Interview: Seven Years of Secret 7″

2020 marks the end of Secret 7″, the creative fundraiser set up in 2012 by Kevin King and Jordan Stokes. Kevin And Jordan hope to take their grand total raised for good causes to over £250,000 and all the profits from this year’s Secret 7″ will be donated to Help Refugees. We caught up with Kevin about the project’s beginnings and this year’s amazing show at NOW gallery which didn’t always seem achievable in this year of uncertainty.

By the end of this show, Secret 7″ will have made 4,900 one-of-a-kind records for 49 different tracks since 2012.

Going back to its beginnings, what inspired the format of Secret 7”?

There were two main inspirations, the RCA Postcard sale and my desire to flex my creative muscles out of the job in Insight I had at a record label at the time.

How does it feel knowing this is the final year of Secret 7”?

Right now a mix of relief and sadness. I think the latter will begin to outgrow the former once it’s all over.
This year was supposed to be a big celebration of seven years of the project and, well, that hasn’t quite been possible. However, I’m really proud we’ve managed to get the show up and fulfil our promise to raise funds for Help Refugees.

What impact has Covid had on the logistics and production of this year’s show, did it ever look like it wouldn’t happen? Or would have to be entirely online? Looks like you had to reschedule twice?

At one point it was looking online only, which would have been sad. No matter how good the online gallery you’ll never get that impact of 700x unique sleeves side by side in a space. There’s been two reschedulings and it feels like we’ve planned the show five times over. The exhibition design and partnerships have been simplified as a result, but in a way, I quite like that it’s gone a little back to basics this final year – we’ve got a massive wall of sleeves and a one way loop at NOW Gallery. The other main impact is on the sale, which won’t be our traditional first come first served set price setup, but an online auction ending 1 November. Managing our queue, which in the past has been 52 hours in the making, with COVID restrictions, was impossible – it’s a shame, because sale day buzz is so special, but hopefully something positive will come from that in terms of what we raise for our cause.

How do you go about choosing the musicians and songs?

We work closely with a label each year, in 2020 that’s Columbia Records. Our goal is for a varied lineup in terms of both styles and time periods, so that comes through as a visual feast in the show. I think this year is probably the best we’ve ever managed in terms of the music.

How has Secret 7” changed and evolved over its 7 year timespan?

The quality of artwork improves year after year. There are so so many special one-off records in this year’s show. Secret 7″ has gotten more polished with each year, and we’ve developed additional strings to our bow – for instance over the years we’ve hosted workshops and talks, created a jukebox, recorded the public live to vinyl and created custom turntables with our side-show Planar 1/1.

Tell us a few of your favourite sleeves from over the years…

It’s hard to pick a favourite from 4,900 unique sleeves. There are certainly ones that’ll forever stick in my memory, like Tony Hung for John Lennon’s Imagine, Non-Format and Boneface for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer and the huge cuddly toy in this year’s show!

What’s the strangest sleeve that’s ever been submitted?

A wig. It arrived via Fed-Ex at the private view in 2013. I didn’t even know how to fix it to the wall, it was so big and long that it obstructed all the sleeves around it. This year we’ve got a vacuum packed sleeve with a pair of knickers in them.

With this being Secret 7s’ final year, where does that leave you? Will we see new projects from you soon?

Right now I’m not entirely sure, the world is so upside down right now and it’s hard to look much beyond completing this year’s show. I really hope Goodness (Jord and I) will be back with newness soon, while it’s the end of Secret 7″ and that concept, I don’t rule out that we’ll take some of the principles of the project and apply it in different ways.

What message would you give to those customers, loyal and new, buying/queueing for the last time?

Best of luck getting the sleeves and records you love! For those who’ve been unable to visit the show and get a close look, check out the virtual tour and look out on the auction where we’ll be detailing the sizes, weight and materials used in each sleeve.


Secret 7″ Auction