Archive for the ‘music’ Category
Yeah, yeah, last with the news, but here it is from the horse’s mouth.
Sad news, but it can’t just be the demands on Blackheath this Olympic year – it’s already going to be a packed summer for events in London (the Blur/ Specials / New Order closing ceremony gig looks something very special) and it’d be hard to get a decent profile for the festival.
But come 2013, and the post-Olympics malaise… and it could shine. Hope to see you next year, chaps.
A pal of mine used to live near Brixton Academy, and used to have to negotiate crowds of ticket touts on gig nights. But every now and then, he’d turn up at 9pm, and get into gigs for a fiver because the touts couldn’t shift their wares for full price.
I can’t help wondering if we’re about to get the same opportunities at the Dome, with the opening of “secondary ticketing” company Seatwave’s first shop just around the corner. It’s tucked away in Pier Walk, just behind Wagamana, so isn’t exactly in a prime spot, but bosses at the O2 aren’t impressed…
The O2 distanced itself from the firm and encouraged people “wanting to attend gigs to buy tickets through the official O2 website”.
The venue said it did “not allow third party sellers or touts on the premises” and that it policed the Peninsular Square area outside the O2 to stop the practice.
I peered through the window on Sunday afternoon and tickets for last night’s Snow Patrol show looked to be selling for about £6 below face value. I don’t know what hours the shop will keep, but if you’re passing through on an event night soon, it might be worth taking a look to see if there are any bargains.
An antidote to the troubles of the past week or so…
The story goes like this. A few years ago, a young man called Lee decided to hold a party in his back garden in West Wickham while his parents were away. He called it Leefest for a laugh, and got some bands to play along with DJs and a comedian. The 150 guests enjoyed it, so he did it again the next year. And then the year after that it moved to a field next to a nearby school. Two years later, it moved again, to a field further out of town. Now Leefest can hold 2,000 people, has a stellar line-up, and donates its profits to charity. What’s not to like?
There’s so many references to Lee at the festival, I came away thinking this figure didn’t exist. (“If you see Sid, tell him.”) But he certainly does, and it’s a brave man who puts his name to a festival these days, for fear of the curse of Field Day. Now in a field between Biggin Hill and New Addington, Leefest lasts two days, blends local acts with a few big names, but feels like attending a private bash. Diving down into the valley at the top of the North Downs, it certainly seems like the best secret party you’ll ever go to.
While next year’s On Blackheath can rightly claim to be south-east London’s music festival, Leefest – still run by Lee, his family, and a band of volunteers – was here first.
I’d only been dimly aware of the festival before, and only went because some pals with Saturday tickets suddenly couldn’t go. Even though I ended up investigating it on my own, I certainly didn’t feel alone and it’s the only music event I’ve ever been to where the security guards are actually friendly. Hell, they even cracked jokes. I was so won over I even had a pink heart painted on my cheek by Kids Company volunteers. I now remember why I had some strange looks later coming home through Catford.
It was also great to see Get Cape Wear Cape Fly on the main stage, but the biggest reason for going was to see British Sea Power. I wasn’t the only one – you could spot BSP’s older fans a mile off among the predominantly young Leefest crowd.
A few years ago I’d seen them play to thousands on a crystal clear night by the Mediterranean at Primavera Sound in Barcelona – last night they played to a few hundred in a field near Biggin Hill. If you like your rock majestic, with men wearing foxes’ heads and plenty of onstage pranks, they’re your band.
Leefest was terrific fun, and it’s the only time I’ve left a festival feeling slightly jealous of those camping over. It’s amazing Leefest doesn’t have a higher profile, but then more crowds would rob it of its charm. So next year, get the shuttle bus from Bromley or the 464 from New Addington, and tell your friends if you think using an Oyster card to get a festival won’t be too daunting for them. But let’s keep it our secret, eh?
Plans for a two-day music festival on Blackheath have been upheld by magistrates, who threw out an appeal against it being granted a licence.
Bromley magistrates dismissed the appeal brought by the Blackheath Society against Lewisham Council, which granted a 10-year licence to Nimby Events Ltd last year.
The society now faces an £80,000 legal bill following the seven day hearing, the longest appeal ever heard under current licensing laws.
This year’s festival, due to attract 50,000 people over two days, was abandoned because of the lengthy court case, but organisers are now planning to hold the first On Blackheath festival in September 2012.
