I’d heard that my old classroom-turned-music-room from Otumoetai Primary School had been transformed into something now called The Jam Factory. I had fond memories of learning four chords on a ukulele in this room, during lunchtimes spent avoiding a school bully, and went to check it out.
Located now at Tauranga Historic Village, the 100-year-old building still has the original ‘Music Room’ sign.
The beautiful polished kauri floor is now graced with large rugs and a baby grand piano; the room fills with natural light coming in through the large windows. I sat down to ripple around the piano keys, immersing myself, finally looking up to find Tristan Hancock sitting in an arm chair, a smile playing across his face as he relaxed and listened.
The room stretches off to an outdoor stage overlooking a grassy area, suitable for outdoor concerts. Around the walls hang collections of mirrors, with lamps and couches helping create a softly elegant lounge ambience.
The Jam Factory is now the fifth space to be opened and run under the umbrella of The Incubator Creative Hub at Tauranga’s Historic Village.
The Incubator Creative Hub oversees The Incubator itself, which consists of a gallery and studios; The Artery next door is an art learning space; The People’s Gallery is across the way; and more recently Satellite Studios is an artist exchange space opened.
“The Jam Factory will give us more space for the music events we’ve been holding,” says director Simone Anderson. “There are two parts to it. Firstly, the live performance aspect which gives the audience opportunity to see intimate concerts, and an opportunity for performers to play live.
“The second part is community arts development, using music as the connecter. That may not necessarily be about performance; it may be about workshops, tuition, learning and projects, bringing people together.”
An example of this secondary focus is the ukulele orchestra, which meets there every Monday.
“Tristan’s role is as a conduit and coming up with ideas. He’s making the community connections, and then all the rest of us and Tristan work together to do the events.”
Simone is hopeful that many of the ideas being tried will come into fruition during 2019. Ideas like ethno music groups, a focus on percussion, bringing new musicians into the space.
“We’re looking at providing free lunchtime performances on two Fridays a month,” says Simone. “Called Jam Sandwich, it will be for IHC performers, kapa haka groups, college bands, individual performers, and Toi Ohomai students who have to do live performances as part of their assessments.
“The idea is to connect all the people from the Village, the Kollective, the wananga and the hospital.
“It will be nice for the pool of people who work around here to get together at lunchtimes. Music is a good way to connect people.”
“I got involved with the music side of things at the Jam Factory through my photography,” says Jam Factory team member Corrinne Rutherford.
Corrinne works full-time as a dietitian assistant at Tauranga Hospital and runs the Jam Factory’s Instagram profile. Along with her partner Glenn Reid, she’s involved in The Committed team at The Incubator. She is also a music reviewer helping promote Kiwi music, and captures the Jam Factory atmosphere with her photography.
“A lot of the acts come through word-of-mouth and contacts,” says Corrinne. “We get international and local acts. They tour together and word spreads. We’re very active on social media.
“It’s a wonderful group of people here and it’s just fantastic that Tauranga has the Jam Factory; it’s a really special venue. It will become a destination for bands and people to come and visit.”
“We put an interest in for the building about three years ago,” says John Baxter, one of the music coordinators.
John and his brother Michael had been helping organise music events.
“Now we have this space, and more people on board. It took a bunch of us about three days to take all the staples out of the walls before it was painted.
“It’s a multi-purpose space and can be used as a meeting or music space.”
“It’s for all genres of the arts,” agrees Simone.
Tanya Trass and Simone organise bookings, and John and a team of multi-skilled music lovers help with the performances, setting up the stage, sound and lights.
“Tanya totally makes the visiting bands welcome to the point they feel they know us all when they arrive and we even put them up in our homes to really welcome them to the Bay of Plenty,” says Simone.
"Ruth Woodbine is awesome at helping out and bringing great acts to the Jam Factory. Nicci Baxter and Gracie Healey are also super involved. And we have Benjamin Cowman, Shelley Sellars, Lynette Fisher, Nigel Gregory, Kristy Robinson, Liz Hunter, and Brad Taylor - all making up a fantastic team.
“Craig Jamison is an absolute treasure and has come from massive roles managing Michael Fowler Centre sound and working at the Wellington opera house. Along with John Wilson, our team is enriched having their huge combined knowledge of professional sound and lighting tech. Without them we wouldn't be able to offer the professional level we can to live events.”
Simon Owens who has worked in live events management and music touring in the UK and NZ has also joined the team, adding another dimension and energy.
Bright and airy, the space is full of light, with artist Kristian Lomath’s paintings along one wall.
“Kristian’s work is fantastic and makes the place feel richer,” says John. “The blank wall behind can be used to project images on, creating mood with lighting.”
The team has recently sourced funding to buy some purpose-suited audio and visual equipment.
“We’ll get to the point where we can record and film performance in here,” says John.
The Jam Factory is helping place Tauranga on the music touring map as a popular venue for solo acts, duos and groups.
“We’ve created the platform and we’re now looking for people who may want to use it during the day,” says Simone.