LIMF is back!
It looks different but it is still very much the LIMF that you have grown to know and love:
A festival that celebrates the best of local music alongside a host of carefully curated national and international names sprinkled across the whole weekend.
The reason it looks different this year is because we made the decision to take it out of Sefton Park and move to a multi-venue city centre model. We felt that this was the right thing to do at this particular moment in time. Venues, musicians and the businesses that work in the live music supply chain have had a really tough time during the pandemic, and we felt that the fairest thing to do would be to show our support for our city’s music ecology by making our venues central to LIMF 2022.
It’s actually pretty amazing that we still have so many great venues to choose from.
Looking back over the last two and a half years it would have been easy for some of our many wonderful grassroots venues to call it a day. It’s hard enough dealing with the pressures of making a small venue work in ‘normal’ times but the added stress of multiple lockdowns just piled further pressure on. Thankfully for all us music lovers, and for the artists who need these venues to help them launch their careers, the passion and incredible commitment of the people who run these places has meant that they are still there for us all to enjoy.
The reality is that running a venue is always tough and the problems caused by the pandemic are still being felt in areas such as shortage of skilled staff, gigs still being cancelled due to Covid etc. Then you add in in the cost-of-living crisis meaning potential ticket buyers have less disposable income to spend at the same time as venues facing spiralling costs in energy and other essentials.
So, we aren’t in the park for all the right reasons but the spirit and philosophy of LIMF is just the same and there is a lovely symmetry in the appearance of The Zutons as one of our headliners this year. Most people will think that this is a debut LIMF appearance of these magnificent musical heroes but they actually made an unannounced appearance at the last LIMF in 2019. Fittingly the reason they appeared was connected directly to the importance of a local venue and their recognition of the role it played in their rise to stardom. That venue was the Zanzibar.
I saw The Zutons many times at the Zanzibar club in their early days. They came through at the same time as The Coral, The Bandits and The Stands. The Zanzi and in particular the monthly Bandwagon nights played a key part in nurturing all these special young talents. The Zanzibar was run for over 20 years by the legend that was Tony Butler. Tony was amazingly supportive and generous to any number of unruly young bands who crossed his path badgering him for a spot at his club. If he saw talent, passion and commitment in a young band he would offer all his support and advice, although because it was Tony it would often be offered in his uniquely grumpy, sweary style.
Sadly, Tony passed away in 2018 and for LIMF 2019 we thought it would be fitting to pay a tribute to such a key figure in the city’s music scene at the festival on our Music City stage. This stage was dedicated to providing a platform for the new talent that venues such as the Zanzibar, and in particular individuals like Tony, supported.
To make sure our tribute was appropriate I spoke to Nick Otaegui, bass player from one of Tony’s favourite ever groups of musical tearaways, The Tea Street Band. Nick came on board immediately and undertook to pull together a line-up that would make Tony proud.
So on the Saturday night of LIMF while 30, 000 people were dancing their socks off in the main Sefton Park field to Nile Rogers, a much smaller number were paying our own small tribute to Tony. The Tea Street Band quite rightly headlined and played a typically raucous, brilliant set. But such was the esteem in which Tony was held by the band that The Zutons agreed to do a short unannounced acoustic set in his honour. To be honest it was clearly an under-rehearsed set and I even had to find a tambourine at the eleventh hour for drummer Sean Payne to play. But despite that it was an amazing, heartfelt performance from a group of hugely successful musicians who hadn’t forgotten where they had come from or the people who had helped them on their way.
It is entirely fitting then that after their low-key appearance at the last LIMF that The Zutons are back to headline an event which is all about celebrating and supporting the grassroots venues that are at the very heart of a real music city like Liverpool.
We do understand that you might miss LIMF taking place in the lovely surrounds of Sefton Park but hopefully you will understand and support the reasons behind the decision.
Sefton Park is a gorgeous location, but it isn’t just the physical space that has always made LIMF special and markedly different from other festivals. We have always tried to make it as accessible as possible with free entry or low-priced tickets and above all else we have tried to put together a quality line-up that reflects the diversity of a city like Liverpool. LIMF led the way in gender equality in festival line ups and we have maintained this while it is noticeable that many big festivals have gone back to line-ups that are predominantly male. Providing a platform for local talent as part of the LIMF programme has always been a key part of the mission and once again is much in evidence in our 2023 edition.
In short, we have still got a brilliant line-up and maybe over the LIMF weekend you will discover or rediscover one of our amazing venues. There’s also the added bonus that if it pours down at least you will be indoors and not getting drenched in a field!
Kevin McManus, Head of UNESCO City of Music, Culture Liverpool