The inaugural Pitch conference comes to Glasgow this year, an event for hip-hop and underground culture from the team behind HANG (Hip-Hop Aimed Networking with Grime) and the Scottish Alternative Music Awards. I spoke to Scottish music pioneers Richy Muirhead and Alana Hepburn in Glasgow to see what they’ve got planned and why time was ripe for a conference celebrating Scotland’s underground.
How did it [Pitch] evolve out of HANG? Was it always your intention to take it to this larger stage?
Alana Hepburn: It has been a big evolution, a development from what we did last year — some of our priorities from HANG had changed and that’s why we wanted to be more specific to the demographic that we’re working with.
Richy Muirhead: HANG was a lockdown event and it had never taken place in a physical environment, so coming back as Pitch has enabled us to work across multiple venues, to work with a certain part of the community and to build on the relationships that we’d made through HANG. Particularly with [international music and networking event] New Skool Rules, who are based in Holland. Changing it slightly and building on what we had.
I found the choice of venues really interesting.
Alana: Moving to three smaller venues we thought would encourage the hip-hop mentality: working with [Govanhill community arts venue] The Space is an opportunity to not only help the venue develop but to help us develop through the venue. We’re doing a lot of workshops, we’re doing a positive graffiti campaign with [graffiti artist] Rogue-One – we’re going to be painting the outside of The Space, which we’re so happy about.
Richy: People will be travelling to the east end of Glasgow who have possibly never been, and we really want to showcase the heartbeat and creativity that side of the town offers. I think it’s an exciting location to us – we really felt quite at home.
Alana: It’s about approachable venues for the demographic, as well, because we want people to feel comfortable in the environment around them: that’s when you get the best out of people. Hip-hop is trainers and tracksuits, it’s not fancy –we feel these venues work well with the community and aren’t a barrier. It’s perfect to encourage the demographic to come out and to be themselves.
Richy: Historically as well, with Saint Luke’s through the SAMAs, there have been lots of iconic and special moments there and we want to build on that. We have a really great relationship with the team there and that’s so important when planning something like this.
Hip-hop in Glasgow has always been there, but it feels like it has broached in the last few years.
Alana: It has completely exploded – people like Loki and Steg G kind of paved the way, but the influx of grime has pushed a lot more rappers to become established – you’re talking to whole different groups and dynamics.
We’ve got all these different subgenres that have evolved and come up through it.
Richy: To break down those barriers lets other artists push themselves – the media in Scotland, the funding bodies, have really got behind the art form in a way they maybe didn’t in the past. The more visibility those artists and sounds have, the more they develop. Events like Pitch play a really crucial role in building that infrastructure.
Alana: Being in a band has always had a clear gateway to know where you’re going, but if you are an MC it’s not such a clear pathway.
So we’re trying to develop these artists to try and raise awareness — to make it acceptable that if someone does rap and someone does acoustic music they can take a chance and collaborate: there’s no social difference, we’re talking about the same issues. The Snuts and Bemz coming together was a huge thing. It has changed so much and the next five years are so exciting. It’s about social acceptance, as well. If someone forms an opinion of you based on what you’re wearing then it becomes a barrier — it’s about taking that barrier down, and maybe someone who sees Pitch happen will walk by and listen, not think ‘they’ve got a knife’ or whatever.
Was using that language for a conference, saying that this is a serious industry event, a part of that?
Richy: It builds on that: there’s a lot of talent in Scotland but a lack of infrastructure and ways to get more information. So building a conference is a way to make opportunities and grow the sector.
Alana: [It’s] showing people that in a few years you can be winning awards, you can be playing TRNSMT, or whatever. But you have to be intentional for change to happen.
Richy: Part of what we’re doing with photography exhibitions, video, breakdancing, dance workshops and performance is about bringing all those art forms together, whether it’s showing your young daughter what dance can look like in a hip-hop context or seeing the next popular artists who are going to go on and play those stages.
Pitch will run across multiple venues on Saturday 27th August