A musician and bar owner hopes to ‘pay it forward’ by setting up a new festival for Blackpool in 2015.
After spending much of his teenage years playing the resort’s bars, clubs and hotels, Stephen Pierre went on to study at the London School of Musical Theatre, and now runs the Galleon Bar in Abingdon Street as well as working as a musician in London.
And he’s set a date for the new Blackpool Jazz ‘n’ Blues Festival to run over the weekend of Friday to Sunday, July 3 to 5, with a stage in St John’s Square on the Saturday – with a view of creating a ‘Covent Garden-style atmosphere’ with activities for all the family, in addition to a wide programme of jazz-influenced music.
Blackpool last hosted a jazz festival back in 1992, which Stephen described as a ‘major flop’ despite the support of world-class performers including Nina Simone, BB King, Ray Charles and Roberta Flack.
He said: “I am the first to admit and agree that Blackpool is not the first choice destination town in mind for the jazz and blues fraternity.
“However if the town adopts a metropolitan style approach towards welcoming more arts and culture, Blackpool has the capacity to stage music festivals which will boost tourism and raise the profile of the town on a European level.
“I plan to start small and have realistic aspirations with an attempt to build on this event year on year with greater sponsorship opportunities.
“The beauty of jazz musicians and their followers is the loyalty and endearing quality of musicianship. Often jazz musicians will travel for hours to play for merely petrol expenses.
“I plan to support those who have travelled to Blackpool with fuel expenses or B&B accommodation as a mark of gratitude for their contribution towards making this festival an exciting event.”
He added that he had been inundated with messages of support for the new event, including staging, lights and sound rigs, as well as The Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra, members of The Royal Northern College of Music, The Sands Venue Big Band, and The One Voice Community Gospel Choir.
The aim is to include a variety of jazz genres, from traditional Dixie through to swing, funk, soul, Latin and gospel - as well as a set paying tribute to Frank Sinatra in the year of the 100th anniversary of his birth, in venues around the town.
“The early years of playing and singing in the resort’s bars, social clubs and hotels was a positive grounding that gave me valuable experience you just simply can’t buy.
“I would like to pay it forward and make a positive contribution to the future development of Blackpool as a year-round resort.
“The Jazz ‘n’ Blues Festival is my fight back campaign to help Blackpool attract a wider demographic. On the whole the jazz and blues audience are decent folk of all ages who travel all over the UK and beyond for the love of music.
“This event will also offer a great opportunity for young aspiring musicians the chance to rub shoulders with some of the stalwarts of the jazz and blues world. I am a strong believer in keeping music ‘live’ so there will be no backing tracks or miming at this event.”
In a bid to emulate the success of other music events such as Lytham Proms and the Fleetwood Folk Festival, Stephen added: “The Blackpool Jazz n Blues Festival is a perfect contribution opportunity to recognising arts and culture on the Fylde Coast.”
Anyone interested in taking part can email Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.