Borne out of an idea by Production Manager Nick Gosling (Nile Rodgers & Chic) in April 2020, The Roadie Cookbook: Toured There, Ate That was curated with friends Production Coordinator Julie Cotton (Massive Attack), Production Assistant Athena Caramitsos and Backline Tech Rich House (Elbow). The team set out to help their peers re-engage in the much-missed mealtime connection of crew catering by producing a 124-page recipe book to raise funds for Mental First Aid training.
When the devastation of COVID-19 hit, live music stopped overnight, and tour buses stood still. While almost every venue in the world closed, home kitchens became the new catering hub for unemployed music workers. As stories of memorable meals and secret ingredients in roadie comfort food took hold, so did the stark reality that isolation and mental ill-health was becoming commonplace within the forgotten touring business.
The team met through the Manchester music scene and recognised first-hand how food can bring people together when touring the world. The idea of an industry cookbook was formed and soon turned into a fundraising initiative tasked with generating enough sales to secure crisis prevention training for those travelling on the road.
Carefully crafted by backstage professionals, the book showcases a collection of 50 recipes, anecdotes, and advice for staying healthy on tour. Recipes include The Killer Sandwich, Stage Left Satay Bowls, Tour Bus Nachos, and an anonymous ‘Loose Cocktail’.
Contributors have worked with artists and events ranging from Dolly Parton to Bryan Ferry, The Chemical Brothers, Kylie Minogue, Glastonbury, Linkin Park, Robbie Williams, Anastacia, Jay Z, and many more. They work in a variety of skilled roles; lighting designers, bus drivers, sound engineers, tour managers and video directors, to name a few. These are the people whose skills ensure the show goes on and, even when it can’t, still come together to get each other over the line.
For each copy sold, 100% of profits will go towards charities Music Support and Stagehand to help continue funding and delivering Mental Health First Aid training and, importantly, normalise taking the Mental Health First Aid course.
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One in four people in the UK will experience ill mental health in their lifetime, while those figures jump to a shocking three in four when it comes to those working in high-pressure environments such as touring and live entertainment. In many cases, the pandemic has accelerated episodes in those who had never previously experienced problems.
With the industry now acutely aware of its fragility, The Roadie Cookbook crew want to focus on helping each other in preparation for when tour buses hit the road again full time.
“Although COVID-19 was devastating beyond anything we could have imagined, a positive to have come out of the situation was for the industry to have an unexpected opportunity to reset,” commented Julie Cotton. “During the past 18 months, we’ve all had a chance to reflect and work together to create positive change by working towards a healthier and more sustainable future in touring. With thousands of people being used to a different routine now, the transition back to working on the road will bring about its own challenges, yet delivering concerts and the experiences they bring to people is a vital part of good mental health.”
She added: “By undertaking the Mental Health First Aid course, many of us have been able to learn how to better support those around us, and we want to extend that knowledge free of charge to our touring colleagues, funded through book sales.”
The 124-page book’s aesthetic design has been handcrafted with art direction by Manchester-based designer Paul Hemmingfield, known for his promotional artwork with the city’s Warehouse Project and Freight Island venues. In addition, the foreword has been written by Skunk Anansie drummer and Music Support Founder, Mark Richardson, who eloquently shares his own experiences of the dark side of touring.
To help future-proof the wellbeing of the UK’s live music industry, you can pre-order a paper copy of The Roadie Cookbook: Toured There, Ate That now.
This article originally appeared in issue #264 of TPi, which you can read here.