Frank Turner @ Hat Works


It’s Friday dinner time in Stockport and I’m stood in Hat Works, the UK’s only museum dedicated to the hatting industry. I have a can of diet coke in my hand and a massive grin on my face. I look around and there are about sixty other people here, mostly clutching bottles of nice beer with the same daft, excited faces.

Although the Museum is full of wonderful head apparel, we’re not here for the fabulous hats, we’re here to watch Frank Turner play a very intimate gig before his two sell-out shows at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester this weekend.

Yep, you read that right, Frank chuffing Turner, in a chuffing museum.

The gig, which was only announced last week, is in the cafe of the museum, housed inside an actual old hat factory overlooking another Stockport landmark, the big, massive viaduct (not its official name).

I always get an excited bubble in my belly when I see a favourite musician play a small or unusual venue and I just have to get a ticket – there’s just something really special, almost secretive about it. Like, I once saw Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in the conservatory of a semi-detached in Didsbury, Sweet Baboo wearing a pig mask and playing an acoustic set in a bank vault and Jarvis Cocker in a cave in the middle of Derbyshire.

Today feels the same, and around me I sense the same vibe, from the guys in the Frank Turner t-shirts, parents holding their kids and the front row dwellers. Actually these guys are probably dead happy that this might be the only Frank Turner gig that they’ll manage to be right at the front for, without the danger of being kicked in the head by an sweaty crowdsurfer.

I look around and I love how they’ve turned this space into a makeshift gig venue; the learning room is now a cloakroom, the cafe counter a bar (with booze, at lunchtime!), a small stage in the corner dressed with hat boxes, a piece of cloth clipped to the ceiling signifies the backstage area and a velvet rope, most likely from a display downstairs, acts as a simple barrier between the stage and audience.

Gigs in museums makes sense doesn’t it? I don’t need to be told to write about this stuff – I’m a fan and this is why; live music has significant economic, social and cultural value; although some towns don’t tend to attract more well known names (hello Stockport). In these towns, smaller venues are facing challenges from high business rates to property development. Running alongside this, there is a huge chunk of society that can’t make live music in the evening because of childcare, work or other responsibilities.

At the same time, many cultural destinations such as museums rely on donations, regular giving or sponsorship models to keep their doors open, as admissions costs don’t often equate to income. Now, there are thousands of museums (and many more cultural attractions) in the UK and hundreds of bands passing through our towns on their way to their next gig. Can you see how these things could compliment each other? Hat Works today have proved that you don’t need a fancy set up to host a dead big name. There are organisations trying to push alternative activity in museums – let’s get behind them!

Onto the main event. When Frank takes to the stage (well when Frank walks 15 seconds to the raised bit in the corner of the room), he announces that it’s gig number 2,300 and asks who’s going to also be at Victoria Warehouse tonight – turns out everyone is.

Wearing a very lovely hat that the museum have kindly gifted him, Frank, to the pure delight of everyone, mentions that only one song in this set will be played later; this afternoon is made up of requests that have been sent into him, especially for this gig. So what this intimate gig in a museum has become is a fan favourites pre-show. Now how special is that?

Frank Turner @ Hat Works

Frank squeezes fourteen songs into an hour set, almost stretching his whole back catalogue; from kicking off with ‘Be More Kind’, the title track from his 7th and most recent studio album, to ‘My Kingdom For A Horse’ from his 2007 debut Sleep is for The Week.

It’s ‘Love Ire & Song’ from his album of the same name that gives me goosebumps and makes my hair stand on end; this man could read the phone book whilst dressed as Hitler and it’d still make me and everyone here happy.

Some of the songs haven’t been played in such a long time that Frank uses the crowd as lyric spotters, especially those from his 2009 release Poetry of The Deed like ‘The Fastest Way Back Home’ and ‘Mr Richards’.

2011’s England Keep My Bones makes an appearance with an unforgettable performance of ‘Balthazar, Impresario’ about the sad decline of England’s music halls. We also get a performance of a track from Don’t Worry, a new EP he surprised dropped just yesterday “like Beyonce”. The track’s called ‘Bar Staff’ and it’s a worthy dedication to the folk who feed us booze and help to pick us up after we’ve had too much of it.

Frank’s performance is fucking great, he’s just a real delight isn’t he? He’s put the same energy into this lunchtime gig as I expect he will for the rest of his significantly bigger do’s on his current arena tour.

The gig finishes at two and everyone is so happy to have had that experience; I walk outside and hear a woman behind me stutter in disbelief, “I….I can’t believe I’ve just seen that, whatt,…god.”

The power of music is incredible, from pre-gig belly excitedness, goosebumps during a song, aching cheeks from smiling so much, to pure elation. Now what if that could be amplified at least once a week, in one museum, in one town in the UK – wouldn’t that be powerful for the health of our live music scene and our cultural institutions?


The next gig lined up at Hat Works is MC Lars, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and Mega Ran on Saturday 6th April. Tickets and more here.

Hat Works is also the latest destination for Tourist Podcast with special guest, stand-up comedian Toby Hadoke. Subscribe on your favourite podcast app to be the first to listen to the episode when it’s released in a few week’s time.

Frank Turner: Official | Facebook | Twitter


Co-founder, Producer and Presenter of the weekly Silent Radio show. Part of the Silent family since 2010.Over 10 years experience of working with national, award-winning youth charities and in the creative industries. She’s the former Deputy Director of, Europe’s leading promoter of emerging creative talent. Here she helped secure new creatives secure massive media exposure (BBC R1, 1Xtra…), showcases at mega impressive locations (Downing Street, V&A...) and kudos from the best in the business (Brian Eno, Boiler Room, Peter Saville…).She also flies the flag for women in the media as Director of Manchester’s independent music website Silent Radio and co-Founder, Exec Producer and Presenter of the Silent Radio show on MCR.Live; Further radio includes BBC 5Live, BBC Radio Manchester, plus the odd bit of TV Production Management with international broadcast credits (BBC, ZDF / Arte, Smithsonian…), she also dabbles with playing records to people and her first podcast is currently in pre-production.Bestest gigs: Pulp, Sheffield Arena, ’12 | Micah P Hinson, Sheffield Lantern Theatre, ’12 | Dream Themes, Manchester Star & Garter, ’14 | Patrick Watson, Manchester Gorilla, ’15 | Less Than Jake, Nottingham Rock City, ‘01 | Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Deaf Institute, ’12 | The Decemberists, Manchester Academy, ‘11 | Passion Pit, Manchester Academy 2, ‘09 | Iron and Wine, The Ritz, Manchester, ‘08 | The Verve (with Beck), Wigan Haigh Hall, ‘98 | Take That, Manchester Eastlands Stadium, ‘11 |Worst gig: Fall Out Boy, Manchester Roadhouse ’05 (subject to change)