Becoming a parent was the inspiration for Sarada Chunduri-Shoesmith’s brilliant Wake Up Gigs concept, and led to the then postgraduate student winning the Idea Category of LSBU’s Make It Happen Competition in 2017. Wake Up Gigs allows parents to experience gigs and live music in a relaxed and welcoming environment, and has been featured on Lauren Laverne's BBC Radio 6Music show. The gigs run on Sunday afternoons, feature live acts and aim to make it as easy as possible for people to bring their little ones along. Attendees at shows so far have varied in age from 4 weeks to 66 years old!
New parenthood, new activities
So, just how did this idea come about? “Well, my husband Adam and I became parents just over two years ago and we were always on the lookout for interesting things to do with our son at the weekends,” Sarada explains. “There’s a growing industry of cultural events you can take your baby or child along to such as baby cinema, baby Broadway, baby yoga and baby raves, and it was on the way home from a baby rave that we had the idea of putting on something similar based on our own musical tastes. We naively said things like: "How hard can it be to do that but add some live music into the mix as well?"
As a couple, Sarada and her husband met through music and live music has always been their biggest passion. There is no doubt, however, that, like many other new parents, having a child sees lots of barriers being put up to continuing that passion. “We were sure there must be other parents out there who felt the same, so we set off to discover if that was true,” she reveals.
With no previous experience in the music industry or events management, Sarada and Adam tried to speak to as many people as possible and learn as much as they could. “We'd been to hundreds of gigs as fans and we'd built up an idea as new parents of what makes life easier. The first major thing to do was to find a venue who thought what we wanted to do wasn't totally mad. With no previous ‘proof of concept’ to speak of, we had to persuade venue owners that it would work. From our perspective, we had to find a venue that was the right size, space – with a clean bathroom! – to bring our unique audience into. Eighteen months later, and we’ve now put on five gigs.”
A great turning point to making things happen
Sarada says that the chance to take part in the Make It Happen competition was a great turning point, and made them think long and hard about what they really wanted for the business. “Not only that, but it helped us hone and communicate the message to our audience. It was also a great confidence boost to have the positive endorsement and recognition that the award brought. If anyone else has the opportunity to take part in something similar, I’d definitely recommend they go for it,” Sarada adds. “Regardless of how far you make it in the competition, the framework and business canvas process of the competition focuses your thinking to really understand how you can turn something from idea to business.
“Actually winning the competition helped us to build credibility and provided further proof of concept that this idea we’ve been working on might just work! The funding from the competition has helped to us to invest a bit more in expertise that we certainly didn’t have before, such as PR and marketing.”
In terms of future plans for the business, Sarada says that they want to continue to build Wake Up Gigs’ reputation as the best place for parents and their families to come and experience live music from new and exciting artists. “We are working on a couple of things for this year that take the idea in a new direction that we are excited about. We have a bucket list of artists that would of course be very welcome to come and play a few tunes if they are free … Beyonce, Adele, Lady Gaga… “
Through a combination of courage and luck, Sarada and Adam were fortunate enough to recently be interviewed by Lauren Laverne on her BBC 6Music show to talk about Wake Up Gigs; something that Sarada says is already proving beneficial. “Lauren is someone we have followed in music for a long time and, as a parent herself, completely understood where we were coming from with our idea. Even though it was only a few minutes, we were inundated with messages and emails from listeners from all over the country: they wanted to know when we were coming to their part of the world. Future development for us could be doing some shows around the UK or even some sort of franchising model, although I'd have to seriously brush up my knowledge as my only memories of franchises were at GCSE Business Studies!”