Shoutout From a Rock Legend

“I wanna do a shout out for some buddies of mine that helped me help them, young musicians, and people struggling in this neighbourhood. It’s called Livewire!” 

It’s not every youth group that gets a ‘shoutout’ from a rock legend at the start of a gig performing with his band. But that’s exactly what happened for a group in South East Cornwall. Not only did they get the shout out from their hero, but he is also their patron and assists where he can with equipment to help make their project a success. His name… Pete Townshend! 

Being a patron of the Livewire Youth Project in Saltash, he not only mentioned them at the start of a gig with the Who last July at the Eden Project, but he also donated his entire recording studio to Livewire several years ago, to help those young musicians on their way. 

Andy Rance, leader of the project, told me he got a phone call from Pete one day saying that he was upgrading his studio and would they like his old one, and needing to know if he wanted the measurements. Andy says: “I was like, definitely, thank you! You send it. Let us worry about fitting it in. It was a nightmare getting it up to the first floor of the building, but we managed it! 

“It’s nice for the young people to be able to use real equipment and I’m pretty sure that Pete’s recorded some of his solo stuff on this desk so there’s a bit of history to it, too. This room is also used for piano lessons on Pete’s piano. He’s a lovely bloke.” 

The Livewire Youth Project is on the banks of the Tamar and was started originally as a youth club after the second world war by Reverend W H Prior of St Nicholas and St Faith Church. Originally known as the Waterside Boys Club, it then went on to become the Saltash Boys Club, before eventually becoming known as it is today.  

When Andy volunteered to help out in 1990, Livewire was in danger of closing down. He says: “I fell in love with the place. But it only had a telly that you couldn’t get a signal on and a snooker table upstairs with a big crack down the middle, so you couldn’t even really play snooker properly. 

“But its heart and the atmosphere are the young people. A lot of people back then came from struggling families in Saltash, and I suppose from what I experienced growing up, I just gelled with them. I never left.” 

A vacancy came up in 1997 for someone to run the project and Andy got the position. After a few more years spending time talking and working with its members, one fact came shining through and that was that most of them enjoyed music. 

Over the years Andy and volunteers managed to get the old sports hall in the building changed into a live music venue where young people between the ages of 10 and 21 can now perform. 

Last year a fundraising gig was held featuring Metal Fatigue and The Jack. For the drummer of the band Jack, it was his first visit to Livewire, and he was ‘absolutely blown away by the project’. As much as the sound system was OK, he felt that it was dated, and the young people deserved something more beneficial to their talents. 

After calling a relative who helps charities on a regular basis, and explaining about the project, the relative donated £10,000 towards a new PA system. 

Again, Pete Townshend stepped in to help with further funding of £15,000 and after Andy and the trustees had approached Electro-Voice, who gave them a generous discount, the new XLE Line Array system, powered by Dynacord L3600FD Amplifiers, was installed by Christmas. 

Not only that, but Arthur Archard and his team who installed the system have offered to come along now and again with ongoing training for the youngsters.  

The project in Saltash is ever evolving thanks to the support and generous donations from the public as well as the music industry and Andy is aware how ‘absolutely blessed’ its members are. 

Free music lessons have been offered to everyone who attends and the extra rooms at the venue are multi-functional. They have their recording studio donated by Pete Townsend, with a drum booth included within that room, and a vocal room for singing lessons. 

One of their newer projects is a sewing room, for which several sewing machines have been donated to help the youngsters repair of recycle some of the clothes that want to alter or have been passed in for them. This room is sometimes used as an extra counselling room to the one that is dedicated only for their counselling sessions. 

Andy explains: “We don’t do loads of extra things throughout the year because we’re so busy with just doing what we do, music-based activities, and youth support work here from Monday to Friday. We’ve also got the mental health side of it which we started up about six or seven years ago.” 

Although good youth workers, he and his team were beginning to realise that they were working with many young people who clearly needed counselling and it got to the stage where they were having to wait for anything up to two years for help. 

“We went ‘hell for leather’ trying to get funding which we manged to get to supplement the service. Initially it was going to be a two-year private project but within a year we agreed this is just something that we would build into what Livewire does from now on, rather than being just a one-off project,” recalls Andy. 

On a Monday evening, they have an open mic night, followed by a young women’s group session to rehearse on a Tuesday. Then on Wednesdays is the junior’s evening, and on Thursday evening the young bands get the opportunity to go in for practise in the live venue.  

Throughout the year the project runs ‘all age’ gigs from time to time to help with the continuous fundraising that is needed to help, which includes the annual Rocking by the River gig.  

Occasional memorial and fundraising gigs also take place, and other bands playing at the venue have included Stiff Little Fingers, the Damned, the Hoosiers, and Phil Campbell, the Welsh rock musician who was in the band Motorhead from 1984 until 2015 when it disbanded. 

The highlight of this year was the Alumni Weekend which saw many bands past and present from Livewire appear on stage, including the first ever band to have played there on stage, Courting Summer. 

They said on their YouTube video recorded at the event: “To have somewhere where you can have amps and make loud noises, and then go upstairs and record in a recording studio…it’s like it’s ignited something in us!” 

The band agreed that their time at Livewire had ‘made them feel like part of the community which was important to them growing up’ and that they had become lifelong friends. 

In response to the YouTube video there was again a message from Pete Townsend in a comment, ‘So Proud to be a part of LIVEWIRE, Great band too……Pete Townshend’. 

It proved and emotional weekend for Andy, who has had a couple of health scares over the past few years, with the weekend being a success and with so many bands who started their time at the Livewire Youth Project coming along to play. Some bands even re-formed to take part.  

With the success of the project so far, Andy is keen for it to continue to grow as it has helped so many kids over the years, and now with over 30 volunteers, ten people on the board of trustees, their sponsors, and their patrons Brian Johnson from AC/DC, Lord Teverson, and of course, Pete Townshend, he is hopeful this will happen.  

However, Andy does have one extra hope. He reveals: “I keep trying to get Pete to do a gig here ‘cos I know we’d have a sell out! But I’ll forgive Pete because he did give us a good shoutout at the Eden Project which is nice.” 



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