The Forum at Tunbridge Wells has an enviable reputation for booking the next big thing before it’s the next big thing. This has resulted in it surviving far longer than most small venues. Being able to get a slot to play there is seen as an endorsement and a possibly a predictor of things to come.
Now in its 25th year of operation a few names have been invited back to celebrate this success and to promote grass roots venues and talent. Frank Turner first played here years ago as a member of Million Dead before embarking on a successful solo career, this was his payback gig.
I saw and enjoyed Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Beautiful Days in 2012 and assumed this would be a band style gig, but it was a solo show and I wondered how it would pan out.
Frank enjoyed a rousing welcome and went on to carry his two hour set effortlessly. The gig sold out in seconds online so every audience member was a hardcore fan, maybe you’d expect a guaranteed positive response in that case but there was nevertheless there was a really special atmosphere to the evening.
His rapport with his fans, stories between songs, apologising and cajoling in turn, his love of music in all forms and support for the Music Venue Trust would have won anyone over. At the end of the gig Frank came out to chat to fans and sign autographs for those who had waited, the ease of the relationship was plain to see. It clearly more than just his music that appeals to his fans.
Frank has just shared release details for his forthcoming seventh studio album Be More Kind, due out May 4 via Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor Records. The album has been produced by ex-White Denim members Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block, alongside Charlie Hugall (Florence And The Machine, Halsey).
Inspired by a line from a Clive James poem – “I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late” Be More Kind captures Turner reconciling the personal with the political. Says Frank; “A lot of older, wiser people tend to say things like that, that the things that come out in the wash at the end of a human life are the way you treated the people around you. In the modern world, that’s a lesson that all of us, myself included could do to learn.”
Frank Turner was photographed live at Tunbridge Wells Forum on 18th January 2018
Words and Photography by Simon Partington