INTERVIEW: Getting some Foot Therapy with Maggy and Tom

DJ and events duo Maggy Hopson and Tom Bryson are putting on Love to the World with their brand Foot Therapy. This will be taking place on this from 20:00 – 03:30 on Friday the 26th of April as a fundraiser for the Gaskell Garden Project, which works to support refugees.

I went to the pay-as-you-feel-meal for the first time to find Maggy and Tom chatting next to some decks by the entrance of the Old Abbey Taphouse.  I found out more about them over a pint (surprise surprise) with the happy sounds of the Gaskell Garden Project in the background.

Foot Therapy began organically. Tom had been booked to play at an event in his home town Hebdon Bridge when one of the other DJs cancelled. This presented an opportunity for Maggy to step in, but this wasn’t without a challenge “I had about four days to learn how to DJ properly” she exhaled casually.

After seeing a good response to their performance together, the pair decided to have another go as a duo, this time hosting a night in Manchester with their friend Yadava and the rest of So Flute at Indigo.

Now that it’s on its, well, feet, Foot Therapy is getting a move on with Love to the World: “This time we wanted to do something different, get a few more artists involved and raise some money for a good cause so it’s a new-new event.”

Love to the World is set to be a diverse affair – “It’s easier with bands and DJs – a lot of them are our friends.”

“In December we did something for our acts Mola Mola and Hermanito – we joined them for the evening, so it kind of made sense to have them join us.” The lineup was clearly the result of a friendly giving-back culture.

The couple described Mola Mola’s music as ‘kind of soulful, Erykah Badu-like’. “Just keys and bass and singing, yeah really soulful songs.”

Regarding their own sound Tom and Maggy said, “we usually play house music really… that originates from the black Chicago scene.” Racial identity and history seemed important to their sound on the whole, “we say that we play a lot of music with a black heritage so that sort of sums it up.”

“We do play disco, jungle, garage, everything, but it’s got that sort of bass and house music to it.”

Love to the world is a lyric.  “It’s from a house song… just a house song I really really like, it’s just kind of really catchy.”

“Kerri Chandler” Tom adds. They keep finishing each other’s sentences throughout our conversation and it’s almost like talking to one person.

Tom and Maggy had been together for a while before Foot Therapy started. “We always had quite a lot of common ground with our taste in music and quite enjoyed that.” Tom added, “I sort of DJed for many years and Maggy always wanted to but never had the kit so once she had the opportunity to learn on my stuff she got really good.”

This is the Foot Therapy’s first event for charity. “In terms of promotion it feels easier now as it’s got some weight behind it. You don’t want people to come to your night because you want to profit or whatever, you want people to come to your night because you genuinely wanna raise some money.”

“Yeah it’s quite good, it gives it a good sense of purpose and stuff and it’s a good charity as well.”

Maggy’s known about the Gaskell Garden Project since it was founded, “Dan’s one of my good friends so I’ve followed it and seen the work they do, and it is really amazing.”

Tom detailed this work “they have a garden, an allotment, they grow all their own food, they do permaculture workshops and stuff but the other side of it is that they help give a lot of legal support and advice for refugees and asylum seekers.”

Maggy added “they stop their deportation as well, they’re quite instrumental in galvanizing that and kind of providing the support needed.”

On Sundays the Gaskell Garden Project uses the Old Abbey Taphouse as its Moss Side base. “They do this pay-as-you-feel meal, every Sunday which we’re at now, and cooked by regular chefs.”

Tag-teaming in, Tom offered “Quite often it’s cooked by people who are seeking asylum in Manchester which means it’s really good food.”

“Yeah it’s different cuisines in each week, last time we were here it was Somalian or Ethiopian.”  

The food project offers a more direct benefit to refugees as well. “It gives them skills and helps them integrate into Manchester it’s got that sort of social thing behind it.”

Tom spoke about the unlikely yet natural pairing of a garden project and supporting refugees, “I think with cooking and community gardening and stuff like that it overcomes a language barrier – probably because it’s those languages that different people all silently speak anyway.”

“It’s also such a natural cultural exchange as well, for people to feel like they can come here and they can cook their food and people can enjoy it, that’s kind of nice.” This comment of Maggy’s made clear that the relationship between Manchester locals and refugees was not one-sided, but a partnership.

