North West musicians encouraged to take part in Britain’s biggest music festival.


Communities Minister Don Foster today announced that 250 free concerts will go ahead this summer across England, featuring the best of local musical talent.

The concerts will be both free for people to attend and for musicians to enter and will bring people from different backgrounds together to listen to a wide variety of music. Over 200,000 people are expected to attend the concerts in July, making the attendance even greater than that of festivals such as Glastonbury.

Compering St Pancras’s ‘Station Sessions’ performances from the Pandemonium drummers and Vision Choir, Don Foster launched the ‘Our Big Gig’ series of concerts and pledged to make it Britain’s biggest free festival.

Speaking at the launch, Don Foster said:

“These events will provide free music, entertainment and the chance for people right across the country to meet and get to know other residents of their city, town or village.

“Last year 200,000 people attended free concerts over the closing weekend of the Paralympics, and just like the games themselves they brought people from all walks of life together.

“The government is keeping the Olympics spirit alive and making the games and their legacy benefit current and future generations and these concerts are an important part of this.”

Concerts will take place from 11 to 14 July across every part of England – from Cornwall to Cumbria and London to Lancashire – with further concerts expected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

These are being organised by the Superact arts organisation, with the Department for Communities and Local Government as the main sponsor and further funding from Arts Council England and the National Lottery.

Last year, 224 community-led performances took place on 9 September – the closing day of the Paralympics – under the name ‘Bandstand Marathon’. Our Big Gig is the successor scheme to this and is part of the UK Government’s formal Olympics legacy commitment.

19 events were held in the North West. As well as urban parks, gardens and promenades, events were held at shopping centres such as at The Hub at Workington and on the High Street in Oldham.

Performers at Sefton Park in Liverpool included Helen Maher playing gypsy jazz on accordion, punk pop Alicia Rose and Futurejack, ukulele ensemble The Splintered Ukes, and Just By Chance, acoustic duo Liz Owen and Andy Jones.

A unique feature of Bandstand Marathon 2012 was the endorsement by Coldplay. Musicians up and down the country gave their own interpretations of Viva La Vida, including the Dee Sign Language Choir at the event in Chester.

In some places the Bandstand event was tied in with Heritage Open Days, such as at Heaton Park in Manchester, which also had tours of the hall.

Giving communities a say in their local event

The Government and Superact are looking for volunteers to take on the role of community event organisers to set up concerts in their areas, including choosing the date, time and venue. Anyone can find out more and apply to hold or perform at an event on the Our Big Gig website.

Don Foster added: “I’m calling on all aspiring musicians and their communities and councils across the country to come forward and set up a free local concert this summer to showcase every kind of music and instrument from accordions to xylophones and zithers.”

Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said: “Our Big Gig will be a real summer highlight. Up and down the country, communities will be involved in running their own music events, in a range of venues, introducing audiences to new bands, artists and styles of music.

“This is a great opportunity for communities to think big, to nurture home grown talent, and to come together, in celebrating the many joys that music can bring. I can’t wait to see the results.”



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