Indie spirit at seaside

Pictures Martin Bostock'Organisers of Under the Town music festival at the grundy Gallery, Blackpool.'L-RJosh Bolton, Alice Croft, Kajol Lally, Lucy Judge and Laura Rose.
Pictures Martin Bostock'Organisers of Under the Town music festival at the grundy Gallery, Blackpool.'L-RJosh Bolton, Alice Croft, Kajol Lally, Lucy Judge and Laura Rose.
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Glastonbury has been organising its music festival since the 1970s – and regularly attracts crowds of 150,000 strong (and usually mud-caked). Colne’s been getting the blues festival for 22 years. Fleetwood has its folk festival and Blackpool has Rebellion, the now annual punk festival.

But a group of enterprising youngsters is organising, what members hope, will become the first of many annual indie music festivals right here in the heart of Blackpool tomorrow – and all from a standing start a year ago.

If you want positive role models from young people’s ranks, this is the group to aspire to join, who have become film makers, choreographers, photographers, event organisers, dancers, fashion designers and more.

It has encouraged many to blossom and discover their own potential along the way – as Joshua Bolton, 14, now one of the last lads standing in the group, admits.

“It’s really helped me learn what I want to do and how to express myself,” says Joshua, who’s organising three fashion shows at the music festival – and also showing some moves of his own too...

“We hadn’t realised what a good dancer Joshua is,” says Lucy Judge, 14.

He’s in the running, along with other group members, for the honour of holding the Olympic torch when it comes to town.

Meantime, the festival is part of the resort’s own cultural Olympiad, in conjunction with other groups across the county.

All come under the umbrella of Blaze, part of the We Play, North West cultural Legacy Trust project, for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It has been funded by new regional partnerships and managed by the Arts Council England, with the legacy trust itself an independent charity whose mission is to support more innovative cultural and sporting activities, which will have some kind of lasting impact within their communities.

The Blackpool festival is one of the most ambitious involved.

It has also given the team chance to work with top talents such as award-winning fashion photographer Claire Pepper, and also glimpse behind the scenes of one of the resort’s most iconic entertainment complexes.

Under the Town showcases 13 local bands and singer songwriters, including some of the best known names on the Fylde coast circuit such as The Locals, Karima Francis, The Colours, Steph Fraser and, in a decided coup for music event co-ordinator Kajol Lally, 15, The Cold One Hundred from Salford, which is some consolation for missing out on Liverpool indie band The Wombats. “Maybe next year...”

What’s more, the 33-strong group, all local young people, aged from 14 to 16, has bagged one of the best venues in town for the event, too, the Winter Gardens, and, on the eve of the Illuminations switch-on, which, they reckon, is the biggest thing to hit Blackpool in years.

The group is blazing the trail in every sense. The festival is part of a Lancashire-wide youth-led summer culture and sport programme called Blaze. Blaze has already supported The Big Game, art meets sport, in Oswaldtwistle; the 360 Degree Challenge for 16 young cyclists across the county; Boom Bike, a pedal and solar powered system designed by young people in Blackpool; Urban Culture Jam, live music, street dance and skateboarding in Burnley and Accrington.

The big one to come, Under the Town, will bring the best in young people’s music, visual arts, fashion and dance to two arenas within the Winter Gardens. It all starts tomorrow at 2pm and ends at 10pm, which may not seem very rock ‘n’ roll, but showcases mainstage (arena one) bands every hour with acoustic stage artists every half hour in the smaller space allocated.

There’s room for 300 in all, with tickets on sale (at the Grundy Art Gallery on Queen Street) from £3 to £5, priced to perfection for the pocket money market.

It is pitched to platform what could, in time, become an even bigger event, for most of the frontline organisers, Kajol, Joshua, Lucy, Laura Rose, 16, and Alice Croft, 16, have caught the likes of Scouting for Girls, JLS and, perish the thought, Jedward at the Opera House, and would love to stick around for an indie festival there.

“It would be awesome,” admits Laura.

“It’s the sort of setting you don’t expect to see in Blackpool, but in Manchester.

“I don’t think people realise just what we have to offer locally.”

Four of the five have also successfully applied for tickets to the Light’ Switch-On on Friday too, which Alice admits is “the closest Blackpool gets to a big festival for our age group.”

They are also going for bronze, silver and gold national arts accredited qualifications, which support their development as artists and arts leaders.

Alice is going for gold, the highest accolade to recognise her abilities as a creative arts leader.

“It’s so exciting to see it all come together. We’ve been involved with this since 2008.

“It doesn’t seem possible it’s all going to finally happen tomorrow.

“That’s terrifying...”