Despite the rejection of the appeal, Lewisham Council came in for criticism in the magistrates’ ruling. They said there was “little evidence” the council conducted its consultation into the festival licence in an “open and transparent manner”.
Lewisham approved the event at a licensing sub-committee meeting in October – but a large number of local people in both Lewisham and Greenwich boroughs were “totally unaware” of the application, they said.
The festival is due to be held on the western side of the heath, between the Territorial Army base at Holly Hedge House and Shooters Hill Road, on the boundary of the two boroughs.
Furthermore, the magistrates branded Lewisham’s failure to formally notify Greenwich Council of the application “astonishing”. Festival organisers had informed Greenwich of their plans – but officers at the neighbouring authority, whose boundary runs just metres away from the festival site, were left waiting in vain for Lewisham to inform them when a full application was made.
While it had complied with the Licensing Act 2003, magistrates Roger Mills and Dr Patrick Davies said “Lewisham, through its licensing sub-committee, as not acted in an appropriate manner and has not had the interests of some of its residents at heart”.
But concerns about public order and noise at the event were dismissed by the magistrates, who noted the “days when events would have banks of speakers on a stage facing the audience” were gone, and were confident sound control firm Vanguardia would be able to mitigate any problems with noise.
Counsel for Nimby Events had asked the magistrates to award the full £140,000 costs of the hearing to the Blackheath Society, but the magistrates declined, saying the appeal had been “properly brought and Parliament had intended residents to have a say in the licensing process”.
It was revealed in the hearing that the society, which has a membership of 980 families, has assets of around £400,000, partly tied up in local property. Nimby Events’ Tom Wates, Terry Felgate and Alex Wicks were described in court by their counsel Simon Taylor as “local family men” who were funding their legal costs from their own pockets – they will be liable for most of the remainder of the costs.
Speaking before the costs ruling, Nimby’s Alex Wicks said he and his fellow organisers were “pleased” the festival could go ahead.
“We’re looking forward to working with the whole community, including the Blackheath Society and the Blackheath Joint Working Party. We very much want this to be a community event.”
He added that they were looking to hold concerts at Blackheath Halls during the winter as a build-up to the festival. “The halls need all the help they can get, and hopefully we can get it sold out for three nights.”
Blackheath Society chairman Howard Shields said that Lewisham’s decision to revise its policy on holding events on the heath showed the appeal had not been completely in vain.
“Our grouse all along has been with the way Lewisham has handled it,” he said.
“We have never said there should never be anything on Blackheath. But if we’re going into an era of having big commercial events on Blackheath, then there should be proper scrutiny.”
The decision to begin the appeal was taken by its management committee after an overwhelming response against the festival on its e-mail list, he added.
Asked about those who backed the event, Mr Shields said: “Nobody has written to us asking, why did you do this?”
However, he conceded there was a feeling the society had lost touch with younger people, and needed to “broaden our communication abilities” in future. (A full statement is on the Blackheath Bugle.)
Festival organisers will now be looking to find a suitable date for On Blackheath, with the Paralympic Games equestrian events taking place in Greenwich Park during early September 2012. Earlier this year, Tom Wates told this website the event could bring up to £1m of custom for local firms.
So, did I miss much while I was away? Doesn’t look like it. I took myself off to Barcelona to revel in the Primavera Sound festival, and took my time getting back. I stopped off at Salvador Dali’s birthplace Figueras to investigate the museum dedicated to the artist’s honour (but found myself much more charmed by the nearby toy museum). I also spent a night and day in Paris, purely because it was better value to get a cheap hotel than pay Eurostar’s mickey-taking fare to get home immediately.
It’s the sixth time I’ve been to Primavera Sound, and this year’s magical moments will live on. The first Pulp show for nine years had shades of Blur’s reunion a couple of year ago – a merry romp through a a back catalogue that’s deeper and better than many would recall. But there was also stellar performances from Interpol, PJ Harvey, Of Montreal, and a Mercury Rev show on the Sunday night, a day after the festival proper had finished, which blew me away.
But it also felt like the year the festival got too big and struggled to cope. A card system designed to make bar purchases quicker and easier failed to work – it appeared to depend on iPads and wi-fi – leading to massive queues and very little beer at an event whose full title was San Miguel Primavera Sound 2011. Facing a loss that must have run into hundreds of thousands of euros, organisers eventually threw the towel in and decided to accept cash, and money loaded onto the cards was refunded later.
