The Mathew Street Festival is dead. Long live the International Music Festival. Today, the Council announces a fresh start for a festival that, every sane person in the city will agree, has long since lost its shine.
Gone are the outdoor tribute stages littering the city streets, gone the ramparts of Fosters crates and sparkling gutters of vomit, and gone is the huge cheque to the police for kettling in the leery Crowded Scouse fans.
Replacing it, the Festival will focus on, get this, music.
And, to prove it, it’s appointed a Curator of Music – in the shape of the very fine Yaw Owusu, the inspirational head of youth music champions Urbeatz. Yaw’s a man with a plan, and a passion for showing the world that, hey, we really do create exciting new music around here. We’re not all trapped in a tribute band feedback loop.
The Council, no doubt readying to defend itself from the brickbats and braying to follow, is spinning the festival’s evolution as a triumph of cost-conscious husbandry.
“The costs of the new-look event will be 40 per cent lower than Mathew Street Music Festival, helping the city council achieve significant savings and balance its budget,” they say.
They needn’t protest too much. This isn’t a victory for the bean counters on Dale Street – it’s a victory for culture, for creativity, and local talent. Not shipped-in shit-bands. And, in killing its darlings, the Council’s shown a real commitment to build something exciting and genuinely inclusive: a free festival we can all be proud of.
Yes, people will moan about how the event was a real peoples’ festival. But it wasn’t – it was a beery, boorish headache. And, anyway, people complained when they turfed over the cock fighting pits at Aintree racecourse. But we got over it. We evolved. And that’s what Mathew Street’s doing.
Let’s not hijack this evolution into an argument about the relative merits of high and low culture. This isn’t about that. It’s about making a better festival for the city. One that we can all enjoy without the hangover. And one that our businesses can benefit from too – a family friendly festival which will genuinely be a draw for tourists, and will showcase the city as it really is right now: a cauldron of ground-up, inspiring creativity.
Here’s what we know so far:
The Liverpool International Music Festival will take place, as usual, over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It will include, on the Friday, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and chief conductor Vasily Petrenko taking to a brand new stage in Sefton Park for an evening of live music in the park. Sounds perfect. The concerts in the park will continue across the four days (Friday to Monday).
On the Saturday and Sunday, there will also be two outdoor stages located at the Pier Head which will include a tribute to the Beatles (how could it not?). Programmed by Mathew Street Music Festival Directors Bill Heckle and Dave Jones, it will be a mixture of cover acts and original artists.
The hugely successful Fringe Festival will return for 2013, and there’ll be more announcements soon – including new elements that SevenStreets has personally had a hand in shaping (following our suggestions last year). We bet you won’t read that in The Echo.
“After 20 years of Mathew Street Music Festival it feels right that it evolves into a refreshed event which will have mass appeal,” Joe Anderson says.
“Over the years the original festival has become more high-profile and as a result it became one of the most costly to stage. It simply isn’t affordable to continue funding this event when we are facing cuts of more than £149m over the next four years,” he continues. But, really, Joe, we’d pay twice that to avoid the unholy mess that the Festival had become. You’re knocking on an open door here, lad.
“Liverpool International Music Festival will combine the best of the original event with live music on three outdoor stages. At the same time we’re working with the private sector to put new and exciting events which tap into diverse musical tastes and widen the appeal.”
“This fresh approach also gives us the opportunity to look at the format of an outdoor music event and address key issues including that of alcohol which has been a bone of contention in recent years.
“Liverpool City Council is extremely proud of its involvement in the Mathew Street Music Festival, but it feels like the time is right to develop the format and we strongly believe the Liverpool International Music Festival will have broader appeal and will be a popular replacement.”
More events with private sector partners will take place in August, and following collaboration with local, national and international partners the programme is set to be announced in May.
Mathew Street Music Festival cost around £900,000 per year, whereas the budget for Liverpool International Music Festival is around 40 per cent lower than this. But most of it will be spent on the music. Which is, kinda, the thing, isn’t it?
The change comes following consultation with those in Liverpool’s music sector, including ourselves, who supported a new format for the festival.
We think the event presents a clear-headed and exciting opportunity to create a festival that the city can, finally, be proud to call its own. A festival with culture running through the heart of it.