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TOP BRASS: Concert promoter aiming to put Assembly Rooms on the musical map

Published: 28 June, 2012

There is something of the Brian Epstein about Ollie Rosenblatt.

There’s the impeccably tailored suit, the neat haircut, the confidence, drive and a certain poise that seem reminiscent of the public profile, at least, of the man who managed the Beatles to stardom.

It’s a surprise to learn Ollie is just 24.

It’s not just his clothes, but his understated confidence that belie his years.

There is also the music. Ollie is a concert prom­oter and is determined to put the Islington Assembly Rooms, next to Islington Town Hall, on the musical map.

For those who have spent many a tedious hour in the Assembly Hall in Upper Street, Islington, listening to politicians, this seems a bit odd. At first take the wood-panelled room is no Brixton Academy or Kentish Town Forum. But think back to those old images of early rock’n’rollers like Buddy Holly performing live and it suddenly makes sense. It’s just like one of those old-fashioned venues with a stage and dance floor.

“It’s got a great mix of contemporary and old fashioned,” Rosenblatt says. “It’s not dated – it’s completely the opposite. It’s classy – decorative, wooden panelling inside, with a sprung dance floor. You go in and it’s like going into a plush venue, with red carpeting and pillars in the hallway.

“As an experience for an artist and the audience it’s great.

They come in and think, ‘I’m going into a nice venue’ – to see an artist they love at a nice venue without going for miles to somewhere that’s a bit dilapidated.

“It’s a 600-capacity venue with fixed seats in the balcony and a great view of the stage. All the tech and productions are top class and every gig we’ve had so far has worked well.”

Rosenblatt puts artists in numerous venues around London, and is handling the violinist Nigel Kennedy’s UK tour.

But the Assembly Hall is his baby. It’s rarely been used as a music venue, but he’s struck a deal with Islington Council and is hoping it becomes an established part of the circuit, like the Union Chapel up the road.

He’s already had Bob Geldof and Alexander O’Neal perform there. And lined up are Candi Staton, the Troggs, Finley Quaye and 1970s rockers Nazareth.

“I thought, this is a great opportunity to create and build something – a great challenge, which I love doing,” he says.

Rosenblatt cut his teeth in the music business while at UCS School in Hampstead.

A trumpet player and singer to grade eight standard, he won a place at Leeds University to study music. But on his gap year he decided to try and make some money.

“There was a very famous jazz venue at my old school that ran for 25 years,” he explains. “It was run by an English teacher and great jazz musician called David Lund. The theatre is now called the Lund Theatre after him. He died two years ago.”

By the time Rosenblatt left school the venue hadn’t been run for eight years, so he decided to start it back up.

“I play the trumpet, love jazz, and thought: Why not restart this venue?” he explains.

“So I booked the acts, did all the promoting and marketing for it and ran it as a jazz venue for four-and-a-half years. I did a show every month there. Then I went to Leeds and carried on running the venue from there. I used to come down to promote the shows every month.

“I started another jazz venue at The Ivy House [in Nunhead, south London] and ran that for a couple of years. And while at Leeds I started a student jazz hangout. I put together a band, rehearsed them every week – soul/funk – and I had a couple of support jazz acts.

It was two quid entry every Sunday and it was great fun. The London acts were more established – John Dank­worth, Jeremy Pelt, those people.

The Leeds one was all about students: an outlet for these young budding musicians, great musicians. It wasn’t a late-night thing.

“A lot of these people used to be into drum and base, dub­step, techno. They love jazz music as well, but they don’t go out to hear it.”

Rosenblatt now lives in Holborn but grew up in Finchley in a musical and business household. His father, Ian, who founded Rosenblatt’s solicitors, is an opera buff and used to subject the young Ollie to it from 5.30am.

He also began putting on classical music and opera recitals – now an established series of concerts at the Wigmore Hall known as the Rosenblatt Recitals.

If any of that rubbed off, he says, it would have been subcon­sciously.

He has now had to shelve his musical career in favour of his burgeoning business.

“I don’t think about my age,” he says. “Everyone has to start some­where.

I know my business.

I know what I want to do with it.

I think I know what I’m talking about.

At the end of the day, building relationships takes time and effort anywhere, regardless of your age.

My trumpet is tucked up in its case in the corner. It’s too depres­sing to think when I last played – probably a couple of years ago. I’d love to play but I’d get depressed that I wasn’t as good as I was. But I made a conscious decision and thought I’d rather keep the audience that I have than drive them away from my playing.”

• Assembly Hall, Upper Street, N1. Upcoming gigs: Little Feat (July 2); Kenny Wayne Shepherd (July 4), Brian Bennett (July 7); Fourplay (July 13); Swing Out Sister (July 14); Wanda Jackson (July 19).


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