Leo Fest 2017

Ben Nixon || August 10th

Photography || John Morris

Deep in the labyrinth of Stoke-on-Trent’s heart, a new presence is making waves. As my senses guide me, deeper and deeper, I see it. Birth: the creation of a new asset, another facet of our exponentially growing music scene. Leo Fest. The hype had been building in anticipation of the event. Alongside, the pressure of great responsibility. Leo Fest projects a great strength, the potential to ignite the scene, to be one of the greatest events in the city. And it was.

The location, Trentham Rugby Club. A cautious curiosity shadowed my mind, questions arose: How is the space going to be used effectively? Will it work?

Day 1. As I arrive at the location, I walk down a narrow lane, and through heavy gates, I feel the warm pulse of House flowing in the air. My senses take over. I follow the sound. The dubbed ‘Mane Stage’ is in sight, provided by WonkStock & WoNk coordinator, Tim Simmons. Bodies flood around, the atmosphere thick as the torrents of rain. Not that this stopped me or anyone from having an epic time. I find Liz Mathews, the event Coordinator and main brain behind Leo Fest. A nervous excitement animating her (as a fellow event organiser, I knew how she felt). We were joined Event Managers, Eve Sweetmore and Rich Brown, each in equal anticipation of the unfolding event. My first instincts, left me feeling impressed that so much had been achieved in so little time and the atmosphere was pumping.

Later, I decided to explore, to see what other treasures Leo Fest still hid. I headed to the club house to find the ‘InRoar Stage’ (and most importantly, the bar). The names of the stages show the organisers' humorous side. Dubbing the stage names in relation to the event name. Great move. It works. On the side of the building, a familiar banner from Music Store Pro, who had generously provided a lighting rig for the event. If you haven’t visited MSP yet, then do so. As a musician, and event organiser, they have everything you need. And they're awesome people!

I managed to catch a few of the artists in action inside: Rich Redwin (also one of the organisers), James Johnson, Martin Gooding, Satisfiction, and Afterburner - who all blew me completely out of the water with the sheer quality of entertainment they provided. However, there was one band that night that had me in anticipation from the moment I knew they were playing: 10o’clock Chemical. I headed back over to the ‘Mane Stage’ for their headline set at 10p.m (nice!) and was left in wonder by various projections and lights gleaming in night sky. These wonders were provided by up and coming lighting magician, Adam Till, and his company, Opticool Illusions. A beautiful display.

The monstrous sound system stood tall and proud to the right of the stage. was brought in by Ash Henderson at Sirius Sound Systems who, like Adam, are gaining a reputation for their talents. 10o’clock Chemical descended onto the stage, launching into their electrifying set. Everyone felt it. The Universe felt it. A great set and a fitting finale to the first day of Leo Fest. Day 2. I braced myself for the second round. Early afternoon. I approached the gates: I could hear the party in full swing. The weather stuck out for the most of the day, seemed to draw in new audience already seduced by the festival's spirit. Unfortunately, I was on a time constraint,but I got to see a few artists: Jim McShee, Big Face (Nic Andrews), Grant Foster, Dj Liam Banks and John Paul Green, Macious - who were all epic!

A fire is growing in the musicians of our great city. you can sense it, see it in their performances. The one set that stuck out unlike any other was from the legend that is, Carl Wilson, (aka CJ, aka Dr Carl), who was backed by Ash Wall, Jim MyCock and Norman Sole. Carl is a rare spirit that has graced the lives of many and his energy and his contagious humour. The crowd were absolutely mental - roaring with laughter, lost in the show. Unfortunately, I couldn’t experience the rest of the day as I had prior commitments to attend.

The reports from the following day echoed what a stomper of night took place. I managed to watch a live video of Captain Stingray’s Grove Machine and Anu’s set, it was full on rave and everyone was emerged fully into the Leofest vibe. Give it a go. The Finale. I arrive slightly late to the festival, the atmosphere still basking in its hectic glory yet juxtaposed by a fresh relaxed energy that now surrounded us all. It was just the ‘Mane Stage’ operating today and it promised to end the event in style. I witnessed the sets of; Tofty & Bennet, TVP (Trent Vale Poet), Julia Mosley, John Dhali, Goya, Deluge and Kitsune.

Immense. Every single last one of them. The end. Liz wanted to give special thanks to the following: Jay Tilly, Stu James, Dan Elsmore, Andy Pickett, Mark Bradley, John Morris, Adam Till, Mark Crawford. This city is a beautiful one. You find yourself being constantly inspired and you realise how extraordinary the people forged in it are. To the creators, organisers and artistes of Leo Fest, congratulations. You have just pulled off something wonderful that will have big implications for the city.

I encourage anyone with a new idea to step forward with it, make yourself known. You could be playing a part in the progression of not only you, but your city and beyond. You will never know if you never try and ideas remain static without motion.

** Principle of Stretch - “If you can, you can’t. If you haven’t, you must” **