LIVEWIRE FESTIVAL 2017: '˜This is just for starters'
Get set for '˜one of the most spectacular shows in the UK this year' as Will Smith comes to Blackpool this weekend.
The Hollywood mega star turned down offers to appear at both Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds festivals to come to the three-day Livewire event in the resort.
When the show was announced in April, many were in disbelief that the former Fresh Prince actor would be heading to the brand new festival at the Tower Festival Headland.
Now the weekend is here and organisers from St Annes-based Piper Music Management cannot wait to ‘put their money where their mouth is’.
The festival opens on Friday night headlined by The Jacksons, with The Hit Factory 80s night on Saturday, and rap heroes Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff rounding off the celebrations on Sunday.
And The Gazette can exclusively reveal Livewire has signed a three-year deal with Blackpool Council, which manages the headland arena.
“We want to make it a festival the town can be proud of,” Cara Birchall from Piper Music Management said.
“Livewire is currently set up as a three-year festival, and we’re wanting to go bigger and better each year.
“And when we announce next year’s star, you’ll see we’ve done it.
“We have made it a global event in year one when usually that takes until year three or four.
“Obviously that was made easier by it being Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, and he’s even been really supportive.
“One stipulation of the contract was that Will Smith announcing it would be the first anyone would know about it – so that was the case when it was announced.
“We didn’t expect it to go global in the time it did. Within 10 or 15 minutes, we were getting calls from America.”
Will Smith’s gig with DJ Jazzy Jeff on Sunday will be his first musical appearance in the UK in 17 years – and he’s never done a full show here according to Cara.
“The most Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff have ever done is three songs and they’re going to be on stage for an hour and a bit,” Cara pledged.
Will Smith initially came to fame as rapper the Fresh Prince alongside his childhood friend DJ Jazzy Jeff in the 1980s – with hits including the Grammy-winning single Parents Just Don’t Understand, and huge hits Summertime and Boom! Shake The Room.
But it was 90s TV show The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air which made him a full-blown star, before he transitioned to movies, with films including Men In Black, I Am Legend and The Pursuit Of Happyness.
Piper Music Management has worked with Blackpool Council providing music acts for the Switch-On party in recent years, but had always aspired to stage its own event in the resort.
“We wanted to make a big event and get the names Blackpool should have coming to come here,” said Cara said.
“We were speaking to Chris Pope, events manager for Blackpool Council, and said ‘If you could have anyone here, who would it be?’, and he said Will Smith.
“That set a challenge, getting the biggest box office star in Hollywood.
“That was in a random conversation last July, and when I told him we had done it, his face was a picture.
“We were actually after another act and were two days away from getting them, but couldn’t make the deal work.
“Then they were like ‘Who else do you want?’, so we said Will Smith but were told it wouldn’t happen.
“But at about 10.50pm on a Friday, the message came in through our lawyers, saying ‘I’ve got you Will Smith’.”
While this turn of events sounds like the far-fetched plot of a Hollywood movie, Cara admits the Piper team were just as surprised as the general public that the megastar Will Smith would sign up for a gig in Blackpool.
“We didn’t even believe it, even though it came from our lawyers,” she said. “It was only when we started working through the details that it became real.
“I was out recently, and people still don’t seem to believe ‘the’ Will Smith is coming.
“He had turned down Leeds and Reading, and Glastonbury festivals to do ours.
“We’ve had a big team working three to four months to make sure everything is right for him effectively coming out of musical retirement.”