Faced with hundreds of thirsty punters, often ranting in a foreign language, the bar staff coped admirably, but the organisers did less well, releasing a stiffly-worded statement the day afterwards which lost something in translation. Which may have been fine in 2006 when Brits, Irish and Americans were in a tiny minority – but really didn’t work in 2011, with tickets sold across Europe and English speakers making up what felt like about half the audience.
With a host of other little niggles – and a horror story about a photographer attacked by security guards for documenting a stage invasion – Primavera Sound will have to raise its game next year if it is to cope with a festival that is only going to get bigger.
(*cough* If the organisers need help with English-language communications, I’m free and can move to Barcelona at very short notice… *cough*)
Usually, a trip to Barcelona provides an escape, but after that difficult first day of the festival, troubling news on the second day provided a new backdrop – and put some of the organisational issues in perspective.
In the lead-up to the festival, young people had occupied city squares across Spain to protest against cuts being made by prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s government, urging people to spoil their ballots in regional elections. One in five Spaniards is out of work, and there is no sign of a recovery.
In Barcelona, hundreds had camped out in Plaça de Catalunya, a few minutes’ walk from my hotel, with stalls, talks, and posters criticising corruption and greed in government and banking. It reminded me of the Climate Camp that arrived on Blackheath two years ago.
Very early on Friday, I was woken by the sound of helicopters. The roar continued all morning as I tried to sleep. I later discovered police had raided the occupation, beating protesters who refused to move.
The pretext for all this was Saturday’s Champions League final – the square would be a focal point for city celebrations if Barca won, and it needed to be cleared of stalls.
But the police actions were as futile as they were violent. I witnessed the end of the police operation early in the afternoon, with the helicopter hovering low over the square and police vans roaring around it in an attempt to intimidate protesters, who simply declared there should be a new rally at 7pm, and busied themselves re-erecting the stalls.
Back at the festival, banners appeared backing the demonstration. Would any band have the guts to mention the day’s events? Proud Scottish socialists Belle and Sebastian (above) didn’t bother. It was left to Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, responding to a banner reading “SPANISH REVOLUTION – SING ALONG WITH THE COMMON PEOPLE”.
“When police go into a square and put 100 people in hospital, that’s not good,” he told the crowd, dedicating Common People to the protesters.
The Parc del Forum exploded with emotion as a traumatic day came to a close.
By Saturday, the square was busier than ever, and packed with stalls again. The police had merely managed to antagonise and ostracise the protesters further – who were now demanding the sacking of Catalonia’s interior minister for authorising the beatings, with graffiti appearing around the city over the weekend.
The one thing Primavera Sound’s organisers did get right, though, was screening the Champions League final on one of the stages. But that was kept quiet, with a football match-sized gap in the programme the only clue. In 2009, Uefa threatened to sue PS after it advertised a screening at a pre-festival gig – the secrecy was presumably to avoid further action from European football’s joyless guardians.
As everyone knows by now, Barcelona played Manchester United off the park, the place went wild, and the celebrations brought a happy tinge to the festival’s remaining hours. I taught one man the words to We Are The Champions, before heading back to the bands and the mental shift of watching PJ Harvey.
Sunday saw the FC Barcelona victory parade – full of ecstatic families, following the bus to the Nou Camp. The champions will be getting ready for their holidays, the festival has been dismantled for another year. But the demonstrators remain in Plaça de Catalunya. I suspect the consequences of what’s happened over the past week or so will still be felt around the city when the bands next take to the Primavera Sound stages.
It was a nice day for it, to put it mildly. The sun shone on the naval college this morning as this year’s Greenwich Summer Sessions shows were launched to the press. Playing this year are The Divine Comedy and Jose Gonzalez (July 26), Mark Ronson and the Business International (July 27), Status Quo and Nine Below Zero (July 28), Squeeze (July 29) and the Pogues (July 30). It’s a stronger line-up than last year, with more acts to come and one further show on July 31 to be announced later.
There’s plenty of local links behind the Summer Sessions – just like last year when Deptford’s Athlete played. Promoter Peter Conway lives locally, while Status Quo can also boast solid neighbourhood credentials – Francis Rossi was born in Forest Hill, founded the band with a Catford schoolmate and played an early gig at the Welcome Inn, Eltham. Their support, Nine Below Zero, boasts Charlton-based guitarist Dennis Greaves.
