When you get a message from Laura Hancock (festival promoter) that reads "Hey Top Secret" my attention was grabbed. A couple of messages and week later I am stood in the entrance of Royal National College of Music (RNCM) Manchester camera bag on my shoulder feeling a mix of excitement and nerves.
I walk into the room and the serious nature of the day is obvious. An orchestra are unpacking their instruments and tuning up, the video team are setting up cameras and checking communications with the desks, the Hancocks are meeting and greeting and Im wondering what I have agreed to!
Then I spot Jade Helliwell and Matt Hodges talking to the Country band. This is going to be a very special day.
I talk to Laura and get my instructions, fresh batteries and SD cards loaded and off I go. I milled around the orchestra trying to capture the range of instruments as well as the very talented musicians. The orchestra run through the songs and the video team design their shots and sound team make adjustments to music and vocal levels.
A shimmering vision in gold emerges from the green room and the amazing voice of Jade fills the hall. Not in a gold dress but still looking very dapper Matt joins in to add his vocal talents to the mix.
I move high up into the seating area and stop shooting to take in this brilliant event. The country band, orchestra, singers, all being captured by the hard working camera crew. I close my eyes to let the sound wash over me. The songs when sung with the band are brilliant but the orchestra lift them to a new level.
I believe the orchestra will be performing at Buckle and Boots festival later in the year and I cant wait for my B&B friends to witness the power of the performance.
Video teasers are on the Buckle and Boots Facebook or Country Orchestra Facebook page.
A big thanks to the family Hancock for trusting in me to capture the day. Also thanks to all the performers for tolerating me while they performed.
Looking forward to seeing you all at the festival.
Lost in Manchester Tourin America is the second book by N.J Cartner. Im not able to tell you much about the book as I only received my copy on Saturday. Like his first book Nigel held a launch party in Manchester this event was at a great bar called the Lions Den on Deansgate.
The bar has a large outdoor area which was perfect to chill on a warm evening, the bar despite not being too large was well stocked however the action tonight was on the first floor. The first floor has a good sized stage, dance area, seating area and sound desk at the back. The venue had a list of upcoming events which looked very interesting.
Unfortunately, I arrived too late for the first set and so my apologies to Neil Gaw. I was pleased to arrive for a great set by Gary Taylor who I had photographed and listened to on many occasions with his previous band. It was great to hear his voice and range are still as special as the first time I heard him. Look out for Gary on the socials as Im sure he will be putting out plenty of great music in the future.
Nigel read an exert from his book and it seemed to include the references to music which is becoming his trademark, its not just any musical references but the ones that make you want to dig out the cd/vinyl/tape and enjoy it all over again.
Matt Fryers is another artist that I have been listening to for a long time. Matt has been performing regular online which was a great way to get your gig fix during lockdown. He is now back out performing and well worth catching. His set included several of my favourite songs and he sounded even better live than on the livestream. Also good to see Stacey Knowles who created the amazing artwork for the book and promotional material.
The room was now full with people enjoying the music and catching up with friends. It was great to see so many familiar faces including many that had recently attended Firestorm festival.
Nigel took to the stage for a final time to thank all involved in this book. there were a lot of people involved and it was interesting to hear the background to this book.
The final band Bite the Dust took to the stage and hit us with classic tracks which it was impossible not to join in with.
Im now going to put my new cds from Matt Fryers and Mohawk Radio on and have a read of Lost in Manchester Tourin America.
Thanks to N.J Cartner for inviting me to shoot his book launch. The Lions Den is definitely a venue I will be returning to, thanks to owner and staff for making me feel so welcome. All the artists played great sets and reminded me how good it is to listen to music live. Finally thank you to all my friends old and new for being great company and also tolerating me getting in the way and then photographing them.
Now go buy the book.
The stream of motorbikes accelerating past me was a clue I was close to Ragley Hall for the ABR Festival. I did feel the odd one out in my car as I joined a line of bikes entering the grounds of the hall. I exchanged my ticket for passes and sticker and drove onto one of the camping areas. Unlike other festivals I have attended there was plenty of space to pitch my home for the weekend. The weekend runs from Thursday to Sunday but due to other commitments I had arrived lunch time on the Friday. I decided to go for a walk and discover what the festival has to offer.
So many beautiful bikes, parked by tents, on trailers, on manufacturers stands, ready to test ride on roads, ready to test ride on trails and classic bikes that had taken on extraordinary adventures.
The mornings see riders book places to ride the wide variety of bikes on either the road or one of the trail routes. A demonstration that speed is not the only determinate of skill was the inch perfect trials area. They had riders attempting a marked course including tight corners on electric trails bikes.
My favourite part of the weekend was watching the bikes take on the expert trail. This included a water splash followed by a muddy hill climb. It was great to watch and photograph and every credit to all the riders that attempted the route. It was also good to see the riders helping each other when one was stuck in the mud or their bike decided to have a sleep. I must also give credit to all the trail marshals who really did work hard keeping the bikers safe and able to enjoy the trails.
