BIG READ: Adding swing, soul, pop and ska to your summer

Taking in the music while enjoying a picnic, getting up and having a dance, or simply chilling out, Live at The Bandstand has become an increasingly popular mainstay over the summer.

Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 5:05 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 5:12 pm
Southsea Bandstand

And with each weekend adopting a different theme, from pop, to punk, jazz, ska and swing there's a soundtrack for all tastes.

Over the next 12 weeks, thousands of music fans are expected to flock to the Southsea seafront.

Portsmouth's premier purveyors of surf-punk, Emptifish, play the bandstand on July 7, 2018. Picture by Paul Windsor

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The free event has seen memorable performances from chanteuse Hazel O'Connor, glam rock band The Sweet and more recently Rhythm of the 90s which drew in more than 10,000 people. The latter's 2016 performance proved so popular that their date for the following summer was relocated to the neighbouring Castle Field.

Nick Courtney has been involved in the event for many years and is one of the organisers of the event. 

Nick says: 'It is a truly great event which I believe people love coming to because it is free and you can bring your own picnics and drinks, meet with friends and family and a fun thing to do even if times are hard.

'So many artists have taken part over the years, so for me there is not a particular standout performer but just years of good music.'

Kasai Masai play at the Bandstand on Sunday, May 27, 2018

The event is supported by the city council.

Nick says: 'The council are great with the event and I don't think there are many other places that put on what we put on. Live at the Bandstand is like a council tax rebate for everyone.'

Nearly 60 acts will take to the stage on the seafront every Saturday and Sunday from now until mid August.

Nick says: 'I think having all the genres means we can cater to a wide audience and because it is a free event that people can walk past and join in with means they would listen to live music that perhaps they would not go and choose to see.'

BBC's Opportunity Knocks winners and Britain's Got Talent semi-finalists, six-piece swing band The Jive Aces will close out the season on August 12.

Nick says: 'They played for us a few years ago and people absolutely loved them so it is really good to have them back.

'We also have a special weekend on June 3 when Choose 90s and Rachael Hawnt will be performing on Castle Field, so that will definitely be a highlight.'

Joining the headliners across the summer is a selection of local bands, which gives them a chance to perform to a large crowd.

Nick says: 'It is a great opportunity for them to play a crowd and we have had artists like local girl Jerry Williams who is now doing really well nationally so it is a good experience for them.'

Although everyone is crossing their fingers for the recent spell of sunshine to continue, there are contingency plans in place should the great British weather let us down.

Nick adds: 'This year, should there be bad weather we won't be cancelling anything and instead every event will be put on in the Gaiety Bar on South Parade Pier which is not something we have done before so it will mean everyone can still enjoy the music.'

Along with Nick, local promoters Luke Fuller of Beats & Swing, and Paul Caruana, who runs Casemates rehearsal studios, help to organise the live music.

Luke says: 'The council got in touch with me in the beginning as a local promoter and a few years ago I started doing Beats & Swing so that has lent itself to the event having an eclectic mix which is something all three of us work hard to ensure is the case.

'Although I don't think there is a particular genre that makes people come down to the event, the pull of a free outdoor event is more important and the music is perhaps more minor but it has given bands a chance to play.'

Luke adds: 'For me, it means that new bands I am promoting, I can give them a slot with nothing to lose and they get feedback from the crowds.

'Obviously not all bands are going to be liked but the majority of them get a good reception and local people get exposure to different music.'

Luke believes Victorious Festival has helped give other live music events in the city a boost.

He says: 'The music scene in Portsmouth in the '90s had a really good mix but through the noughties it was really poor and there was nothing much to do. You would get in on a Friday or Saturday evening and think, what I am going to do this evening?

'I think Victorious has given the council more confidence in live music events and that is why now we have so many.

'This weekend is Mutiny as well as the start of Live at the Bandstand, among other events and now there is almost too much to do.'

Looking back at his first year with the Bandstand, he recalls: 'The very first one we did was on a red-hot day and the headliner was playing garage hits which is a bit cheesy for me but is one I won't forget.'

But Luke fears for the event's future: 'They don't have free events in other places like Southampton and Brighton because of cuts and we all know arts are the first to go.

'I really want this festival to continue but I can see it ending, so I think people need to enjoy it while it lasts and make sure to take their rubbish home and behave themselves.'

This is Paul's fourth year organising the event. 'We are definitely hoping for nice, warm weather as that has an effect on the event but it is great that this time we have managed to get the Gaiety Bar venue if it rains, and it is in walking distance from where it would be anyway. A recent highlight for me was Mojo Dollar as it was a lovely sunny day and I think the weather and the fact it is a free event means it is really popular.'