How passion evolved into a way of life

Millions of children around the world have grown up with a love of music - but not many manage to translate that love into a festival for over 50,000 people.

Millions of children around the world have grown up with a love of music - but not many manage to translate that love into a festival for over 50,000 people.

Jim Mawdsley, 40, however is no ordinary person. As the brains behind Tyneside's Evolution Festival he has brought hundreds of big names to Newcastle and Gateshead.

Father-of-one Jim, who lives in Heaton, Newcastle, has helped shape the music scene in the North-East for more than 20 years, as a professional music promoter.

But his music-loving roots lie in his home town of Liverpool.

Jim's tastes incorporate influences from his time growing up in Liverpool, "listening to my parent's Beatles albums," he explains.

"Growing up I knew about the rock 'n' roll legacy, I heard a lot of Buddy Holly.

"If you're really serious about doing what I do then you've got to know the heritage.

"It's almost like if you're going into politics then you've got to know the political landscape and the political histories, where things have evolved from.

"But also because I'm fascinated by it anyway."

Seeing rock star Ozzy Osbourne in his legendary bat-biting days, when Jim was just 11, was bound to have a big impact.

"My mother fortunately let me go to football matches and gigs when I was 11 - a different world then obviously!

"That's where my love for music, and more particularly live music stems from."

This fascination became a bigger and bigger part of Jim's life.

He fell in love with rock seeing stars like ACDC, Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard.

And when Jim first moved to Newcastle, aged 18, to study at the then Newcastle Poly (now Northumbria University), he saw the then little-known band Nirvana playing their first ever European gig at The Riverside, Melbourne Street.

"They were supporting a band called Tad on a sub-pop tour in a crowd of only 250 people," he adds.

"I like to go and see contrasting bands and musicians. Just because I love music and I love going to gigs really."

Jim quickly got involved with Tyneside's entertainment scene after coming to Newcastle and became entertainments officer at the Poly, booking such big bands as the Pixies and The Happy Mondays to play in the Students' Union.

On graduation, keen to avoid the standard nine-to-five, Jim developed a small independent promotions company promoting local gigs and some smaller national gigs. He also produced a music magazine called Boiling Point.

It was some time in the late 90s that Jim returned briefly to Northumbria University, this time as entertainments manager.

Dance music was at its peak and Jim got involved initially with a club called Global at Whitley Bay.

He ran this for three years with Nick Denton, who went on to produce and manage the British rapper MC Dizzee Rascal.

Jim then became a partner of club night Shindig, who are celebrating their 15th birthday this year.

In 1998 Jim joined Generator which develops music businesses in the creative commercial industries.

He coordinated the week long Radio One sound City Event in 1998 on behalf of the council, and has done consultancy work for events including BBC Music Live in 2000.

He now sits on the board for Culture North-East, the

department of Culture, Media and Sport Live Music Forum, and gives specialist advice to the Government.

Working with Generator, Jim has evolved the festival itself from its starting point as Newcastle 2000.

He remembers: "I think at the time there was a lot of talk that a lot of good things were happening in Newcastle and around and about.

"Generator was gathering speed in helping develop a North-East music scene, and we were starting to see examples of bands that were doing really well that could be commercially viable and go on to better things.

"But there were still a lot of people nationally who weren't recognising what was happening in the region and so the festival was a vehicle to celebrate what was going on."

The plan delivered. Maximo Park who played a small Generator Spearhead showcase gig at the first festival are now back, seven years on, headlining at a festival that estimates an attendance of 50,000.

And that is exactly the way Jim wanted it.

"The festival is partly to showcase local talent but also to showcase promoters and venues and say this is what we can do," he explains.

"It was always my ambition to run a festival in Newcastle Gateshead.

"The vibe is it's free, it's there for the people and it's something just to enjoy and to celebrate.

"It's a celebration of the musical culture of Newcastle Gateshead."

The festival programme is a musical journey across the genres, taking influence from John Hammond, the first man to demonstrate how white music was influenced by black music.

The idea is to see where that influence had gone from there to where we are now, while allowing the different experiences of the team behind the festival to explore their own interests and talents.

"We want to show off the venues we've got and the skills that we've got in the North- East," Jim comments.

"Everyone who works on this festival is based in the region. The essential team that pulls this event together are all based here and it is an opportunity to say look we can do it and we're capable of doing it and it's a home-grown festival."

And the name Evolution does not just apply to the music. "Excuse the pun but the festival itself has evolved a lot.

"The whole point of Evolution was to show the evolution of popular music in general of blues and roots right through to cutting edge dance music and the programme reflects that."

Originally spanning a week from four or five venues across the city, the event now covers eight days of key gigs.

Original venues used including the Mayfair and the Riverside have closed, but the Carling Academy and The Sage Gateshead now offer new venues.

Jim enthuses: "In the future it'd be fantastic to do a two-day event, really get it up there, it's going in the right direction."

Jim, whose favourite bands include Genesis, LCD sound system and (fittingly) Maximo Park, has a musical taste as diverse as the festival.

"I don't really have a favourite band so to speak, just more of a mix.

"Obviously I've got a strong background in dance music and I really like what I tend to describe (it's not a great term) intelligent techno! I have friends that do me mix CDs that I tend to listen to when I'm out on my bike. Quite varied really!"

He is keen to pass this diverse love of music on to his son Leo, 11, and he has already begun taking him to gigs including Muse.

"The thing I'm most excited about the festival this year is seeing my little lad standing side stage watching Maximo Park," he laughs.

Jim's job is not all glamour. It also involves negotiating budgets, arguing, and finalising details before the shenanigans begin.

"It's getting to be recognised as the first big festival of the calendar now and that's something which is going to keep on evolving," says Jim.

* For more information on Evolution visit


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