Ronnie Purvis was an inspirer, an encourager and a fierce supporter of unsigned music and musicians. More than all of that, Ronnie was a friend. With his distinctive silver ponytail, he was most animated bouncing on stage to announce the arrival of an act he’d plucked from the aether and persuaded to come and play one of his gigs in Belfast. They were never disappointed.
He was the catalyst for relationships, musical and more, and he fostered among the acts he worked with a camaraderie that knew no borders or limits.
Ronnie Purvis died on January 14th 2021. He was 70 years old.
This month, musicians from Northern Ireland and beyond will gather at the American Bar in Belfast to celebrate his life and legacy. Rallied by Glasgow-born troubadour Mick Hargan, and with the support of Ronnie’s partner, Sylvia Grimshaw, sixteen artists will celebrate the man who gave many of them their first opportunity to perform in front of an audience. All of those performing were regulars at Ronnie’s nights.
Ronnie ran gigs anywhere and everywhere he could, from the Lamppost Cafe to the Empire Music Hall and the Landsdowne Hotel in Belfast, to Ireland and Scotland. It didn’t matter where it was, people came to play or listen to the acts he curated. He enticed artists from as far afield as the USA and Canada (Rebecca Loebe, Jo-Jo & The Teeth, Keelan Donovan) to play his shows as a first foothold for them in the UK and Ireland. He collaborated with similarly-minded promoters in other cities and used his connections to book mini tours for the acts he worked with.
Ronnie didn’t care if you had Spotify followers, or Facebook fans. He cared about the artist and their music, knowing the rest would look after itself. As well as running gigs he had a label, a recording studio, and a podcast; his office was a revolving door of talent. He created a hub for music, without any intention of ever being the centre of it. He was though and he is sorely missed.
As live music returns, Belfast has its first opportunity to celebrate Ronnie’s life and his passion among the people he elevated and encouraged most; the musicians who played at his shows.
Admission is free but donations are encouraged with all proceeds from the night going to Crosskennan Animal Sanctuary which he regularly supported.
Ronnie Purvis, The King of Belfast.