Although I saw them on and off during the weekend, it wasn’t until the final day of the British Country Music Festival in Blackpool that I was able to pin festival organisers Marina and Martin down – they were quite busy! I did manage to pre-warn them of my main question – “Why?”
Experienced events organisers with their production company “Fit The Bill”, Marina and Martin have put on West End Shows, other festivals and corporate events – but I still wanted to ask why a country festival, why in Blackpool and why now!
Martin supplied the first answer, and the second!
We produced and promoted a contemporary folk festival in Liverpool alongside a shanty festival, but over the three years we kept seeing young talented artists coming through on our emerging stages and watching them grow – people like Robert Vincent, Megan O’Neill and we saw this growing folk merging into country/Americana bursting through, and we wanted to know what their platform was. So we decided to do a British Country festival.
How are we going to be different from all the other festivals? We didn’t want to be in a field, we wanted to reflect what we could see in the music, what was happening, and it felt like it all had British roots, so we started looking for a lovely older venue, not sterile, so the venue is part of the festival. We both know Blackpool very well, we have worked in the town and live just up the coast.
Having chosen Blackpool as a venue, they worked in partnership with the Winter Gardens and Blackpool Council to put on the event. Being indoors they have mitigated against the weather being an issue – although the weather was actually glorious for the entire weekend! This partnership was demonstrated by the outside stage on Friday night which became a part of the seafront fireworks display in entertaining the homebound crowds.
That certainly covers the why Country and why Blackpool. The “why now” is answered by this being the last festival of the season, the ideal time for other festival teams to relax, enjoy and network. Marina also noted that once they started the festival planning the first phone call offering support came from Karl at Buckle & Boots, the second from Millport Festival’s Gavin.
Meeting as we did on the third day of three I could ask for a reflection on the weekend. Both Marina and Martin were still smiling, although Marina did say her feet could use a soak! Although as organisers they are focussed on what hasn’t maybe worked, they were clearly happy with how the Festival had gone, and are always looking at ways to improve for next year.
Looking forward then – what one thing would they ask for if offered a magic wand?
Double our ticket numbers - and I'm very confident that we will do that next year, I can feel that. This year's set of customers are very unique, they've bought into an idea, nothing more than an idea.
Martin and Marina are husband and wife, working together in a very stressful industry – but apparently never argue! Just from talking to them you can see what a great team they make, professionally and personally and this is obviously a big part of their success.
So did they pull it off? Yes they did. Three days of British Country artists (and one honorary Brit in Sarah Darling). Sure, there were teething problems, and it is a venue style that takes a little getting used to but I have no doubt that next year and the year after will be better and better as a true showcase of what the British Country music scene has to offer and providing another platform for breakthrough artists.
As Marina commented
I would like to see someone who has played here this year being booked by another festival and seeing them climbing the festival ladder
And that is reason enough to be back next year!
The British Country Music Festival returns to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens
4 – 6 September 2020.
See you there!