Sunday, October 28, 2012

Q ARTISTES - Coventry music / Arts agency 1974

Q ARTISTES Coventry Music / Arts Agency 1974

Q Artistes were among a number of new Coventry music agencies starting up around 1974 but this was an agency with a difference. The couple - Gail and Michael D'Brionne had a theatrical background and were interested in variety acts as well as bands.

I got to meet and interview the couple in the Hotel Leofric for Hobo Magazine but here's what the Coventry Evening Telgraph had to say of them - 

David Isaccs - Coventry Evening Telegraph - c Feb 1974

" Long eyelashes flutter at you from under a well-groomed head of blond hair. Enthusiasm for Coventry pours from the lips of Gail D'Brionne - "There are lots of talented people in this city" she said "and we want them to be given a chance". She's talking about the local entertainers, comics, singers, dancers, whose growth is being stunted by the absence of any real night life in the city.

Gail has already taken the surname of the man she will marry on Saturday  - a red head extrovert named Michael D'Brionne.

Together they run an organisation called Q Artistes, and if you think that sounds like a parody of some theatrical agency, your reaction won't work the D'Brionnes.

"At least if people think it's a funny name, they'll be talking about us" said Michael "and that's what we want". 

Not that they are theatrical agents - not yet anyway. They've applied for an agency licence to help them to promote shows but the extent of their activities so far is running a discotheque at St. Saviours Hall on Saturday night.

Sounds small? Well at the moment it is. But the D'Brionnes are thinking big. They aim to put on shows with local artists....but with a big name at the top of the bill. 
Michael is an ex-jobbing builder and former transport workers Shop Steward, who has only come into the entertainment business on a full-time basis in the last 8 months. Gail has been singing and dancing in cabaret summer shows and pantomimes for years.

The D'Brionnes have not met with unanimous approval from the local branch of Equity, the actor's union, or from Coventry's Entertainments Secretaries Council. 

Three Stories

"There has been a certain amount of aggro" says Gail. "I don't know why. All we are trying to do is help promote new entertainment in the city and give local artists a chance to gain experience. What's wrong with that?"

There problem at the moment is a lack of premises. They've written to 16 local clubs and haven't received one reply. But they are still exploring other possibilities and if determination is enough, they'll succeed.

It is the sort of determination which makes them confident one day they'll be able to open a really big club in Coventry - one which caters for all age groups. 

Their dream is to have a three storey building. There would be a basement discotheque, a ground floor theatre which local amateur would be able to hire at low rentals and a first floor restaurant and cabaret.

"Variety people don't want to know Coventry at the moment" Says Michael, "Nobody's thinking big enough. there's an audience for this sort of entertainment and the city's not cashing in on it."


Dave Eastman - New Face in Coventry
Brian Weeks - Sound Scene - Coventry Review 1974
During a recent show at the new Novotel in Bedworth, organised by Gail and Michael D'Brionne of Q Artistes, one performer out shone the rest in my opinion. The performer in question was a diminutive 20 year old wearing a battered top hot and singing his own compositions behind a piano and guitar.

His name is David Eastman, born in Leeds but resident in Coventry for the past three and half years. Although he has been playing guitar for three and half years and piano for three, he has managed to write 150 songs in the past 18 months and when I spoke to him last week, he announced that he had just put another 24 compositions on tape.

Mungo Jerry

That's not bad for someone who only became interested in music when Mungo Jerry were topping the charts with their single In the Summertime. Of course Dave didn't just walk into show business overnight, like many others before him he went through the 'hard slog with no reward'.

He would go along to pubs and play for free, then he progressed to working mens clubs. But Dave readily admits that the biggest step forward that his career took was when he met Gail and Michael. 


Dave Eastman
They all look back on that first meeting with a certain amount of amusement. The occasion was a talent show  by Watney Mann and Gail and Michael helped to vote Dave through. to the semi-final because they though his act was a big laugh. Dave came on to the stage looking rather odd in a huge white coat, plugged in his guitar and nothing came out. The judges thought that all the following mistakes were done on purpose and they loved it.  

Fortunately his act is a little more polished nowadays and his music,  strongly influenced by Gilbert O'Sullivan and Elton John, is bouncy and bright or soulful and sad as the mood takes him. 

New Faces
As a result of the help that the D'Brionnes have gaven him and his performance at the Novotel concert which was attended by New Faces producer Les Cocks, David will soon be appearing on the programme. Until that time all plans for record releases have been held over, although two record companies have already expressed in a couple of Dave's songs - Spaceman's Blues and Great Train Robbery.

Although there is obvious need for a successful first single from Dave, his personal goal is to record a successful album. if there is any justice at all in the music business, he should be a success. 

Q Artistes first promotion was the Zoomie Disco which provided an outlet for local bands like Mad Cat Molly, Warrior and Fission at St. Saviour's Hall near the Butts.

