian Irvine and Sid Peacock, which was very exciting.

Where do you find inspiration for bringing new acts to Northern Ireland?

I've just been to the big Womex Celtic music conference in Cardiff. Another festival that I always keep an eye on is the London Jazz Festival, which is just finished. In Ireland, Electric Picnic is usually pretty good, and the Kilkenny Arts Festival is great. I like to keep busy.

Visit the Moving on Music website for information on upcoming concerts across Northern Ireland.