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Live in the House: Interview with Graham Jenkins
12 Apr 2023

Concert promoter Graham Jenkins has been bringing high quality music to Shrewsbury since 2011 & runs the successful Live in the House series at St Mary's Church and Shrewsbury Abbey. Many will remember him from the fabulous live music venue he established as the former owner of Henry Tudor House. He speaks to James Warman

“I think the temperature’s dropping”
These were the first words concert promoter Graham Jenkins said to me when I met up with him at St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury recently for an interview ahead of the Jarrod Dickenson gig that night.

But this wasn’t a passing comment about the weather, instead it was a genuine concern about how comfortable the 900-year-old building would be for the performers that night as well as for Graham’s team who were hard at work, and of course the audience that would soon be packing in for an evening of live music.

Graham and his wife Clare run Live In The House, the company responsible for staging a number of music gigs recently in both St Mary’s Church and Shrewsbury Abbey, but they are probably better known locally as the former owners of the bar come restaurant come live music and comedy venue Henry Tudor House on Wyle Cop.

Graham and Clare celebrate the first anniversary of Henry Tudor House 'Live' in 2014

Graham and Clare Jenkins celebrate the first anniversary of 'Henry Tudor House Live' back in 2014. 

Whilst his team made the finishing touches in readiness for the night’s performance, I chatted with Graham about his background, Henry Tudor House and the future for Live In The House.

“I started out as a DJ in Birmingham in the 80’s. First at the Rum Runner and then later at Holy City Zoo.” Graham explained.

Just to put this into context, Holy City Zoo at the time was a club owned by Scotland International footballer and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Andy Gray, and saw the likes of Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, and Fashion perform there. And of course, the Rum Runner will forever be associated as being the birthplace of world-famous behemoth of 80’s music Duran Duran. 

“John (Taylor of Duran Duran) was my classmate at school. When he teamed up with Nick Rhodes to form Duran Duran, they invited me to do a regular DJ set at the Rum Runner. Off the back of that I later secured the prestigious Saturday night DJ slot at Holy City Zoo.”

Jarrod Dickenson Live in the House

The recent Jarrod Dickenson 'Live in the House' concert at St Mary's Church. Picture credit: James Warman

So how did 80’s DJ and Duran Duran classmate end up running Henry Tudor House here in Shrewsbury?

“After working in the energy sector and running my own business for a number of years, I decided I needed a change. So I sold my business and turned my attention to opening a restaurant - it was just a case of finding the right venue.”

By this time, Graham and Clare were living in Shropshire, and in 2011 they found out that the 'Old Lion Tap' in Barracks Passage, Shrewsbury had just gone on the market and the owner was after a quick sale. A visit to the place confirmed this was just the venue they were looking for: "The interior was an odd juxtaposition of features, some incredible, some questionable. It was fair to say it needed some work," Graham recalls.

But they could see the potential in the place, especially the upstairs room as a music venue. An offer was made, accepted, and they soon had the keys to the former Old Lion Tap – soon to be Henry Tudor House. Over the following months, Graham and Clare, who was previously regional director for the Royal Institute of Architects, oversaw a tasteful and sympathetic renovation of the Grade I listed building (for which they won numerous awards for their work), turning it into one of the regions most prestigious live music and comedy venues, and the crowning glory of Shrewsbury’s entertainment scene.

Clare Jenkins and Beverley Craven

Clare Jenkins and Beverley Craven. Picture credit: Jonny Morris

The list of world-famous acts that have graced the stage of that upstairs room is too long for this article, and I’m sure many of you have your own memories of 'HTH'. For me it was seeing The Dead South a few years ago, a truly memorable performance. If you’ve not heard of them go to your music streaming service of choice and give them a listen, or better still check out their video for “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company”. To see them live, in my home town, in such an intimate venue was a dream come true for me.

Likewise, for Graham the list of memorable acts he’s hosted at HTH is so long he found it hard to pick one standout performance. But several unforgettable moments did come to mind; there was the time he secured comedian Joe Lycett on one of the first nights of his first ever solo tour. And sticking with the theme of comedians, Graham recalled how he was lucky enough to get Russell Kane to do a standup set, but due to contractual reasons with his agent, Graham could only bill Russell as a 'mystery guest'. He couldn’t even tell his friends who he had booked!

Graham also recounted the story of when Glen Tilbrook from Squeeze played. Glen is famously self-sufficient when touring, driving himself to the venues in his motorhome which he would sleep and eat in, not needing any accommodation or meals which would be the norm for most acts.

“Glen parked his Winnebago on the Cop and we left him to do his own thing. So you can image our delight when he decided to actually eat in our restaurant the night he stayed.”

Graham has not only been able to attract the great and the good to perform in Shrewsbury, they have even be seen in the audience. One night in particular saw Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin turned up to see 2000 Mercury Prize nominee Kathryn Williams: "It really caused a stir that night, he walked in and you could hear everyone whispering ‘Its’s Robert Plant!’ It’s Robert Plant!!’”

Graham Jenkins with Robert Plant

Graham Jenkins (far left) with Robert Plant (second from the right) and Kathryn Williams (far right). Picture credit: Jonny Morris.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Graham sold Henry Tudor House to Joules Brewery in 2022 to concentrate on live music and comedy promotion with his Live In The House company. Using his contacts in the industry and his experience of staging events at the Grade I Henry Tudor House, Live In The House specialise in events set in historic properties.

At St Mary’s Church he has worked closely with the Church Conservation Trust and at the Abbey with the Parochial Parish Council to host several concerts that are both mindful of the historic nature of the venue they use whilst at the same time never compromising the show the audience experiences.

So what’s the future for Live In The House?

Well Graham and Clare already have several gigs coming up (check out their website for details), but they are looking to streamline the logistics of staging these events. What with their contacts, experience and the talented team they have around him, I foresee many more exciting and entertaining events down the line, and maybe even other venues aside from St Mary’s Church and the Abbey. Watch this space.

In the meantime, check out Live In The House website for upcoming gigs - https://www.liveinthehouse.com/ and be sure to follow them on instagram and Facebook so as not to miss out on the latest news - @LiveInTheHouse

  • The next Live in the House gig will be American singer-songwriter Dean Friedman (pictured below) at St Mary's Church, Shrewsbury on Wednesday, April 26th at 8pm. Tickets £29.50 HERE

     
Dean Friedman
St Mary's Church