Q&A: Vera Project's Nick Turner

Drink up! There are sober kids at Vera.

When Nick Turner, a veteran of New York's all-ages and DIY scenes, moved to Seattle in 2000 at age 23, he'd had a couple of years to get used to being of age and seeing shows at bars, which the city had no shortage of. But he knew something was missing.

"When I moved here, I thought it was kind of odd that this city that had such a reputation built around popular music and rock music had such few options for all-ages shows," he says.

He didn't have to wait long. In 2001 he saw a call for volunteers for a new all-ages space, and he showed up to help out at the Vera Project's first show— Murder City Devils, Botch, and Blood Brothers—at its original Belltown location. Turner's been with Vera ever since, and as co-director continues to preach the virtues of all-ages events, even for folks who are shedding a bit of hair up top. "[Seeing an all-ages show] reminds you that you don't know it all, and that maybe you are acting like a cranky old fart at times," he says.

On the eve of a weeklong fund-raiser, "A Drink for the Kids"—a series of bar nights at which a portion of the drink proceeds will go to Vera Project, capped by a Neumos show from Brite Futures (formerly Natalie Portman's Shaved Head)—Turner talks to us about their second year, vitaminwater, and why we won't be drinking for the kids at Vera anytime soon.

SW: How are things at Vera right now?

Turner: Things are doing well. Last year was our biggest year ever. [We served] 54,000 last year, and the year prior was 37,000.

You guys lost $25,000 in funding from King County this year. Where did you cut?

We basically have really ambitious fund-raising goals, which is where events like "A Drink for the Kids" comes in. There's a not a lot of room for us to cut things. We stay afloat, but sometimes it's kind of tight month to month. We did have to change our benefits a little bit for our employees. We picked a cheaper plan.

You mentioned vitaminwater. Are you looking at more corporate sponsors these days?

We're looking to expand our fund-raising a little bit to kind of fill some of those gaps that arise from the county budget cuts or the state budget. Obviously we want to respect Vera's integrity as an independent cultural space. We don't want Vera to turn into some giant, corporate-branded behemoth, 'cause I think that would go against our grassroots vibe.

What about bringing in a beer garden to "drink for the kids" year-round to fill the budget hole?

Vera's entire venue is always inclusive. The whole place is open to everyone. That sort of leaves alcohol out of our venue. It's been discussed, and it's basically a conscious decision Vera made years ago. We are intentionally always all-ages in every way. We try to really emphasize that everyone's on an equal plane.


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