But you don’t get much more south-east London than Squeeze – into their second summer of playing shows after their recent reunion. Glenn Tilbrook still lives locally, but for Chris Difford, it’s a return to old haunts. “I was just looking at the estate agents in the street where I used to live – King George Street – and it’s extraordinary. It’s a neighbourhood that I don’t think I can afford,” he said after posing for photos on the naval college lawn.
“The last time I stood in that ground was when I was about five years old, and the Queen about to meet all the local schools. I shook hands with somebody but it wasn’t the Queen, it was somebody who’d been on a yacht around the world,” he continued. But what about the famous Painted Hall of the naval college? “The rumour is that there’s 367 breasts on the ceiling, according to a schoolfriend who spent far too long in there.”
Squeeze are playing the Royal Albert Hall next week – with the orchestra from Trinity College of Music – but Chris is looking forward to the homecoming. “We’re like the village cat, whenever we come back everybody strokes us,” he grinned.
The first show marks a year until the Olympics opening ceremony, so Charlton-based Team GB judo hopeful Gemma Gibbons was also at the launch. Tickets for that and all the other shows go on sale from Thursday.
Six Greenwich councillors have joined forces to object to September’s planned On Blackheath music festival going ahead.
The two Conservative and four Labour representatives, from Blackheath Westcombe and Greenwich West wards, are sending a submission to Bromley Magistrates Court in support of action being taken by the Blackheath Society, which says the event will cause “substantial noise and nuisance”.
On Blackheath is due to attract 25,000 people each day over the weekend of 10 and 11 September, with organisers planning to put on a bill of new and left-field acts.
Lewisham Council’s licensing panel approved the event last October, but the society has taken the issue to magistrates, appealling to members for funds to help pay for their legal costs. One bone of contention is that Greenwich was not consulted by Lewisham over the original application for the festival, whose site at Hare and Billet Road is close to the boundary between the two boroughs.
Two councillors, Labour’s Maureen O’Mara and Conservative Geoff Brighty, are planning to attend the hearing, which begins on Thursday.
Earlier this month one of the festival’s organisers, Chislehurst-based businessman Tom Wates, told this website the event could bring up to £1m of custom for local firms.
Blackheath could get its own music festival in September if these three men get their way.
Tom Wates, Terry Felgate and Alex Wicks want to stage On Blackheath over the weekend of 10/11 September. Lewisham Council gave them permission last October – but the Blackheath Society is challenging the decision through the courts. Magistrates in Bromley will decide next month. Earlier this week, I spoke to the trio about their plans for the heath.
“If everyone spends £20, that’s £1m into the local area in two days – and that doesn’t happen very often.” For local businessmen Tom Wates and Alex Wicks, putting on a festival on Blackheath has been a long-held dream. “Everyone in Lewisham was really for it,” says Tom, who adds he spent two years talking to the council about holding a festival. “It’s something everyone thought was missing from the area, and they were pleased an outsider had come in with the idea.”
Their plan is for a two separate days of music on the area of Blackheath between the Territorial Army base at Holly Hedge House and Shooters Hill Road, with 25,000 people each day getting to see two stages of music. Hare & Billet Road would be closed for the weekend, and the TA building would be used for logistics to save space. Tom used to teach at Colfe’s school in Lee and now runs a business in Chislehurst designing school interiors and seating. Alex was brought up in Lewisham and works in sports event marketing. The third member of the team was introduced to them by a mutual friend – Greenwich-based Terry Felgate, who lives just off the heath, was involved in putting on Blur’s Hyde Park reunion shows and started out booking gigs at Goldsmiths College in the 1980s.
Together, they’re convinced On Blackheath will be something south-east London can be proud of.
“We’ve always seen the heath as an opportunity,” says Terry. “We want to establish a successful event that will benefit this area, and I think we can. Those events exist in parks elsewhere in London, like Clapham Common and Victoria Park. It’d be nice to have an event here, and the audience is here.”
But what kind of audience are they going for?
“Look at Latitude in Suffolk, that’s very much the sort of theme we’re loking at,” says Terry. “Left-field artists – things like Elbow, Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine – and then acts that are coming through – Noah and the Whale, Foals – that 6 Music side of things.”