Maggy and Tom go to the pay-as-you-feel meals at the Old Abbey Taphouse regularly. “We just try and support however we can, and we eat so much food.”

Maggy and Tom are showing their support in other ways, their event Love to the World is set to showcase acts with varying levels of experience.

“It is a bit of a mix. We’ve got someone called Perisuu who plays a lot of urban electronic stuff and it’s quite interesting how she came on board, she’s a recent graduate from Reform Radio’s training program so she’s a really recent producer and I think we’re going to be one of her first performances which is really really exciting.”

Another exciting addition to the lineup is Werkha. “We’ve just sort of known werkha for quite a few years for his solo stuff and for So Flute but he’s obviously really quite established, so it’s nice to have a mixture – like a blend of new talent and DJs that people kind of recognise.”

The events duo have made an effort to treat all of their acts equally however, and to give special treatment to everyone. “We’ve tried to put everyone on the stage, and not just make it all about Werkha even though he’s by far the most established artist but actually create a platform for all these artists and give them all a good time.”

“They’ve all got the same time to play in. I thought that it was really important to make that happen.”

Some genuine care and courtesy has gone into the design of Love to the World. “Which is why the night’s really long, it starts at eight and finishes at half three but I was so keen to make sure everyone had time to like run over if they wanted to, and time to do everything that they and we wanted to do in our sets.”

Allowing time for experimentation is sure to facilitate more special and fun events.

And nothing allows for more fun than encouraging an audience to lose their inhibitions. The event description for Love to the World reads ‘no egos or pretentions’. This seemed integral to Foot Therapy.  “It is really really important- Foot Therapy is kind of a mix of all our favourite nights in Manchester.”

 “We’ve been to some nights where we’ve gone to see some of our favourite house artists and the atmosphere’s just been pretty poor and the people don’t seem to be there for fun.”

Maggy cuts in, “People didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves, people just weren’t smiling I was like you can SMILE! You don’t look like you’re having a good night out! It’s okay to laugh and enjoy yourself!”

The list of Foot Therapy’s favourite nights runs long, “there’s a night called hoya hoya, there’s So Flute, Banana Hill, there’s like Me Gusta, there’s loads and loads and loads of people floating about who are all great and they’ve all got that kind of…” Maggy struggled for a moment trying to find the right word “…that vibe, where there’s no egos, and that’s what we kind of to make clear with foot therapy. By saying ‘no egos’ in our event description we wanted to give a people a clear expectation of what’s kind of going on.”

Since all of the events above focus on ‘world music’ or rather that infused with that of other cultures, I wondered if she thought it was perhaps more stereotypically white male nights that generated colder atmospheres. She agreed, “Yeah I definitely do. I definitely do. There’s a lot of events out there that forget that you’re there for music and warmth.” She probably would’ve had more to say if we hadn’t been interrupted by food. A volunteer offered me some before I could say that I hadn’t paid or anything yet. Tom was really accommodating: “You can pay after, have some of it though you should definitely try it.”

Each week a meal is made of food that would otherwise go to waste or that which is home grown, and there’s three courses of it.

“I don’t think we’ve got any mad plans to do anything crazy and try and do loads and loads of events. We’re probably going to do two or three events a year, and maybe some little smaller ones as well.”

“For a big event I would rather give it the time it needs so we’re happy with two or three, it does take a long time.”

So if Foot Therapy favours quality not quantity, what does quality entail? The answer is community.

“The aim for me would be to establish an infrequent night that happens in the same venue which would be as important to our night as our night would be to the venue with a bit of a community of people that come down every time. That’s kind of the dream, it’s not a big dream but…!”

Hearing this sat amongst the chatter of the Gaskell Garden Project, it came to my attention how similar the two visions were. One of them having reached the goal of an anchored community, and the other raising running in the same direction looking to support it.

And what helps a community form better than working with others? “I want to do some more collaborations. It makes the whole thing easier when you can work together. It’s nice to have some variety and the opportunity to showcase people”

Get your tickets for Foot Therapy: Love to the World w/ Werkha and more now at Party for the People.

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