Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMA) founder and creative director Richy Muirhead (pictured), who is co-organiser of new hybrid Scottish event HANG, tells Access about the country’s first hip-hop and grime conference, due to take place on 31 July.

Delivered in partnership with the Association of Independent Music (AIM) and with backing from Creative Scotland, HANG (Hip-Hop Aimed Networking with Grime) will be presented by SAMA and involve discussions, workshops and performances. The all-day event will finish with live shows from young Scottish artists at the SWG3 Warehouse in Glasgow (cap. 500).

Why has the conference been set up?

The hope is to create a new platform to empower, promote, and celebrate the hip-hop and grime scene across Scotland. Our long-term ambition with the event is to create a stronger infrastructure in Scotland to support artists, provide new networking opportunities, encourage collaboration and entrepreneurship. The programming has been carefully coordinated to bring together a real mix of voices, these include organisations such as BBC Radio 1Xtra, New Skool Rules Netherlands, Supernature (management: AJ Tracey), AWAL, PRS Foundation, through to growing Scottish platforms and artists such as Darren McGarvey, Lotos, Up2standard, Intercultural Youth and Sunny G Radio.

There has been a hip hop scene in Scotland for well over a decade and now we are seeing a significant rise in new artists releasing music across genres like hip hop, grime, drill, trap and R&B. Now feels like the best time to be hosting HANG and bringing all the voices and creativity into one big space to explore future opportunities.

Our partner Creative Scotland is launching a new bursary scheme targeted at artists, which will support costs towards studio time, creative collaborations and equipment.

How will the conference and the evening showcase gigs be handled in terms of social distancing and other Covid measures?  

All the daytime activities such as panels, spoken word performances, workshops and graffiti are taking place online and will be accessible via YouTube for viewers around the world. In the evening we are hosting a limited capacity, socially distanced music showcase. Covid has changed the events world and we are planning in line with government guidance and working closely with SWG3. We are fully aware it will be a slightly different experience for everyone involved. Some of the changes we are implementing include paperless tickets, group bookings, table service, and a fully seated audience operating at 20% of the venue’s capacity.

Generally, what has the impact been of the shutdown of the Scottish live scene?  

Over the last year we’ve seen many organisations pivot and move work into an online format using Zoom and other interactive tools which is good but often unsustainable financially. A positive take from lockdown is that it has given some artists more time to develop musically and technically using software and apps, but now we need to get back to a live environment, even if it is going to be a very different experience.

Do you think a clear reopening timeline is needed?  

I do think we need a clear timeline, and a bit more trust from the government and an understanding of just how many people are involved in staging an event behind the scenes, and the long meticulous hours of planning that goes on. We’ve seen numerous large-scale gatherings including test events, music festivals, and major sports tournaments in the rest of the UK and we need to follow suit very soon otherwise the sector will not be able to recover. In Scotland the reality is that it feels like the arts are being heavily left behind, and if it stays that way it will sadly take years to recover.