The Independent London Newspaper



MUSIC: Oh! You pretty Ding’ – big plans for iconic venue

Hardwicke Circus will play the Dingwalls Live night on February 16

Hardwicke Circus will play the Dingwalls Live night on February 16

Published: 30 January, 2017

CAMDEN is the heartbeat of music, so for me to start from there totally makes sense.” 

Jongleurs founder and owner of the Dingwalls brand, Maria Kempinska MBE, has big plans to breathe life into the iconic Camden name. 

“It means so much to have the name Dingwalls, it’s a bit neglected, sad and lonely, it needs TLC, I want to bring that back and bring it home,” she adds. 

Maria, who founded Jongleurs Comedy club in 1983, and who used to own the Dingwalls venue, is returning with her new monthly night Dingwalls Live, a talent show with a difference. As with Jongleurs, which Maria built from scratch with just a £300 overdraft and a bicycle for collateral, the businesswoman, performer and psychotherapist intends to grow the concept into something much bigger.

Using her many contacts, Maria has set about creating an entire infrastructure to support up-and-coming bands, with plans to sign successful acts to a new Dingwalls record label. Dingwalls Live will take place once a month, with the next round at Dingwalls on February 16, featuring One Lone Boy, Feral Ghost, Hardwicke Circus, Justin Jon Thorne, She Byron, Monsoon and Blue Eyed Souls.  

Instead of being a one-off search for just one winner, an audience and panel will vote for a winner from a selection of acts each month. Each month’s winner will be given the support to not only record their own music, but will have access to great producers, distribution and much more. 

And it’s not the end of the road for those who don’t win, as viewers and audience members will be able to crowdfund to support their favourite entrants and help them also put out their own music.

Maria said: “When the audience vote, we say, why don’t you crowdfund for them. We’ve got a distribution and management arm and we can support them with the right producer and get them up and running and will distribute them into all the stores. We will keep all the crowdfunding supporters in touch with their acts.”

The panel includes Ray Lewis, whose band The Drifters played at Dingwalls way back in 1983.

The competition is being broadcast on TV and viewers can vote online through the competition’s website or through an app. 

“The only way you can do something is build it,” says Maria. “With Jongleurs I went out, I had £300 and a bicycle – and the £300 was my overdraft.” 

The comedy club grew until it became a household name – a feat Maria hopes to repeat. 

“I’m trying to do it again in music,” she said. “I’m aiming to make Dingwalls a big global music brand. Nothing small, after I’ve been through everything with Jongleurs.” 

While hopeful acts can apply to enter the competition on the Dingwalls Live website or Facebook page, Maria has no shortage of talented performers approaching her.

She said: “All the acts are really great unsigned or signed, but not known.” 

Dingwalls Live has had some previous big successes. Maria said: “I did this in 2008 and found Ellie Goulding, VV Brown and others. But I had a number of other acts that weren’t picked up. Ellie Goulding is immensely talented and gifted. We’ve got lots of acts like that.”

Maria, who is putting her own money into the project, and pays expenses for all bands, has big plans for winners. 

She said: “We will pay for someone to go into the studio that is absolutely ready to go – we will manage, distribute and more. 

“The rest of the acts are all ready to go so we can manage and distribute them too, but other people can crowdfund them. We will manage, or co-manage if they already have a manager.”

One of the more distinctive elements of the competition is the new Dingwalls record label.

Maria said: “It will be a record label but in a better way than a normal label, much more supportive. If we’re putting on one act, I’ll use one of our other acts to support them. We want to make it much more supportive and inclusive. We can support acts by getting in producers, I’ve got a whole roster of producers. We’re prepared to do two or three tracks and get them out there.”


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