Grassroots Bedford bands to share stage with Coldplay

Alfie Templeman. Image: Blacksocks
Alfie Templeman. Image: Blacksocks

Alfie Templeman, Low Girl and Coldplay all have two things in common – they are all on the Luton lineup for this summer’s BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend – and they all began their careers playing at Bedford Esquires.

Also representing Bedford on the May bank holiday weekend are Herd favourites, Sam Girling and Ryussi.

It is further proof that without grassroots venues, the arena-filling stars of the future would have nowhere to cut their teeth and stadiums and festivals would be bereft of talent.

The annual Radio 1 festival will take place at Stockwood Park in Luton on 24 – 26 May. Previous locations have included Sunderland, Derry, and Norwich and it is another boost to the area, with Luton Town enjoying a Premiership run

Gareth Barber is the manager of Low Girl and owner of Esquires, Bedford’s iconic live music venue, which has played host to many stadium fillers in its time including Tom Grennan, Elbow, Lizzo, Idles and Coldplay.

Low Girl. Image: Pad Presents
Low Girl. Image: Pad Presents

“I’m very proud to have Low Girl performing at the festival,” he told the Bedford Clanger.

“I started managing them a couple of years ago and moments like this make the hard work worthwhile, seeing the band rise up through Esquires to become a national touring artist.

“BBC Introducing have been really supportive of the band over the last couple of years and I would implore any new artist to upload through BBC Uploader, as it can have huge benefits, a foundation to long-lasting careers and provide vital exposure.”

Gareth said that seeing Alfie Templeman so high on the bill was “heart-warming”.

And Alfie told the Bedford Clanger: “Big Weekend is an incredibly important festival for pop lovers like myself.

“I’d always wanted to go years before I played as it’s always been full of incredible lyricists and melody geniuses. And what’s extra great about it is that it blends up and coming artists together with arena filling legends so well, which is rare to see at pop music specialising festivals.

“So it’s a big honour to come back for a second time, especially seeing it’s only up the road from me this time around.”

But it’s not just pop and indie acts that are getting attention. The dance music scene in Bedford – so brilliantly spearheaded by the team at Herd – is also on the Big Weekend roster.

“It’s good to see Sam Girling get a slot and representing the dance music being produced in town,” said Gareth.

“His Club Attica shows at Herd are always packed and another testament to a venue helping on those first steps to nurture young talent.

“We’re extremely blessed to have so much young talent in the county, going to their early shows is an important part of their development, so get yourself to a show.”

Matt Wolton, owner of Herd said he was thrilled to see Sam Girling and Ryussi getting the recognition they deserve and a national platform for their talents.

“Sam and Ryussi are both lovely people and thoroughly deserve the success they’re having,” said Matt.

“Their events bring a fresh, younger crew of ravers to Herd – it’s like us 30 years ago, trying to create an alternative to the High Street clubs and pubs.

“They’re among a whole new bach of younger DJs coming through which is really great to see.”

The life blood of the music industry

Of course, even festival headliners have to cut their teeth somewhere, and Glastonbury and Big Weekend headliners, Coldplay played two of their early gigs at Esquires in Bedford.

To demonstrate how vital places like Esquires are to nurturing musical talent, promoter, Rick Skilbeck, created a poster to show what the Glastonbury 2024 lineup would look like without grassroots venues. It has been shared widely by the Music Venue Trust, dedicated to supporting and preserving clubs like Esquires.

The poster is a stark reminder that 91.7% of this year’s lineup would not be where they are today without playing in smaller, regional clubs.

Glastonbury 2024 poster adapted to show the importance of grassroots acts to festivals and areans. Image: Bedford Esquires
Glastonbury 2024 poster adapted to show the importance of grassroots acts to festivals and arenas. Image: Bedford Esquires

“Alfie Templeman was first signed to his label by being scouted playing a show in our bar and now his recent single was Radio 1’s ‘Hottest Record In The World’,” said Gareth.

“The trajectory from playing grassroots music venues to playing major slots at festivals is evident and should be an inspiration to other, young local artists.

“Coldplay have actually played at Esquires twice in the early stages of their career.

“Although it was before my tenure, we’ll take the credit for them headlining Glasto and Radio One Big Weekend, too – if that’s OK?”

Fine by us, Gareth, and here’s to even more bands nurtured by Esquires headlining Glastonbury in the future…

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