Last Thursday night, many months of organisation, rehearsal, rock, roll and Rhône came together on stage at the O2 Academy Islington in north London for Skin Côntact Live Again.
The event was conceived by me in 2014, as a good excuse to stage a wine-trade rock concert and raise money for charity in the process. The first supposedly one-off gig took place last year and raised over £10,000 for Wine Relief, the wine trade's effort for Comic Relief. A sequel was unexpected, but after such a successful debut and calls for an encore, I started planning another event last winter.
Once again, it was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Côtes du Rhône wines, who also provided a wine tasting to kick off the event. Then at nine o'clock, the show began. The original line-up of myself on keyboards, our columnist Alex Hunt MW on guitar, Matt James on drums and Ben Smith on bass were joined by Millie Baring and Anne Jones on backing vocals. A succession of wine trade singers joined us to front the band, all of whom did a fantastic job. They were: broadcaster Olly Smith, wine writers Guy Woodward and Anne Serres, Stephanie Barlow from Berry Bros, Amelia Singer from ITV's The Wine Show, wine-bar supremo and MW student Ali Cooper, winemaker Leah de Felice Renton, Tristan Darby from the Bristol Wine School, Sophie McLean of Bancroft Wines and Noble Rot co-founder Mark Andrew.
As if that wasn't enough talent, we were followed on stage by Neal Martin and Dan Keeling, who DJ-ed until midnight.
Over 300 wine-trade fans, friends and family came along to see us perform and we once again raised over £10,000 for Wine Relief. It was hugely gratifying that the hard work and generosity of everyone involved was so well rewarded – not just through the numbers but by the atmosphere and energy generated on the night. There are dozens of people who deserve thanks for their efforts, all of whom I mention on the Skin Côntact blog.
Feedback has been wonderful, with loads of positive messages coming via Twitter, Facebook and even in person. I can now retire from the music world and content myself with telling people at dinner parties for the rest of my life that my band once headlined the Islington Academy.
The photos below were taken by Colin Hampden-White and feature, in order: Olly Smith, Amelia Singer, Alex Hunt, Ben Smith, Tristan Darby, Guy Woodward, Steph Barlow, Mark Andrew, and the finale.