First Avenue Studios

Interview: Tim Nissen

Rehearsal and Recording Studios

Heaton, Newcastle

Update: Since this interview below the studios have now reopened.

What are/have been the main challenges (financial, logistical, etc.) because of the lockdown?

Since lockdown on 23rd March my business has been completely shut.  So as of that date I have had no turnover / no income. Due to the intrinsically social aspect of bands doing music, it has not been possible to offer our rehearsal services, nor has there been any demand for it, although that is now beginning to change.  On the recording side, we have had a bit of interest in some mixing projects where artists don’t need to attend, can send data in to us and Dave the resident engineer can get on with it solo, as it were.  But not much.  Administratively (is that a word?), the main challenge has been to find out information about what financial help was being made available, and to apply for it.  More of that in question 3

What are the challenges of being able to open again?

Opening again is much more of a problem, as this really requires some thought as to how things are going to be in the future. And that is uncertain.  Obviously work needs to be done on preparing the space for re-opening, with the accompanying expense of doing that.  And of course the question remains: will there be any demand (yet)?  External events are changing on a daily basis, and the possibility of a second lockdown cannot be ignored.  In the meanwhile we can only wrestle with the idea of making our space ‘safe’ or safe enough, whatever that means.  We will also be changing our systems to minimise transfer of goods / contact between staff and customers, and as is all new, is stressful and uncertain

Are there things that are helping such as funding and/or support from the community?

Financial support from the government has been as publicised, and has been delivered in a timely fashion I must say.  The wage furlough scheme has enabled me to keep my two employees on the payroll so far. But they have put a time limit on their support that is illogical, just because they say they can’t afford it, which we all now know is bollocks. One thing we have learned is that there is actually a magic money tree when it is needed, it’s just up to them to decide if it’s needed and for how long.

Community support has been amazing, a crowdfunding effort has surpassed expectations, the quiz night as you know was great, all-in-all I have been extremely gratified at the level of support that has come from the community (that is to say, customers).

Are you doing any crowdfunding for your business or organisation or selling gift vouchers, special products, etc.?

Have you or are you having to adapt to new ways of working such as moving your business online or doing classes, events or seminars by Zoom or similar?

One area where I haven’t managed so well is the idea of coming up with new ways of working.  There is something about bands so completely contrary to the idea of social-distancing that I struggled to come up with any alternative to the formula of x-number of people coming together into a sweaty room to make noise and have fun.  And no gigs as yet, neither.  So my focus has been on cutting costs, battening down the hatches, keeping my staff employed and paid, and keeping the brand alive on social media so when we do re-open we can get up to speed as quickly as possible.