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YolanDa Brown OBE DL, chair of recorded music industry body the BPI, tells Access about her new live music venue and restaurant set to open in Islington, North London.

The new 350-capacity venue, Soul Mama, aims to bring new opportunities for independent artists while “changing the narrative” of venue ownership and creating more diversity in this underfunded space.

Musician, broadcaster, composer and philanthropist Brown, alongside music manager, creative entrepreneur Adetokunbo “T” Oyelola, were recently honored with a Guinness World Records title for the most money pledged worldwide for a Kickstarter restaurant project, with £248,148 raised to open the venue.

The venue has opened at a desperate period for grassroots venues. In an annual report from Music Venue Trust, the charity found that 125 venues were forced to permanently close in 2023.

What was the inspiration behind the venue?

YB: I’ve always had the dream of owning a music venue and restaurant. It’s a lovely full circle of all the areas I work in and I’m passionate about having a space for emerging artists and legendary artists who want to have that intimate connection with their audience with some great food and music, and almost building a community who enjoys that experience.

They’ll be a fusion of African, Caribbean and Brazilian cuisine with space for a popup kitchen. As for the events, it will be a mix of reggae, jazz, funk and soul, as well as poetry and comedy events.

With so many grassroots venues closing, it must be encouraging for you to open the venue at such a difficult time?

I’m glad that you focused on the positive there, because obviously that could put some people off. But actually after the time we’ve had, we crave community and these experiences. Our motto is ‘Feed Your Soul’ – we’re trying to get people to feed their soul with great music and great company.

Do you have any plans for expansion?

That is the master plan. We’re starting off with one venue in London but the aim is to have Soul Mama’s in multiple cities around the world. This would create a nice touring platform for those artists. It’s difficult sometimes for artists across borders but if we can create those pockets of Soul Mamas around the globe, it would be lovely to have artists tour that platform.

What will set it apart from other venues of that size?

It’s about making sure that collaboration between music and food is strong. Sometimes you go to a music venue and you’ve got great music and ok food, and vice versa. It’s about bringing those together for a wholesome experience under one roof.

We also want to make sure emerging artists have platforms to play while expanding out into the charity element and ensuring that education is at the heart. Our community is about music lovers who enjoy good food but also the next generation who want to learn sound and lighting or hospitality and culinary skills. All of that will happen under this roof as well.

Soul Mama is set to open this Spring, with more information to be revealed soon.