Berwick: the first Frontier

Alan Thompson and Harmish Bell get ready to launch Frontier Festival outside the Gymnasium gallery, one of the venues for their touring music festival
Alan Thompson and Harmish Bell get ready to launch Frontier Festival outside the Gymnasium gallery, one of the venues for their touring music festival

WE’RE right in the thick of music festival season at the moment with Wireless and T in the Park having delighted huge and very muddy crowds, and Reading & Leeds and V Festival still to come, but there’s a new festival on the scene to entertain audiences long after the final tents have been packed away and sleeping bags dried out.

For a small town, Berwick has a vibrant music scene and for Frontier Festival, Travelled Music promoters and big music fans Alan Thompson and Hamish Bell are aiming to complement this with some top acts from outside of the region. The event will run from October 9-14 and unlike a lot of festivals, the action won’t be restricted to one location, instead taking audiences on a tour of Berwick’s finest venues.

“We got the inspiration for Frontier Festival after going to ‘In The City’ in Manchester,” Hamish said. “That took part right in the middle of town, taking people to a host of different venues, a lot like South by South West.

“We came back to Berwick and thought about the amazing venues we’ve got here along with a music-loving public; basically we’ve got the perfect set-up for a festival here.

“For Frontier Fest, audiences will move from one venue to another; we wanted to make the most of some of the terrific buildings we’ve got in the town.

“And even if it rains like it does at so many festivals, audiences won’t get wet!”

The Frontier Festival will host its larger events in Berwick’s largest venue, The Maltings, but music fans will also be treated to performances in a host of other buildings on both sides of the Royal Border Bridge.

“The Maltings was a bit of a no brainer for us as it has two great spaces with its main theatre and Henry Travers Studio and we were also really keen to use The Barrels as it has long been a great supporter of local music,” Alan explained.

“The venue we are really excited to have in our programme is the Gymnasium Gallery.

“As far as we know it has never been used for anything like this before and it’s got some great acoustics.

“Similarly the recently opened Watch Tower in Tweedmouth has a lot of untapped potential and we’re really excited to have that in our programme as well.”

As well as having a varied mix of venues to host Frontier Festival’s performances, the team behind the event have also lined up an 
eclectic mix of performers spanning a number of genres.

“Berwick has got a disproportionate number of music lovers and acts given its size but the bands rarely get the opportunity to perform alongside some quality touring acts and that’s exactly what we want to do,” Hamish continued.

“We’re aiming to have 30 acts across the six days and one of the local ones to look out for is Electric Penelope who will be launching her debut album at The Maltings complete with a 16-piece orchestra.

“A number of industry people are set to be there on the night so it would be great to have a packed out audience for that.”

“And we’re really looking forward to having The Corn Shed Sisters on our bill,” Alan added.

“They’re an acapella group from Tynemouth who have been at a number of the big festivals so far this year and having played a gig in a laundrette they’re used to performing in unconventional venues.

“We’ll also be welcoming back a well known face to Berwick –Derek Meins, the former Eastern Lane frontman. He’s coming up all the way from Brighton for the festival and I know he’s really looking forward to performing back in the town.

“There’s so much talent in the area that we’ve decided to 
award the opening slot at the
festival to a local act.

“We’ll be running a competition to decide who gets this so watch this space.”

Alan and Hamish, who have had great support on their Frontier Festival journey so far from Chris Hardie of Martins, Howard Marshall, Lucas Emmins from Northern Lab and Berwick Rotary, said they were confident that the event would really capture the imagination of people in Berwick and further afield.

“We were going to wait a year to do it but in the end we decided to just plough ahead and get on with it,” Hamish said.

“This year is the embryo if you like and we’re hoping that it will just get bigger and bigger which will happen if people get behind it.

“We’re really grateful for the support we’ve had so far.”

Keep checking ‘The Guide’ for more details on Frontier Festival and in the meantime visit www.frontierfest.co.uk.