Video: Alex Williams rehearsing 'Maybe This Time' for Westmount 2009 with Shane Tolmie on piano. Early Days
As an aspiring singer, I used to visit many of London's open mic nights to perform but was often quite disheartened by the atmosphere. Despite being in a room full of creative people, there were not many opportunities to network, limited chances to perform, and many people didn't actually listen to each other's performances! I decided I wanted to create an open mic night that would put community at its heart with a supportive, fully engaged audience.
In 2009, with the terrific Shane Tolmie on piano, I produced Westmount Live, where I first used the now familiar Dial Up format. In the second half a certain Mr Jon Medcalf took to the keys and invited me to sing with him. The song was Summertime, the response was remarkable and a new musical partnership was born!
Specialising in fresh interpretations of traditional jazz and Great American Songbook standards, 'Musical Mayhem' (as we were briefly called) performed together everywhere from Eastcote to East Ham. In 2010 we established a monthly residency at the Seven Dials Club in Covent Garden, a place which quickly became our home and which led to the creation of our new name, The Dial Up.
The Dial Up's unique blend of creativity and community helped it grow to include residencies at the Watford Palace Theatre from 2011 and Coco Cafe in Croxley from 2012. As one of our regulars said: 'The Dial Up really is something else! I'm Watford born and bred, I love the town... but I've always seen it as a difficult place in terms of establishing a cultural identity. The Dial Up is such a great thing in this regard, and it's beautifully managed by Alex and his crew. There's such a really welcoming positive vibe. I know how much effort these things take to organise too - I think what you're doing is brilliant!'
-Kevin O'Brien (Dial Up first half performer)
In 2015 Alex returned to Watford after two years in the Middle East, a period which saw the Dial Up continue as seasonal specials at various venues including the Watford Palace Theatre, Coco Cafe, Watford Library and the LP Cafe. Once back in the UK permanently, The Dial Up found a new home at Attico Arts Cafe for the first half of 2016, before moving to Fresh Shop Cafe in Watford and The Croxley Kitchen, from where it continued to thrive as a forum for friendships and collaborations fostered through its unique and welcoming atmosphere.
Today and Beyond...
In December 2017 The Dial Up bid a fond farewell to Watford and Croxley to regain its position as London's Freshest Open Mic Night with a monthly residency at The London Improv Theatre! So if you haven't been to a Dial Up event before, check out our Future Dates page for upcoming events!
Radio As a former Vice Chairman of Watford Hospital Radio, Alex involved The Dial Up in supporting WHR with several performance events that raised awareness and funds for the much loved charity.