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George Akins - 'Nottingham's Mr Music'

May 2014

IN the book on a shelf behind George Akins’ desk, the writer refers to him a “Nottingham’s Mr Music”. It’s Jake Bugg’s unofficial biography that is as much about the local music scene as it is about the rise of the kid from Clifton to international star.
“Does it really say that?” he frowns, admitting he’s not yet had time to read it.
He’s not keen on the label but it sits well with the boss of a company that dominates Nottingham’s music map.
DHP Family owns and operates Rock City, Rescue Rooms, The Social and Stealth, where everyone from U2 and Oasis to Simply Red, Nirvana, The Smiths, Iron Maiden and more have played.
It promotes gigs in all of its own venues but also around the country, putting on around 1,200 gigs every year for the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Blunt and Lana Del Ray, winning national awards in the process.
There are other venues in Bristol and London, where it has a second office.
Rock City is also home to concert ticket agency Alt-Tickets.
In more recent years they’ve added artist management to the portfolio, enjoying success with West Bridgford indie band Dog Is Dead and Long Eaton’s Indiana, who last week landed her first Top 20 single.
The 39-year-old father-of-two, the son of Nottingham entrepreneur George Akins (George junior named his son George), recently moved operations from behind Rock City to the Lace Market, taking two storeys in a Victorian building behind wrought iron gates on Plumptre Street.
It’s next to St Mary’s School House where George senior left at the age of 12 in order to start making a bob or two for himself.
It is from here that DHP Family also organises festivals. There are five in all, the most by any promoter.
The indoor variety include Everywhere, Hit The Deck and next weekend’s Dot To Dot across Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham.
“Dot To Dot is our longest-running festival at nine years and it’s all about showcasing the new bands that are the future of music.”
DHP Family has been putting on outdoor festivals, mostly at Wollaton Park, since 1997 with the first City In The Park. More followed with the Corrs, Bryan Adams, Ronan Keating and All Saints, then Green Day for Distortion.
“Although they weren’t unsuccessful, they weren’t particularly successful events,” he admits.
“It is hard to make a one day production work. They were not profitable overall and that was why we stopped doing them.
”It wasn’t until we got into a partnership with Nottingham City Council that we were able to stage the Splendour Festival in Wollaton Park as a sustainable event.
“That has been a success since it started and long may it continue. “
Splendour is now in its sixth year but they’ve added a new festival to the summer diary in early June called No Tomorrow.
“It’s like an end of term party for students,” says George, who never made it to university, thrown out of boarding school in Rugby for smoking and drinking.
“We’ve made overtures to both of the universities for a number of years about getting involved in an end of term party,” he says.
“And we’ve seen the success of Parklife in Manchester and Love Saves The Day in Bristol. They’ve now become proper festivals running over two days and attracting up to 60,000 people.”
Each started out at 10,000, which is his expectation for No Tomorrow on June 7.
“The vision is for it to become a bigger event,” he says of the one-day festival that is targeted at students but is for anyone 18 and over.
“It’s delivering a beginning of summer experience and we’re confident we can do that.”
London Grammar, who met at the University of Nottingham, will headline, with Sam Smith and Clean Bandit joining them on the main stage. All three have number one albums.
Indiana, who is managed by DHP Family, will also appear, following the success of her Top 20 single, Solo Dancing.
Opening the main stage will be a student band, chosen through a competition between both universities.
“It’s a different vibe to Splendour,” says George of the annual festival that returns on July 19.
“That’s more of a day out for family and friends.”
Hence the mix of old and new acts.
“We try to have acts that have had more than one hit. Happy Mondays have had a long and successful career. Boomtown Rats don’t play very often and they had a number of hits back in the day. Scouting For Girls sold 8,000 tickets at the Arena a couple of years ago and they’ve had several top ten hits.
“The same goes for The Beat, who will also be playing the main stage.
“The newer artists are Tom Odell. Although he’s still on his first album there are five hit singles on there. And Foxes are likely to have a Top 5 album this week .”
While No Tomorrow will have two DJ tents, Splendour’s three live music stages will return as normal, the second being the Confetti Stage with Boomtown Rats, Reverend and the Makers and The Rifles.
“It’s a mix of indie and mainstream, old and new,” he says, with expectations that the event will match the 17,000 people that saw Jake Bugg headline last year’s festival.
“The line-up isn’t as Nottingham heavy as it was last year but it couldn’t have been any more Nottingham than that with Jake Bugg, Indiana, Dog Is Dead, Saint Raymond, Georgie Rose and so many others.”
Those have all played the smallest Splendour stage in the Courtyard, which continues to be a showcase of Notts music talent.
“The Nottingham music scene is very vibrant today,” he says.
“There is this excitement because we are producing so many artists that are coming through. We’ve had Dog Is Dead and Jake Bugg, Saint Raymond and Indiana are coming through in the next wave. A lot of industry people are checking out what is going on and the talent coming out of this city.
“Everyone is talking about it. It is a small industry and if there is a enough talk, it builds.”
Nottingham’s Mr Music has never had a go at being in a band himself. He’s not really had the time. At 19, six months in to a jaunt across the Far East and Australia, he was summoned back by his dad to join the family business.
“You just learn quick,” he says of those early years.
“I started doing some of the bookings, probably made a hash of it, learning from my mistakes.”

Dot To Dot at Rock City, Rescue Rooms, Stealth, The Bodega, Spanky Van Dykes and other venues, is on Sunday, May 25. Tickets are £20.
No Tomorrow is at Wollaton Park on Saturday, June 7. Tickets from £20.
Splendour is on Saturday, July 19 and tickets are from £10 to £42.50.
Tickets for all events are on sale from Rock City box office, call 0845 413 4444 or go to
For more about DHP Family go to

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