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HomeCultureNMF2019: Celebrating Northampton’s Music Scene From Rock To Opera

NMF2019: Celebrating Northampton’s Music Scene From Rock To Opera

The Northampton Music Festival, now on its 12th year, will be hitting the town centre on Sunday 16th June, from midday to 10pm. The festival features six stages at six different locations across the town. The festival is an opportunity to open up Northampton Town Centre and to celebrate the local community, it’s venues and artists.  Rachel Thomas spoke to Graham Roberts, who has been involved with organising the festival for the last three years and Brian Harding, a founding member, who has been there from the beginning.

“I remember the first festival,”  says, Graham Roberts. “I was there as a spectator watching bands play from New Orleans. It was just one stage if I remember on the Market Square, then over the years Northampton Music 365 have grown and grown, and it now has a whopping great six stages, five last year. It increases every year, always gathering momentum. There is something for everyone, Rock to Opera is our mantra, from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to heavy rock bands and everything in between including Jazz, Classical and Choral, World Music and the New Boots stage – promoting upcoming younger bands”.

The acts are staggered across different stages with something going on all afternoon, to promote movement throughout the different venues. When Brian and John Richardson first organised the festival, it was with the town centre in the forefront of their minds.

“We try to keep it in the town centre”, says Brian, “it would be very easy to put on a festival in a field on the edge of town, logistically, and to organise but it wouldn’t benefit the town centre itself. It is sponsored by the Northampton Bid, (Business Improvement District) to bring people into local businesses, as they see the benefit”.

“Culture and leisure is the future for the town rather than retail”, says Graham, “and the music festival is a significant piece of that jigsaw  and hopefully other people will bring their events into the town as well. Our aim has always been to make the town centre a more attractive place, permanently not just once a year. We are very lucky architecturally and we want people to see the beautiful buildings that are Northampton, and put an end to the moaning about the place, to be positive and proactive.

“The town is only what you make it and it’s down to the people who live in it, the community. The ingredients are all there, especially in the cultural quarter; a theatre, two cinemas and the film house, restaurants and a great music scene. It may look a bit rough around the edges but we love it anyway. We can only transform it by bringing people in and doing something and, we here at Northampton Music 365 are doers not just talkers. We engage with the town.”

The Stages

Main Stage (Market Square):

The main stage is to be located on the Market Square, at the heart of Northampton Centre, featuring a variety of local acts and from further afield. Food vendors will be stationed around the market square. All the other five stages will wind down to a close before 8pm in time for the headline act of the day, The Blockheads. A real treat, listening to any Ian Drury record it’s the band and the musicality that makes the record. Don’t miss the icing on the cake to finish off a celebration of Northampton’s musical talent.

Featured Artist: EMPYRE

Hailing from Northampton, rock quartet EMPYRE have been busy touring the country with their diverse sound to promote new single ‘Too Little, Too Late’, that has been very well received, and the imminent release of album, Self Aware out on July 5th.

Since forming in 2016 the band has gone from success to success, with 2018 being a height for the band, getting coverage from the BBC, on both BBC Introducing and Bob Harris’, Under the Apple Tree Series, as well as, performing at HRH rock festival in Ibiza.

Somewhere between Pink Floyd and Soundgarden, the band are inspired by Pearl Jam and the Dire Straits, as well as, modern influences such as Audioslave. The band likes to incorporate a diverse range of styles in their music from blues to country, for an intensely dynamic sound that ranges from aggressive rock, to being melodic and atmospheric in parts. EMPYRE promises to haul you up by your emotions.


20:00 – 21:00: The Blockheads

Ian Drury’s iconic band from the height of the late seventies and eighties.

17:00: EMPYRE

A homegrown dynamic rock quartet with influences from Pink Floyd to Soundgarden.

16:00: Lunaxis

If you like Fleetwood Mac you’ll like this Northamptonshire based folk rock band.

Brian Harding’s Highlight for the Main Stage:

“It has to be the Blockheads. They performed at the festival about 10 years ago”, says Brian, who will be directing the stage. “They were one of the first headline acts that came to the festival and thanks to support from sponsors, Northampton Music 365 are able to bring a headline act to the festival again this year”.

