The designer Wayne Hemingway was born in Morecambe, Lancashire at about the same time that I was born on the opposite coast. In those days seaside towns were vibrant places with packed beaches, amusement parks, ice-cream, fish and chips and coffee bars. For a younger me, Morecambe had something that Sunderland lacked; an aquarium that was an essential stop on any visit.
Those days also coincided with the first flights from Manchester to Majorca, and so began the decline of the coastal resort, but after decades of decline Morecambe seems to be regenerating. Sunderland, to my eye, does not.
I was interested to hear Hemingway’s view that embracing the creative arts is one of the critical factors in encouraging renewal. (He speaks from experience of his own involvement in the rebirth of Margate’s Dreamland for example).
His words were still fresh in my mind when I attended a music festival in North Yorkshire the same day. Scorton isn’t a seaside town; it’s a rural village that consists of a scattering of houses and small businesses around a large village green, a green that it puts to use every summer with its own music festival. Two strategically placed trailer units provide the stage leaving plenty of space for the community and visitors to set up their gazebos, coolboxes, and barbecues to sustain them through the afternoon and evening as they are entertained by a variety of local performers.
The event certainly raises the profile of what might be just another village.
Now that phrase “local performers” might lead you to believe that this is an amateur affair, but you would be mistaken. LC Grey for example played a set of original numbers with consummate musicianship that immediately earned them an invitation to return next year. The other acts that I saw predominantly performed covers, but this was no karaoke event; the songs were given fresh life through changes of arrangements and instrumentation.
We arrived just as Soft Rush were finishing their set so my apologies to them for my lack of attention while we ferried our food and furniture. From then on I was fully engaged, because when Grace Gibson took the stage she absolutely demanded it. Small in stature and armed only with an acoustic guitar she took me by surprise when she unleashed the dynamics of her voice.
Vocal group Achord followed and got the audience on their feet, Heart Shaped Rebellion shared some rock before Riff Raff turned up the volume by several notches. Their guitarist was described as “the love-child of Angus Young and Jack Black”. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Top of the bill were 1two3four who delivered a crowd pleasing set of hits from Queen, The Eagles, Elvis and more, and as an added bonus for me provided a guitarist in Rich who was prepared to deliver all the usual poses.
But in the midst of all of this entertainment was a real surprise.
The Olivia Kate Smith Band played a mixture of covers and originals sung with feeling and originality (well maybe a bit of Adele creeping in). She’d brought her own fan club to the green, but it would be fair to say there was a buzz of astonishment when in between songs she announced
I’m Olivia Kate Smith and I’m 12 years old
How does someone with so little life experience put so much into her performance? Surely she has a great future – I even forgave her description of Feeling Good as a Muse song rather than Nina Simone!