Ska anyone? Promoting music in Oxford.


It’s a Tuesday, and Balliol bar is booming as we wander in, flyers aplenty. Selling ska-punk is tricky business, mainly because half of the people we seem to talk to don’t even know what ska is. As good little northern boys who grew up on The Specials, this takes us aback. Pressing on nonetheless, the whole of Balliol bar gives us the chance to give out a whole three flyers.

We are Dreaming Squires, a not-for-profit promotions group that’s making an effort to promote a scene where it doesn’t exist. We thrive on it, because it’s the music we love; though it is hard work. We want to promote local and student talent that ranges from ska to emo to pop-punk and punk, as well as promoting a scene for all this and anything in between. The problem with this is this is that it’s hard to find people that agree with us. We spread our flyers, attempt with gesticulations and muddled sentences to explain ska to people who haven’t heard it before, and whack up our posters down Cowley Road and in every college with a friendly porter, yet ticket sales remain low. Clearly, the student population is fickle, flaky. We don’t blame them, we’re students too and are exactly the same. This brings forward a wee bit of worry when there’s a hefty loss involved, however. All this considered, we find it fun to be booking bands that we love and being ambassadors for the music we love. The hard yards are part of the promotions business, and so we plod along, slowly getting the name out: a Facebook like here, an interested nod there.

We want to create a new scene out of all the music we love: music that isn’t vogue, but music that you can lose yourself to. The problem with cooking up a scene that doesn’t exist is simply that there isn’t an obvious place to target. Students? Well, our Balliol blues uncovered the issue with that. Gigs? None of the right gigs are there, and we’ve been moved on from flyering queues more than once. Social media? People have to know who we are for a start. And so the graft is the only way to go. Nobody said it was going to be easy, because nobody really said anything. So we’ll keep booking gigs, hoping to make a little less of a loss each time.

The not-for-profit aspect might seem like a cunning ploy to mask the fact that our under-attended gigs are unlikely to make much money, but there is a legitimate reason. We want to embody everything that we believe is good: that means good music and social action. Every single one of our gig profits (should they ever turn up) are going to local charities. We want to promote local bands. We love punk, and we believe nothing is more punk than helping your community. Oxford adopted us when we became students, and we want to adopt it right back: and we want to encourage other people to think the same way.


Image: Common Wolf

Find more about Dreaming Squires Promotions at

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