New Boots Stage (NN Gallery) :

The New Boots stage is a great addition to the festival and one of my highlights of the day. Located at the back of the NN Gallery in the courtyard, the stage is curated by Phil Moore and celebrates Shoetown’s local music scene. Phil works tirelessly to promote local music via his online magazine New Boots and SBD Promotions, showcasing local bands, as well as, bringing some bands from further afield, to the town.

Graham Roberts says: “We try to represent all age groups, the vast majority of performers are very local. We have such a great quality of music that comes from Northampton. I think the town is pretty famous for it really. From musical professionals, as well as, a fantastic educational system, taught from primary school age right up to specialist tuition in rock, classical, Jazz, a diverse range of disciplines. Northampton has a lot to celebrate culturally and the New Boots stage celebrates that”.

There will be Street food available. The current art exhibition, is Unfolding the Vaporous Mind, by Gam Bodenhousen, a Norwegian artist. The works are inspired by Northampton stone. Do pop by to check out this unique instalment.

Featured Artist: Kian Russell

Having recently moved back to Northampton after living in Seattle, USA for many years, Kian Russell is an English talent bringing the taste of American Blues Rock to Northampton. Kian has played the guitar since he was seven, after a diagnosis left him unable to pursue his passion of Rugby. At just sixteen years old Kian is already a blues prodigee in the making. Already being put on the bill at iconic London venues and the likes of the Foodies Festival in Bristol, Kian Russell is one to watch.


18:30: Ginger Snaps

The headline act to tie off the days shenanigans. The brainchild of composer/producer Jay Brooks, Ginger Snaps bring a Hip-Hop sound nostalgic of the 1980’s, with a contemporary twist.

17:30: The Big Dirty

As the name suggests The Big Dirty are a big rock band, with a big sound and a big presence on stage.

16:30: L30 Robinson, Anonymous and XOV

A trio of individual hiphop musicians, collaborating together, in an exclusive one off performance.

15:30: Phantom Isle

Based between Shoetown and London, the psychedelic indie pop quartet, Phantom Isle, are back with their new single, Four Walls. Catch them whilst they’re here. A rare treat not to be missed.

14:30: GOGO LOCO

The maraca driven trash rock and roll band bring a rockabilly flair to the proceedings and have some new material guaranteed to get you moving.

13:30: Kinships

An electronic duo based between Northampton and London. Dave Crawford is a diversely talented local musician, singer/songwriter, composer and producer. His unique creations are a musical treat.

12:30: Kian Russell

“Kian is a 16 year old, blues rock prodigy” says Phil Moore, “he looks like he has a big future”. Catch Kian opening the bill from midday.

Ginger Snaps Highlight for the Stage…

“GOGO LOCO, they are like a “theatre production for the senses and Kinships. Dave is by far the most technically talented musician I know. I’m interested to see what he’s come up with”.

Jazz Stage : (Guildhall Courtyard)

Offering a musical reprise from the ongoing festivities the Jazz stage will be located under the picturesque arches of the Guildhall courtyard.

“The Guildhall courtyard is fabulous”, Graham says, “it is the most aesthetically beautiful setting of the whole festival. A great setting for Jazz, it goes down a storm and every year  it is rammed. It is our most consistently successful stage showcasing the top musical students to the top professional musicians”.

Featured Artist: Boysey Battrum Band

Over the years, the tenor saxophonist has toured with the likes of The Foundations, Status Quo and even Stevie Wonder! As a jazz soloist, Boysey has performed across the UK and beyond. Expect a stellar line-up of all-star special guests, delivering the finest jazz, with a heavy dose of soul, funk and blues.


18:00: Boysey Battrum Band

17:00: Ka Safar

16:00: Ed Arm Trio

15:00: Cliff Brown’s Actual Proof

14:00: Take Six

13:00: Northampton County Youth Big Band

Choral Stage (All Saints Piazza):  

Located at the All saints Piazza, the Choral Stage displays local community choirs and classical music, in front of the striking backdrop of All Saints Church. The festival organisers are working closely with the Good Loaf, a charity who have expanded into the cafe nextdoor, and will be providing outside seating, to enjoy the music in a continental environment. The Good Loaf are a local women’s refuge charity that aim to rehabilitate lives.


