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.


  1. bornagainst

    “A festival with culture running through the heart of it.”

    To be fair, the Mathew St Festival has always had culture running through the heart of it, just not the culture that you (or I) like.

    Getting pissed in the street whilst listening to a Paul Weller tribute act sounds like hell on earth to me, but it’s definitely the culture of a lot of people.

  2. So glad this has happened. The new festival sounds like a fresh start for the city it needs. Mathew St had become a complete joke – awful music and awful people. One weekend where we actively had to avoid our own city centre.

  3. JimmyWall

    I think the writer is heavily biased as it seems he was included to the party.
    Wherever you get 300,000 people there will be problems and the high brows don’t like mixing with the lower classes so deliberately come out with a boring middle class “festival” which will put the plebs off and leave them to enjoy their music without feeling threatened.

    The budget might well be 40% less but I bet you the crowd is 60% down but that’s the idea isn’t it?

  4. Jimmy – the festival was shit though, and full of idiots. If the crowd’s down and it’s a bit more high brow, that’s a success. It’s not a snobbery thing. Look at ANY other free European festival across the continent. It brings – or tries to bring – decent culture to a mainstream audience for nothing. It sounds like that’s what this new fest is trying for.

  5. Great news for the city. Couldn’t agree more with the article and we hope they have some sort of lighting show accompanying the Orchestra in Sefton Park. The French have outdoor symphony orchestra shows along their river banks so why shouldn’t we have one on the lake.

  6. On the one hand MSF was popular and brought a LOT of people into the city spending cash, and cutting it off does feel a bit scary – almost like Tennessee announcing the end of Elvis – but on the other I felt it really was like Chav Pride a lot of the time. Quite intimidating to the point where some of the attendees felt happy to hurl abuse at me for no other reason that I was passing by and not wearing their black trackie uniform (and for those saying “the minority blah blah”, all I can say is I must have been really unlucky to encounter this so many times), and left a serious mess in the city centre that just never really comes clean.

    It wasn’t somewhere I felt welcome at, it will be interesting to see how the organisers of this one plan to stay in control of it and prevent the same thing happening.

  7. The Mathew Street festival used to be good fun before the drunks ruined it – it was all we had back then though. Things have moved on since, we’ve got Sound City, Africa Oye and tons of smaller festivals showcasing homegrown original music and the best international acts. If you want to see a crap Beatles tribute act go the Cavern any day of the week.

  8. This sounds like exactly what we need, & although I admit he does sound a bit biased, the Mathew street festival had become something to avoid 🙁 Sefton park is so under used & would be perfect for a night under the stars, can’t wait!

  9. Leocrusher

    I’ve always found plenty of stuff to enjoy at Matthew Street up until about 5-6pm when it turns into a recreation of the fall of Saigon… There’s got to be a way to maintain the broad appeal while jettisoning the horrible aspects. Without a broad appeal it cant be likely that it will be a success full stop, surely?

  10. Hopefully Revo, Tom from Harvest Sun, Mike Deane and Co will be given a little nudge. If you’re booking an ‘International Music Festival’ then you have to look at the top dogs who are booking THEE best International bands all year round

  11. the article is really biased and what bornagainst has just said is totally true. The reason its being pulled is because of the costs involved but the festival brought in thousands of tourists from across the world and country every year filling hotels and spending money. Its local businesses that will be affected while the council makes savings and while i’ve only ever been twice (where I really enjoyed the japanese Beatles) its right that a lot of people enjoyed it without causing any trouble. I do wonder if the same people will be heading to see the Philharmonic orchestra in the park?? And is that going to be free- I doubt it. Human race+alcohol= some nice people, some not nice people-it doesn’t matter where you put them. People get sick of the Beatles but why not celebrate them ?- look at how America flaunts Elvis and Dolly Parton for gods sake- theme parks!

  12. msMeshMedia

    Congratulations to the City and to the Brilliant and talented Mr Yaw Owusu. At last the whole of the city to the north and the south will be able to enjoy our talented homegrown musicians not just the Beatle Tribute Bands. Well done to the man who brought us the many facetted sounds of KOF, Urbeatz and Mesh Music. 21st Century comes to our beloved music traditions.

