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Backstage Stars – Mike Hamblett

Backstage Stars
9 October 2017
Mike-Hamblett
While training as a mechanical engineer Mike Hamblett discovered a love of live music visiting local venues. His experiences led him to open Robin 1 in Dudley, where many of his heroes ended up performing. He now owns and runs 700-capacity The Robin 2 in Wolverhampton, overseeing everything from booking and production to catering and marketing.

 

What are your first live music memories?

“After leaving school at 16 I was taken on as a technical apprentice in mechanical engineering. I was sent me to Dudley Technical College and it was in these years 1970-75, that my love of live music started.

“I went to see bands such as ACE [How Long] with the amazingly talented Paul Carrack, Trapeze fronted by the awesome Glenn Hughes, Supercharge [Albie Donnelly] and Home featuring Laurie Wisefield on guitar.

“In 1975 aged 21, I had decided I wanted to play drums and start a band which I did, so I played drums at night and was a project engineer designing vending machines by day.

“During this period, I started going to Barbarellas, a great live club venue in Birmingham. The bands that really blew me away were Queen, Cockney Rebel, fronted by the very charismatic Steve Harley, The Heavy Metal Kids fronted by the late Gary Holton, and Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers [ex-Family] fronted by the inimitable vibrato voice of Roger Chapman. It’s quite incredible that years later many of these names went on to play both my venues on numerous occasions.

 

How did you get into the music industry?

“After spending 10 years as a project engineer, and 10 years in a band, I handed in my notice and hung up my drumsticks to start a business of my own in the music industry. I started a record label which I ran by day and I did PA hire for local bands by night, operated from my parents’ front room and garage.

“What little reserves I had soon got gobbled up with the record label which I ceased after my money ran out. I went to the bank to get a loan to expand my PA hire business, which successfully developed and ran for 30 years from 1985.”

 

How has your career developed?

“In 1992 an old school friend took on the lease of The Robin Hood Inn [later to become Robin 1], I went down to see him and he showed me around and we went into the Citizens Theatre on the back, which was like a large scout hut but with quite a big stage. As soon as I walked in I said this would make a great gig. I had a spare PA system doing nothing, so we decided to open the Robin R’n’B Club at The Robin Hood.

“He ran the pub and I ran the gig. It was a great success, except my friend got himself into difficulties, so to salvage the club I went to the brewery and took on the lease myself. It was a huge leap, learning how to run the pub and the venue, but things took off and I started hosting some great international artistes. I learned the business the hard way by my mistakes.”

What have been your greatest highs and lows?

“It’s all been very positive with the development of the original Robin 1 moving on to the Robin 2. I think the lowest point came mid-recession about 2008. I had borrowed an awful lot of money developing Robin 2 and the hotel and suddenly my trade was cut by about 40 per cent. They were difficult years but we came out much leaner and stronger and ready to move forward.

“I think the greatest high point came in 2004/5, right in the middle of the redevelopment of Robin 2. I met my beautiful Russian wife and son to be Natasha and Yaroslav. We got married amongst the scaffolding and opened the Robin 2 redevelopments all in the same period. We have just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary together.”

 

Do you have any observations about the way the industry is moving?

“I really do think the live music scene will continue to flourish, nothing can replace a great live band with an audience of like-minded people who love and appreciate live music.

“In 1992 when I opened the original Robin, there was no internet, virtually no mobile phones or PC’s which is quite hard to believe, so the business has changed incredibly since those early days. The marketing we do continues to develop and change with the times.”

 

How do you unwind?

“Our home was the last handmade Rope & Twine Manufactory in England and I can trace it back to 1801. I fell in love with the building when I saw it for sale and have spent the last 24 years renovating it, which is my main hobby. I love carpentry and DIY.

“Apart from that because my working week is so long, we have two holidays abroad each year, and love to travel and experience new cultures. We’re off to New Zealand for our next adventure at the end of 2017.

“We also have two very beautiful but naughty Weimaraners, who we love to walk in the nearby forest.

“I also have an Ariel Sporting Arrow motorcycle that I purchased aged 16 for £50 and restored about 30 years ago, my one ambition is to get that back on the road again one day.”

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