Trev Teasdel met up with Gail and Michael D'Brionne in 1974 at the Hotel Leofric. In addition to their problems with the clubs and Equity, many on music scene were wary of Q, regarding them as a potential 'rip-off' or not understanding their music. The band Fission, led by Johnny Adams, later of Squad (Terry Hall's first band) were taken aback when the D'Brionnes asked them "Do you play the Stones?" "No" said Ant of Fission "The Stones play the Stones, we play Fission!". Perhaps they were concerned about building the audience but on the other hand the D'Brionnes did support original music as can be seen from their support of David Eastman.

Trev found them quite charming, sincere people who believed passionately in what they were trying to achieve. At the time Coventry needed more people with the determination to get things going in Coventry and so included their information in Hobo magazine.

"I the meeting at the Hotel Leofric was nearly forstalled. Trev turned up at Coventry's posh hotel with long blond hair and a hippy boots and blue Beatle jacket! Funds were low and I had enough for a coffee and the couple hadn't turned up by the time it was finished. The waiters seemed to be closing in on me, taking away chairs, the cup and dropping subtle hints that I should leave, Basil Fawlty style. Just then the phone rang and I heard them say 'a man from a magazine'. Suddenly they were falling over themselves to serve me! The D'Brionnes had phoned to say they were running late and that I should order a coffee and sandwich while I waited!

Much of what they told me was similar to what was covered in the Coventry telegraph which came out a few days later, but it was good to meet them and I understood many of their problems and ambitions. We were still campaigning for a venue oursleves for the Hobo Workshop and via Coventry Voluntary services, gained use of the Holyhead Youth centre theatre to hold concerts and workshop sessions and an alternative film club etc. Our perspectives were similar but different."

Here are various pieces from Hobo magazine -
The entry in Hobo No 3 Feb 1974 was -
"A showcase of talent has been among the activities of Q Artistes club. Talent in a variety of guises emerged on the stage of the Building Trades Hall, including fire eaters, singers, songwriters, dancers etc. They were watched by Les Cocks of New Faces with a view to selecting some of the artists for the next series of the program. The results will not be known until the end of the month. Their disco at St. Saviours Hall is no longer operational and Q are looking for new and suitable premises for providing a variety of activities in the arts."
In Hobo No 4
" Appearing on ATV'S NEW FACES, on June 29th, will be Dave F. Eastman. A Coventry songwriter who sings his own compositions, accompanying himself on piano and guitar, on which he is self-taught. The number he will be performing on Faces is called Spaceman Blues. Dave has been writing for over a year and has written over 180 compositions to his credit. His career is being guided by Q Artistes"
Mad Cat Molly

Their daughter, Lady Chantelle D'Brionne told me that Michael went on to start a youth training scheme idea called Nut and Bolts (Fife St Nuneaton), from what I gather he basically started the idea of what was to become the governments Youth Training Scheme. Unconventional and very unauthordox but he did an awful lot for many teenagers with skills but not the qualifications, that were needed for Uni of college. My Mother became a fashion Designer for a design house in Coventry. After they split. A great artist herself (in all sorts of mediums lots of reference at the museum in Nuneaton with her exhibitions) went on to teach art to private groups ending up in Botanical Art.

Coventry Evening Telegraph On the Scene Supplement 1974

Liverpool still has the Merseysound. Manchester has its night clubs. London has just about everything and Coventry is a very poor runner up. Gail and Michael D'Brionne hope to put an end to all that. They are directors of a new club which they hope will put Coventry on the map.

They are running a disco every Saturday at St. Saviours Hall, Upper Spon street, Coventry, where their regular pop group, Mad Cat Molly give concerts.

"They are very much like Slade in my opinion. In fact I think they are better." Says Michael. Plans for the Q Artistes are getting adventurous. They plan to get a building where they can have dances, plays and a cabaret and a permanent restaurant.

On Thursday they will be holding their first big cabaret night at the Royal Navel Club when the lord mayor, Lady mayoress and Deputy mayor and Mayoress will be present to see comedian Kenny Canter.

"The idea is that the big name artists attract the crowds, so the local supporting artists can play before  bigger audiences than they would have done on their own." says Gail.

The couple plan to cover all aspects of entertainment ans to help any prospective artists into the business.

"We would like to give them the chance to get on the stage and get paid so that they can join Equity (the actors union). I should not think there is another club that does the same." Says Michael

"With our own hall we would like to have practice and audition rooms to get them really prepared."

Gail wants to have artists giving performances to each other, so that they can give constructive and knowledgeable criticisms before they try out a new song or act on the people.

Michael, who is an MC and comedian says that he wants to provide a "home for for the local amateur dramatic groups who have not got one.".

Gail, a vocalist and actress sums up the aim of the club "we will try and reach every age group and every field of entertainment even the fine arts. There is so much entertainment in the city that just needs a little help."

Comments from the Hobo Vox / Typepad blog

I have no idea who found this and put it on here. This was my Dad and my Mum amazing what you find on the net.

Posted by: Lady D'Brionne | 03/28/2012 at 08:16 PM

Hi there, this brings back some memorys, i used to know your Mum and Dad, My friend and i used to be part of a dance troupe called the mad cat molly dancers. They were a great couple and your Mum was really outgoing, and taught us how to dance with two other girls who i think were from tile hillx Rachel

Posted by: Rachelblonde | 06/30/2012 at 12:48 PM

No comments:

Post a Comment