After two failed attempts the time had finally come for me to meet Tony Porter. As the owner of live music venue “Off The Cuff” Tony is a noticeably busy man. It is easy to see why we had such conflicting schedules as he seemingly never stopped working. When I arrived, I was directed by security to the Wood Shack, where Tony was behind the bar entertaining customers. I stood waiting to be noticed for a few moments whilst he served his regulars. Escorting me outside he offered me a drink before beginning our chat.
Wearing a blazer with a shirt and jeans combo you could tell with just a glance the industry he was in. We sat on a bench which seemed to be the designated smoking area, easing himself back in his seat hand on chin. We had begun.
When asked his exact role, he leaned forward, arms on legs and said “well I run it” followed by “I own it”. Initially moving from Newcastle to pursue a career in music as a singer/songwriter, being the owner of a venue which facilitates musicians was the logical next step. Leaning back once again making himself comfortable he awaited the next question.
Living in Herne Hill for the past fifteen years, when the opportunity to buy the converted timber yard below the railway arches arose, he jumped at the chance. “I saved, and saved, and saved, and so it began… off the cuff”. Rubbing his beard the same way most men do he said “I’d never forgive myself if in my 70’s/80’s I turn around a say I wish I’d had done that” and for that reason his passion for music guides his decisions for future endeavors.
We spoke for no more than fifteen minutes. On one hand, it was because of his openness. He answered every question with a detailed and well-constructed answer. When I asked him about his plans for expansion the conversation picked up. With plans to start a musical charity which houses budding musicians whilst they create their music is reminiscent of his youth. “musicians can move into one of three dorms, live there for two months, rent free. Where you can record your album, and perform in front of a live audience”. Being so close to his heart, if successful he intends to open them all over the UK and further into America.
Ultimately music is where his true passion lies in any capacity. With “Off The Cuff” providing 240 nights of live music in 2016 and 300 booked already for 2017 Tony Porter is single-handedly “Putting UK back on the map for music”. Knowing that music can evoke emotion, he ended by saying “everyone’s got a certain song that takes you through your life… the hard work it took to make that song is why I love music”. Seeming like the perfect ending, I thanked him and said my goodbyes he went in for an unexpected hug. I guess Rock stars like hugs too?