Already a regular event in the Morecambe music calendar, this year’s annual North Lancs Soul Festival weekend will be the tenth and as Festival Director Jason Mills explains, it is going from strength to strength.
“Last year we enjoyed our largest number of attendees ever, travelling from the across length and breadth of the UK, so to celebrate this milestone, we are introducing two more new venues in May this year. Firstly, the two storey Boardwalk bar will be joining us and its two large rooms will reverberate not only to soul music but also to reggae, ska and mod music from the sixties.”
Well known locally as an adventurous and challenging restoration project, the Morecambe Winter Gardens is also being added to the Festival and will host an amazing night of Northern Soul. “For almost 30 years, the Friends Of Morecambe Winter Gardens have worked tirelessly to bring this Victorian music hall back to its former glory and we are absolutely delighted to be able to utilise this superb location in 2016. They have recently completed refurbishing the original wooden floor and it is a building reminiscent in many ways of perhaps the world’s best known former Northern Soul venue - Wigan Casino - with its balcony overlooking the dance floor.” Jason explained.
Featuring over 40 specialist DJ’s from all over the UK, this weekend event starts on Friday 20th May and runs through until Sunday 22nd.
“In 2007, myself and my good friends and co-organisers Shawn Robbins and Sean O’Connor thought it would be a great idea to bring together a range of people with one common thread - the love of soul music - to celebrate this amazing musical art form. So we decided to organise something with the help of our local club in Morecambe, The Seaside Soul Club, and the following year The North Lancs Soul Festival was born,” said Jason.
From those early days, the event has grown not only in stature but also in attendance. Last year more than 2,200 people attended the Saturday night event alone with one visitor travelling across from Finland specifically to attend! Many of these visitors stay for the whole weekend and support the local economy by booking accommodation and dining out in Morecambe’s cafe bars and restaurants, so the Festival is an important income generator for local businesses.
“For 2016, the Festival will be taking place in five separate venues to accommodate the growing demand and will for the first time include Mod / Ska & Reggae music in dedicated sessions. As well as the new venues, the other 2016 venues will be Smokey O’Connors ‘Temple Of Soul’ (home of the last three Festivals), The Platform (a former Edwardian railway station), and the Rotunda Bar Terrace at the Midland Hotel (Morecambe’s 1930 iconic art deco hotel).
“All the DJ’s involved this year attend on a voluntary basis to dig into their musical collections and select a great range of music to entertain our guests. And the music certainly is varied stretching from sixties club classics, Ska and Reggae into Northern Soul and Soulful House and through to contemporary soul releases from 2016.
“As we are granted access to some of the finest soul music collections in the country, there literally will be something for everyone ranging from the classic sounds of Tamla Motown including artists such as Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and Edwin Starr through to the amazingly rare seventies releases and Northern soul originals all on vinyl. Our ‘Back Of The Box’ collector’s sessions of Rare Soul are always very popular indeed! The format will, however, also include CD’s as many more recent soul releases weren’t released on vinyl. As the old adage goes, it’s what’s in the groove that counts!” said Jason.
“Previously, the Festival has been a free event but this year, to enable us to control the numbers and to help in covering the growing costs of staging the event, it has been necessary to introduce a door charge for the venues on Friday and Saturday night. It was always the ethos of the organisers that the Festival should be open and inclusive and in an effort to maintain this as far as possible, the daytime elements on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will remain free to and inclusive for all to attend’” explained Jason.
Saturday night’s planned entertainment will focus on the music currently getting spins at some of the best club nights featuring soul music today; such as ‘So Soulful 70’s’, Wakefield’s ‘Red Bar’ and ‘Treacle Soul’ from Hemel Hempstead, mixed in with tributes to the biggest clubs of the past such as Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, The Golden Torch from Stoke, Blackpool Mecca and the legendary Wigan Casino. Some of the country’s top soul radio stations and shows will also be featured in the mix.
Advance tickets for Friday and Saturday night are available to purchase from the festival website and until the end of April, anyone buying a single event ticket for Saturday night can also buy the Friday £5 ticket for just £2 – that’s a whole soulful weekend for just £10.
The Festival’s dedicated website can be found at: www.northlancssoulfestival.co.uk and the confirmed programme of events for the weekend is listed there along with the links to buy tickets on line.