The Vortex, partly by financial restriction but partly by choice, adds bits and changes slowly. Financial restriction - that's obvious really. It's a venue that has to survive mainly through its wits in prising out admission fees and money from the bar. (The Arts Council and other official bodies have tended to be relatively cool so far to offering anything.) This means that things have to be added slowly.
But. It means that it's possible to consult and discuss before things happen. A stage was built last weekend. The carpenters (Derek Drescher, David Mossman and Mike) had an average age of 65. However, the height and way it was packed with Rockwool was the culmination of 18 months of debate. Pressure to put it in now was due to the opening of Il Bacio downstairs. Food available every evening at last. We need to avoid too much noise affecting their business of selling pizzas. The archetype we thought of was what happens when Gene Calderazzo gives his all at a Partisans gig. (Gene is our role model of a drummer in many ways. The set-up of the club's kit is also thanks to his advice.)
And it's working well. A few musicians had felt that no stage created intimacy, though audiences were beginning to comment, especially at some of the full gigs. I myself have sympathy with the "no stage" approach, though it's clear that a stage works better, and that the height (just 12 inches) is the upper limit before any of that connection with the audience is lost.
Now, the next stage is improving the sound system and sorting out the piano. The p.a. is also better than it was earlier in the year, thanks to the help of Jeremy Farnell in cleaning up the wires and Harvey Brough for lending his mixing desk. But comments are always welcome as to how the final configuration should be. Sarah-Jane Morris had been saying that, while the quality was fine, it needed more monitors and more d.i. boxes. She was surprised that the club didn't have them yet. The reply was "Thanks. We're grateful for your reactions, and they will be taken into account when the next stage of improvement takes place."
One feeling that remains vital is that the Vortex is everyone's front room. Unprompted, both Sarah-Jane and Nikki Yeoh both actually described the Vortex like that. We must hope that this isn't lost. That loyalty and empathy between audience and the musicians created by the club must not be lost and it's an important part of David Mossman's legacy.