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From the last Beatles Day (photo: Johnny Powell).

From the last Beatles Day (photo: Johnny Powell).

Roll up, roll up, it’s Beatles Day this Sunday!

A fun day out for all lies in wait at the White Rock Theatre this Sunday when it stages Beatles Day. This year’s edition, the 17th, features as ever faces old and new, not to mention a tribute to the Fab Four’s legendary producer George Martin and for the first time a dance troupe. Nick Terdre reveals all.

Beatles Day is an established part of Hastings’ musical calendar, heralding a new season of copious entertainment. And of course it won’t be long before new musical experiences are on offer from the re-opened pier across the road.

Beatles Day is also an important fundraising occasion for Macmillan Cancer Support. Last year the event raised close to £25,000 for the charity, taking the total since its inception in 2000 to around £180,000. While the fundraising is very welcome, it’s the music that takes centre stage – “We just want to try and give everybody a good day,” says founder and head organiser Pete Prescott. “And whatever we make for Macmillan is what we make.

From Beatles Day 2015 (photo: Johnny Powell).

From Beatles Day 2015 (photo: Johnny Powell).

“We’ve got a vast amount of musicians taking part, a fraction above last year,” Pete adds. This year some 95 acts featuring more than 500 performers have been booked to appear, each act getting 15 minutes. They will be appearing on three stages – the main auditorium, Sussex Hall in the basement and the acoustic stage on the first floor. To accommodate everyone, music in Sussex Hall and on the acoustic, which used to finish in the early evening, will carry on somewhat longer than in previous years. As ever, the grand finale will take place on the main stage.

When it made its debut last year the acoustic stage proved a great success in providing a more intimate setting for solo performers and duos – this year all the acoustic performances will be given there, Pete says. Judging by last year’s experience, if there’s one of the acoustic acts you especially want to see, it will be a good idea to claim your place in good time as this small space can quickly get crowded.

Last year, when acts like Lianne Carroll and Claire Hamill were playing, it was just jam-packed, Pete says. So much so, that at times performers were unable to get through to the changing rooms, a headache the organisers hope to have overcome this year..

In fact, with some 2,000 punters turning up in the course of the day, Beatles Day is about as well attended as it can comfortably be. There are already times when one of other of the stage areas is filled to capacity and access has to be temporarily restricted. If more people turned up, the theatre would start getting uncomfortably full.

Pete reels off the names of some of the newcomers. Among them are The Taxmen from Sweden. He has no idea what they’re like, but like all other acts they’ll be coming at their own expense just for their 15 minutes of fame. It looks like there’s a certain cachet to having Beatles Day on your band’s CV. They are not the only act with a name which evokes the Beatles or their songs; also on Sunday’s line-up are Abbey Rodeo (see below), the Electric Beatles, Norwegians Would and Solo Beatles.

Sound Waves Community Choir at Beatles Day last year (photo: Johnny Powell).

Sound Waves Community Choir at Beatles Day last year (photo: Johnny Powell).

There will also be something of a rock celebrity in the shape of Pete Brown, co-writer of some of Cream’s greatest hits, who has now settled in Hastings and will be performing with some local musicians including the ubiquitous and always welcome Liam Genockey.

And for the first time there will be a dance act – Gypsy John and the Cinque Port Lindy Hoppers. Also keep an eye out for Coda, a local Led Zeppelin tribute band, and Billy Crystal, featuring some ex Hornets personnel.

There are some 29 new acts, including the first four in the Sussex Hall – Bedridden Sea Creatures, Johnson, Diplodocus, Eric Harmer and Friends. On the acoustic stage there are several performers making their debut, including Claire Triance, Emily King, Isaac Powell and Charlotte Dengate.

For the last 10 years there have been 15–20 new acts every time, so there’s plenty of novelty amid the familiarity. There are also young and old. Joby Heasmer is a young veteran, a teenager now making his third or fourth appearance, and one of Pete’s music students. Once backed by some of Pete’s fellow musicians, Joby is now leading his own band, The Revolt. “He’s one of the finest singers I’ve taught,” says Pete. “One of the thrills for me is getting young performers and seeing them grow.”

Following the recent death of George Martin, who produced so much of the Beatles’ music, this Beatles Day is dedicated to him. A tribute will also be given with the performance of the whole of side two of the Abbey Road LP by the Abbey Rodeo Band, which includes Claire Hamill, Martin Blackman, Roger Carey and Pete himself (7.20pm on the main stage). And as is now part of the Beatles Day tradition, proceedings will be brought to an end with a collective rendering of Hey Jude led by Rick Pentecost.

It’s a fun day out, says Pete. And a showcase for Hastings as a musical community –  you can go from stage to stage, you don’t know quite what you’re going to see, you get blues, jazz, rock, funk soul. It’s a great get-together for the musicians too, they get a chance to come and meet all their friends, watch other bands, hang out and have a chat, it’s a bit like a busman’s holiday.

So don’t miss the fun. All the musicians play for free, and all the proceeds go to Macmillan.You can find the times when everyone is appearing on the Beatles Day website, but don’t let that stop you buying the programme – just think, by the time of Beatles Day 50 that, and your wristband will be valuable memorabilia!

Beatles Day Nº 17 runs from 12 noon to 10.30pm this Sunday – 3 April
White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JX, tel 01424 462288
Adults: £12.50
Children 5–14 years: £7.50

Family ticket (two adults and up to three children aged 14 or under): £30
Doors open 11.30am

From Beatles Day 2015 (photo: Johnny Powell).

From Beatles Day 2015 (photo: Johnny Powell).

Posted 21:07 Wednesday, Mar 30, 2016 In: Music & Sound

Also in: Music & Sound

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