Festival preview: OnRoundhay at Roundhay Park, Leeds

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice

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It’s been a decade since Roundhay Park last reverberated to the sound of a major concert.

Then it was Robbie Williams following in the footsteps of acts such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and U2 by performing in the park’s arena to an audience of 90,000 people.

This Saturday music finally returns to the 700-acre park, with the first staging of OnRoundhay, a one-day, family-friendly festival organised by seasoned promoter Harvey Goldsmith in partnership with John Lewis.

OnRoundhay brings Goldsmith back to the park where he famously staged large-scale outdoor concerts by Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones in the 1980s.

Its family-friendly concept derives from the OnBlackheath festivals that he’s successfully run in London for four years.

“We tied up a deal with John Lewis who wanted to get involved with it and then the food component became very important to it so we thought, ‘Let’s put a festival together with fantastic music, great food and fun for the kids’,” he explains.

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream

John Lewis, who are due to open a new store in Leeds’s Victoria Gate development in October, are partners for OnRoundhay and Leeds Indie Food will be laying on ‘an enormous food feast’.

Goldsmith is aiming to draw an audience of 10,000 to the inaugural OnRoundhay.

“The whole object of this is it’s never going to be too big,” he says. “We’re never going to just stuff people in, that’s not the object of it. We don’t want mile-long queues for the food tents and for the beer.”

Of the music on offer he says: “Both James and Primal Scream are big regional acts who have come into their own this year with James having a massive album, bigger than they’ve ever had, and suddenly Primal Scream are more popular now than they were when they were at their height so that’s a really good balance.

Wolf Alice was the big star of Glastonbury this year. She is really something quite special and interesting, so I think that and with some local bands as well it’s a really good mixture.

“And then we always try and pick an act that’s up and coming. Wolf Alice was the big star of Glastonbury this year. [Ellie Rowsell] is really something quite special and interesting, so I think that and with some local bands as well it’s a really good mixture.”

Wolf Alice drummer Joel Amey says of Goldsmith’s words of praise for the band’s Glastonbury performance: “Wow, that is a compliment! That was a massive day for us, as has been every time we’ve played Glastonbury.”

He adds it’s been a year full of highlights: “I tend to find it’s a lot of little things that make up the year for us, rather than one big thing, as it’s always so different every time you play. You can find your smallest shows meaning just as much to you as the biggest.” 

The appeal of playing at the inaugural OnRoundhay festival was straightforward, he says. “We’ve not been up to Leeds since our UK tour in March and we love it there, so it’s a no-brainier for us. I’ve never managed to see Primal Scream before either, so I’m delighted about that.”

James are among the acts at OnRoundhay

James are among the acts at OnRoundhay

Next month sees the release of Michael Winterbottom’s documentary film about Wolf Alice, On The Road. Amey says the experience of being filmed while on tour was “a little different”.

“It’s hard to talk about without giving too much away, but we’re kind of the ‘living set’ for the movie’s real story line, rather than the main focus. It was fun, though, warts and all.” 

As for how life has changed for himself and the band over the course of the last 18 months, Amey says: “Well, apart from me still living with my Mum, it’s changed in just about every way possible! We’ve seen the world; we’ve been lucky enough to play shows in places we’ve always dreamed of; and released a record that we’re very proud of. Now we’re itching to get back into the studio and see what we come up with next.”

When the YEP spoke to singer Ellie Rowsell earlier in the year she said the band had already been working on demos for the follow-up to My Love Is Cool. Amey is cautiously optimistic about their progress since then.

“It’s too early to say anything concrete on the record without regretting it instantly, as those quotes usually follow you around but, yes, we have begun working on the next record, and we’ve got that same excitement we had the first time round. I really hope it doesn’t suck.”

OnRoundhay takes place on Saturday September 17 at Roundhay Park, Leeds. For details CLICK HERE

OnRoundhay promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Picture: Simon Hulme

OnRoundhay promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Picture: Simon Hulme

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