I’ll start with a question “Is Irlam Live the best local festival ever?” Obviously if you weren’t there that’s a question you can’t answer. But I was and I attend a lot of festivals and in my opinion it is the best festival ever. But why?
To answer that we need a little history to give context. It all started over a pint in a pub in Irlam where Darren Goulden, Phil Brookes and Sam Butterworth were discussing how Manchester and Salford were having a renaissance. But Irlam and Cadishead’s fortunes probably needed a boost.
As the beer flowed so did the ideas one was to run a music festival that would also support the local community, businesses and charities. This type of conversation is one many of use will have had with friends and with the dawn of a new day all those great ideas are forgotten. But not in this case.
They put a plan together of how the idea could be brought to fruition and then went to the council to discuss it with them. Princess Park in Irlam was the preferred venue, the council listened and were so impressed with the plan and how it might be a focus for the community they supported it whole heartedly. So it was that Irlam Live as an event got the green light and now the hard work began to get Irlam Live up and running in 2016 began.
The big breakthrough artist wise was achieved when Tony Hadley agreed to headline quickly followed by Billy ocean, T’Pau, Kenny Thomas, Aswad and a pleathora of others. Local charities and community organisations had stands at the festival and local businesses provided food, drink, loos, equipment and various others services.
Irlam Live 2016 was a huge success and Princes Park became the focus of many community events throughout the year. The local music festival seemed to have supported the local community to further support each other as does the Irlam & Cadishead Community Festival which also takes place in Prince’s Park.
The first time you do something mistakes are made and you see afterwards how you could do things better. Which is exactly what the team did for Irlam Live 2017. They listened to feedback from the public attending, Vendors, artists, the council and community. The first thing for 2017 was more loos to cater for 5000 daily attendees. Etickets and a bigger VIP area plus a wider range of food and drink. The addition of a marquee where artists, DJ sets and various activities which could take place in between acts on the main stage. All provided by locals.
The marquee hosted the silent disco, Twisted Soul and an amazing set by Timperley girl Amanda Jane Heywood. She is someone to watch out for as she has the voice and presence to be a future major artist. Oh and like most folk from this part of the world she’s really down to earth.
There was music for everyone over the weekend which kicked off on Friday evening with local girl Jess Kemp, Ben from Curiosity Killed the Cat and headlining the Wailers Ft Jnr Marvin. SoulFest Saturday saw K Klass, Odyssey, Imagination Ft Leee John, Dave Finnegans Commitments and headliner Alexander O’Neal Retro Sunday had Dr & The Medics, Owen Paul, Toyah, Dodgy and headliner Jason Donovan.
Grandma’s, Grandaughters and everyone else including the crew and security danced, sang, laughed and joined in an event that had an amazing vibrancy about it. Their was a true community spirit and a feeling that you belonged and were part of something bigger than yourself. The charities that attended such as St Ann’s Hospice, The Jamie Horrocks Trust and Animal Rescue raised much needed funds and raised awareness of important issues. After the event the organisers will work with the local council to not just restore but improve the park.
Many of the artists paid tribute to what had happened in Manchester last week and Dave Finnegan and Alexander O’neal’s were especially poignant Alex getting the crowd to take a few moments of silence in remembrance and the silence was eerie. It seemed even more poignant when I arrived home later in the evening to discover the tragedies in London.
There’s now quite a few annual events taking place in Irlam to help a community that had maybe lost a little of it’s confidence. But Irlam Live showed a community that is strong, confident and ready to stake a place alongside it’s bigger and more well known neighbours. And it’s festivals to punch above their weight. Roll on Irlam Live 2018 and another year for a small community.