Music festival on your own doorstep

"Alfresco" family fun day at Blackpool Cricket Club.

"Alfresco" family fun day at Blackpool Cricket Club.

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All the big music summer festivals start soon – but there’s one you might not know about happening on our own doorstep on Sunday,

Alfresco, organised by local DJ and promoter Mark Davis, takes place at Blackpool Cricket Club and is set to be a cracker.

Davis has performed his DJ set all over Europe and was doing very nicely for himself.

Then a few years ago he took his sons, Joel and Samuel, to a music event called Camp Bestival and realised there was something important lacking.

“When we went to the main stage there was absolutely nothing for the kids to do,” he said.

“They were bored so I never got to see the acts because I was too busy keeping them entertained.”

An idea struck. How about a festival that provided music for the adults and fun for the kids, a mini-Glastonbury if you like?

He went ahead and did it. Basing it at the cricket club in Stanley Park and calling it Alfresco after an old outdoor club night he used to run, a few hundred turned up the first year.

But he persevered, booked better acts, spent more time publicising the event, and this year more than 4,000 revellers are expected, with many travelling from outside the resort.

He gets no financial help and organises everything himself.

The whole event is held on the cricket pitch, an area, according to Mark, licensed to hold a crowd of 17,000.

At the moment he has a limit of 4,000, for sensible reasons.

“It gives us more room to have all the artists doing their stuff and the different stages – a main stage, a marquee, and a hip-hop stage. And most importantly it just feels more spacious and safe for the kids in that environment,”
 he explained.

“If we sold 8,000 tickets we’d be in a scenario where you’d be following your kids around all day, and that would go against the whole point of what the day is about.”

Ensuring it’s suitable for the kids is something Mark is passionate about.

“It’s why the cricket club is the perfect venue because it is literally a level playing field, so parents can chill and watch the music and the kids are all supervised and safe,” he said.

“The thing that makes us unique is that everything is free for the kids, so they are happy all day.

“We don’t allow anyone to charge for any acitivities on the day. That’s our big selling point. If you go anywhere in Blackpool it is always £2 for this and £2 for that. So instead, I pay all the entertainers a daily rate and that way the kids get to do everything for free.

“It also allows the adults to just enjoy the music.”

This year’s event, which takes place on Sunday May 25, when for the first time festival-goers will be able to camp at the venue, features an impressive line up, with the likes of A Certain Ratio, Mr Scruff, Andrew Weatherall and Chris Duckinfield – all big names – on the bill.

With this year’s line up completed, Mark has turned his attention to Alfresco 2015 and reckons he’s already booked more than 50 per cent of the line up.

“I have to keep planning ahead and keep on top of it, because it is a festival which is now getting national recognition and growing,” he said.

“My wish next year and the following year is that it sells out in advance, just like the major festivals. And the idea is that in the future we can expand it by adding lots of other little stages and embracing different kinds of music and cultures – so it becomes a proper Blackpool festival.

“If people want to call it a mini-Glastonbury then that’s fine by me.

“I feel very proud that it has grown the way it has and become a recognised event that is drawing people into the town.

“I am very protective of Blackpool because I think it gets a lot of bad press. And the one reaction I am getting from people out of town is that they are quite shocked we’ve been able to do something like this in Blackpool.

“If we just wanted to put on a festival and have your Olly Murs, Radio One type characters, well then we’d be rammed and Blackpool would be the best place for it.

“But to try and put on underground music to this size is quite difficult. But we’ve managed it and that is hugely rewarding.”

Tickets for Alfresco 2014 are available from.skiddle.com/festivals/Alfresco with prices for adults £15 and special offers on child and family tickets. For more information about the festival head to www.facebook.com/AlfrescoFamilyEventsked