8 October 2018
The sixth annual Leek Blues & Americana Festival kept music lovers happy, bars full and tills ringing after five days of live music saw over 70 acts descend on the town from as far afield as Norway, Belgium and USA.
Each year since 2013, organisers have looked to broaden the appeal of the festival by introducing a programme of live acts to demonstrate the breadth of variety of blues and Americana music.
The formula seems to be working as hundreds of music fans descended on Leek to watch bands in pubs, bars and at the Sparrow Park open air stage sponsored by The Old Smithy Tattoo Parlour.
On the Sunday, the coincidence of the Totally Locally Sunday Supplement outdoor market with the Sparrow Park outdoor stage and street buskers gave the town a real carnival atmosphere.
Councillor Charlotte Atkins, who represents Leek North on Staffordshire County Council, supported the festival with a £2000 grant from her Community Fund, said: “The town was buzzing with people coming from far and wide. People I spoke to said they would book accommodation next year to save on multiple trips to Leek.
“The festival introduces people to Leek who then come back to take in everything else the town has to offer. It’s a real win-win for the local economy.”
Innovations for the 2018 festival included a UK film premier, music from a Norwegian collective and an all-day Americana event at the Foxlowe Arts Centre.
The Festival started on Tuesday 2 October with the UK premier of the film, Sidemen-The Long Road to Glory at the Foxlowe Arts Centre. The film documents the legacy of three legendary bluesmen, guitarist Hubert Sumlin, drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and piano player Pinetop Perkins, who lived in the shadow of blues giants, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters who they supported.
Scott D Rosenbaum the American director of the film said: “I’m so grateful to Leek Blues & Americana festival for bringing Sidemen to their programme and to the UK. The film documents how the British blues of the 60s played such a critical role in the evolution of the blues. I’m so pleased it was well received”
The live music kicked off with festival headliner Guy Tortora. From Pasadena, California, Guy has played with greats such as Eric Clapton and Eric Bibb.
Guy Tortora sad: “We loved being involved in the Leek Blues & Americana Festival 2018. The audience was warm, and the organisation team are totally dedicated to the music. We’d be happy to come back anytime.”
New for this year was music from the Norsk Americana Forum, based in Norway, the collective of musicians’ who play American country music in their own unique style.
Bjørn Nilsen of Nilsen’s Southern Harmony, and a leading player in Norsk Americana Forum said: “I’ve got a family connection in Leek, my father’s cousin lives here. Playing here has been a fantastic experience. Our group of musicians has played nine sets over the festival and we’ve enjoyed seeing other bands and making lots of new friends an. We also took time out to explore the local and area and walk the Roaches which was fantastic.”
Devotees of Americana music were treated to an extravaganza of six top acts at the Foxlowe Arts Centre. The FXLW event sponsored by ctd architects proved a great success with world class acts such as Lissy Taylor, Fine Lines and Mean Mary taking to the stage to wow the audience.
Festival organiser JR Mountford summed up the weekend: “The festival seems to get better each year and 2018 was no exception. The quality of the acts was incredible. Thanks to the help of the great venues in town 90% of the music is free entry which makes it a real inclusive festival. There is twelve months of hard work goes in to each festival and I’m personally grateful to all the organisers who volunteer their time, the great venues, our sponsors and of course the talented musicians and devoted fans who bring the festival to life.
“Give me a week to recover and we’ll start to plan for Leek Blues and Americana 2019!”