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Beacons Goes Metropolitan

9 September 2015
Beacons Goes Metropolitan
Scrambling out of my tent in a more than fragile state to be greeted by the majestic rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the campsite unfolding below me; escaping from a torrential downpour in a little tent away from the rest of the festival site to see Julia Holter in the most intimate venue possible; being brought on stage by Summer Camp followed by them forcing the audience to sing happy birthday to me: Beacons Festival has given me plenty of memories over the years.

Beacons Metro - Article 1Imagery provided by Beacons Metro

And it’s given organiser Sam Hopkins plenty as well, “There’ve been so many over the years, but the biggest stand out, performance wise, was Jon Hopkins last year, just for the sheer spectacle of the light balls going over the crowd throughout the set. His whole production was incredible. We knew that it was going to happen, but were blown away when we actually saw it”

Beacons was a humble little boutique festival that wasn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries in terms of its line-ups. You’d easily find Danny Brown alongside Wire, The Fall alongside Speedy Ortiz; so confident in the curation of its bill that no artist ever felt out of place. Couple that with a ridiculous selection of street food that heralded the boom of the street food scene in Yorkshire and a selection of ales that gave you enough choice that you’d always want to try something new, and you had a festival that was quickly gathering steam to become a serious summer festival contender.

Which is why I couldn’t help but feel saddened when they announced back in February that Beacons was leaving the beautiful surroundings of the Yorkshire Dales. But, like Lazarus, Beacons was to be reborn.

Facing weather that one might generously describe as Biblical, Sam and the rest of the team thought it best to try something different. “With the opening of our new venue, Headrow House, in the Autumn we saw it as an opportunity to bring the kind of artists and events Beacons made a name for itself with into a city setting. It gives people the opportunity to experience our adventurous programming without worrying about their tents sailing away through Skipton.”

The ability to party all night long was another defining factor, “Out in the fields the noise curfew is incredibly strict because sound travels further. We were having to shut off most of the music from midnight. In the City we have a much later licence and can go pretty much all night if the show benefits from it. With Daniel Avery and Christian Löµer we’re able to go ‘til 4 or 5 am, which is perfect.”

And thus we welcome Beacons Metro, transformed from a one-weekend blowout into a carefully curated 12-week programme of events across Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool this autumn/winter season. The next chapter feels like a whole other beast, but one that seems to want to retain that magical community spirit with a focus on spreading that to an even wider audience.

“It allows for a much bigger scope of acts,” said Sam about why they chose to make it a programme of events rather than your standard festival. “We’re not restricted to who’s touring on a specific weekend and it gives us a bit more freedom in curating line ups; we can take a few more risks on some acts.”

Beacons Metro - Article 2Imagery provided by Beacons Metro

Most excitingly, as mentioned, Beacons Metro will herald the grand opening of Headrow House, a 3-storey, 11,000 square foot former textiles mill that has lain dormant for 15 years. It’s always a great sight to see unused spaces being given the arts and, with the stellar line up that is set to grace the venue over the course of the 12 weeks, Headrow House is certainly going to be another great addition to Leeds’ arts arsenal.

It’s not just Headrow House pulling the weight. Established Leeds hot spot Belgrave Music Hall is playing host to a few events, as is Manchester’s grand Albert Hall, in which the ever enigmatic goofball Mac De Marco will be the first major event, bringing a whole day of exciting new artists with him, including The Big Moon.

With a line up that includes the likes of Everything Everything, Titus Andronicus, Slug, Noisemongers Factory Floor and former Late of the Pier frontman Sam Eastgate’s new project LA Priest, the variety of amazing acts is staggering.

Sam already has his top picks set, “East India Youth, Lonelady and Christian Löffler since it’s the opening weekend in a brand new space. That’s really exciting at the minute. Seeing it all come together from the start and finally seeing Headrow House filled with people having a good time.”

The defining ethos behind the festival is a simple one, “We just want to curate a really great showcase of exciting music, from across the country and the world,” says Sam. “The bottom line though is that we want people to have a good time, especially since we’re outside of Summer and festival season. Autumn can get bleak, we want to try make it a bit more fun.”

It’s a far reaching line-up of events that is sure to keep anyone and everyone happy. And with tickets ranging from absolutely nothing to barely more than £20, Beacons Metro really is as accessible as can be, opening up a whole new world of discovery under that iconic Beacons name.

By Chris Taylor
I am a casual freelance music writer for Leeds Living frequently attending various gigs and festivals around the city of Leeds