Back in the depths of winter, I woke up to the news that following Coventry winning UK City of Culture for 2021 we had been chosen as a host city for the BBC Big Weekend Music Festival, and Coventry's War Memorial Park was the chosen venue for some 30,000 people to gather on the late May Bank Holiday Weekend.
Coventry Godiva Festival for me is one of the highlights of my year so at first I was a bit apprehensive about how it would affect OUR festival that has been running for 20 years this year and so when I heard that it was moving I was relieved to be honest.
As the acts started being announced, I was like 'oh Paloma Faith, oh the Stereophonics, oh UB40, oh Snow Patrol' and then BOOM Billy Ocean! What, Billy Ocean: 'Love really hurts without you' Billy Ocean? 'Caribbean Queen' Billy Ocean? Surely not 'Red Light Spells Danger' Billy Ocean?!
The very same! Credit card out, how much are tickets? £18, blimey, that’s reasonable and before you know it with a £4.50 booking fee (even Dick Turpin wore a mask) my credit card was £45 lighter and I had two tickets to go see:
The Selecter (Coventry)
Jamie Cullum zzzzz
Ali, Astro & Mickey (UB40)
Paloma Faith &
Liam Gallagher (50% Oasis)
Coventry City then beat Notts County to book themselves a ticket at Wembley for the Monday afterwards and my Nigel Kennedy tickets for Monday were promptly given away.
I awoke on the morning of the concert and my iPhone was telling me it was going to lash it down all day, so I started off the day over on Facebook asking people to post links to there favourite songs with RAIN in the title. After an hour of that I headed over to my friends where we having Pre-concert bacon sandwiches and lashings of tea before walking to the War Memorial Park around 12pm.
The first difference I noticed when coming through the park from the back end was how professional it looked and how easy it was to get in, and then BOOM, that stage was MASSIVE. The difference in size when you’ve got 30,000 paying £22.50 = £675,000 brings you, then add all the costs for food vendors and bars and you’ve probably nearer to a £1,250,000 budget. That brings you bigger acts and bigger stages.
Arriving an hour before The Stereophonics took the stage gave us plenty of time to walk around and assess the food options on offer today, and one stuck out as 'not seen that before'... but more about that later.
A quick photo in-front of the BBC Radio 2 shiny thing, obligatory Festival 99p flake that cost £3 and a look at the overpriced merchandise, and we were off to find a space not too near, not too far from the stage to wait for the 1st act.
13:00 The Stereophonics from Wales boyo, came out played their hits, only really wanted them to play 'Dakota' which they did a cracking version of (“Made me feel like the one”) and before you know it, they were off after 30 minutes. 7/10 for playing hits before the Coventry band.
14:00 The Selecter. I can honestly say I was so pleased for Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson and Pauline Black to come out in front of 30,000 people in their home city. Pauline has been a massive supporter of Coventry bidding to be UK City of Culture and I still remember her having a picture taken with David Burbidge, the Chairman of Coventry's BID to be UK City of Culture, 2/3 years ago when they kicked it off. So happy to see Gaps up on stage in his Silver Suit, blasted through '3 Minute Hero', 'On My Radio' & 'Too Much Pressure ' (my favourite), was like being back at the school disco. Great performance: 9/10
15:00 Jamie Cullum: I just don’t get it, I just don’t get him, he’s only one inch taller than Paloma Faith and she’s a hobbit. I’ve seen him 2/3 times now at Warwick Arts Centre, St Pancras Station (which I enjoyed), but there is only so much slapping your piano and running up and down a keyboard a man can take. I was looking at me watch every 5 minutes thinking 'is it over yet?' and applauded loudly when he’d finished. Sorry, just not feeling him for a BIG Park audience, bit of a filler I think. To give it some balance though he can sing: 4/10 on personal taste.
16:00 Snow Patrol. Hailing from that musical Mecca that produced The Undertones, Northern Ireland’s finest export since George Best. Although quite morose in terms of lyrics, there is no denying that Gary Proudfoot's hits are HUGE, anthemic, festival favourites where everyone puts arms in the air and sing along with the chorus, “light up, light up, as if you have a choice, even if you cannot hear my voice”. Thoroughly enjoyed though, did get soaked on and did think they played too many songs off their new album. Just play the blooming hits man! 7/10 for anthemic festival songs.
Then onto the reason I bought the tickets. Ladies and Gentleman I give you....
