Paul Stevenson seems to have a knack for organising and staging live charity music events, even though it can be painstakingly difficult to pull off. After last year’s inaugural Rock The Dead Donkey Festival held at Birchwood in Warton. Although it was a success, Paul felt he needed to source a venue closer to Blackpool, which was more accessible to the public, in order to attract bigger audiences. In turn, this would obviously give the event the chance to raise more funds for the nominated charities, in this case The Mulberry Community project and the Tramshed Theatre Company, two very worthy causes indeed. It would also provide a better opportunity for exposure for the bands involved.
This year there was a slight name change for the event, simply named Donkey Fest II, but the quality of musicians and bands on show over a full weekend of live music was as outstanding as last year. Paul and his team had worked tirelessly selecting the right venue and teaming up with The Shovels Pub in Marton, it turned out to be a masterstroke. Kevin, the landlord, was very happy and enthusiastic to lend his support to the proceedings and will no doubt will be delighted with how the whole weekend developed, with a very healthy response from the music-loving public. This was likely enough to secure the services of The Shovels as a more permanent home for the annual music event.
The Shovels is a terrific venue with great facilities and plenty of space to accommodate a large enough crowd with a spacious stage set up. With good food and real ales served, it was down to a brilliant line up over the Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday to provide the entertainment and they did that with aplomb. It was good to see so many great bands and musicians give up their time freely to support the charities and Paul Stevenson has to be commended for his selection of bands, which was wide ranging in style and genre and enough to please everyone who attended. There was a good sized Fun Fair in operation on the car park next to the venue, but in all honesty it was blighted by some erratic weather conditions at times, which was a shame. The weather did improve somewhat on Sunday and it did seem a little busier. The weather certainly didn’t stop the fun inside as the music rolled on and the crowd rocked to an exciting opening line up on Friday evening.
It was great stuff and fabulous entertainment provided by an eclectic mix of bands, from young original upcoming musicians to the more established cover bands, but each chipping in to support the event.
For me, there were several highlights of the weekend. As a great supporter of upcoming bands and young artists breaking through, there were some exceptional performances from each session. I, surprisingly, hadn’t seen the young band Akin live before and was left highly impressed by their set. There were usual brilliant performances too from the likes of Jekyll, Montagu, Alpha State Of Mind, The People and the ever improving The Atmospherics. On Sunday, the day provided a more relaxed atmosphere with some more laid back live music. Starting the day was the sensational vocal talent of Jess Allan, who is certainly one artist to watch out for, as is fifteen year old Tamara Fox, who also proved what quality of talent there is currently emerging in the area. The future looks very promising, especially for young female singer/songwriters and we seemed to be blessed with an excellent crop coming through.
The superb sound rig provided by and perfectly managed by Ron Ingram and the Road Trip team brought out the very best out of each artist performing and they worked very hard over the whole weekend to make sure every band sounded excellent. I was personally delighted that the bands and artists that performed so well were invited back by The Shovels to perform future gigs, in their own right, which is a testament to the quality on show and in turn provides more support from yet another venue.
It would perhaps be wrong of me not to give a mention of credit to all the other bands and artists who all gave fantastic entertainment over the three days and provided something to suit all tastes. The audiences on each day were very receptive and enthusiastic which provided a great atmosphere throughout the duration of the whole festival. A special mention must also go to local music stalwart Mel Stacey and to Sebastian Orain for helping Paul with the organisation of a very successful and enjoyable weekend of music. It was ably and expertly assisted by Ron and his team on the sound desk, made up of fellow sound guys Tony Fox, Craig Atkins and Scott Slattery, who did an impeccable job. Added to the success were the volunteers who spent time selling raffle tickets and assisting with various other fundraising activities. It was a real team effort all round.
This was a fabulous and thoroughly enjoyable music event, well delivered and supported by the public and I’m positive the charities will benefit from the considerable efforts of all involved. The performers too will have taken away some good memories of the weekend. And the good news is that the festival seems to have found a new home for the foreseeable future.
I’m already looking forward to Donkey Fest III in 2015.
Here is a selection of brilliant images from the weekend captured by Richard Shirt courtesy of The Extra Third Photography.
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