There were so many bikes at the manufacturers stands which allowed you to try them for size as well as ask questions and dream of a garage filled with your favourites.
Once in the festival you could be kept busy without spending any additional money or you could spend a small fortune on all the bike parts and riding gear. I was good and only purchased a pair of jeans and small dry bag. The advantage of the festival stalls is being able to chat to the experts and also try things on you or the bike. If money was no object I would have needed a van to get my purchases home!
There were presentations within the tents from various riders. It was great to hear their stories and then have the opportunity to ask questions. You will come away wanting to plan and head off on your own adventure. It was noted that most of the presenters stayed for the weekend and were more than happy to chat about bikes and adventures. Who knew that the Missenden Flyer had such good dance moves!
There was a lovely chilled atmosphere in the tent as the acoustic act played and it was a great place to relax and consider the day. The ABR team member that selected the performers for the main stage did a brilliant job. All the bands played great sets and the crowds joined in singing and dancing.
There is a staggering array of food outlets running from breakfast to evening meal. I dont think there were many continents not covered in the selection on offer. Mention has to go to the caribbean food team who didnt stop dancing during service all night. There are plenty of places to get a brew but the magic teapot is a bit special. Large kettles boil away on the open fire as a group of musicians jam on piano and guitar inside a giant wooden yurt like structure.
I met and chatted with so many interesting friendly people over the weekend and all had one thing in common the love of riding bikes.
I already have a ticket for next year. I think that says it all.
Huge thanks to the ABR team for allowing me the opportunity to shoot the event and all the riders who smiled as I shot them even when picking their bikes up!
Buckle and Boots festival like so many other live events had been on ice due to the Covid pandemic. I was excited to be invited to shoot the festival but did have some reservations due to it being my first time amongst large numbers of people.
I know that the organisers would have taken all the steps possible and knowing how open the venue is I set off to the farm on Thursday night after cleaning my camera and lenses.
As I arrived at the farm after driving through the beautiful country park I recognised the familiar smile and welcome from the security. I put up my festival tent (Tesco Special) and headed to the barn.
The Hancocks and team had transformed the main stage bar area. The bar had moved from the centre of the barn to the full length at the back of the barn and a new seating area to the side of the stage. It was great to see Dave and team setting up the sound and lighting. Having witnesssed the skills of his team at Blackthorn Music Festival I knew that the sound and light would be brilliant.
The festival started with a great acoustic night in the new redesigned barn. It was also a great opportunity to meet up with friends and try to remember how to use my camera.
The Friday and Saturday were a blur of great artists meeting up with friends old and new and exploring the full festival site. I couldnt resist having a go at the axe throwing and at riding the mechanical bull. There were also the opportunity to seriously damage your credit card on clothing, boots and accessories. The boots were stunning and I was very tempted.
The food stalls have always been good at previous events and excelled at this event. The choice for vegetarians has also has grown with plenty of options from the various stalls.
The performances both in the paddock tent and on the main stage were simply brilliant. I recognised a few names from previous festivals and also from the awards night I photographed. A lot of credit must go to the organising team for such a brilliant line up under the difficult circumstances and restriction on travel. It was also great that artists had come from overseas to perform at the festival and the crowd left them in no doubt how much their sets were enjoyed.
On Sunday morning I attended the church service with Lynn Boyle and musician friends. The service included some lovely music and heart felt service by Lynn. Im not ashamed to admit to shedding a tear as it really hit home as I lost my dad in February. I challenge anyone to listen to Jade Halliwell sing Telephone and not be moved.
My favorite set of photos are titled 'Beautiful People' and are photographs of the people who attended the weekend. There were so many lovely people who I met over the weekend and it was great seeing people enjoying themselves.
I would like to thank the Hancock family for inviting me to photograph the festival and providing a lot of laughs, my fellow photographers for their company advice and encouragement, the artists for sharing their talent and especially all the beautiful people for allowing me to capture their moments at the festival.
Hope to see you all soon.
Its the second night of Lancashire Briefs Monologues part of the Lancashire fringe Festival. I recognise some faces from the previous week but also a lot of new people. The format was the same as the previous week with seven actors performing monologues written by local writers. The layout of the room was the same but with more people standing at the backs of the room as all seats were taken.
The stories again were again on a wide variety of subjects and all were brilliantly acted. The range of topics included death, crime, age and more. Im not giving away details of the stories as Im sure they will be read and performed many more times.
Again the capacity crowd were enchanted by each performance and were moved by the portrail of the characters. A lot of credit should be given to the writers and performers for a very entertaining evening.
Thanks to Garry for the invitation to shoot. He is also responcible for this amazing 10 day festival.
The Stanley Arms were again great hosts for the evening.