D.A.D: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Toby, a 35-year-old from Watford via Brighton, who’s been living in Leeds for the last seven years. I live in a house full of ladies (my wife, two daughters and our cat), work for a local mental health charity, play in a ramshackle, noisy indie/punk band, eat lots of cake, drink lots of coffee and I’m probably a little bit too busy most of the time.

What inspired you to set up Youth Anthems?
I’d been putting on little DIY gigs, putting out ‘zines and helping bands book tours since I was about 18. When my daughter was born in 2012, the toll of very late nights, losing money and the occasional soul-destroying low turnout was not particularly conducive to being a parent.

Something I read from Mike Watt (singer/bassist from The Minutemen and Firehose), talked about how the DIY scene, though very inclusive most of the time, could be excluding for people for whom going to a late-night gig during the week wasn’t possible. This was raised further in my mind when talking to my neighbour who is also live music fan, but as a parent, wasn’t getting out to see much.

I wanted to introduce my daughter to this incredible community where anyone could be in a band, put on a gig and enjoy themselves in a safe, encouraging scene but most of the gigs are for over 18s and in the evening.

I was at Wharf Chambers for the Veg Out festival and it struck me that this would be the perfect venue to try something. I had a chat with a few people and the consensus was that it was worth a punt. So, in August 2013, I booked the first gig.

It’s gone pretty well from there!

How does the kid-friendly aspect of the gigs work?
The plan was to put on the same sort of gigs I’d always put on – but make them accessible to families.

The gigs are on Sunday afternoons. They’re free entry for kids (people under 15) to not price people out. We encourage ear protection but the sound is turned down slightly – the sound engineers at Wharf Chambers do a magic thing where it still sounds really loud but doesn’t give you that ringing in the ears afterwards. We politely ask the bands to try and avoid songs with obvious swearing in.

Who comes to Youth Anthems?
We get a real mix: people who’d normally come to DIY punk gigs and want to bring their family along; people who wouldn’t really know about this sort of music, but are into live music and want to share it with their kids or grandchildren. We also get people without kids who just like watching bands on a Sunday afternoon.

Tell us a bit about the bands who perform at Youth Anthems.
I have a weird rule that I try not to have bands play twice – although I’m starting to reconsider this as there’s some bands I’d love to have back.

I begin with mainly punk bands but aim to have a quieter/acoustic act playing so kids who might be a bit scared off by the louder bands can enjoy it too. This is especially good for people who might be coming with babies so they don’t have to be stuck in the bar room for the whole afternoon.

We’ve been lucky that all of the bands have had the right attitude, and it’s amazing what works. When Esper Scout played – they have a huge, bass-driven sound –  it was incredible to see a crowd of kids bobbing their heads to a six minute post-rock song about Russian submarines!

We have a good mix of gender, race and all forms of diversity. I want young people to see someone that represents them on stage so that they know that if they want to be in a band, there’s nothing stopping them.

The plan was to put on the same sort of gigs I’d always put on – but make them accessible to families.

What do the bands make of playing for younger audiences?
They generally love it. Some of the younger bands who haven’t had much interaction with kids can be a bit scared but they’re won over pretty quick once the dancing starts; it’s impossible to remain cool when you have small kids playing air guitar and throwing balloons at you.

For some of the slightly older bands it can be a dream come true as they get to play a gig that the rest of their family can come to. That’s a really nice thing to see – kids getting to see their parents playing live music for the first time.

Most of the bands hang out after they’ve played. On one lovely occasion, Luke from Break-Ups gave an impromptu guitar lesson to one young man in the crowd.

How important is the community and fundraising aspects of Youth Anthems?
Massively. I’ve always seen the DIY punk scene as more than just music. I have a job, I don’t need to take money from these gigs, so I don’t. Every penny they generate goes to good people.

Will Tapply who does the posters is a great local artist and musician; Jumbo Records who sell our tickets are one of the greatest record shops I’ve ever known; Wharf Chambers is the only venue in Leeds these gigs could happen; Elly (That Old Chestnut) sells cakes at our gig and she’s an amazing baker and person.

