We interview Dan Read Chester Live Festival Coordinator

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How did the festival start, what inspired you to create Chester Live?

For 2 years there had been an event at Chester Racecourse called ‘Chester Rocks’. It was neither rocky or involved Chester based acts so it was of some annoyance to the live music community of the city. In 2015 the festival was not due to take place (and hasn’t taken place since) so it left a gap in the calendar. I looked at events like Focus Wales in Wrexham (which I work on) and thought ‘Why can’t we do that in Chester?’ So with a 3 month lead time I created Chester Live which took place in June 2015. The rest as they say is history!

What is new for this years festival?

This year we’ve gone with a focus of headliners with local acts supporting hence us having acts like Hot 8 Brass Band, The Anchoress, Into The Ark, Allusondrugs, HMS Morris etc etc. We also have new venues this year and have been allowed to have 2 live music events at Grosvenor Park, Chester. The biggest ‘new’ thing is the Chester Live Street Festival on Brook Street, Chester on the 25th June. This could have been an event in it’s self due to the amount of planning and legislation which has had to go into it. It’s going to be huge with an expected footfall of 5000+ people so it’s certainly our biggest event under the Chester Live banner.

The festival takes place in venues across Chester could you tell us a bit about some of the venues?

The Live Rooms is Chester’s biggest independent live music venue so we’re delighted to have them involved again this year. Telford’s Warehouse is Chester’s ‘go-to’ venue at present so their involvement is vital for us. The Cornerhouse is a new venue for us and St Werburgh Parish Centre is one of our old favourites, and the people there are so supportive of what we do. We then have a load of free entry events at venues across the city and we’re delighted to have them all involved. There are 13 host venues in total, and that doesn’t include the street festival. We hope, in the future, this number will grow further year on year.

How do people get tickets for the event?

The main root for tickets is through our website at www.chesterlive.co.uk, but again there are more free entry events than there are paid entry events. We just want to open up live music to the whole Chester live music community. Event 3 years in we’re still at the start of a more long term project.

Chester Live, seems to focus on a whole lot of upcoming artists, why did you choose this route?

My focus as a promoter has always been about discovering live acts and introducing them to Chester. I was one of the first promoters to book Catfish & The Bottlemen in Chester and look where they are now! However we do have acts who are more established, look at Hot 8 Brass Band, they’ve been around forever and have worked with some of the biggest acts in the world!

One of the aims of the festival is to bring the community together through music, how are you planning to do this with Chester Live?

I think this is why we have more free entry events than paid entry. We’re giving people from all backgrounds the opportunity to come and discover their new favourite band. Also the street festival is on Chester’s most ethnically diverse street, and it’s been fantastic to see people from all religions and ethnic backgrounds coming together for one event. The support has been amazing.

Who are you looking forward to seeing perform, will you actually get a chance to catch a few acts of the day?

I’d love to catch everyone but I don’t think that’s going to happen. That’s why this year we’ve put together a really strong media team who can record most of the shows, and take loads of photos. I’m definitely prioritising the Korea Rocks event and Moja’s show at The Live Rooms. It blows my mind that these acts have come from South Korea and Japan to play our little festival. Hot 8 Brass Band are always incredible and their show is close to selling out whilst The Anchoress has just been out on tour with Simple Minds, and she’s playing her last full band show of 2017 with us on the 23rdJune. And Into The Ark! They finished 2nd on The Voice so that’s a must watch, and again this show is close to selling out.

At the end of the day we have our strongest line up EVER so I’m going to miss some incredible acts whatever happens.

Where do you hope to take Chester Live in the future?

It’s important to grow at a pace which we can still control safely. We have a very small core team behind the scene with a load of brilliant volunteers, but we don’t want to run before we can walk. We’re learning all the time. We take inspiration off events like Focus Wales and Threshold Fesitval, but I think where we can go is unlimited. We need to grow the team further, with people taking on specific roles, but we’re only limited by our own imagination.

Scarily plans are already afoot for 2018 with new venues, bigger sites and a stronger line up (if possible) again.

Watch this space!

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