Preston as a city may be small – but on the music scene map it certainly isn’t.
After all, it was not too long ago Preston’s The Ferret played host to one of today’s most influential male solo artists Ed Sheeran.
And tucked away in the rural backdrop is growing Preston business Skiddle ready to ensure music lovers have all the knowledge of where to find the very best of live music at the touch of a button.
The Longridge headquarters might seem an unusual choice of location for a business at the centre of the music scene but it certainly adds to the unique profile of one of the UK’s largest what’s on guides and ticket agents
But it’s not diffficult to see why Skiddle founders Richard Dyer and Ben Sebborn use this converted gym space to expand the company.
It’s been quite the tour for Ben and Rich who founded the music gig bible as a part-time hobby during their university years in Preston.
Ben was managing a full-time job while also putting hours into the business before taking a leap of faith in 2006 to make Skiddle his career.
It wasn’t a bad move
In the last three years, the pair have reaped the rewards, growing from a team of 12 to 40 and moving to their rural location with satellite offices in Liverpool and Manchester.
“It is great to be able to offer the staff opportunities to get involved in like Independence Music Week and just extend our relationships with promoters, venues, bands, which are at the heart of what we do.”
Far from a listings guide and ticket sellers, today Skiddle work hand in hand with some of the UK’s and Europe’s biggest promoters to planning and marketing their own events – the Lancaster Highest Point Festival is destined to be a great feat this year.
But where the business has succeeded is in remaining honest to its grassroots in supporting emerging musicians of all genres across the UK.
It is something both Rich and Ben are passionate about, ensuring that for all music remains within easy reach.
Ben says: “We’re music lovers, that is why it is so important for us. Many of our team as well as sharing our ethos have a vested interest – we have staff who play in bands and DJs as well our own music journalists so we are able to offer so much more through the website than just listings and tickets.
“We have everything in-house.”
The music-loving team have recently returned from a week on the road as main sponsors to Independent Music Week.
One of the highlights on the tour was one of Skiddle’s own team members, Matt Murphy from Preston, playing with his band Building Giants.
Account manager Matt has worked with Skiddle for the last year.
He says: “I have been here for almost a year now.
“My main role is to help promoters out with their events and support Skiddle with their festival, club and live music relationships.
“After completing a degree in popular music at the University of Huddersfield, I always knew I wanted to work in the industry.
“I’m not sure whether I fit Skiddle or Skiddle fits me, but in terms of combining my hobbies and interests with my career, I feel like this role fits the bill.
“When I’m not working, my focus is my band, Building Giants.
“We’re a four-piece rock band from Preston and we gig both locally and nationally.
“Recently, we completed a tour of the North West for Independent Venue Week – a cause both the band and Skiddle feel strongly about.
“This year we’ll also be touring the UK festival circuit, which is a first for us and a really incredible opportunity.”
Ben adds: “It is great to be able to offer the staff opportunities to get involved in like Independence Music Week and just extend our relationships with promoters, venues, bands, which are at the heart of what we do.
“Independent venues are the heart and soul of the music scene; nurturing grassroots talent, encouraging creativity and still offering music fans a genuine and affordable live experience.
“So that’s why the week is something we’re proud to be part of.”
It was while studying information systems design at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) Ben first met Rich.
“As students we were finding it difficult to find exactly what was going on where on the local music scene -– there was a gap for a new listings type website.
“At the time MixMag was the ‘bible’ but some listings didn’t make it at all, others had been and gone.
“We initially started submitting them our listings and I got involved as a music fan and because the technical side was in line with my studies, it was more of a part time hobby than anything else.
“We started mainly with local events Preston to Carlisle where Rich was from and had already started a what’s on guide. It grew from there.
“We then found that tickets for a lot of the gigs we wanted to travel to, at places what was Sankey’s in Manchester, we were paying over the odds for through ticket and booking fees online simply for buying in advance.
“We were students and thought there had to be a better way so working directly with promoters and venues was a natural development – if we generated more ticket sales and keep prices affordable, we were offering a service everybody wanted.
“We knew we were on to something when we came full cycle and Mix Mags came to us asking for a collaboration and to help modernise the listings.”
This year, Skiddle are looking forward to another ambitious project with Rich one of the team behind new festival Highest Point in Lancaster’s Wiliamson Park in May.
The event is a follow-up to the A Wing at Lancaster Castle and last years sell out Hacienda Classical show, which Rich put together with Jamie Scahill.
Highest Point will span three days and the impressive line up includes the Hacienda Classical, world renowed DJ Sasha and drum and bass artists High Contrast, Fred V & Grafix, Danny Byrd, Spy B2B Nu:Tone, Dynamite MC, Lowqui and Tempza.
The festival is to be held in memory of their good friend and former Skiddle events promoter Chris Glaba, who died after a battle with cancer in 2016.
Ben says: “Rich and the team have been working really hard to put together something very special in Highest Point, the last event was on a much smaller scale.
“This is going to be bigger, better and it’s coming together well – we’re all quite excited by the line-up.
“It’s great for local people too to experience an event like this on the doorstep and it’s a fitting tribute for Chris and will hopefully raise lots of money for Macmillan, which is a big focus for us.”
The festival is expected to welcome up to 5,000 people to the city beauty spot and will featurie up to five stages of nationally recognised musicians over the course of the weekend.
Every £1 of every ticket sale will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.
The event will be free during the day on Saturday and Sunday, and ticketed from around 5pm on all three nights.
n For more information about the festival, visit www.highestpoint.co.uk.