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July 2009

RESIDENTS of Wollaton, you won’t want to read this. Your back garden, that glorious park with its majestic hall on the hill, is Nottingham’s greatest asset.
This is the bit you won’t like.
Wollaton Hall and Park is Nottingham’s greatest asset to get the city on the national music festival map.
No other festival this summer has such a backdrop.
Imagine you were one of the bands on the main stage at
Splendour on Sunday. A sea of people, 12,000 or so, stretching up the hill to the breathtaking Elizabethan mansion.
OK, we’re not getting over excited. It’s not in the ball park of Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds or T In The Park or Latitude or any of those established summer weekenders.
It doesn’t even have the prestige of Summer Sundae in Leicester.
But judging by the positive reaction of bands, fans and organisers,
Splendour is on the way.
Suggs, singer with main stage headliners Madness, even remarked on the setting.
“Any idea how much that house costs?” he asked the thousands who’d spent a day getting wet thanks to a typically annoying British summer Sunday.
Out of your league big fella. Besides, it’s not for sale.
It had been a day of rain. And this may be a cliche but from what I witnessed during Madness, stood towards the back of the crowd, no one seemed to care. Oh that cliche: Spirits weren’t dampened...
They were singing along to My Girl and doing their best Nutty Boy moves.
And around a quarter were from outside the county, according to the city council.
So we’re starting to attract outsiders already.
Do we want them? Isn’t 12,000 people descending on Wollaton Park enough to deal with?
It can hold more. A lot more. It was more than double when The Corrs headlined City In The Park ten years ago. Remember them? Ronan Keating, All Saints, Squeeze and The
Pogues. The first one, a year earlier, was headlined by The Saw Doctors and pulled in 12,000 people. There are numerous big name bands who could shift, say 25,000 tickets.
And how about two days or even three? Last year’s inaugural
Splendour was a Saturday and Sunday but while 4,000 people on each day isn’t a failure, it’s not the numbers one would have expected for Kate Nash, Paolo Nutini, Rufus Wainwright and The Lemonheads.
Splendour band bookers DHP had said they’d struggled to find a suitable second headliner for this year. Blondie had been approached among many others.
Instead, the efforts – and budget
– were concentrated on just one day. And it worked.
There were more stages (three music and one for comedy), more stalls and more people. So it worked.
When it does go to plan on the day, when all the tickets are sold, when everyone had a good time, when there’s no trouble
– we want more.
Splendour will return in 2010 – the city council had budgeted for three years. But we want two days next time, don’t we?
While scribbling notes watching Ash headline the Big Top on Sunday, I was approached by two women curious about what I was doing.
I think they call them groupies. At least I’d like to think so.
One recalled the Heineken weekends in Wollaton Park of the late 1980s and early 1990s, sat atop her mate’s shoulders right near the front watching Blur.
Why do we remember them with such affection? Probably because they were free.
It could happen again with sponsorship. But with the recession looking like it’ll continue, securing a sponsor could be a struggle.
Besides, Splendour was £30 for a day. You pay more for an arena gig. If you were a city resident it was half that. A tenner for teenagers. Free to under 11s.
The council and DHP got it spot on this year. Please can we have more?

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