16:00 MR BILLY OCEAN 68 years old, yes 68, standing arguably 2cm taller than Jamie Cullum and 4cm taller than Paloma Faith. Billy Ocean came dressed as if he was just coming from a TV Interview or if he was taking your daughter out on a date and he wanted to impress you. Starting off with 'Love really hurts without you', dropped into Bob Marley's 'No woman, no cry' before engaging the crowd to sing along with 'Red Light Spells Danger', 'Get outta my dreams, get into my car', 'Caribbean Queen'. All the hits, no fillers, no new songs, had the crowd in the palm of his tiny hand as he swooned and swayed across the stage. At one stage he was so cool he even had his hand in his pocket whilst he danced and sang. He may be grey, he may have the funniest dreadlocks you’ll ever see, he may be a midget, but boy can he sing and boy can he work a crowd. LOVED him, worth the ticket price alone and you can see why so many Festival organisers book him. If your crowd is 45+ book Billy Ocean, you won’t be disappointed 10/10 Star of the show.
18:00 UB40, or should I say the voice of UB40, with the man who sings the rap in 'Red Red Wine' and another fella. Ever since the Campbell brothers fell out Ali, Mickey & Astro went one way and Robin (his brother) and the others went the other way BUT if you want the voice of UB40 this is the one to see. Ali may of piled on the pounds (like myself) but he can still sing and still has that voice. Quite a few hits, and a couple of new ones 7/10 - less new ones more hits please. Perhaps a few more signing-off songs. 'King', 'One in ten' etc unless you are not allowed to perform certain songs?
19:00 We then had to wait for the stage to be dressed for what seemed like ages, getting tired now and grumpy. Then as the band in white came on, along comes what can only be described as a bundle of energy. With flowing BRIGHT pink hair, a blue faux fur jacket and an all-in-one body stocking, I have never seen such energy. Easy to see why Jools Holland likes her so much and books her for his Hootenanny every year. She danced, she joked with the audience, she laughed at her Mum's Oil of Ulay mistake, likened herself to a Skoda TV advert (never knew it was a Mama Cass (from Mamas & the Papas) song) she encouraged the audience to spread a bit of love and she “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh’ed” all across the stage.
Wildy charismatic, danced liked there was no off switch, acknowledged her own music was different to Liam Gallagher’s, but listen and watch - if you like it, you like it. She made full use of her bum to the men in the audience. Have to say I loved it, thought she was great and she smiled through her whole set 10/10
Finally, one half of Manchester’s famous brothers. Liam Gallagher.
20:35 He swaggers onto the stage with his trademark cagoule and tambourine and blast the audience with two Oasis tracks before giving a bit of Beady Eye, a bit of Liam Gallagher 'As you were'. You can’t take away from arguably one of England’s finest-ever frontman of a band. “He’s been kicking up a storm since the day that he was born, sing a song for me, one from let it be....., all my people right here right now, d’ya know what I mean, yeah yeah,”. I thought he blended back catalogue with new stuff well. Was interesting to see the kids in the mosh pit who are massive Liam Gallagher fans and most of them were not even born back in 1995 when I was watching him and his brother at Maine Road on the Here and Now tour with my mate Dodgy. 23 years on, ya never lose it. He reminds me of John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten with his stares into the audience. I think he picked some great Oasis songs to sing, rather than all the hits and if you’ve been listening to him for as long as I have there is a great back catalogue to choose from. 9/10 for stage craft, song choice. Only thing that let it down was volume. Oasis/Liam Gallagher to me was always about the loudest and it was more "we’ll play the hits but we are not going to push into the red on sound levels". Apart from that though #As you were.
I mentioned food earlier on and really enjoyed Greek Spyros Chicken and Lamb (£9, which is what you expect at a Festival) but LOVELY. Please book the Greek Food Van for Godiva Festival.
And before you know it, it was all over. 10 hours in the Park, the BBC broadcasting from Coventry, this is just one of the things that happen because we have won UK City of Culture. All eyes in the UK are on us.
Next weekend 2/3rd June we have Motofest Festival in town with 100,000 expected for that.
9/10th June, Coventry Pride Festival in front of Coventry Cathedral/University Square
16th June Positive Images Festival starts in Coventry
23rd June Great Get Together at Coventry Priory Visitors Centre and Food Festival in town
31st-2nd September Godiva Festival
Heritage Open Days 6-9th September & 13th-16th September
We’ve got a great year of events lined up, so why not Visit Coventry and take a fresh look at why we won UK City of Culture for 2021.