  13. Seem to be a little sensitive, John. Do you work for the Echo? Any criticism the Echo gets on this site is probably justified. Take today, for instance. Today it was announced that the MSMF was being replaced by the Liverpool International Music Festival. I would have thought that the main story is the exciting NEW festival. Instead the Echo headline screams MATHEW STREET FESTIVAL AXED. The Echo exists to sell papers, not to be objective, and certainly not to support local music.

  14. johne99

    As an outsider,(age 45 and one of the many 1000’s of tourists, ie not piss artist) i had been enjoying the wonderfull (good and bad) MSF for years, but with hardly any warning i was left looking at a goast town last BH monday, all because someone had spotted a binliner moving at 10 am ! It was a clear day? and my thought was have the locals turned into wimps or what, as all the staging was there and all the expences had been spent. I Tried to invoice your city council for my wasted railfare/hotel/food costing £145.00 but never got a reply….. any way the future…

    The so called new festival (fri/sat/sun)coincides with the beatle week, so nothing happening on the bank holiday monday then, which is a great shame. I hope this year the 7 Streets pull out all the stops………as in the past have found it all a bit disorganised/studenty, and over blown hype, lets have some good stuff on the monday day time for the tourists, and i dont mean duos with backing tracks……….come on liverpool

  15. Sinead

    are u fuckin kiddin…JLS are the headliners…how can that be focusing on music…and you gotta pay for that shite. Bring bak the legendary mathew street festival!!

  16. josie

    wish I hadn’t booked hotel for this years festival ,im not looking forward to this change ,I invited my friends to come along this year because we have always had such a great time (without alcohol ) we always liked the tribute bands ,amy housewine ,duffy,ska to name a few .we will still come to Liverpool this year but I think it will be for the last time (sadly)

  17. No wonder it is cheaper for the council to put on – you have to pay for it, and I doubt some of these bands will be coming over on the cheap!!! Previously it was a free festival.

    OK there were some idiots there, but I know my friends and I loved spending the day having a drink and walking round enjoying all the music on offer. And what’s to stop the same idiots turning up and causing trouble drunk or not. At the new one? Funny how the minority always spoil it for the majority. I mean every year you would hear of only a few arrests at MSF and how well it was received and all that, yet now it has become full of drunken thugs wanting to cause mayhem and devastation.

    I admit, due to council cuts the last couple of years have declined musically in my opinion but it was still a great day out.

    All this rubbish about supporting local upcoming artists, give me a break – you wanna see local artists you need to forget the main stages and get in the bars, the likes of The Lomax and The Zanzibar etc. to see the real local talent. And guess what the fringe festival has been going on for years.

    Seems to me just another loads of hype and propaganda to get every day joes to cough up a bit of cash.

    Have fun if you go, please do check out the fringe venues and support our local talent but The Saturdays and JLS are not my cup of tea. I’m going camping!!!

  18. JonnyBoy

    I used to Love MSF but ageed the last couple of years have seen the same acts playin.
    I think we should not pass judgement on this new festival until its been, but based on what acts are on and charges being made i dont think it has the same kind of appeal.
    Acts with backing tracks should be banned altogether – this is about Live music not Karaoke on a grand scale!. Alot of the tribute acts we have seen over the years you now have to pay to see! somehow i dont think they’ll get the same size audiences or reaction.
    Good to see some of the pubs/bars still putting music on tho !

  19. sara from ireland

    Ive booked to visit liverpool for the festival, loved the atmospher in the city but am looking at the new concert line up and was wondering if anyone knew could i just buy the tickets when i get there or DO you have to just book online?

  20. rip msf

    My thoughts exactly. Wait till they take the toll of losses to business. We paid high prices for hotels, shopped till dropped,every year. Our last year attending too. We canceled our hotel, our friends also cancelled their apařtment. We stayed out and drove in. £2 each way to Sefton pařk. No atmosphere, no crowds, no fun, the local bands of so called talent was embarrassing rubbish with handful of people at bandstand. The Beatles tribute had one good band who play in the cavern on thurs and sat every week. A terrible Brazilian tribute played Beatles oroginal tracks and badlly sang to the music. That was enough, off back on bus total cost £8 there and back for us two. Back to hotel feelıng really let down. Look at the youtube videos, crowds of happy people. Think it will be Edinburgh fringe for us next year x

  21. this is shocking the council justifying them saving money
    my arse
    im a scouser through and through and loved the festival now its gone through cuts
    really pissed of now thanks Liverpool council for as always take away anything great weve had FAT BASTARDS

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