Festival showcase for song-writers

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THIS year’s Bury St Edmunds Festival is about more than internationally recognised stars, it is about celebrating local talent.

The popular Bury Song Writing Competition, now in its fourth year, will be more involved with this year’s Festival than ever before.

“It was time to step it up and get a bit more exposure from a wider audience,” said organiser, Neil Rayson.

For the past two years the competition’s winner has been invited to perform on the main stage of the Festival, in front of thousands of people in the Abbey Gardens.

But this year, the competition’s final will be held as part of the prestigious Festival, in a venue that has been selected for its large capacity as well as its ‘fantastic acoustics’, the Unitarian Meeting House in Churchgate Street.

“The main thing we want to do is to encourage people to become part of a musical community,” said Neil.

“I get a lot of response from people who have played a lot in their bedrooms but don’t have the opportunity to push their music out there,” he added, stating the importance of the annual event.

And the competition this year will be fierce, with two previous winners among competitors and a variety of musical genres on offer.

As well as acoustic performances, audiences can expect performances by an Americana band, influenced by the traditions of country music, as well as electronic dance and indie music, among others.

At the final, starting at 7.30pm on May 20, the winners of the competition’s first four heats will compete alongside the judge’s two ‘wildcard’ choices, selected from the remaining 20 contestants, to become this year’s overall winner.

Audiences will also be treated to a performance by Emma Cherry, an impressive singer-song writer from Ipswich who is influenced by rock from the 1960s and 70s, and last year’s winner, Jon Hart.

Unlike in previous years, when the judges have been musicians or journalists, this year all three judges are employed in the music industry and will be involved in the competition’s after package.

Among other prizes, including performances at Festivals throughout England and a £100 voucher to be used at Sounds Plus in Bury, this year’s winner will have the opportunity to produce an album and will be given studio time to prepare for it.

The judges that will make that happen are Nick Duncan, Sounds Plus Music Shop owner, Richard Clark, producer of The Shrubbery Recording Studios, and Tim Goddard, senior producer of ARK Productions.

“I think the prize package is the biggest change this year, they stand to gain a lot more than in previous years,” said Neil, owner of Peacefrog Promotions, the company responsible for the competition’s album deal.

He added: “If people like grassroots music and want to support music on a local level this is really the most encouraging thing they can do.”

Anyone who would like to be added to a waiting list for the competition should email peacefrogpromotions@googlemail.com

Tickets to the final can be bought on the door on the night, or in advance from the Mason’s Arms and Sounds Plus, in Bury.

To book tickets to all other Festival events visit the Festival box office in The Apex, Charter Square, go to www.buryfestival.co.uk or call 01284 758000.