Grapevine Music Agency - representing some of the finest roots musicians from the UK and North America. Folk, Blues, Country, Americana.
Who are we ….
Bob Butler has been one of the leading figures in the arts and entertainment world in the south west of England over the past 30 years. Bob began his career organising small-scale music and theatre events in Cornwall in the 1970’s, moving on to found the influential Polgooth Fayre between 1977 and 1979. In 1981 he persuaded the Earl of St Germans to host a multi-disciplined festival at Port Eliot in Cornwall and this led to a succession of legendary events including Elephant Fayre (1981-86) and the Elephant Folk Festival. These festivals attracted crowds of over 30,000 to see top artists from throughout the world and many of the leading names in music, theatre, dance, comedy and literature including headline appearances by The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, John Martyn, Prefab Sprout and Big Country. In 1985 Bob also resurrected Hood Fayre in Devon, giving a first festival appearance to Manchester band James.
Later in the 80’s Bob went on to publish Plymouth’s first listings magazine, Barker, and became the first manager of Cornwall’s leading touring theatre company Kneehigh Theatre, who he catapulted to huge success through highly acclaimed appearances at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1986 Bob set up his own music and street theatre agency Studio Productions which represented over 30 sought after acts. In 1988 he was appointed Administrative Director of the Colway Theatre Trust and was responsible for organising large-scale community plays across Britain, Canada and the United States, working with such figures as Arnold Wesker, David Edgar and Fay Weldon. In 1990 became Director of the Beaford Arts Centre in North Devon, one of the largest Arts Centres in Britain, responsible for promoting over 1,000 events a year in a variety of venues across the county. Whilst at Beaford Bob organised a number of large-scale events including several music and theatre festivals and a number of important conferences. He also founded the Devon Arts Forum and served as its Chairman on two occasions. He was instrumental in securing the county’s first National Lottery award and the first major arts grant from the European Union. He was asked by the Arts Council to help it develop its National Lottery Art For All strategy and was instrumental in setting up the National Rural Touring Forum which led to the development of integrated village touring schemes throughout the UK including Beaford’s own Village Voice.
In 1999 he was appointed Director of Year of the Artist (2000) by the Arts Council and was responsible for commissioning over 100 major projects, including the Running Man willow figure which has become an iconic image in its setting beside the M5. In 2003 Bob and his partner Claire Stein bought Otterton Mill in East Devon and transformed the complex of buildings into one of the county’s main visitor attractions, restoring the working mill and refurbishing the restaurant, craft bakery, gallery and shop. Bob was keen to continue his long association with music and began to promote evening events on an irregular basis. These proved so successful that Thursday Night at the Mill became a regular feature of the calendar and by the time the couple sold the Mill in 2008 the Mill was widely regarded as the south west’s leading roots music venue. During those four years Bob promoted over 200 shows, almost all of which were sold out well in advance
Claire Stein was born in Devon but spent most of her early life living with her family in a Quaker village in India. Returning to England she studied art conservation at Lincoln College of Art and then moved to London, working for the Passmore Edwards Museum. In 1983 she returned to her native county to open a highly successful community restaurant with her sister. Another sister came on board later and the three of them founded Stein Design – the innovative craft textile business that exhibited throughout the country.
In 1991 Claire was appointed as Arts Development Officer at West Devon Borough Council. She remained at West Devon for nine years and during this time she oversaw a huge resurgence in both the quality and quantity of the arts in the region. Amongst her main achievements were the securing of more than £200,000 of European funding for a programme of community festivals, the establishment of the Villages in Action touring performance scheme and the county wide open studios event which became 9 Days of Art. She was also instrumental in a number of landmark public art projects – many of which survive to this day.
In 2000 she moved to be Arts Officer at East Devon District Council to manage the authority’s significant arts budget. Here she continued to develop the county’s arts infrastructure, paying particular attention to the needs of individual artists in all disciplines. She also focussed on raising the standard of performance, working with everyone from local rock and folk bands to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. During her career Claire has served as a board member of several organisations, has worked as an invited tutor at Dartington College of Art and has been a lead moderator for Plymouth University’s National Programme of Arts Management.
Claire left the public sector in 2003 to work with Bob at Otterton Mill – concentrating her efforts on creating an award-winning restaurant and bakery. She published the highly acclaimed cookbook ‘Soups, Tarts and Thursday Nights’ in 2007 and oversaw a major programme of art and craft exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops.
In the spring of 2008 she and Bob decided that they had achieved everything that they had set out to do at the Mill and that it was time for a new and exciting venture. This would eventually coalesce into Grapevine – a company committed to supporting the finest international musicians, as well as helping their audiences experience the magic of live performance – something that both of them have done in one way or another throughout their careers.
Grapevine Music Agency has now developed into one of the leading music agencies in the UK and represents 40 leading roots music acts from the UK, Ireland, the USA and Canada. In 2011 it organised 30 major UK tours for overseas artists alone and several hundred individual shows. Bob and Claire have been invited to several international conferences including South by South West in Austin, Texas (2010) and the East Coast Music Association Conference in Prince Edward Island (2011).