The Matchstick Project: Setting Fire To The Musical Stage

[cs_content][cs_element_section _id=”1″][cs_element_row _id=”2″][cs_element_column _id=”3″][x_blockquote cite=”” type=”left”]Tom Abadie looks into Tom Grovestock’s Matchstick Project, a new way of promoting artist by bringing the music to people’s doorstep.[/x_blockquote][x_image type=”none” src=”” alt=”” link=”false” href=”#” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=”” class=”image”][cs_text class=”caption”]

SenZen performing on Hythe Bridge. Credits: Rudi Andrews

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Music is about sharing, and what better way to share music than reaching out to people and offering them the music they love right on their doorstep. That is exactly what Tom Grovestock accomplished with his recent Pop Up event in Colchester. Before we go into the meat of the matter, let’s rewind and look at the full timeline of what is now called the Matchstick Project. 

Started earlier this university year, the Matchstick Project is a way of showcasing undiscovered talent from the area, in particular University of Essex musicians and singers. Towards the end of 2017, the project was organised around Tom’s radio show, where he invited the artists to the TV Studios, right here in Rebel, filming them during a performance and playing their music on Rebel Radio. Moving into the new year, the project moved outside the Rebel studios to the university lakes with SenZen’s performance at the end of January, still broadcasted on Rebel Radio and all filmed for the very interactive Facebook Page.

For the artists, it is a great way of getting their music known by a far wider audience than before. For Tom, not only does he love music, he also loves the idea of giving these undiscovered musicians a chance of being on a bigger stage and benefiting from the equipment loaned by the University. Tom has become good friends with many of his guests, having their love for music in common. Tom’s radio show, Discovering Essex, is giving these musicians the support to put their talent out there. With the aid of his film crew and photographers, he creates videos which are then sent to gig circuits to get artists other gigs, but he also makes music videos and documentaries.

[/cs_text][x_blockquote cite=”” type=”left” class=”quote”]For the artists, it is a great way of getting their music known by a far wider audience than before.[/x_blockquote][cs_text]

Although organising several minor events, such as getting artists to play in his friend’s apartment in February, the big event Tom had been planning for ages was the Pop Event. Not only was I lucky enough to cover the event as the writing journalist, but also “sound-guy”, photographer and social media manager, I also caught with Tom after the event for a quick interview to talk about how the idea came about, how he feels the event went as well as where he thinks the project is going in the future. 

The idea for Pop Event started growing in his mind in January 2018. As illustrated by SenZen’s performance on the lakes, he wanted to take the Matchstick Project on an adventure, outside of Rebel. His ultimate plan was going to be London, but he thought that a trial run in Colchester and Hythe could be useful before going big.

A big team was put together for the event, several cameramen, a photographer, a writing journalist, musicians and obviously, Tom Grovestock. The basic idea was to take a couple of musicians around town, starting at the Queen Street Brewhouse and moving towards the centre of town, with the artists playing on the bus on the way. Everyone would then take the train to Hythe and play on the bridge near Tesco before all going back to the Queen Street Brewhouse for a couple hours of live music in front of an audience of mostly University of Essex students.

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Laurence and The Imaginary Band in Colchester. Credits: Rudi Andrews


Unfortunately, not everything went to plan… the cameras did not all work, we got on the wrong train, ending up in Colchester North Station rather than Hythe, and so had to take the train back the other way. Not having taken any tickets for the train, it was just our luck to be caught by the ticket collectors, each member of the crew being fined £20, which was all paid by Tom. We finally got to Hythe, filmed a couple of performances before heading back to town. Not only was everything dragging on, it was getting dark and tension was rising with everyone exhausted by the whole experience. The equipment was not set up, delaying the start of the gig by one and a half hours, so everyone’s performance was cut down bit a bit, but it did all squeeze in eventually.

Once it got off the ground however, lots of things did work; getting several performances in town, with good footage and great photos. The pub was packed with a terrific crowd, amazing artists and a good time was had by all. Tom’s hard work was rewarded with an incredible turn out for the event. Added to this, a strong collaboration with Stack happened: they supported the UCU strikes from Spring Term and managed to get several signatures for their petition during the event.

