Eaglefest – Pioneering Young Local Bands

One thing very close to my heart is giving young, local upcoming bands and artists the chance to perform live. So I was both privileged and honoured to speak to a soldier of local youth music, Ian Fletcher, founder and co-organiser of Eaglefest. This is an annual summer music event held at The Golden Eagle in Anchorsholme, which gives the stage over to young bands and other more established artists for a day long festival. Along with his team, all of whom are volunteers, Ian has, for the third year running, managed to put together a fantastic line up of local musicians covering all genres.  He is giving them the chance to showcase their work and  help raise funds for local charities.  A great deal of hard work and dedication has been put into organising and staging the event and I for one hope that the people of Blackpool and the surrounding areas turn out in force to support it. It gives us the chance to witness first hand the brilliant talent we have in the area at the moment and is a fantastic tribute to a local musician who left a positive and long lasting impact on some of the musicians involved at the festival. In this preview, I caught up with Ian and asked him some questions about Eaglefest, his hopes and the organisation behind it.

What is Eaglefest and how and why was it founded?

lucas eaglefest 2011
Lucas at Eaglefest 2011

Back in 2011 we lost a very good friend and musician called Phil Roberts to cancer. He was only in his forties and taught a lot of kids and adults guitar in his spare time when not gigging himself. My son Lucas, who at the time was being taught by Phil, wanted to pay a little tribute to him by organising a small charity event to raise money for the hospital ward that was treating Phil. Whilst this small event was being organised to take place in a local school theatre, Phil sadly passed away long before his time. Due to this very sad news, the Gazette and the local media learned of what Lucas and myself were aiming to achieve. Our local pub got wind of it and asked us if we were interested in doing it there instead, as it was an ideal location and perfect place to hold such an event. So between myself and Lucas, we decided to go ahead with it and Eaglefest was born. The name came about because the pub is called The Golden Eagle.

Who are the Eaglefest team and how much work goes into organising the festival?

Because the event grew larger, myself and Lucas had to ask other parties to help out. So we approached a very good friend of ours, David Walsh, who jumped at the chance to be a part of it and to be honest I don’t think it would be as good as it is without him. The following year Chris Chew from local band Kudos joined and now helps out alongside Simon Fox, also from Kudos. Also, without the help of all the volunteers who donate their own time on the day, it would be very difficult to arrange and stage. We can’t thank the local community enough for both their help and turning out to support it.

As Eaglefest is a charity event, which local charities does it aim to support?

Mostly it has been local cancer charities, like the hematology ward in Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Brian House Children’s Hospice. We will help any charity, as long as it is a local one and stays close to home.

Was it a conscious decision for Eaglefest to give young, local upcoming bands and artists the stage to perform?

Not really. We just thought that at the first event that it would be a nice gesture and tribute to Phil and his family as well as the people he taught and bands he played in over the past 25 years who shared the stage together. We never really intended to have kids playing, but when auditioning the bands we found some fantastic young talent in the area that never really get the chance to play. Phil was certainly doing something right when teaching these kids, because they can certainly play just as good as a local band that has been around ten to twenty years. Phil has left a fantastic legacy.

Eaglefest has been actively involved in arranging other events with young local bands, can you briefly tell us about those events and which bands were featured?

Rob Black Pearl 2011
Rob from Black Pearl at Eaglefest 2011

Yes we have and at first we really weren’t sure. We were asked to host a Battle Of The Bands in the Thornton-Cleveleys area, but we looked further and we wanted to take it to the next level. One condition was that if we organised it, it had to cover the Blackpool and Fylde area and from what we had encountered at Eaglefest the bands had to be under 18 years of age. The event was then moved from Thornton Little Theatre to Blackpool Sixth Form. The bands auditioning were fantastic and because of the overwhelming response we had to stage three heats and a final. All the bands were fantastic and a credit to the area. It’s been nearly six months on from the competition and it’s brilliant to see that the majority of the bands such as The Atmospherics, Belvadere, The People and Jekyll are still going very strong and now gigging regularly.

This is the third year of the festival. Again, it features many local young bands, but other more established acts have offered their services. Was it difficult to persuade those bands to get involved with the festival?

At first the bands were more than happy to be involved because of their relationship with Phil. Jekyll were students of Phil and Phil was a member of Rupert Fabulous and Black Pearl in his early years. So Eaglefest One was quite easy to manage. The second year this year became even easier, as bands in the area were asking to play instead of us pestering them!  It’s great to know that we must be doing something right for these bands to ask us, as they all perform for free and they love to be a part of it.

So,what are your hopes for the future of Eaglefest and its aims?

Well, just to keep doing what we do best really, which is giving the local people who support us a good time.  We want all the bands to have a great day, especially the younger bands. It’s nice to see these young kids getting up on stage to play and getting a great reception from the people watching. In turn, this helps raise their profile locally. It also keeps the legacy of Phil alive and helps local charities. If we can continue doing this once a year, then it makes it worth all the time and effort.

Finally Ian, tell us about the festival date, the time, location and any info regards tickets, so people can come along and support the event.

Eaglefest begins at 1pm on Saturday August 31 at The Golden Eagle on Warren Drive, Anchorsholme and runs for 11 hours. We chose this date because the sunshine will still be with us, hopefully! No tickets are needed as it is a totally free event, but people can donate a small fee if they wish and that would obviously be welcomed. We really would appreciate the support of the community and all money taken on the day will be donated to Brian House.



Images from Eaglefest Facebook Page.

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    Blackpool based self-confessed music fanatic involved in the local music scene around the Fylde and particularly passionate about promoting and assisting new upcoming bands and artists breaking through.

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