Yorkshire Evening Post
As A Leeds University Student, Simon Brogan gets a grant of £380 a year. Over the last 18 months he has spent something over £25,000. But Simon Brogan isn’t worrying about an overdraft. In fact he’s feeling quite pleased these days. For in 18 months as entertainments secretary of the University Union, 21-year-old Simon has made, and spent that cash bringing weekly pop to Leeds in a way nobody has ever done before. Anywhere. Students of Leeds have seen in their own union building artists normally reserved for the Royal Albert Hall at worst. And the latest have been the greatest - enough to turn anyone in the music business green with envy. Leeds honours list reads like a Debrett’s of today’s music - Leonard Cohen, Tom Paxton, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Ginger Baker’s Airforce - name them and they’ve been. And Leeds is now enjoying a sparkling reputation as one of the best venues in the business. Confidence.
“There’s nothing to stop me trying for Simon and Garfunkel now,” says Simon. Don’t laugh, or mistake confidence for arrogance, Simon Brogan simply knows what he wants and goes all out until he gets it. This slight, blond-haired student of economics, invariably attired in old grey mac and jeans, has “put Leeds bang on the map” and been offered several jobs inside the business. He says: “Whatever I do I want to make it a big success. I wanted to get Leeds a name. I wanted the students and bands to enjoy it and I wanted to get a name for myself.” He lives on £4-10sh a week and chats man to man with Tito Burns and tycoons of similar means.
Simon is the man responsible for booking pop’s biggest names and bringing them to the students on Saturday nights. Almost every week 2,000 people pack out the union building. Attendances have never been higher, and the University reigns supreme on the college circuit which Simon describes as “the largest single band-consuming sector if you like. It has surpassed the ballroom and club circuits, both of which have fallen into decay.” Surprisingly, Simon is allowed no grant from the union for booking the big names.
“I’m not given a penny. There’s no grant whatsoever and I have a separate bank account. If I make money I make it and if I lose it I am expected to make it up. Most other Universities get a grant. “I run this strictly on a break-even basis, because I want to give a good service to the students - namely the best possible entertainment at the cheapest prices. This is the one time in my life when I can do a service and a good job and not have the pressures of making money. I’m under no financial pressure from anybody.” Simon was talking from the balcony overlooking the hall which has seen, among other things, an appearance by Leonard Cohen, the legendary Canadian poet-singer, and an L.P., “Live at Leeds” recorded by The Who.
Both events, Simon admits have been the highest points of his career. Cohen’s recent appearance was the only one in Britain with the exception of an Albert Hall concert, and Simon was understandably elated with his prize. “I felt great. This was the scoop to beat all scoops. Cohen doesn’t even like making public appearances, but he enjoyed playing here more than he did in London.
The Who said their set here was one of their best - ever performances. I think their album is the best live recording by any group ever.” Simon paused, savouring the memory.
Although Simon reckons his entertainment work takes up “only about one and a half hours a day” it hasn’t all been easy. Like booking “supergroup” Led Zeppelin.
“I had to explain to the union president, the treasurer and the finance officer that £1000 for the group was cheap and we would have no problems selling out. They had never heard of Led Zeppelin.”
But Simon Brogan revels in his job, which he says is the best in the university. “What an opportunity! Fulfilling yourself and developing your personality. Here I am doing an impresario’s job with no pressures.” he laughs at the thought. Character.
But what strikes you is Simon’s concern for the students and their safety, as well as that of the appearing groups. “If they all enjoy it I’m as happy as anything.” he says. For Simon the future holds either a career in pop or in teaching. But he doesn’t have to think about that right now.
“Leeds? Leeds is as dead as a doornail apart from the University. It’s useless. You can’t get a late meal or anything. Everything seems to close at 10.30. “But I’d rather be here in the North than in the South. More character here.
I remember Cohen’s manager came up and said ‘say, you ever considered havin’ Bobby Dylan on here?” Simon Brogan smiles. “Still, you never know.” you said.