Lancaster Music Festival Brings £1m Into The City

20 October 2014

Lancaster has hosted a continually growing big fat free festival of music for six years celebrating a large, diverse, excellent local music scene joined by national and international acts. This year, despite ongoing city centre construction and a decidedly dodgy weather forecast the festival organisers reported an unprecedented success beating even last year’s record.

Says festival coordinator Ben Ruth: “Three weeks before the festival there was a Twitter campaign after construction on our one way system nearly closed the city down saying “Stay out of Lancaster”. It had over 300,000 followers. Along with our great concern for our city and its businesses we also had a rough weather forecast for the weekend with flooding in the streets on the Thursday (9th Oct.). Not a good start. And to cap it all this was the first time we had ever seen a public music concert in our historic Castle in its 1000 years history and our only plausible rain plan was “get wet”.

But then the people came. And kept coming! From all over the UK, Scotland, Southampton, Bristol, Glasgow, Lincoln. All over. And from within our city in droves. A testament to the power of promotion especially that of online media. Half our attendance turned out to be from folk from out of town.

And then to add to our increasing relief the sun came out Friday. I could have cried!
We had literally 100s of acts, most of whom live and play in our District performing around 300 performances for a very long weekend to people from all over the UK. And everyone was loving it! Even the police reported no disturbances.”

According to Mr. Ruth last year broke all previous records but this year bested even 2013 with an increase of almost 50% in festivalgoer numbers. Conservatively the organisers are saying the numbers are probably around 36,000 up from an estimated 25,000 the year before.

“We know from reports from venues, the capacity of which we know, visual estimates from the outdoor events and totals over the long weekend that footfall in total would be around 63,000 compared to 33,000 last year. Realistically this translates to a figure somewhere between the known maximum attendance at any one time (10,400) and the total footfall.

Based on previous economic assessment surveys from 2011 and adjusted for inflation this could reasonably relate to a staggering £970,000 spend to the local economy. And at a time when the city businesses really need it. If the city’s empty ATMs are anything to go by this figure may be even more with most of the participating city centre venues posting record sales and all city accommodation 100% booked with many Morecambe hotels and B&Bs benefitting.

What might surprise many readers is that the festival is funded entirely from resources from within the city or the county (the latter in the case of Thwaites generously providing the festival ale) and the budget is relatively tine.

“We have a stated goal not to depend on arts funding as we support musicians and the venues who host them both of whom are businesses so we want to run our festival on business, not charitable lines. Currently, our production budget for the entire festival is at £24K. It may rise to £27 once we finalise the books but it will be under £30K. Yet we probably brought in nearly £1million to the city. We think that’s a return on investment that potential sponsors should and will take notice of.”

According to the festival organisers the Lancaster Business Improvement District provided about half of the funding with the rest from the participating venues and local businesses.

Economics are important of course but the repeated remarks about this year’s festival was the wonderful atmosphere. Even a week later it seems everyone in Lancaster is talking about this.

“I ordered a curry from my favourite Indian restaurant a few days after the festival and the owner said how everyone in the restaurant was just talking about the festival and the acts that they’d seen, the crazy nun on the mobile piano, the kids singing on the plinth, the concerts at the Castle.

Again, and again I and the rest of the team are stopped on the street and thanked. It’s like being a celebrity which is weird ‘cos I hate the whole celeb culture nonsense and yet we’re being feted like ones in our own city!”

Nine international acts all commented how friendly Lancaster was and what a marvellous city. They all want to come back in 2014 so expect roaring funk again from USA act Sensory Hoverload, soul from Canada’s Andria Simone, extraordinary jazz from Israel’s Shalosh, glockenspiel wizardry from Switzerland’s Heidi Happy, triple finger picking from Austin’s Ragged Union Bluegrass Band, fantastical avant garde Swedish Theremin from Gibrish and extraordinary vox pop from Poland’s U Fly topped off with brassy West Coast rock and roll with San Diego’s Lacy Younger along with storming local favourites who mashed it at the Castle The Feud, Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co and the ballistic boogaloo of Get Carter at the Park to name a few.

Lancaster was truly alive as sung loud and on air by local musician and festival team member Chris Price whose ditty also featured on the local Bay Radio jingle leading up to the festival.

Not content with one festival song, outdoor events coordinator Lucy Reynolds ran a Looping Lancaster the Friday before the festival as part of the Lancaster Arts Partnership and came up with the often sung and prescient “Lancaster Music Festival – Take Monday Off, Take Monday Off, Take Monday Off”.

And the call for an unofficial Bank Holiday by Lucy’s choristers may well have happened judging by the good attendance at the various chill out events during the day on Monday 13th and the storming soul funk at the last concert from Toronto’s Andria Simone band at the Penny Street Bridge Hotel crammed to the rafters with happy revellers. All topped off with a ballistic Latin soul jam with Sensory Hoverload and Tel Aviv jazz pianist Gadi from Shalosh.

(The local branch of Barclays even got in the swing of things with busking in the bank. Even after official business was over.)

The Lancaster Music Festival team are very confident about the future.

Ben Ruth. “The fact that an event with quite a lot stacked up against it could succeed at such a scale was a surprise to all of us not least the festival team. With this one working as well as it did, apart from a difference of climate, we really don’t see any reason whatsoever why Lancaster cant’ aspire to the international renown enjoyed by Austin, Texas’ SXSW. After all we have even more music venues in walking distance. And we have this amazing infrastructure. And finally, we now have this big fat huge historic wonderful castle to play in!

I can’t wait to next year!”

General enquiries to: [email protected]

Please note: Music for 2015 will be open from the website from Dec. 1st. Stall holders interested in taking part in 2015 are also asked to check the website after Dec. 1st.


“My best festival of the year for the second year running”
Nick Lakin, Lancaster Guardian, 16th Oct. 2014

“I’ve found some new bands to love because of this festival, it was rammed everywhere! Thanks.”
Local festival-goer from Lancaster 

“You helped make Lancaster a much better place to visit! Brilliant!”
Visitor from Manchester

“Such an amazing event! Will definitely be there next year.”
Visitor from Wigan

“Your festival was awesome! We can’t wait to be back next year”
Andria Simone (Toronto)

“I never thought I would listen to rap in Market Square or the Haffner Orchestra in St Nics, awesome!”
Local festival-goer from Lancaster

“I knew I should have taken Monday off to extend the experience!”
Local festival-goer from Lancaster

“Opening the Castle was brilliant. The diversity of acts was awesome. Lancaster was alive!”
Visitor from Cumbria

LINKS AND ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: (festival home page) (Festival Facebook page) (Festival Twitter feed) (performance schedule) (act information) (venue information)

Lancaster Visitor Information Centre,
The Storey Creative Industries, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster, LA1 1TH
Email: [email protected] 
Online shop:
Call:  01524 582394


Lancaster Music Festival does not rely on any outside grant funding but is self-funded by the participating venues and local businesses and organisations including Lancaster BID, NUBLUE, SAMflims, Thwaites, @Lancaster Magazine, Lancaster Brewery, Bay Tourism,, CME Artist Services, St. Nicholas Arcade, Penny Street Bridge Hotel, Holiday Inn, Choctaw Media, Back Room SAM and local businesses advertising in the festival brochure. Any business wishing to sponsor the 2015 festival in any way please contact Ben Ruth, Festival Coordinator on 01524 380990 or by email at [email protected].

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