The world needs more independent record stores, but it’s an extremely hard time to open one. That’s why the latest bunch of Irish indie record stores – Elastic Witch in Dublin and Wingnut in Galway, and now Waterford – are taking a new approach to selling records in Ireland.
Instead of focusing on being stand-alone entities, they are harnessing the power of an existing business in which to root themselves, showing that in recession times it’s good for people to come together to make things work.
These stores are run by people who live and breathe Irish music – Gib Cassidy, who runs Elastic Witch, is a musician and champion of Irish music, and worked in Road Records; Ray Cuddihy from Wingnut Galway is a hugely passionate fan of homegrown music and saw a gap in the market in Galway for an independent-focused record store; and Kate Glavey, a talented musician who has set up Wingnut Waterford, was inspired by Ray to open a similar store in her part of the country.
Elastic Witch is based in the Twisted Pepper, in a room that by night is a venue. In testament to venue proprietors Bodytonic‘s always-switched-on attitude, they realised that the vacant room could be put to good use during the day. They had already transformed the downstairs venue into a buzzing coffee shop, 3FE, thanks to another fine entrepreneur, and a book shop, The Loft, was open upstairs. So why not use some other space to sell records?
When you want to survive in a recession, you do what Bodytonic do – use your brain and come up with alternative uses for the spaces you already have.
Wingnut Galway, meanwhile, set up home in Bell, Book and Candle, a wonderful, kooky second-hand shop in Galway. It is truly independent, and has sold ‘pre-loved’ records for years, as well as all manner of quirky paraphernalia. So it was a perfect fit for Ray when it came to selling music by independent Irish artists.
And Wingnut Waterford is opening thanks to Kate, who approached the Hard Times bookstore on the city’s Peter St to create a space for selling Irish releases.
I caught up with Gib in Elastic Witch earlier this week to have a chat about what it is like running his own store during what is quite a difficult time for all businesses. Our chat wasn’t all doom and gloom – that’s not what Sweet O is about! – it was positive and inspiring. It showed me that there is a new business model for Irish record stores (for more inspiration, look at Plugd Records, which is open within the Triskel Arts Centre, and thriving) and that people who care about music will always do their best to help promote music in whatever way they can.
It’s easy to get bogged down in what we can’t do; how little money we have; and how crap things seem to be. But during bad times, there is plenty of room for inspiration, and the DIY spirit is still alive and kicking in Ireland. Thanks to the likes of Gib, Ray, Kate, the lads at Plugd, the Triskel, Bodytonic, Hard Times, and the Bell Book and Candle, we now have four record stores selling independent music (and more) – who could have foreseen that a year or two ago?
The focus is no longer on the future: it’s on right now. These shops may not be open in two years – or they may have grown, expanded. We’re not fortune tellers, so all we can do is enjoy them in the present.
Thanks a million to Gib for doing the interview – here’s the link for the show on RTE 2XM. Due to a scheduling error you’ll have to skip to around 5 minutes into the hour to get my show.
All pics taken by me in Elastic Witch. Please credit if you repost them.