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“Connection is everything”: how a Bristol music collective is restoring community to the local music scene

Community spirit has seen a massive decline recently, but certain groups are making moves to bring it back bigger and brighter than ever. In Bristol’s music world, collective VooKoo is working hard to reinstate community music and togetherness.

By Susie Long, Music Subeditor

It’s no secret that making music has become a commercial endeavour. With ticket prices for high-profile artists soaring into the thousands, and the rise of the “industry plant” artist, the music industry can sometimes seem like a faceless, algorithmic entity. However, people want to change this, and groups are emerging with the aim to prioritise the celebration of community, inclusivity, and creativity within music.

One such group, based right here in Bristol, is the music collective VooKoo. With musical pursuits including jam sessions, concerts, DJ nights, open mics and more - alongside clothes swaps, workshops, and art markets - VooKoo facilitates spaces for creatives in all guises. 

From “a humble start as a small open mic with big dreams”, VooKoo has come a long way in the last two years, recently hosting events at venues like The Crown and The Old Market Assembly, alongside their regular jam nights at the SouthBank Club. 

I was lucky enough to have been introduced to this collective by a friend, and so, a few weeks ago, a group of us headed down to the SouthBank Club for their ‘Third Thursday Jams’ night. I could not have had a better time. A beautiful, bustling venue, cheap drinks, a clothes swap and a lineup of talented musicians, it truly showcased how music can bring people together. Whilst I was grateful to share the evening with my friends, VooKoo has created a welcoming space whether you attend on mass or on your own - I would’ve felt equally happy going to this solo. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and it was genuinely a perfect atmosphere. 

Of course, the music was the main reason I went. Whilst we laughed with the team that, this time around, the open mic night lineup was rather dominated by the “white men with guitars” type, every musician brought their own unique, wonderful sound to the stage. Freestyle rap, acoustic guitar and spoken word: it had a bit of everything. 

A personal highlight - and I think for lots of others too - was the final set, performed by 30 Circles. With an early morning the next day, I was ready to head home for the night, but my friend implored that I stay to hear this performance. I am so glad that I did. Using live loops and a variety of woodwind instruments, Dave Colebourn was absolutely phenomenal. Any residual chatter in the venue fell to silence as soon as he started playing, and we were all in a wonderful trance listening to him play. These soundscapes were all-consuming and incredibly moving, and I have not had a musical experience like that in a long time. Watching 30 Circles - and the atmosphere he masterfully created - was a wonderful testament to the power of VooKoo and collectives like it: bringing strangers closer to celebrate artistry together (and I even got a free jumper out of the night!).

This Friday, I headed down to check out another VooKoo event. This time, we were at The Crown for a night of DJ sets from DJ Deep Heat, along with supporting artists DJ CDQ B2B Belters and FRAUDSTER. Although entirely different from their jam session, this was another perfectly executed evening. A wide range of genres, high-energy performances and surrounded by lovely people - it was brilliant.

I cannot stress enough how welcoming this group and everyone involved in it is. Again, I knew of people there, but there was never a moment where I found myself on my own or lost for people to hang out with. There was no pretence, no judgement, it was just a lovely, authentic celebration of people and music. I’m looking forward to seeing what else VooKoo puts on in the future, and I commend them highly for their mission to recenter music around people and community. They are doing a fantastic job.

Featured Image: Susie Long

Have you been to a VooKoo event?