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An All-Ages Music Manifesto

Book Review: How all-ages music venues keep the arts alive, build community, and give young people experience in organizing.

In Every Town

In Every Town: An All-Ages Music Manifesto
by Shannon Stuart
AMP, 2011, 287 pages, $14.99

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I grew up in a cultural sinkhole in the backwoods of central Maine. There were no all-ages music venues. The closest place that held shows was a dilapidated church an hour and a half away, and believe me, you could feel the distance. Those shows smelled like the apathy and itchy feet of every teenager with nowhere to go and energy to burn. It didn’t belong to us, and I longed for the skills to bring people together and have it mean something. I wanted a voice.

All-ages venues aren’t just escape routes for kids with nothing better to do. They create a synergistic relationship between youth and the community that will keep the arts vital, and they enable young people to gain experience in organizing. No one understands that better than Shannon Stewart, whose efforts to establish youth space in Seattle culminated in The Vera Project, an all-ages venue with a model for power-sharing that garners international acclaim. As co-founder of the All-ages Movement Project (AMP), Stewart has since created a nationwide online network for all-ages music and arts venues to share information, resources and best practices.

vera picVideo: Take Note
VERA Project took on Seattle's youth music wasteland to create lasting opportunities for young artists.

Stewart compiled accounts from all-ages venues across the nation for In Every Town to illustrate the ins and outs of business licenses, zoning permits, and how to publicize events cheaply in ways that capture people’s attention. The examples make this process accessible, whether you hope to operate all-ages events out of a basement or a $2 million hall, legally or without official sanction, on government property or in a squat.

For everyone who hated being a teenager in a place with nowhere to do anything that felt important, or for anyone still there, this is the way out, beyond, and through the wild woods. There really is potential for communities to recognize, support, and cherish a strong and innovative youth culture in every town. This book will give you the tools to make it happen.


Jaimee Garbacik wrote this article for New Livelihoods, the Fall 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Jaimee serves on The Vera Project’s youth-led governing body.

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