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Festival programme Split nicely between headliners and up-and-comers

The Futureheads' Ross Millard says programming the homegrown new music stage is just as important as getting the big names

The launch of the Split Festival, in Mowbray Park, Sunderland
The launch of the Split Festival, in Mowbray Park, Sunderland

There’s no doubt that when putting together a bill for a music festival, securing headliners who will put bums on weatherproof sheets is a fundamental requirement.

Safe to say that the organisers of this year’s Split Festival - namely Futurehead bandmates Ross Millard and Barry Hyde - have ticked that box.

Dizzee Rascal, Maximo Park, The Cribs, Ocean Colour Scene (acoustic), Gruff Rhys and Tom Vek are among the top drawer talent which has been secured for the return of the Wearside event, for the first time taking place in Sunderland city centre’s Mowbray Park.

But more exciting, as far as music programmer Ross is concerned, has been the assembling of tuneful North East talent, which has been given its own dedicated stage.

Ross Millard from the Future Heads
Ross Millard from the Future Heads
 

“For the first time we’ve got three fully blown stages which are all devoted to music, with the third one being entirely local artists,” he says.

“In terms of curating a festival like Split, the local element is actually one of the most exciting elements,” he continues.

“With the main stage I suppose your hand is slightly forced to an extent in terms of budget, availability of certain artists and all that kind of thing.

“But having been going for five years now, Split is really well established on the local circuit, so every Springtime, we get hundreds and hundreds of submissions from North East artists who want to play.

“It’s very difficult to whittle that number down to 20-or-so acts to play on the stage over two days, but of course that’s a nice problem to have.

“What we have got this year is a really good spread of local artists who are well on the way to making a name for themselves - either because they’ve released an album, or toured the UK a couple of times or something - mixed with young bucks who are really just starting out.”

Iceni are playing at the Split Festival
Iceni are playing at the Split Festival
 

When asked which bands would come under the latter category, Ross says two immediately spring to mind.

“Schultz and Shade are both bands formed out of Newcastle College and are already doing well.

“Shades in particular have picked up some national radio play. They are a very cool band, with very contemporary reference points and mass rock influence.”

And Schultz?

“Schultz have got this singer who has a very deep baritone voice going on - like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds mixed with the Tindersticks or something.

“They’re a really interesting band - especially for how old they are. I managed to catch them at the Head of Steam when I was just starting to think about putting the programme together. I was so impressed and excited by them that I really wanted them to play.”

Ross was also more than happy to dish out a couple of slots to his old Futurehead muckers.

While Sunday will see Barry playing a rare solo set featuring the new music he’s been working on in recent months (expect a piano and a big departure from The Futureheads signature sound), Hyde and Beast (of which Futureheads drummer Dave Hyde is half) will headline Stage Three on Saturday and will undoubtedly be showcasing tracks from their upcoming - and much anticipated - album, Keep Moving.

“I’m over the moon for them,” Ross says. “They’ve been beavering away in that studio in the bunker in Sunderland for nigh on a year. They’ve had good radio play and the album is out in the summer. I think people will be anticipating their show too. They don’t play live too often, so it’s a great chance to catch them.”

Hyde and Beast are headlining the third stage at the Split Festival
Hyde and Beast are headlining the third stage at the Split Festival
 

And what of the Sunday headliners, Symphonic Pictures?

“This will be the first time they have played Split and they’re really worthy headliners. Just prior to Split they’re all over the UK and Europe and they’ve got a following of their own and a really developed sound. Their line up is very interesting as well and they really care about the aesthetic of what they do. It’s a really considered performance.”

With a capacity of 300-350, Ross reckons Stage Three offers a perfect festival platform for North East music makers as well as being a top place for their future fans to discover them.

“The whole reason behind starting Split was about offering a live music event in a city which is really underrepresented in that arena and having this aspirational platform for young bands where they can share a stage with much more established artists and play to big crowds.

“So as long as we’ve got that tent full and buzzing all day, everyone will be happy.”

* Split Festival runs over the weekend of August 9 and 10 in Mowbray Park, Sunderland. For full line up and ticket details, visit www.splitfestival.com .

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