Thank you for the music

Paul Dunton, founder and chief organiser of Local & Live, which took place over the August Bank Holiday weekend, reflects on what’s been hailed as the most successful one yet…


Having now had time to catch my breath, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the recent 2023 Local & Live Music Festival. Following on from the success of the 2022 event, we have spent the past year working towards the goal of once again successfully utilising Calverley Grounds and the various fringe venues that included The Forum and The Sussex Mews stage at The Sussex Arms.

Local & Live is a free-entry, non-ticketed event which costs close to £65,000 to stage and the money has to come from somewhere, so we are indebted to local business Maxipay Accounting Services who signed up as headline sponsor in 2022 and renewed again for this year. This significant financial boost coupled with grants from Royal Tunbridge Wells Together, numerous sponsorships and donations from the local business community and support and assistance from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council meant that Local & Live 2023 could therefore go ahead as planned. My primary hope, year on year, is that Local & Live will be a highlight of the summer; something for everyone to look forward to and enjoy – for the musicians involved, the local traders, our sponsors and the local community.

I really enjoyed organising Local & Live 2023 and I feel that we now have a solid festival team and format all secured in place that will enable the event to develop and thrive for years to come. Calverley Grounds once again proved to be a wonderful location as a central point for the event and I know all the musicians involved really enjoyed performing on such a wonderful stage to thousands of people. Thankfully, the weather gods gently smiled on us, I can’t express how relieved I was to see the sun shining, even if it was in small doses! The event’s attendance hinges on good weather to a degree although saying that, come wind, rain or shine, Local & Live has a dedicated following that I know would turn up no matter how inclement the conditions. It is this wholehearted support for the event that gives me the confidence and belief to keep doing it every year and I am ever appreciative to everyone who came along and supported this year’s festival.

The atmosphere at this year’s event was something very special – maybe I’d go as far to say that it was perhaps the best yet! We felt so much support from the audiences and there were so many amazing performances especially from our headline acts, Two Weeks In Nashville, Cyrano and Code: Marla. It was also wonderful to see the likes of young up-and-coming acts such as Elliott Graham, Biddle and The Polygons all perform this year. There was also an array of stellar performances at The Forum and The Sussex Mews stages all weekend. I personally thought all the acts did brilliantly and whilst running to and from both stages I did manage to catch some stand out sets, in particular from Essie West, The Fiery Lights, The Ashen Keys, Sean de Burca, Kylie, Jack Leon Mackey, Doris Amy, Sean Alexander, Catching Mangoes, Shep & Co just to name a few! That is what Local & Live is all about: showcasing a melting pot of creative grassroots music from seasoned campaigners like the above-mentioned headline acts to new artists making their first steps.

This year’s programme featured acts of all ages and rather incredibly our youngest performers were just 13 years old. In recent years I feel Local & Live has now developed a more laid-back, relaxed festival vibe. Calverley Grounds is definitely its natural home and sometimes it is the little touches such as having a face painter and arts & crafts for kids to enjoy. Then there’s the brilliant and ever-evolving food & drink quarter, various stalls and stands, all of which help to embellish the event and give it that ‘family friendly’ festival vibe.

Local & Live 2023 could not have happened without the help of my fellow trustees. Peter Taylor, Barney Jameson, Nigel Bent, Charles Armstrong, Anna Howie, Paul Coe, Stephen Goodwin and Jason Dormon. Their collective support has been integral to the festival’s success. Huge thanks is also owed to all our amazing volunteers, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the event running smoothly and to plan. They are all individuals from the local community who gave up their time over the weekend to help out. On the photography side of things I am indebted to Nigel Martin, Sally Anne Low and David Warren for all of their hard work covering the event across the four days, capturing memories and moments to inspire and document the 18th edition of Local & Live. They kindly give their time for free and do a fantastic job. Huge thanks also to volunteers David & Elisa Briers, Zoe Deighton-Smythe and Jill Ramsey who worked tirelessly to create the stunning terrace bar which proved very popular.

I would also like to award a special vote of thanks to all of the musicians who performed and all the Local & Live Angels, Maxipay Accounting Services, our diamond sponsors – Berry & Lamberts, G&G Vitamins, Hazle McCormack Young LLP, Amba Kali and Maddisons. All of our food, drink and crafts traders, all of our big screen sponsors, Black Deer Festival, Sean de Burca, Friends of Calverley Grounds, BBC Radio Kent, West Kent Radio and our media partner the Times of Tunbridge Wells and SO magazine for all their support and assistance.

By the time you read this, work will already have begun on next year’s festival. Roll on 2024!

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