Award winner Bell sets sights on festival future

FOLK HERO Alan Bell who has won an award for the efforts he has made over the years for the Fylde Folk Festival

FOLK HERO Alan Bell who has won an award for the efforts he has made over the years for the Fylde Folk Festival

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Alan Bell has been presented with a major award for turning a one-off concert into one of the biggest folk festivals in Britain.

The Fleetwood singer, the brains behind the much-loved and hugely popular Fylde Folk Festival, says he’s “honoured” to have been given the Outstanding Services to the Festival and Events Industry award.

But never one to rest on his laurels, and aware he isn’t getting any younger, Bell is now turning his attention to making sure the festival continues to grow and improve in years to come.

“I’m 80 next year and I can’t go on forever,” said Bell, who received his award at the national conference of the Association of Festival Organisers.

“While I’m still relatively OK and I’ve still got all my marbles, I want to find a man or a woman with good business sense and enthusiasm who will take on the running of the festival in the future.

“It is a tough job because you have no idea how complex it is to organise. It takes up a huge part of my year. The festival is every September but we start planning it and booking artists well before Christmas.

“In an ideal world I’d like someone from this area, or certainly the North West, to take over as organiser. “We haven’t made any active approach to anybody and it is early days at the moment.

“When we do find someone I will work closely with them and show them what needs to be done.

“The two most important things are choosing the artists and then writing the programme, which means deciding who will top the bill, who is second on and so on.”

Bell decided to start a festival in Fleetwood at the start of the 1970s, mainly because he realised there were no folk festivals in this part of the world.

“I was playing gigs elsewhere and doing other festivals but none of them were very close to home,” said Bell, who, at that time, was already a successful and widely known folk artist with his group The Taverners.

“It struck me that we should have a festival round here so that’s why it began.”

Back in 1972, it was nothing like the Fylde Folk Festival we know today. It took place over one night at the North Euston Hotel.

This year’s, by contrast, consisted of 137 events over four days – 300 hours of entertainment provided by more than 200 artists at 10 different venues across Fleetwood.

It is now in the top 10 of the country’s best folk festivals and attracts some of the best musical talent from around the world.

It is also the single biggest tourist event in the Wyre borough, injecting an estimated £2m into the local economy since it began.

“I didn’t start it for it to become this huge thing – it has just somehow happened. We’ve just had to keep growing it to meet the customers’ demands,” said Bell.

“Even I can’t believe how big it is now and the benefits it gives to the local community. That is another reason for wanting to find a successor and making sure it is in good hands – it is important to Fleetwood and the surrounding areas.

“I want it to continue flourishing long after I’m gone, and to remain the excellent festival that it has become.”

Information on the 2014 festival will be available at www.fylde-folk-festival.com from January 1.