Stars shine a light on Blues renaissance

Aynsley Lister
Aynsley Lister

Having lived under the threat of closure, the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival, Britain’s largest and longest-running event of its kind, is back with a bang under new management.

And the Colne Town Council team has unveiled an extraordinary line-up of contemporary musicians at the very top of their game for the August Bank Holiday Blues bonanza.

There will be an eye-catching array of headliners led by current Grammy nominee and American Blues legend, Janiva Magness, alongside British Blues-Rock stars Joanne Shaw Taylor, King King and Aynsley Lister.

Master storyteller Ian Siegal and Texas-based funky Bluesman Lucky Peterson are also in the star-studded line-up.

“Since we decided to take the route of dropping the heritage acts, choosing instead to showcase the best of the contemporary Blues scene, we have been stunned by the response of musicians from around the world, asking to play here in Colne,” said Festival Director, Jason Elliott.

“Every one of this summer’s headliners is supported by other acts who could just as easily be topping the bill themselves.

“We are now in a situation where we are being courted by other huge international bands looking for a slot in 2018 already, such has been the buzz around what we have been doing.”

During the day, the action will be centered around The Muni, the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre and Tom Attah’s Acoustic Blues Showcase at the Little Theatre, where a range of highly talented professional acts will rub shoulders with the cream of emerging young talent, selected by the Jessica Foxley Unsigned project, all available on a walkaround ticket letting Blues lovers choose their preferences.

Each of the daytime sessions will be topped off by a great band, hand picked for dancing to, before the venues close for a swift clean up and to let everyone get a quick bite to eat.

The evening sessions will be individual ticket-only shows, each one with three acts, all at the height of their powers, culminating with the headliners.

Each one of these triple-billed shows will be priced lower than the standard entry ticket for just the headliner.

“We appreciate the need for financial sustainability and to look after residents’ hard earned money,” said Coun. Joe Cooney, chairman of the Blues Working Group.

“But we also have a responsibility to provide the best possible services for them, so we’ve negotiated some great rates to bring these acts here at a lower cost to the public than normally seen anywhere else in the country.”

Colne Town Council CEO Colin Hill, added “Over the last nine weeks, since the Town Council decided to step in to save the festival, we have been working hard with Town Councillors, Jason, and his team to pull together all of the event and financial infrastructure to make this happen.

“We are really excited that we are now ready to officially launch The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival at Colne for 2017 ahead of schedule.

The next few weeks will see information released about the dozens of bands playing at the roadhouse venues, details of a series of free masterclasses from professional Blues musicians and many more delights, designed to appeal to everyone from serious hat-wearing Blues aficionados right across the board to local families just looking for Bank Holiday fun.

“Part of our brief,” said co-organiser, Paddy Maguire, “is to broaden the audience for this kind of music. We want everyone to feel that we have something here for them, so we intend to make sure there is plenty of choice for residents and visitors alike.”

One of the main difference this year is that the festival will only run for three days, with nothing scheduled for the Bank Holiday Monday itself.

Full line-ups and ticket prices will be revealed as the festival approaches.