Over the past two decades, the UK has developed a cultural understanding that great cities have great inner-city music festivals. Cases in point would include London with the Notting Hill carnival, Liverpool with Sound City and Leeds with Live at Leeds. You’d not find it too challenging to find further examples for most other fine UK cities (Glasgow, Manchester, Edinburgh, Dublin, etc.) too.
Successful inner-city festivals serve a number of different purposes to its hosts: attracting the best musical talent to a city, bringing in culture tourists and showcasing a number of music venues on the same day.
Perhaps most importantly, a successful festival provides evidence of the city having the infrastructure and climate to host large music events.
The success of, say, Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival may well be the reason for the growth in the number of the cities music venues, not to mention its increase in gig attendees (83% in the past decade) and the opportunity to host world-class acts. When Green Day and U2 have toured the UK in the past decade they’ve both visited Sheffield, making Sheffield one of only eight UK cities to have hosted both acts. It’s a moot point, but who would have predicted that before the success of Tramlines?
As residents of the North East, and music lovers, if we wish to draw the world’s largest acts to our region then we also need to prove that we have the audience, the infrastructure and the desire to host them. We have the venues, we have the audience, but perhaps we don’t always have the reputation.
Promoters of bands like Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC should have the North East as one of their prime locations when they plan a world tour, safe in the knowledge that the event will sell out, there will be little crowd-trouble and that the region has the skills/ systems/ processes to execute an event professionally.
Perhaps one way to promote the North East’s status as a great venue for live music, and to host the world’s finest, would be to follow the example of the city of Sheffield and the success of Tramlines.
If the North East really aspires to be at the top of the UK’s cultural map, and a centre for world-class music events, then we need well-publicised, successful, world-class, inner-city festivals.
Running since 2014, Middlesbrough’s inner-city festival, Twisterella, has spent four years developing a reputation as an outstanding, inner-city, end of the summer celebration of music. It may also be one of the North East festivals with the largest potential to be labelled as one of the ‘great’ UK inner-city festivals.
Also finalists at the AIF Festival Awards for ‘New Festival on the Block’, Twisterella has regularly received praise for its organisation, line-up and showcasing of some of the finest national emerging music talent.
Critical praise has also been given for the festival’s focus on developing regional talent (a platform is used by the promoters to ensure that a select number of local acts appear on the line-up) and its desire to host events which are additional to music performances (the well-respected and well-attended (in)conference event provides an opportunity to hear from key music figures who share their insight into the music industry and the future of music).
With, potentially, their strongest line-up in its history (acts include Neon Waltz, Dream Wife, Avalanche Party, Cape Cub and many more), as being spread out over four venues, this year may be the year Twisterella crosses over to become recognised nationally as one of the great inner-city festivals.
To reach our goal of helping the North East host the finest musical events, we all must contribute to the shared responsibility of actively being part of our music scene. It’s a responsibility which includes us working with the promoters and organisers of our inner-city festivals and helping them to both develop and promote music events that could shape the landscape of the North East.
If Twisterella is going to become one of the festivals which can make a difference to all of us, it will need our help and support – so let’s do all we can.
Twisterella returns to Middlesbrough on Saturday 7th October. Tickets, priced at £15.00 (plus booking fee) are available through seetickets, the Olde Young Teahouse, Sticky Fingers and the Westgarth Social Club.