First Timers is:

…a celebration of demystification

…an excuse to make some noise

…a possibility explosion

…a season of workshops

…a gig where every band plays their first set!

First Timers Fest
First Timers started in 2013, inspired by similar initiatives in North America.  Since then, more than EIGHTY brand new bands have debuted at First Timers Festivals in London and Sydney.  Scroll down to learn how to start one where you live.
Sign up here to play your first ever gig at the next First Timers Festival 2023, happening at the Victoria, Dalston in May 2023, or check out our season of workshops below.

Posted by Chris Reredel on Thursday, September 19, 2019

It’s Workshop Season for First Timers 2023!

Want to start a band but don’t know where to begin? Come along to our workshops!

For the eighth time, First Timers will be running a programme of workshops on music making and performance in the run up to the fest itself. All of them are low cost or free events and open to all beginners –  this year’s workshops will be taking place at the Cavendish Arms.

Got a question about any of the workshops? You can tweet us @FirstTimersFest, join the FB group or email

Check out what’s on and book tickets via our Eventbrite! Events will also be shared on Facebook.

First Timers Workshops 2023

Poster description:

‘First Timers Workshops 2023’ in friendly red letters. The dot on each i is an apple with a worm popping out to say hi. In the centre of the poster, two people are jamming on guitar and bass, surrounded by apples.

On the left, a banner lists the names and dates of the workshops (listed below). On the right, a banner reads “Fundraisers and Workshops – The Cavendish Arms, 128 Hartington Rd, London SW8 2HJ. First Timers Festival – 28th May 2023, The Victoria Dalston, 451 Queensbridge Rd, E8 3AS”.

At the bottom, a banner reads “£5 ticket per workshop Free/concession:”

All workshops will take place at the Cavendish Arms unless otherwise stipulated.


12 Feb, 19:00, Fundraiser Gig

19 Feb, 13:00 – Rhythm Guitar with Joni

19 Feb, 15:00 – Drums with Christabel

12 March, 13:00 – Vocals Workshop

12 March, 15:00 – Ukulele with Mel 

2 April, 13:00 – Speed Bandmating with Ishani and Ripley

16 April, 13:00 – Sound Checking with Jemma

16 April, 15:00 – Stage Presence with Alex

7 May, 13:00 – Bass Guitar with Vanessa

7 May, 15:00 – Keyboard with Natasha


The Story So Far

First Timers was started by Bryony Beynon in Summer 2013, inspired by similar initiatives in North America, like Not Enough Fest in New Orleans and Portland, and First Times the Charm in Philadelphia. The first FT took place in Nov 2013 in London and over twenty new bands incl. Big Joanie, Queerocious Primetime and ‘Kin Shot formed through it. The first night took place in a squatted venue in Hackney, the second night at Powerlunches (RIP.)

The second one was at DIY Space For London, a volunteer run social centre, in April 2016 over two full days, with three workshops happening and more than twenty amazing bands like Charmpit, Scrap Brain, Slags and many more forming for it.  The festival was run by in an house collective at DSFL until its closure in 2020 (RIP). Since then, First Timers has led a nomadic existence, but we hope to one day find another permanent home!

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More than ninety bands formed for these events between 2013 and 2019, with a season of skills workshops, socials, screenings and talks.

“The bass workshop was really really inspirational and useful for me and makes me want to get involved in the first timers project and the whole DIY and punk community more. I actually had no idea what to expect or that this kind of thing even existed in London. Walked in to the bass workshop with a slight fear that it would be full of dudes wanting to learn slap bass or something ridiculous like that, instead is was a really inspiring workshop led by the amazing Lianna, both for theory&technical basic bass skills and for giving energy and encouragement to play in bands and try new things out even if you’re pretty much a beginner and never played in bands before. “

Feel free to download, adapt and remix:

“Going straight in and learning a scale, hand positions and then to go ahead and put them into practice was cool, and there wasn’t any risk of people judging or getting left behind, which was good!”

Why start a First Timers?

 1. Progress is too slow

Whatever genre of music you like, if you’re part of any d.i.y community you’ll have noticed more discussion about representation and diversity in recent years. This is long overdue, but progress is very uneven and of course there is resistance. In our experience, First Timers is a super positive way to start pushing for change because it democratises who gets to take up space and creates a defined goal for anyone who has been waiting in the wings for an excuse to start making their own noise!

2. You can’t be what you can’t see

First Timers started after a realisation that I’d waited ten years for someone to give me permission to start making music. A whole ten years where I could have been playing and learning and getting better, was spent wishing I had had some examples to follow.  There is power of seeing yourself reflected on stage. Get up there and then you can be that person for somebody else!

3. Platform, skillshare, amplify

The skills we learn as d.i.y musicians are as often gleaned from those around us as they are from lessons (or youtube!) Making an effort to share basic skills through workshops or even just one-to-one hangouts takes the fear over not being good enough away.  There is no one right way to play and whatever your vibe is, music making is for everyone. 

4. No more gatekeeper excuses

Local promoters always putting on the same old bands with the same types of people saying the same stuff? Being defensive and using the excuse that other bands just don’t exist? First Timers exposes this as a lie and gets new faces and voices up front. Encourage those who play in bands with people who are all exactly the same as them to ask themselves why. This is not ‘just the way things are!’ Think about why it might be that it takes a special opportunity like this for many people to feel confident enough to start playing, and start a conversation.


Putting on a First Timers event is fun!

You will need:

    • A friendly, accessible space for workshops and the gig (or gigs!)

      – Space is crucial! Get your venue (or a shortlist of possibles) lined up well in advance and make sure you know about its accessibility so that you can communicate this to those who are considering signing up. Find out how much it will cost so you can fundraise (perhaps through charging a small donation on the door at workshops, talks or socials) for the venue hire in advance.

    • Social media and flyers to spread the word

      Raise awareness about why you’re doing this, state the rules and what people should look for in a bandmate, drum up some hype about when the registration will be opening!

    • Forms to take sign-ups

      – To support people who want to start First Timers, I’ve made dummy versions of the Forms we’ve used for you to adapt. To use these, please make a copy to your local Google Drive and then ensure the spreadsheet feeds the responses to a local folder – don’t just edit over these dummy ones please, or noone else can take advantage of them!

      – Use the Registration Form to take sign ups for one month to six weeks
      – At least one month before the event, follow this up with the Confirmation Form to get the final list of who’s definitely playing and their tech spec.

    • Access to a photocopier for flyers and posters

      -Recruit local designers and artists to help! Remember to make sure the flyer is clear and easy to read. What’s the message?

    • Friends to help you get the word out and support with organising

      – Remember you’ll have to exchange several emails with each band, so if you have twenty sign up each with their own needs and worries, you’ll need help to coordinate all of this. More communication will be needed than usual for your average gig because you’ll be managing nerves, fears and anxieties too! Be Kind.

    • Those who can lend instruments and help facilitate workshops

      – Those who are already in enough bands or are pretty experienced already are often up for sharing their skills to support the cause, so don’t be afraid to ask.
      – We’ve run Bass, Guitar, Drums, Keyboards and Synthesizers, Songwriting and Singing and Lyric-writing workshops, but the possibilities are really endless.

    • A sympathetic soundworker to keep things running smoothly at the gig

      – Running sound for bands who have never been on stage before takes a lot more work than usual, especially if you have more than twenty of them! Make sure there is a crew who can support each band with how to make the most out of their experience and a patient sound-worker who knows how to listen and respond to feedback.


      Maybe you’ve got lots of questions? Be in touch!
      If you’re running a First Timers in your area let us know and we’ll add your info to this page!

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