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Sing Stars

The Thame Town Music Festival

Let’s be honest: there’s nothing more British than a summer music festival. Come rain or shine (the former we’re all too prepared for, with wellies and coats at the ready; sunburn is the inevitable outcome of the latter) the British people love nothing more than to flock to the nearest source of amplified music, chilled beverages at the ready, accompanied by a willingness to dance when the opportunity strikes. In 2018, Christopher Ward will be getting involved in this very British pastime, by partnering with the Thame Town Music Festival, now in its second year.

“It’s a multi-genre, one-day free event we started last July, using venues all over town,” says Johnnie Littler, founder of the new festival. “Last year we closed the roads, set up our main stage in front of the town hall, and had over 8,000 visitors. There were 58 acts in every genre, including classical, jazz, blues, Americana, folk, country, singer-songwriter and comedy. We keep it free thanks to the support of the Council, plus sponsorship, merchandise revenue and the like. Our headliner last year was even a childhood hero of mine, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols.”

And in 2018, the second year of the annual festival, things were even better. This time we’re offering ten venues rather than nine, and shifting the main stage to the High Street Car Park to showcase more acts,” Johnnie says. “It’s all about continuing our mission to help unsigned artists, so we’re including a new music industry convention element too, moderated by Tom Robinson of ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ fame, and packed with seminars and panels, as well as a song writing competition. The whole thing’s designed to support musicians, helping them understand how the business works, make contacts and gain advice.”

For Johnnie, the song writing competition is at the centre of it all. “It’s the most important thing,” he says, “as it’s the song that first captures us, even more than the artist. So we’ll be asking musicians to submit and perform one number, then the top twelve will perform to an audience – and a panel of judges, including Christopher Ward head of marketing Helen McCall. The winner will get to play on the main stage the next day, then we’ll get the song professionally produced and recorded, make a video and promote the artist.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? And it’s certainly an idea that’s caught the imagination of many in the music biz, being supported by the likes of Ian Grenfell – one-time manager of Suede, Simple Minds, The Pretenders and Simply Red – and possibly even Brian May of Queen, who could be set to be Patron of it all. It’s a philosophy that resonates hugely with Christopher Ward, and the company is now sponsoring both the TTMF18 Convention and the songwriter competition. “We’re constantly looking to find and nurture world class talent,” says Mike France. “That’s what the Challenger Programme does in sport, after all, and this initiative dovetails with that nicely. Who knows? We might just find the next Ed Sheeran!”

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