18:15: Northampton Male Voice Choir

17:15: Northampton Sings!

16:15: Musicality

15:15: Northampton G&S group

14:15: Songbirds

The Platform Stage (George’s row)

Located at The Platform on George’s Row, the stage will be showcasing the affluent up and coming talent of the town’s music students, from both Northampton University  and Northampton College, with performances from 1pm – 7pm.


TBC on the day, do check by the Platform early on for the schedule, to plan your timings for the rest of the day.

Abington Street Stage:

The Abington Street stage will be bringing a variety of performances to Abington Street. Firstly, hosting the Northampton Ukulele Group (NUGs) – I wonder if they’ve ever broken the world record for number of ukes on stage!? And, secondly, the Umbrella Fair Organisation, directed by Ian Bates, promoting the fantastic work they do for the community, and offering a chance to see some of the talented individuals, performing a variety of World Music and dance performances,  throughout the afternoon.


12.30 – 15.30: Northampton Ukulele Group directed by Mick Jackson

16:00 – 19:00: Umbrella Fair directed by Ian Bates

Other activities:

There will be a drum stage, stationed on Wood Hill, behind All Saints church (near Nandos), encouraging people to get up and have go.  There will also be a busking stage in a location to be confirmed (though most likely Fish Street), that offers a low key, street music vibe with an open mic set up for people to get involved.

Other events:

Have Guitars Will TraveL

The Have Guitars Will Travel Festival, on Friday June 14th, from 8pm at the Lamplighter, is one of the events during the week, leading up to the main day of NMF on the Sunday. The series of books of the same name celebrate the history of Northampton’s music scene. Now on its 4th edition, both the book, and the the festival, hone into music from the 1980s/early 90s.

The bands performing are; Marabar Caves, reminiscent of the psychedelic sixties garage sound. There will be a mixture of old classics, as well as, some new material. The Venus Fly Trap are promoting a reissue of their debut album Mars, released in 1989. Pat Fish, aka The Jazz Butcher will also be performing a solo slot. Alex Novak will be DJing the event until close.

Featured Artist: Marabar Caves

Marabar Caves had a successful stint in the eighties, being played by John Peel on the BBC, as well as, performing with the likes of Dr Feelgood at Warwick University, and Dr and the Medics, at their London club, Alice in Wonderland. The band rebelled against the punk music of the era, with a psychedelic sound reminiscent of sixties garage music and the funk music of the decade. Tony Riseley and Steve Goddard are still part of the original performing lineup.

The Royal & Derngate:

Love Royal & Derngate have been working hard to get some great films to show over the weekend of NMF19, and throughout the week. On Saturday 15th June they will be screening; at 17:30, ‘Liam: As It Was’  – the Liam Gallagher documentary and at 20:00, ‘Beats ‘ – a coming of age film set around rave culture in early 90s Scotland.


For Clash Resolutions And Where To Be And When

From 12:00 – 16:00, I will be at the NN Gallery stage. A little early, to have a wander round the art exhibition, in time for Kian Russell, Kinships, GOGO LOCO and Phantom Isle. Then from 16:00 -17:30, I’ll be heading over to the main stage to catch some Lunaxis and the whole of EMPYRE’s set. Before I head back to the New Boots stage at around 17:30 – 19:30, to spend the break on the Main Stage with the remainder of The Big Dirty and Ginger Snaps. Finally, I’ll head back to the Main Stage for the headline act from 20:00-21:00.

The festival is a great platform for everyone from the spectators to the performers. If you want to get involved the festival has lots of opportunities for people who want to gain vital experience from the volunteer program, such as stage assistants, photographers, selling T-Shirts or people who just want to lend a hand. No job is too small, get in touch with the organisers on the website below.

Tune in to NLIVE 106.9FM, every Friday from 7-8pm, for interviews and live performances, from some of NMF19’s featured artists, on Shoetown Sounds.

Website: www.northamptonmusicfestival.co.uk

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