A week or so ago I caught with Gavin Sharp of Manchester’s Band on The Wall at Cowbell Radio HQ. Its thanks to the Band on The Wall team that Blackpool is looking forward to a stellar musical line up for The Winter Gardens Christmas Ball. This will be a sure fire way to get the party started for the forthcoming yuletide celebrations.
Claire: Tell us a little bit about who you are and your connections to Blackpool?
Gavin: I was born and brought up in Blackpool and started playing saxophone at school – I was busking and putting bands together and promoting by the time I was 13 or 14. I soon met up with Chris Dearden who was starting the Christmas and Summer Balls and ended up playing at some of the early ones – in the Spanish Hall at The Winter Gardens I think. I remember Chris telling me that he went over to Band on the Wall in Manchester as it was the best place for him to see new bands to programme to play at The Ball. When I finally went to study music in Manchester it was one of the very first places I went to check out – I thought it was amazing – a proper 7 nights a week music club in a big city!
C: For those who don’t know, who are Band on The Wall and what do they do?
G: Band on the Wall is a music venue but is owned and operated by a Charity (Inner City Music Ltd) and as such is not for profit. All the profits from the bar and surpluses from the shows like the Craig Charles Blackpool Christmas Ball, go back into either supporting the diversity in the music programme, education programmes for kids from challenging circumstances and creating videos of music that don’t normally get any kind of airplay – you can see these on our YouTube Channel. However we also act as a promoter and produce shows right across the region – for example we are currently out with Billy Bragg, promoting most of his NW shows.
C: Can you tell us a bit about what sort of gigs Band on The Wall have covered in the last 12 months?
G: Band on the Wall champions diverse non mainstream music – which often features artists from outside of the UK, but also showcases emerging UK artists. For me some of the stand out shows are Mr Scruff on his monthly residency, Craig’s nights are always great fun, Mario Biondi, Lee Scratch Perry, King Creosote, Jose James, Terence Blanchard and Ultramagnetic MC’s.
C: What should we expect from the forthcoming Christmas Ball at The Winter Gardens?
G: It’s going to be a blast – I am really pleased to be able to kick it off again with some great live bands and an amazing showman like Craig. We are sticking to the old format of the Ball from days gone by with a few nice extras thrown in. The room is spectacular and I know that Craig is really excited to be doing the show. I’m sure Chris would have loved it and with a bit of luck he will be up there looking down on everyone having a great time!
C: What is the full line up for the night and what are your hopes for the outcome?
G: We are starting with the Cowbell Radio DJ’s session, who are going to be resident throughout the night, before going into a set by local favourites Monster Squad, followed by Smoove and Turrell – a band that Craig has championed a lot on his 6 Music show, before bringing on The Brand New Heavies and finished off with Craig spinning some big soul and funk tunes through until 2am.
C: Have most of the acts been to Blackpool before? If not what are their feelings on playing the sometimes negatively exposed “quirky” seaside resort?
G: I don’t think that any of the acts have been to Blackpool in recent history – the town really appeared to fall off the touring map for a long time so many bands really pass by without coming into the town. We are hoping that we can start to change that and this is our first step.
C: What’s the dress code and how can we find out more and buy tickets?
G: The dress code is informal but I would hope that people put some kind of an effort in – whether that is working on the Soul and Funk theme, other fancy dress or the classic penguin I would hope that everyone tries to express their individuality – the whole idea of the Blackpool Christmas Balls was that everyone really has a great time, enjoys the music but also enjoys each other.
C: Anything else we should know about the event?
G: This is really just the beginning – we hope to be coming back every year – perhaps even twice a year once we have built it – but also look to bring some of the bands and projects we work on and tours we produce. We think that there is an audience in Blackpool and Fylde and that there is a real interest in great music. Working with the guys at Cowbell we have seen that there is enough interest to make it worth while bringing some shows across.
C: What’s in store for you and the rest of the team for the next 3 months
G: We have got a whole bunch of tours lined up with artists across the North West including a tour with rising folk stars Emily Portman, Emma Sweeny and Lucy Ward, another with the Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate (who worked with Damon Albern on the Africa Express project), Pat Metheny at Bridgewater Hall and really pushing the new XFM night we have just launched. For me though I am working on developing a new Music Employability Hub – a music industry training school based at Band on the Wall in a new development adjacent to the existing Band on the Wall building.
For more information about the Winter Gardens Christmas Ball or to buy tickets go online to www.bandonthewall.org or drop in to the Winter Gardens Box Office.
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