My friend Kate runs the Free Shop where people can bring along clothes or toys they no longer want and either swap them for something else or just leave them – people can just take anything they like, no questions asked.

If there’s a lot left over between gigs, we donate them to local charities (recently that’s been Leeds Baby Bank, PAFRAS, Emmaus, Leeds Women’s Aid and Together Women’s Project).

I make sure bands are paid well, but if it’s an all-local bill and the bands are keen, we’ll donate all money after costs to a charity of their choice.

I keep us linked up with as many local charities as possible. We’ve had the Leeds North West Food Bank come to our gigs.

We’ve got a longer-term relationship with Leeds City of Sanctuary who are some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, doing such a huge body of work making Leeds into a welcoming and supportive place for migrants and refugees.

Like any good gig, you’ve got some cracking merch. Tell us about it.
My friend Kate is a fantastic artist and suggested the idea of a colouring-in book. We invited some great UK illustrators to draw an image and put them all together in a ‘zine format (printed by the wonderful Leeds Footprinters Coop) and they gave all the profits to City of Sanctuary. We’ve made about £450 for them so far from this.

About a year or so ago we were encouraged to put out a CD, which again is in benefit of Leeds City of Sanctuary. It’s a compilation of some incredible bands playing family-friendly music – a real mix of punk, indie, reggae, ska, folk and rap, and the majority of the songs are exclusive to the CD. This one cost a bit more to put out so we’re only just starting to see some money for the charity, but we’ve sold over 100.

The next thing is going to be clothes. Will is working on a design and we’re going to get some kid and adult size t-shirts and jumpers. The plan is to sell these for cost price as they’d be pretty expensive to raise any money for charity but it’s a fun thing people have been asking about for a while.

The success of Youth Anthems in Leeds means it’s branched out to Brighton. What next?
Well, we’re not exactly about to become a franchise just yet. Emma who is running the show in Brighton is an ex-colleague of mine and she was really keen for something similar, so asked if she could use the name. She put on an incredible gig last year in a great venue.  She’s pretty busy working, being a mum and studying for a Doctorate so the pace in Brighton for Youth Anthems will be a bit more relaxed but there should be another gig there later this year and I’m excited about that.

A couple of friends in other cities have half-jokingly expressed an interest in doing something similar but I don’t hold a monopoly on this, so people should just go for it!

Tell us about your next Youth Anthems gig. 
I’m really excited about the next gig on July 23rd. It’s been a bigger gap between gigs then we’d usually have – I allowed myself some gig paternity leave!

Maggie8 are a great mix of indie and folk but with a really poppy, big sound. Isaac Hughes-Dennis got in touch via email and I was surprised to hear that he was only 14 as his songs are way beyond his years.  He plays charming, really witty songs on a ukulele and the great thing about him is that his age is really irrelevant. Our opening act is Alice Rowan AKA Mayshe-Mayshe.  Most people will know her from being one of the main musicians in the local super-group Living Body but solo she’s a multi-instrumentalist playing beautifully layered electro-pop in the vein of Lamb or Bjork.

There’s also a full bar, table football, cake, coffee and hopefully a few more surprises – well, it is our fourth birthday.

As ever, it’s free entry for people under 14 and £5 for everyone else.  The bands are on from 2pm-4pm but we open doors at 1:30pm. People can get tickets online or instore from Jumbo Records, there’s always at least 20 on the door but the last three gigs have sold out within about 15 minutes of doors opening so it’s worth getting a ticket!

Finally, what do you hope your daughters will take from their experiences of going to these gigs?
That they should try and do whatever they want in life and that there’s plenty of people who will help them, and they should help others too. That anyone can enjoy watching and playing music and it’s not just for one group of people. That it’s good to meet new and different people, and you’re never too old or too young to learn new things or to enjoy art.

Find out more about Youth Anthems here www.youthanthems.co.uk
Twitter @youth_anthems
Instagram @YouthAnthemsLeeds
Facebook (/youthanthems)