Why LIMF is taking on the big boys of the UK festival scene

By Alex Dopierala

The Liverpool International Music Festival, or LIMF Festival as some oblivious people tend to call it, has been growing and developing every year, with 2016 boasting a line-up that can keep up with the big boys of the British Music Festival scene. Sigma, Lianne La Havas and The Wombats top the bill, with Wretch 32, Maverick Sabre and Kwabs not far behind. A line-up such as this is nothing new to the festival as we’ve seen Basement Jaxx, Labrinth and even Shaggy grace the Central Stage.

However, this is not the be all and end all of the relatively young festival.

The Academy

As a musician who has lived in Liverpool for the past 4 years, I have experienced first hand why LIMF is something special. Last year, my project, Deliah (insert shameless plug here), was part of the LIMF Academy. This is something that the curator, Yaw Owusu, should be very proud of. The Academy that is…not that we were in it. I’m not that self-righteous…

We here in Deliah found that being part of an academy like this not only presented you with workshops to help your journey along, but also gave you a community to belong to. Not only did we get to meet likeminded individuals, but it also meant that there was a sense of community for the gig itself, with each act staying at the Academy Stage to support each other. Moreover, the families, friends and fan base of each band tend to stick around to check others in the academy out. Three of the acts get judged as the ‘most ready’. These 3 get extra attention, receiving studio time, press coverage and development. Now, although I disagree with the wording of ‘most ready’, I believe that this extra curricular development, if you will, is a wonderful thing. It gives local acts something to strive towards and nurtures those whom make the cut. And, if you don’t make the cut, there’s nothing stop you from applying again the year after.

The Setting

Sefton Park, as I’m sure you’re already aware, is perfect for festivals, with a wide variety taking place there throughout the year. Having this mass of space, and a beautiful one at that, means that the festival can really stretch its legs. Stages have ranged from pop up tents, to the psychedelically stunning Palm House and, obviously, an array of large outdoor stages. Combine this picturesque setting with a dose of sun and you’re already on to a winning combination. Add the fact that the festival is free to this recipe, and you’ve cracked it. One of the best things about LIMF is being able to just wander down at one’s free will, check out some music, have a picnic, fall asleep on the grass and get a terrible t-shirt tan…not that I’ve done that…

This whole ethos is summed up perfectly with one stage, The Bandstand. This seems to be the dog walker/‘picnicker’s’ favourite haunt. Two years ago we played a stripped back set on this stage and found that the crowd just seemed to gather endlessly throughout. One thing that I will say, though, is that due to the moat around the stage, one can feel a little segregated from the audience. Therefore, give the acts a little more encouragement you dog walking, picnicking folk!

If one feels the need to get away from the festival feel for a while, then Lark Lane is just off Sefton Park with an abundance of bars, restaurants and cafés, giving your experience even more scope.

The Extras

The festivities extend well beyond one weekend. The ‘LIMF Presents’ series sees the festival put on a variety of gigs in the city during the lead up to the main event. These nights are often in association with the likes of Bido Lito! and Circus, two leading local brands. To my mind, anything that gets the city interested in anything creative is a good thing, therefore, bonding together to further this event is a brilliant idea.

This bondage…wrong word…this coming together of brands can also been seen in the festivals partners. Obviously a festival this big has some large corporate partners, generally alcohol venders, however LIMF has many local partners. Merseyrail, Radio City, Ditto and BBC Introducing Merseyside, to name a few, join the likes of Bido Lito! and Circus. LIMF also gets grassroots projects such as the Merseyrail Sound Station podcast involved, showcasing more local talent.

Furthermore, for the first time ever, we have had LIMF Radio. This gives the festival more reach, on a different platform. Having been in touch with station myself, I know that they intend to give airplay and coverage for local musicians, whether they may have been in the academy this year, or any year previous. Some of these artists may have not been presented with the opportunity to get airplay before, thus adding another string to the bows of those whom are on their way up.

The Summary

Having attended LIMF as a punter and, having played it 3 years in a row, I feel that I’m in good stead to be the judge of what makes this festival such an asset to the city. A lacking of exclusivity, with no hint of trendy snobbery that can mar some festivals, means that everyone can feel part of the event, young, old, muso or dog walker.

The big stages provide us with even bigger acts, creating the usual festival feel, whilst the emphasis on up and coming potential in the city adds more depth. If you don’t agree, or haven’t recognised any of what I have said, that’s OK, because you’ll be able to go and catch Sigma, Lianne La Havas and many more just down the road, completely FREE, regardless.

Oh, and one last thing, a couple of special mentions. One an inspiration/favourite of mine, Shakka, comes to shake the Central Stage at 14:20 on Saturday. The second a friend/former pier of mine, Frances, also on the Central Stage at 16:00 on the Sunday, neither to be missed.

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