“We wanted to back that up with a wider experience so it doesn’t feel like a mini-version of some other event, quite often you’ll go to festival and it’s the same food as the others. What we’d like to do is bring in as much from Greenwich and Blackheath as we can, so we’d have, say, beer from Meantime brewery.”
The festival won
planning permission from Lewisham in October, with the backing of four out of six members of a planning licensing board. “We were thrilled,” recalls Tom. “It was a fascinating hearing, very thorough, and there’s a 28 day period after that where objectors can appeal. The Blackheath Society appealed on the last day of those four weeks. But we have to crack on and organise it, so if the hearing goes in our favour, all we have to do is push the button.”
The resulting bad feeling has left the trio feeling a bit sheepish about the tongue-in-cheek name of their company – NIMBY Events – but Tom wants locals to hear their case.
“The first thing I’d like to say to them is ‘give us a chance’. We’re getting arguments that there’ll be hoodies coming up from Deptford or people will be leaving excrement in gardens.
“A lawyer at the hearing, who’s 50-odd, said every time he goes to a gig he wants to piss in someone’s garden afterwards. Well, clearly he doesn’t do that, and we think people of the age we want to attract are a little bit more mature. There’s lots of serious arguments about health and safety, but we’ve surrounded ourselves with experts in security and sound to answer their questions and more at every single point.”
If it gets the green light, On Blackheath won’t be the first big gathering on that part of the heath, as Tom recalls.
“Sometimes we hear, ‘they’re not going to be like those nice people from the climate camp.’ That was an illegal event, but now it’s ‘what a nice thing that was for the area’, because it helped local business and was good for the area.
“This is something that is legal, and we’re doing everything to ensure it’s a safe event that people can be proud of, and will be on the calendar like the fireworks which people look forward to every year.”
Terry continues: “I’d ask people not to be scaremongered – I hear people are saying it’ll be like Glastonbury on our doorstep. Well, Glastonbury’s 200,000 people camping over five days.
“There seems to be a misconception of what this is about – it’ll be two separate events with no camping. These events run in other areas – like Clapham Common has the Ben and Jerry’s event – and there’s no issue with people trying to camp. There’ll be a maximum of 25k each day, and having spoken to all those involved, including the police, they don’t see an issue with that.
“These fears that there’ll be riots and it’ll be out of control are unsubstantiated. A mystery’s been blown up – ‘who are these people?’ – well, just ask us.”
Greenwich Council did object to the event – the borough boundary lies a few feet to the north of the proposed festival site – although Tom feels that was because “Lewisham didn’t ask them their opinions”.
“The Blackheath Society have called up Greenwich’s policies on holding events, and they’re different from Lewisham’s,” he adds. “But they’re different councils, and we’re on Lewisham’s side of the heath. But we’re keeping out of all that, we’re doing what we’re asked to do and leaving the boroughs to it.”
Festival-goers will be encouraged to leave their cars at home, and Terry hopes On Blackheath will help change the perception that it is set in a hard-to-reach area. “It’s not. It always surprises people it’s 7 minutes from London Bridge. There’s so many ways of getting here now. I think the O2’s changed that. The site’s a 10 minute walk from Lewisham and Greenwich stations. People will be encouraged to come there, not via Blackheath station.”
But before any festival goer marches up Lewisham Hill, the trio will have to prove their case in a two-day hearing at Bromley Magistrates court from 3 March. In the meantime, a debate still rages about the festival. Whatever the decision, the huge costs of the appeal – with the Blackheath Society appealling for money through its members – mean the debate may well go on for a long time while afterwards.
Anybody who wants updates on the plans for On Blackheath can sign up via onblackheath.com.
A bit of a vanity post this, but never mind – you’ll find me in this month’s copy of London freebie Snipe spouting off about the battle to save the 100 Club, probably the last decent sized venue in the West End. It needs £500,000 to guarantee its future – or it’ll end up going the same way as the Astoria, the Wag, the Metro, and so on.
You can find Snipe online, and in plenty of good London pubs and venues, including the Greenwich Union, which should give you the excuse to go down there for a beer.
Closer to home, I’ve also done a piece for Snipe’s website on the latest developments on the Greenwich cable car, after TfL submitted planning applications for the scheme. It all looks rather nice – but it’s no answer to the very real problems faced by anyone trying to cross the river at this end of London. (Nor is the Silvertown Link, before anyone starts, but that’s by the by.) I’ll be returning to that on this website soon, I hope.