Old Town Live: Our businesses look forward to welcoming music-lovers to new festival
- Credit: Retail Revival
Businesses in our historic High Street are set to open their doors for a day of live music, festival stalls and more, as part of a revival following the pandemic.
Old Town Live will showcase live bands on eight separate stages across Stevenage Old Town in bars, pubs and from on-street marquees on Sunday, October 3.
The event is part of a nationwide scheme to welcome people back to the high street after the disruption caused by COVID-19 and is being organised by consultants Retail Revival and Stevenage and Stevenage residents, festival promoters, and organisers Ben Allingham and Harry Currant of B&H events.
"The Old High Street is an asset for the borough," explains Sally Williams from Retail Revival.
"It is a historic location, with stunning architecture and it is full of niche independent businesses. Unlike other town centres there are very few vacant shops, a lively evening economy and it has a world food offer to rival any.
"This makes Stevenage Old Town the perfect location for a music festival and I am delighted that local businesses have invested their time to support and plan the event."
Old Town Live’s music director Kriss Lawrence is the owner of the Practice Roomz in Walkern Road, and he is curating all of the acts for the event.
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He said: "We have 4,000 sqft of studio space with eight studios, two mix rooms and full recording facilities, from March 2020 events were cancelled almost overnight, our business had to close for many months, and in lockdown, bands were unable to practice together, let alone perform in front of live audiences.
"Stevenage is a great music hub, so many excellent bands and artists live locally and are excited to return to the stage in their home town. I have lined up over 50 of the best to perform at Old Town Live with myriad genres to appeal to every music taste and I urge people to come out and support them."
The High Street will be closed to traffic on event day and festival and street food stalls will line the road. Many of the Old Town traders will be taking additional space in front of their shops or in the festival arena.
Lesley Powell from Hootie Toot has been selling handmade wire work jewellery with ethically sourced and fairly-traded materials, crystals, festival wear and gifts from the Old Town since 2018.
On event day Lesley will also be selling from a festival tent in front of her shop and is really looking forward to the day.
She said: "As a family we love music, my son George is a musician and will be playing at Old Town Live and my husband Mark from Coda Guitars will be helping to put up the stages on the day.
"Every year we trade at the larger music festivals, including Glastonbury, and we have been so sad to have missed that festival atmosphere. We are so glad that we are able to bring a festival to our own doorstep and I have some fabulous festival clothing and jewellery which I know my customers will love!"
Middle Row will be a hive of activity - Clinton Moulton from Ritty's will be supporting the event and Robert Hall from the Cutter is opening for anyone who needs a haircut on the day.
"We have sponsored a stage right outside the shop," said Robert. "It’s not every day that our customers get to hear live music when they are in the chair, but there will be a real festival vibe in the shop all day."
Peter Bentley, manager of Oxfam in Middle Row, has plenty of stock for music lovers.
"We are lucky to receive some excellent donations from the community including musical instruments from time to time and we sell second-hand sheet music and music grade books and so we are planning an eye-catching display and welcome everyone in to the shop," he added.
Brian Keay and Luke Hannington from Revolution Records said: "We have lots of new stock, both new and sealed records and new box sets. We invite everyone, whatever their age or music preferences, to come down and find something new to listen to."
Over on the High Street at A&D Framing, Alan Cawthorn offers a bespoke framing service and often takes commissions from people wanting to display music memorabilia on their walls. He said: "We obviously frame art but there is no limit to what we are able to frame, from drum sticks and album covers to special gig tickets and event programmes.
"We have an extensive range of mounts and finishes, and I can help customers to choose colours and lay out their design in the frame. We will put some examples of our music themed gifts and art in the window to support Old Town Live."
Many local businesses are sponsoring the event and have different reasons for doing so.
Peter Kilday, manager of Co-operative Funeral Care, explains why his company has chosen to sponsor one of the stages at Old Town Live.
"Music plays a very important role in our funeral services," he said. "Our clients often know exactly what songs their relatives enjoyed and music provides that very personal connection during the ceremony.
"We wanted to sponsor something we think the whole community will enjoy and we are taking a stall in the festival arena so we hope people will come and meet us on the day."
One local business that had to adapt quickly during the pandemic is Chemical Solutions, a supplier of medical and janitorial products that has been operating for almost 30 years in Wedgewood Way.
Sales manager, Jordan Kennelly, is pleased to be supplying hand sanitiser stations for Old Town Live to support the event’s COVID-19 safety procedures.
She said: "We are a family business and pride ourselves on going above and beyond for our customers, we support local schools, leisure centres, NHS hospitals and private medical facilities and we are happy to help Old Town Live and give something back to our local community.
"Chemical Solutions have a such a wide range of products I would point people to our website, as I am sure we can help them www.chemicalsolutionsuk.com."
Old Town Live is being funded by the Welcome Back Fund, which is held by Stevenage Borough Council, and through private sponsorship.
Peter Bracey, managing director of Bracey’s accountants, is pleased that Old Town Live is a free music event. "We work with many organisations and individuals providing accountancy and wealth management services and we know that it has been a difficult year for many.
"Bracey’s has sponsored a stage so that local people can enjoy the music without paying a lot of money for tickets. We think that it is important for the bands to receive a fee for their contribution to the day and we are pleased that volunteers will be collecting money at the event for visitors to make donations to help meet the costs."
Between 12noon and 10pm, a rotating programme of bands and singers from all genres will play 45-minute sets, with over 50 acts performing during the event.
Councillor Lloyd Briscoe believes that Old Town Live will bind the community. He added: "We are very much look forward to a great day of entertainment to bring the wider community of Stevenage together and support our great array of businesses and musicians."
To find out about the event, the line-up, to trade, participate or to volunteer on the day, visit the website www.oldtownlive.co.uk.