Jessica Foxley Unsigned (formerly The Jessica Foxley Stage) was set up in 2010 in Jessica's memory, to provide high profile performance opportunities for young musicians. Now in its 8th year, the project forms part of the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival. It has gone from strength to strength and now attracts young musicians of a very high standard from across the UK.
This year, we'll invite eight outstanding, but as yet unsigned, young acts to play sets on the two main stages, the Hippodrome and the Muni, on Saturday and Sunday. There the cream of emerging young talent will get to rub shoulders with the superb line-up of professional acts in a truly exciting musical melting pot.
Fourty young musicians have submit their application and the judging will now take place, with results to be announced around the end of April.
We are delighted to be working with Colne Town Council, the new organisers of the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, on our 2017 Jessica Foxley Unsigned project. Jason Elliott, of award winning Hebden Bridge Blues Festival fame, has been appointed Festival Director and wrote:
"There will be no more "heritage acts", only contemporary performers, as the desire of Colne Town Council and current festival management is to make this festival the most important and relevant in Europe; the one that all others will look to for "what's hot" before doing their own booking. A trade fair for the current exemplars of the genre really.
Unlike most large venue-based events that are hosted by cities, London, Cork and Edinburgh for example, holding the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival in a northern mill town gives it its own unique and unbeatable character. We have no need to "compete" as we are already better by design.
Whilst this is technically a Blues festival, there will always be members of the Blues Police saying "but this isn't proper Blues" about one act or another, so the fact that Blues music is the historical foundation for almost all western popular music - nearly all genres are its children or grandchildren - needs to be kept front and centre of the story. After all, part of our remit is to keep the genre alive by bringing in new blood, both as audiences and as performers.
The Jessica Foxley Unsigned project, focussing as it does on nurturing young and emerging Blues-based talent, in many ways symbolises much of our new direction. Our mission of bringing new life and blood, new acts and audiences into this key genre, must span all levels of experience, technical ability and all age groups to be truly successful. This is where Colne can truly create its legacy."
Each year up to 2016, Jessica Foxley Music Projects worked in partnership with Pendle Leisure Trust, the former organisers of the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival, to give young musicians the chance to perform on the festival's main stages.
Jessica Foxley Unsigned is now a regular part of the festival. Starting from tentative and humble beginnings with only a few local acts applying to audition, the project is now widely known and highly regarded. An increasing number of applications are received each year from all over the UK, with the general standard of applicants rising steadily.
Around 50 bands and soloists have passed Jessica Foxley Unsigned auditions to earn their place at the festival since 2010. Some of these musicians have used the event as a springboard to propel themselves into the music world and such is their calibre that a number of them have been booked to perform as main acts at the Festival.
To mark the last year of Pendle Leisure Trust's involvement with the festival, instead of looking for new talent we showcased some of our past winners. They performed on the Outdoor Stage, named The Jessica Foxley Unsigned Stage, to a large and enthusiastic crowd. The idea was to celebrate the success of Jessica Foxley Unsigned and the young musicians it has brought to light, as well as letting Blues fans see how they have progressed from their first performances at the Festival. Here is a little background information on each of our 2016 acts:
Bright Shapes http://www.brightshapes.com/
This Bolton-based trio auditioned successfully in 2011 and played on the British Stage, fresh from success in a national open mic competition. Such was their popularity that they were booked to play Roadhouse Venues at the festival in subsequent years.
Bright Shapes was formed in August 2010. Recently, Jane Smith (vocals), Josh Warburton (bass) and Kurt Crompton (guitar) have been joined by Jonny Gleave on percussion.
Based in Norwich and Kings Lynn, Adenland auditioned successfully in 2015 and played on the British Stage.
Adenland is a three-piece band formed in the late ’00s. Lead vocals and guitar are provided by 15-year-old Aden Gerrens who has been playing since the age of 5. The other band members are drummer and singer Daniel Coyle and bassist and backing vocalist, Barry Gerrens.
Good Foxy http://www.goodfoxy.co.uk/
Harking from Clitheroe, Good Foxy auditioned successfully in 2015 and played on the British Stage.
Formed in the Summer of 2013, the band consists of George Banks (Guitar & Lead Vocals), Henry Crabtree (Guitar & Vocals ), Freddie Bruhin-Price (Bass & Poetry), Callum Sykora (Drums & Percussion) and James Robinson (Keyboards, Harmonica & Vocals).
In its first year (2010), The Jessica Foxley Stage as it was then called was exactly that - a stage bearing Jessica's name with all the unsigned acts that had successfully auditioned performing one after the other on the last day of the festival.
Since 2011, to integrate our fresh talent with the festival as a whole, there has been no separate stage. Instead, acts have been allocated slots on the British or Acoustic Stages alongside all the big names. This provides our musicians with a much better experience (and audience). However this meant that the 'Stage' had become a virtual entity rather than a place to go. This could prove rather confusing if you were looking for 'The Jessica Foxley Stage'!
To address this, our name has therefore changed to 'Jessica Foxley Unsigned', which perfectly reflects what the project is about; giving high quality performance opportunities to unsigned young blues bands and solo artists based in the UK.
2013 saw some truly exceptional talent coming through our auditions. One highlight was when Wilko Johnson joined our Carlisle band The 45's on stage and presented them with one of his signature black and red guitars.
Wilko says it all in this video, filmed at the festival, "If you're at all bothered about the future of music.... you've gotta have young bands"!
Featured on the British Stage and broadcast live on Radio Lancashire, Tom Killner and his band from Barnsley were out to impress. Nobody could believe how young Tom (15) was after hearing him play his guitar! It has to be said he sailed through the auditions with all the judges unanimous about him going through to perform at the festival.
Fresh from success in a national open mic competition, Bright Shapes exuded professionalism and musical ability way beyond their years when they took to the stage. With plenty of wit to go with it this threesome deliver entertainment with a capital 'E'! They are now popular Roadhouse Venue regulars at the festival.
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