Lytham Festival marks the start of summer

Lytham Festival Daniel Cuffe (left) and Peter Taylor from Cuffe and Taylor at Lytham Green
Lytham Festival Daniel Cuffe (left) and Peter Taylor from Cuffe and Taylor at Lytham Green
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Local lads Peter and Daniel are putting finishing touches to their biggest event yet.

Re-branded for 2015 as Lytham Festival, a nine-day programme of more than 110 events over 10-sites in the town, gets underway on Sunday.

Since their debut event in 2010, headlined by popular soprano Lesley Garrett, who returned for the fifth anniversary last year, the Proms had developed into a three-day celebration, opening on the Friday with 80s V 90s party, Tom Jones on Saturday and Michael Ball and the Halle Orchestra joining Garrett to close the show.

This year the eclectic line up on Lytham Green sees Pendulum and Faithless open the Proms Arena on the Green on Thursday, August 6, the now traditional 80s V 90s Friday night, pop supergroup McBusted on Saturday and the classical Last Night Of The Proms headlined by Elaine Paige and Marti Pellow with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

“Faithless was a big leap of faith,” Peter said, apologising for the natural pun. “Possibly the most controversial booking for Lytham, ever, but it’s proven so popular with the audience that it gives me confidence for the future.

“I like to throw in a wild card each year, and I want to bring different things. One year might have rock, another country, there are so many genres we could put into that Thursday night now.”

This is the cost of delivering a high quality show in a unique setting

And he admits finding the right mix of acts, especially with regards the Saturday night show this year, is a challenge.

“We were very conscious in deciding we wanted a family act, someone you could bring your kids to as that was kind of missing.”

So how did this year’s new-look Lytham Festival come about?

“Dan’s always wanted a traditional festival, with camping and I have always wanted an arts festival, and this is a hybrid of the two,” Peter explained.

“People have said ‘don’t you want a field and one big festival?’. The challenge of Lytham is the whole place - Lytham Hall, the Lowther, Park View and using the aesthetics of the town.

“Lytham in Bloom have done a great job of the town making it look really exciting.

“I don’t think from year one that this is what we were working to but yes, it’s a festival for the whole week in the town.

Away from the main arena, there’s a classy line-up at Lowther Pavilion, starting with Blackpool singer-songwriter Rae Morris on Sunday, and also featuring Rebecca Ferguson, Tenors Of Rock, Chicane and Scouting For Girls.

There’s the three-day literature and performance-led Festival Of Stories, at Park View 4U, two comedy nights, two outdoor cinema screenings, a jazz cafe and even a campsite. Dan, the technical and behind the scenes man, faces the logistical challenge of setting up these venues.

“The main arena is difficult because it’s so big and handles so many people in terms of staff - up to 1,000 each night,” he said. “But the smaller ones sometimes are harder, with the budgets being so tight to make them profitable for us as promoters - but that’s the cost of delivering a high quality show in a unique setting.

“Somewhere like Lowther Pavilion is great. We have acts going in there who can play much bigger venues.”

But they hope the benefit will go two ways, as Peter added: “Lowther felt like was an easy venue in a way. We have always sold tickets from there for the proms events so it was logical.

“We’re hopefully introducing a new audience to the venue too, with an act like Chicane for the Faithless after party - it’ll probably one of the most rocking nights Lowther’s ever seen.

“Bringing someone who can sell out all over the world to that venue from our point of view in an intimate setting makes it different to a larger festival.”

The pair claim they’re not bothered about the weather, but surely it must play on the mind - especially with camping added into the mix.

“We do look at the weather, you look as the gates open on the night though, you can’t trust the advance forecast,” Peter said, so we’d better hope he’s right about that as there’s rain forecast all next week.

Daniel has the prime position over the stage on Lytham Green, where he’s able to watch the weather fronts coming in off the Irish Sea.

“You can see from there what’s going to hit,” he laughs. “When Alfie Boe played, you could literally see a thunder storm coming in. It missed us by about four metres off the back of the stage by what we could see and it went up the river.”

And the downpouring during last year’s Last Night Of The Proms, which sent the 90 members of the Halle Orchestra scuttling for shelter with their millions of pounds worth of instruments.

“There were some interesting conversations taking place backstage to get them back on,” Peter added.

The camp site at Lytham Farm is all part of the expansion plan, with a marketing budget that’s been doubled to allow for more TV advertising and a broader reaching group of radio partners, as well as focussing on areas including the Lake District and Yorkshire where Cuffe and Taylor have identified an existing Proms’ audience.

It’s thought 1,000 people are taking advantage of the camping provision, which costs just £10 per person from Wednesday through to Monday, August 10 - or free with a full weekend pass for the Arena on the Green.

“Accommodation fills so quickly and it can be expensive because of the high quality,” Dan said. “We’ve added camping at no financial benefit to us, but because people wanted it.”

“People start booking accommodation as soon as one year’s Proms weekend has finished,” Peter added. “It’s always the weekend of the first Friday in August and they make those plans now, the economic benefits are huge.”

The pair cite a recent survey by UK Music and Visit Britain, which found that people spend between £180 and £230 on attending a music event.

They’re expecting more than 70,000 people across all the venues, more than 2,000 Proms Arena four-night weekend passes have been sold, compared with 350 for last year’s three-day event.

So the figures are certainly looking impressive.

In six years Cuffe And Taylor has grown to have 20 full time or long-term freelance staff on their books, with premises at Bartle Court Business Centre between Blackpool and Preston.

This year they’ve produced Britain’s Got Talent 2014 winners Collabro’s tour, staged two nights at Hoghton Tower, last week’s Neil Diamond concert at Blackpool FC, Greenwich Music Time – a four-day event headlined by Tom Jones last weekend, and Betley Concerts in Cheshire just a week after Lytham, also headlined by Sir Tom, to name just a few.

“It’s like that to keep me on my toes,” Dan laughs. “But really, it’s good as I can do deals on equipment, people, tour buses, etc.

“The best people have contracts and are tied to things like tours, with this I can block book them for six or eight weeks.”

The pair head up a ‘big travelling circus’ and say even when they’re back home for Lytham Festival, it will still feel like they’re in hotels, with little time to unpack or the home comforts.

And believe it or not, Lytham Festival is not the biggest date in Dan’s diary this summer.

He’s in the latter stages of planning his wedding to fiancée Lucy, with September 12 being the big day.

He even – embarrassingly – admits he booked the wedding band for the wrong night, although the hen and stag gatherings should more than make up for that.

“At this stage it could go either way,” he said. “Providing I stop calling it a ‘gig’ I think she’ll turn up.

“Of course, she’ll be VIP at the festival with the bridesmaids, and it’s an opportunity for all the groomsmen and some other friends to spend a bit of time with each other.”

Peter and Dan’s business has grown out of their friendship, and it’s clear how proud they are to host the Festival on home territory.

That does lead to some temptations, however.

“The first night, we probably won’t have a drink, and it will build up,” said Dan. “That’s the way it usually goes.”

With nine nights to work, let’s hope their stamina holds strong.