JUST over 12 months ago, in the middle of a global pandemic, musician and producer Alan Jones decided – somewhat crazily – that the time had come to realise a dream.

The Clacton sound engineer had long yearned to run a recording studio which could one day emulate the success of music folklore’s historic and infamous complexes.

After working several unsatisfying jobs, he finally decided to scout out suitable sites throughout the county which he could potentially convert into a creative hub.

But then, just as the Northampton University graduate found himself on the cusp of taking the leap, the outbreak of coronavirus threatened to curtail his ambition.

Unlike the more sensibly-minded of entrepreneurs, however, Alan, 27, refused to let the shutting down of the entire planet prove a hinderance or deterrent.

Pushing through adversity, he eventually uncovered a three storey unit nestled between Clacton and Colchester, in the village of Great Bromley.

Regardless of the very real financial risk of being unable to secure guaranteed custom at the time, Alan did not think twice about acquiring the keys.

“I had been looking for a space for a while, but then I found this one last May and it was just the right size and location, so I thought I would take the risk,” said Alan.

“I will be honest, I did not think it would last a year, but then coronavirus was around for a lot longer than we thought.

“It has not been an easy ride, there has been a lot of thinking and stress, because it is not just a case of opening a room and hoping for the best.”

Without a moment of respite, Alan jumped straight into transforming the impressive space into what has since become his beloved Black Cactus Studio.

One year on, it now boasts two rehearsal and recording rooms, a control room and two producer rooms, and has morphed into a stimulating hub for creativity.

Performers such as bands, singers and actors now use the rehearsal rooms to hone their craft and create, while tutors use the space to teach lessons.

Quite simply, the studio has become an inclusive hub for creatives of all kinds – which is exactly what Alan set out to achieve.


“It was not designed to be a studio space, so we had an acoustic engineer come in, and that is why it sounds so great when you come here,” he said.

“We spent a lot of time and money thinking about it instead of just building it, and we sort of trickled our away into it.

“For the first six months I just had professional musicians in here, because of the restrictions, so the client base was very small, which was a big hurdle.

“But since then we have had drama students rehearsing here, voice over artists and workshops - it is not a case of you are not allowed in unless you have a guitar.

“I am quite a big advocate of people just stopping by to have a coffee or to come to meet and chat with other musicians and like-minded people.”

Since opening to his very first set of musicians roughly 12 months ago, Alan has produced and recorded more than 70 singles, tackling a range of genres.

Some of those tracks, such as singles from Colchester band The Meffs, have gone on to achieve national airplay on the likes of BBC Radio and Radio X.

Alan added: “My job is the easy one, it is the bands who have the hard job, I just make it sound pretty.

“They bring it all and I just polish it up as such - it is easy to make a good song sound good.”

The former live performer has also used his space to host regular live-streamed charity gigs for the likes of Colchester Foodbank and the Robin Cancer Trust.

Given a virtual platform to both young and local bands, as well as the organisations the shows were held in aid of, the events raised more than £1,000.

Alan, who also works as a sound engineer at venues such as Three Wise Monkeys, believes his online shows helped musicians warm-up ahead of the return of live gigs.

He said: “A couple of bands had not ever gigged before, so their first gig was in a locked-down rehearsal room playing to no one but a wall.

“It was just a way of giving back to the people who use the studio and the charities which we support within the Colchester scene anyway.

“Gigs are back, but I think people did not realise what they missed until it was gone, so more people are definitely going to go to more gigs now.”


Despite embarking on his musical venture at a time when other businesses were struggling due to the pandemic, Black Cactus Studio has very much struck a chord.

It seems as if Alan’s roll of the dice, tossed on the table with the hope of fulfilling a dream, may just have paid off.

Alan concluded: “We have another live-stream gig to do and then we are going to move them to an actual venue in Colchester and raise money for charity.

“We are just in the process of building a third rehearsal room which will be three times the size of the rooms we have now.

“And we are just going to keep making music and juggling life and having fun whilst we do it.”

To find out more about Black Cactus Studio visit facebook.com/blackcactusstudio.