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On Blackheath Music Festival

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Event: -
Hear Frank Turner's Nazi Pigeon Song
on blackheath, john lewis, roof terrace, Vesuvius, launch party

Pursuing a career in the Arts is no easy ride. Get your work and name out there to the public is essential. Unfortunately this leads to a catch twenty-two - no one will know your work until it is shown, but show your work until you are known.

This year new London music festival has been developed to solve just that problem. The aim of On Blackheath is to give upcoming musicians that big break in the hopes that in the future they will be the next big thing in the music industry. The South East London Festival will be at Blackheath on the 13th & 14th September with exciting bands, delicious food, and lots of other entertainment.

John Lewis, Oxford street,
John Lewis, Oxford Street

To get an idea of what is to come next month, I was invited to the On Blackheath Launch Party, which took place at John Lewis. Named 'Best Retailer 2013' by Which? has been instrumental in helping to organise the event, and held the party on Garden Roof Terrace of their Oxford Street branch.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath
Events Entrance

When my dad and I arrived at the door we discovered that access was via the lifts. One of the staff noticed that I had turned rather pale at the prospect of this, and when I said that I don't like going up in lifts, very kindly offered to take me the long way up on the escalators. She was very friendly and well informed, as were all the staff, and told me that when it was time to leave, just ask to be taken down via the fire exit stairs.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace, meantime beer
Meantime London Pale Ale

When we got onto the green turfed terrace, we were immediately offered complimentary drinks, which included ice cold water, refreshing coconut water, and craft beer by the Meantime Brewing Company. Dad chose a London Pale Ale, which he thought was excellent, and later on met with Alex Morgan, one of the brewery's tour guides. Enthusiastic, gregarious, and with a well tended beer belly, he told us more about the company, where we could buy the beer from, and how to get a tour of their Greenwich facility. Now one of the UK's largest modern craft brewers, Meantime has a range of ten bottled beers, which they profile with a detailed flavour scale of malt, fruit, hops, sweet, bitter, and mouth feel. A hundred and fifty years ago the new bitter beer style, Pale Ale, was so popular that brewers had to import Californian hops to meet demand. The Meantime London Pale Ale that Dad tried combines American Cascade and Centennial hops with Kentish Goldings to give it a citrus aroma and bitter taste.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace, tacos, smokehouse, neil rankin
Neil Rankin's Tacos

The London Pale Ale is meant to go well with food that has a bit of a kick, which is certainly what the spicy tacos were from chef, Neil Rankin's restaurant, The Smokehouse. A mixture of pickled vegetables and pulled pork in a soft flour tortilla, they were delicious. Unfortunately there were no vegetarian alternatives.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace, meringue girls, meringues
Meringues by the Meringue Girls

For that you had to wait for dessert, provided by the Meringue Girls. These tempting looking sugar 'kisses' came in ten different colours; each was meant to be a different flavour, but they were so sweet that you couldn't tell the difference, and they all tasted pretty much the same. Dad and I were more appreciative of the free bars of Montezuma chocolate available.

There will be even more foodie experiences On Blackheath, with a Food Stage hosted by Gizzi Erskine, a Chef's Club Meal, cooking demonstrations, food stalls, and bars.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace, marawa the amazing, majorettes, hoola hooping, hoola hoop
Marawa the Amazing and her Majorettes

Although they weren't performing that evening, Marawa the Amazing and her Majorettes were on the scene. These hoola hooping masters will be at On Blackheath festival giving shows and children's classes. Other fun activities will include T-shirt designing, DJ workshops, beatboxing, swing dance lessons, the Bubbleman, jugglers, face painting, magicians, and village games.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace
View from the Terrace

The roof terrace was an excellent venue for the event; the weather was perfect - warm with a light breeze - and the view of the city created an atmospheric backdrop.

Part of the way On Blackheath was helping new bands was by running a competition. PlayOnBlackheath allowed groups and solo artists to submit a music video of them performing, after which the public would vote for their favourite, with the winner performing at the festival.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace, vesuvius and the relics
Vesuvius and the Relics

At the launch party were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the winning band, Vesuvius and the Relics. This talented quartet were awarded two electric guitars, and then performed two of their songs for us. The announcer said he expected to go far, and based on what I heard that evening, I'd have to agree.

It was then the turn of Sunday's headline act to take to the stage. Frank Turner was asked to play two songs but he wanted to do more, so we were treated to four. Before each song, Turner explained the inspiration behind it; a lot of these were animal related. For example, one was written from the perspective of a pet cat and another dedicated to Adolf the Nazi pooping pigeon, who stopped him going onto his balcony. The last was inspired by the day he got to hold a koala, who ruined the moment by smelling like his ex-girlfriend (eucalyptus). You might think we ended up hearing some pretty bizarre songs, but they were all excellent, and not in the least bit comical.

john Lewis, oxford street, on blackheath, roof terrace, frank turner
Frank Turner

Hearing the musicians up close was a wonderful experience, so hey sound that good on a small stage on top of a department store, the On Blackheath Festival is going to be amazing.
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*Bastion Harrison was invited as a guest
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Why? Fun for music lovers
When: 13th & 14th September
Phone: 0871 230 7157
Where: Blackheath Common
Cost: 57.50 adult, 35 under 16s, free for under 5s
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