Party on! Glos’s A-list fixer tells all
Hang outs with Michael Hutchence, runs ins with Frank Sinatra and late nights with Amy Winehouse. Party fixer and Subscription Rooms Director Hugh Phillimore's life sounds like a blast. We chat celeb tales and find out what hot events are coming to Stroud.
To describe Hugh Phillimore as the Cotswold’s answer to Simon Cowell would be not a million miles away from the truth. But in reality, even that comparison undersells his quite frankly glitter-flecked CV.
In the music industry for a mind-boggling 42 years he’s been a music promoter, artist manager and friend to many a celeb. But not only that, dig a little deeper and he’s also the man behind the much loved Cornbury Festival, and Director of The Subscription Rooms in Stroud.
One of Glos’s arts gems, The Subscription Rooms is the funkiest of independent music and theatre venues, playing host to a myriad of diverse artists throughout the year, as well as workshops, fairs and exhibitions. Come to Stroud on any given night and you’ll always hear the thumping beats of one of its gigs booming out from the mirror-ball facade. In short, this place rocks.
Having recently undergone a makeover bringing it bang up to date, we pinned down the music and entertainment impresario to find out more about his plans for this brilliant venue.
Hi Hugh .. you’ve had such a stellar career, how and why did you get involved with The Sub Rooms?
After so long in the industry I felt I should give something back to the community, so I became a trustee of The Sub Rooms when the charitable trust was set up in 2018. I volunteered to become the overall director of the building in December 2019. I joined the music business as a talent scout back in 1979, so you could say I have a lot of experience to bring to it. The Sub Rooms are an iconic venue in the centre of Stroud, it even hosted The Beatles twice in 1962. My dream is that it becomes the most admired venue in the South West of England with a diverse programme, and that It can financially stand on its own two feet.
Give us five things we should definitely not miss from the upcoming Sub Rooms calendar?
1. The Magic Numbers and Ren Harvieu – the band are celebrating the anniversary of their groundbreaking first album and Ren has got the most fantastic voice.
2. The Shires – ok, so it’s sold out but we may announce another show in January so keep your eyes peeled.
3. Norman Jay – a terrific DJ with an MBE. Not to be missed.
4. The Waterboys – again (sorry) I have to say it’s already sold out but it had to be on my top 5 list.
5. Ward Thomas – a brilliant female country duo with a recent number 1 album and accomplished live show.
What won’t you be missing out on, come hell or high water?
Come on, drop some name bombs .. tell us what legends you’ve worked with?
H: Well. I’m old enough to have worked with Frank Sinatra. I also loved working with Michael Hutchence, a very lovely man. And I’ve worked with Amy Winehouse, very sweet in the early days. Lionel Richie, he’s the nicest man in showbusiness.
Spill some stories? Just between you and us.
When working with Frank Sinatra on some London concerts I was positioned as ‘security’ in the orchestra pit. My job was to intercept fans as they approached the stage with special messages for him. On one occasion towards the end of the show (when he was beginning to get a little tired and confused) I was terrified to see that he was heading in my direction. As I stood to address him, ‘yes Mr Sinatra?’, his response was ‘which way off this f***ing stage?’.
What do you do with a day off?
I don’t really take days off to be honest. I’m wedded to my work. In London, you’ll find me at the most civilised restaurant in Mayfair – Bellamy’s – or hanging out by the pool at White City House.
How do you choose who to feature at the Sub Rooms?
It’s a collaborative effort. I’m always asking everybody for their 10 suggestions from the cleaner up to the venue manager.
Give us your dream line-up for The Subs. Who’d be on the bill?
Leonard Cohen, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones – that would be a dream show.
The Subs recently underwent a big makeover, what’s new?
We have refurbished almost all of the building. Fixed the acoustics in the ballroom, built a new bar, revitalized the café, tarted up the dressing rooms and painted all the common parts. It’s unrecognisable from it’s former incarnation.
As the man behind Cornbury too, what plans are afoot for 2022? And how on earth do you juggle the Sub Rooms with Cornbury?
I started Cornbury in 2004 as part of a retirement plan! Thought I would be quietly promoting a little get together in the countryside – it hasn’t turned out like that. The Subs team is amazing and I have kept 99% of the Cornbury team since the beginning. I am very well supported by everyone, that’s what makes it all work.
Stroud was named the Best Place to Live 2021 by the Sunday Times (and Muddy Stilettos!). It’s quite an accolade. Is it well deserved?
Yes, absolutely. For me Stroud’s got everything. It’s definitely on the way up with the most incredible combination of artists of all descriptions, attitude, a campaigning nature and some nice shops.
Hit us with your plans for the Subs in 2022?
We’re about to start work on the final part of our regeneration with an incredible art space that will reflect the diversity of talent in Stroud. We already have on sale Mavis Staples and Macy Gray which is a pretty good start.
Want to find out more about what’s on at The Sub Rooms? Find out at www.thesubrooms.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01453 796880.
Plus – WIN! – we are giving away two tickets to see chart-busting hot female duo Ward Thomas at The Sub Rooms in Stroud on 15 November. To enter click here.