With hindsight, Tom can pinpoint what needs improving. He feels (and we would tend to agree) that he needs to learn to delegate. The idea on the paper was amazing, but most of the details were inside Tom’s head. By getting more people into the loop, even if it is just one advisor or joint organiser could have made a real difference when things became difficult and stressful for him. Ultimately, he couldn’t be everywhere, and the team needed some guidance so that Tom’s genius idea came out exactly as he wanted it to. Tom also stressed that the setting up of the equipment was difficult; having a roadie to set everything up would have made things go a lot more smoothly.

[/cs_text][x_blockquote cite=”” type=”left” class=”quote”]Although there was a great turn out, Tom is his eye on bigger events and bigger crowds. [/x_blockquote][cs_text]

Although there was a great turn out, Tom has his eye on bigger events and bigger crowds. Which brings us to the next event, the London Pop Up event.

 This London event needs to be perfectly planned, therefore happening in the coming months. It should happen eventually, for the greatest pleasure of music fans. The plan is to take even more artists and fans to London. In total there would be 100 people, including a much larger team, with security and medical teams added to increased personnel video team. The ticket would be £50 instead of free, but it would pay for the trip to London and back as well as an overnight sleep in London and the entrance to the gig. This event will most probably happen after Tom graduates this summer, giving him more time to study now and to successfully organise the event next year. This would bring on, if successful, a similar event in Paris, Tom’s ultimate dream for the Project. Until then, he needs to build up links, find friends with equipment to replace the University’s equipment. A suggestion was to try doing another local event in Chelmsford or Wivenhoe along the trail, to get a fully successful event before aspiring to bigger things. Even trying to find festivals for this summer in Essex or Sussex for example could be a plan to have several pilot events before bringing it on the big stages of London or Paris.

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A welcoming crowd at the Queen Street Brewhouse. Credits: Luqman Yasin


Other than the events, what is the future of the Matchstick project? Undoubtedly, the fact that Tom and members of his team are graduating is going to be a huge factor as to whether this project continues to be successful or peters out. In addition to his unconditional love of music, Tom is determined to succeed; luckily, he has already been contacted by organisers of events, but success depends on how he will find new artists. For this, he goes to several open mic nights where many undiscovered talents play in front of a small audience. He is looking mainly for singers but he already has his eye on several new musicians, ranging from a flute player to a jazz-rapping piano/bass duo, to name but a couple. Recruiting them for events is of course a different kettle of fish…

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Quote from the Queen Street Brewhouse, Colchester


Tom Grovestock has also been looking to develop projects with other entities, the main one being with the Colchester Institute, the local school for arts and home to some incredibly talented students. As of today, the project has not worked out; with Tom’s idea to get a real link between the Institute and the University to have the musicians here in the University, valuing the idea of having only University of Essex students here in Rebel rather than people from elsewhere. However, both schools have refused the idea, although the institute is more open with the project, with Max Fox at the head of the classical music over in Colchester and also owns the physical grounds on the Institute. He often puts on events and is willing to have the Matchstick Project in his buildings. A work-in-progress with an optimistic future then. Finally, Tom has been working with Sofar Sounds, a setup similar to the Matchstick Project which puts on secret gigs and intimate events around the UK. Sofar Sounds have recognised Tom’s organisational skills and have contacted him to try and organise something in Essex in the near future.

We wish Tom Grovestock all the best for his future after University; we will certainly be keeping our eyes and ears open for news. Meanwhile, for all the readers of this article, you can find out more about The Matchstick Project on Facebook with videos and the link to the Pop Up event, which still has the videos of the event itself. And you can still listen to Tom’s radio show, Discovering Essex, right here on Rebel Radio from 3-4pm on Wednesday afternoons. 

[/cs_text][x_blockquote cite=”” type=”left” class=”quote”]“Hello, my name is Tom and I run the Matchstick Project” as he would say…[/x_blockquote][cs_text]

Follow Tom Grovestock’s adventure with The Matchstick Project on Facebook at

And check out Tom’s show on Wednesdays from 3 to 4pm at


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