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College band Poison Dart secure their first paid gig and uni offers

Made any plans for Friday night, yet? No? Well, why not head down to the No.4 Wine Bar in Pickering where York College’s very own Poison Dart will be playing from "9pm until late" tomorrow?

Named after the species of frog native to Central and South America – don’t worry Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus are not on backing vocals! – the band are made up of Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music Performance and Production students Jen Staples (lead vocals), George Stone (guitar), Millie Hampson (bass guitar) and Jason Austin (drums).

The quartet met at College and have now all received conditional offers to further their studies on a three-year BA (Hons) Professional Music (Performance) degree at WaterBear The College of Music in Sheffield, where they intend to carry on studying and playing together, whilst also living under the same roof.

Having formed on Campus at Sim Balk Lane, the band first played at College events, but have since showcased their talent at private functions, charity events and were even invited to perform at the Pickering Christmas Lights Switch-On.

As a consequence, Poison Dart are now taking paid-for bookings – the first of which will be tomorrow night with another gig in Pickering already scheduled for Saturday, April 6th.

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Remembering the band’s origins, Jason said: “We all met at College. We didn’t know each other before.

“Me, Jen and George were all put into a band for our coursework and we had to cover a group. We chose Foo Fighters and did a good job.

“Somebody then saw the videos on Facebook and wanted us to perform at an event outside of College, so we did that and, then, Millie came in and played bass for us. We initially had eight members for that first gig, but the band has slowly gone down to us four, which is easier to manage.”

On the band’s varied influences and normal set favourites, Jason added: “We try to mix it up a lot. We do a lot of rock and indie but also put our own twist on some modern pop stuff.

“We still do a lot of Foo Fighters but do some Bon Jovi as well as the Kaiser Chiefs, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and quite a lot of 80s stuff like Hit Me with Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar and ACDC. We all have different tastes in music, so we try and play all sorts and make it our own when we put it altogether.

“We mostly do covers, but we are starting to write our own stuff and that’s the goal eventually.”

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Millie, who also focuses on marketing the band on social media and with the designing of posters, believes studying the course and performing in the band has provided her with greater self-confidence, motivation and networking skills.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity the course gives you to meet so many people,” she pointed out. “I’d never had the chance to play in a band before doing this course.

“I wasn’t into music that much until I started it and met everyone, but I’ve made lifelong friends now who I will be going to uni with. My self-confidence and motivation has increased so much doing the course and being in a band.

“I’ve got a lot better at networking and my bass playing has improved dramatically. I’d barely played for a year when I joined the course, but I’ve been able to properly focus on it more and have it be more than just a hobby, which has been really good for me.

“We’ve played at College Open Events and I do solo music as well, which I’ve performed at College. We’ve also planned our own Halloween gigs where we’ve been the MCs, as well as other stuff at Christmas and Easter.”

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Explaining the choice of band name, meanwhile, George added: “When we did our first gig outside of College, as a bit of a joke we named ourselves ‘Toad in the Hole’ because one of our former bandmates had loads of frogs and just loves them, so we tried to stick with that theme and looked at the different species of frogs and toads, which is when we saw the Poison Dart frog, so that’s how it came about.”

On the excitement of performing in a first paid-for gig, George said: “It will be the longest set we have ever done and preparing for it has been fun. It’s close to home for me and we have another paid gig organised for April at a different pub in Pickering, as well as having some summer festivals lined up.”

The people of Pickering will need little introduction to Poison Dart soon, following the band’s starring role during the town’s Yuletide festivities, too.

Remembering that event, George admitted: “It was a bit weird, because we’d never played any Christmas songs before and only had quite a short time frame to practice them, but it was probably the biggest crowd I’d ever played in front of.

“It was an open event, so most of the town was there. Santa Claus came down the street in his sleigh while we were playing and, by the time he got to the stage, everybody was congregated around us.”

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Jen is also already looking forward to introducing the band to a new audience in a South Yorkshire city famous as the birthplace of groups such as The Human League, Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, Def Leppard and ABC.

“We definitely know there are lots of music venues in Sheffield and lots of people to network with,” Jen enthused. “I already have a friend who is in a band and does gigs in Sheffield, so I know it’s pretty good there and that’s a big draw for me.

“We want to play gigs in Sheffield – absolutely – and play together for as long as possible. We’ll be writing our own music next year, so will want to be getting more of that out by playing as regularly as we can do.

“We’ll all be living under the same roof in a student flat too and I think it will be between the lads who is the messiest! One thing for sure is it will be loud.

“It will be good noise, but we might need to give the neighbours a bit of warning!”

You can keep up to date with news on upcoming Poison Dart gigs by following them on Instagram here or Facebook here

Anybody interested in booking the band for a gig, meanwhile, should email them at

For more information on our Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music Performance and Production course, please click here

You can also discuss the course with specialist tutors at our next Open Event on Tuesday, March 19th (5.30pm-8pm). To register a place, click here