The first weekend of August 2018 saw the return of the brilliant Bedford Park Concerts. I had an absolute blast last year, so I was excited to attend
again. For those of you who are not already award, this is a three day event that begins on the Friday evening and comes to a close on the Sunday. The
organisers have never failed to provide a fantastic line up. Previously they have given us performances from Jason Donavon, Tom Jones, UB40, Dizzee
Rascal, Kaiser Chiefs and more. Once more for 2018, ticketholders were able to make memories with friends and family whilst watching yet another
handful of brilliant acts.
Upon entering the site at Bedford Park, I could see a wide variety of food vendors, ranging from fish and chips and pizza to vegan street food and
sweets. Also there was an abundance of bathroom facilities and access to a couple of different bars serving everyones favourite beverages. Also importantly, the teams from the brilliant St Johns Ambulance were placed in their own gazebo at the back of the park and also stationed on patrol at various locations around the site. As previous
years the event was sponsored by BMW Barons Bedford, so there was also an array of automotive beauties on display and test drive booking options.
Friday 3rd August i had the weekend kicking off to a great start. The entier evening was filled with chilled reggae and soulful vibes. At times I even
felt like I was being transported to a beautiful beach covered in white sand with crystal clear waters in my mind. It was one of the most chilled out gigs I have ever been to.
Which was really quite nice and very enjoyable. During this relaxed segment of the evening we got to see performances from British Reggae band ASWAD,
who are best known for their infectious hit singles ‘Don’t Turn Around’ and ‘Shine’. To which were the final two songs of their set.
Also Friday evening brought us a brilliant segment from The Christians, the band had celebrated the achievement of 30 years together just last year. The band from
Liverpool have also seen huge success in their debut album which sold over a million copies. Their set included their first single ‘Forgotten Town’
which turned out to be quite apt as they had to ask the audience exactly where they were performing which was quite amusing. We also got to see them
perform their cover of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ which was originally performed by The Beatles after the song was written by George Harrison.
The next act certainly took it up a notch as she ramped up the energy while she dominated the stage.That lady was the sensational Jaki Graham. She
stood out in her eyecatching fringed attire while wowing us with her vocals. It was clear to see she could not wait for her turn to be on the stage.
Graham appeared to be so genuinely happy to perform, she even stated “I came out feeling like Jaki no mates,but here you all are, I love you” which was
followed by plenty of air kisses to the crowds of people before her. From Jaki, we heard hits including ‘Could It Be Im Falling In Love?’, ‘Ain’t
Nobody’ and even new music including the title track of her new album, ‘When A Woman Loves‘.
Of course, this night belonged to one man, the legend that is Mr Billy Ocean. The Trinidadian-English recording artist is well known for his catchy
R&B pop hits, predomintally in the 1970s and 1980s. I was born in the late 1980s but even I can appreciate his amazing talent and infamous hits.
People of all ages were so excited to see this man perform live. Billy’s set was clean cut while he showcased his smooth moves as he dazzled in a
brilliant white suit. Billy Ocean may not be as young as he once was, but this performance proved that age certainly is just a number. His
performance was one of nostalgia and high emotion as he serenaded us with singles including ‘Caribbean Queen’, ‘When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough
Gets Going’, ‘Suddenly’ and the huge ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’.
On Saturday 4th August, we got to see a very different line up compared to the previous evening. The evening was filled with pop and dance tunes. We
saw performances from up and coming solo act Hannah Jane Lewis, DJ sets in between main acts, male solo artist Sam Willis, who was sat for most of his
set behind a keyboard playing beautiful music and gracing us with vocals that could closely be likened to international pop star Bruno Mars. So if
you’re looking for musical “Treasure” be sure to check out Sam’s music. Also there was a very lively set from the band that gave birth to Harry Styles’
music career. White Eskimo. The quartet rock-pop band were all smartly dressed in fitted black suits and slim ties around their necks as they gave us
quite the show. They certainly knew how to work their magic on the audience, especially impressionable girls within their teenage years. Although,
some did try to cause a stir by chanting “Harry!, Harry!, Harry!”, the lads remained focused and professional as they were seen laughing off the little
stunt and carried on with a brilliant display of musical genuis. The down to earth band members clearly loved to play up to the cameras and also took
time out after their set for a meet and greet with their fans at the VW Campervan style photobooth on site.
What impressed me most about these performances weren’t actually anything to do with the acts at all. I can’t continue with this review without mentioning some of the best talent that I saw all weekend. Just to the leftof the stage as the acts were live, also live were some people communicating in British Sign Language. These talented people were performing songs along with the acts on stage. What a phenominal idea! I’ve been to a lot of gigs and festivals since becoming a writer for such events and never once had I seen this at any other event before. Bedford Park Concerts are one of the small handful of events that actually include this thoughtful feature to their line up.
Shortly after 8pm, hundreds of people were seen moving as close to the front of the stage as they could possibly get, as something exciting was about
to take place in the park. All over the site I could hear chanting demanding “We want Jess!, We Want Jess!” Everyone was stood waiting in ancitipation
for female solo artist Jess Glynne. The music scene first intriduced us to the female soloist back in 2014 upon the UK release of Clean Bandit’s
mammoth single ‘Rather Be’. Jess‘ vocals shone on the track.
Although a little later than expected, Jess walked out onto the stage, gave everyone a quick “hello” and got straight down to business to perform the
first song of her set, ‘Ain’t Got Far To Go’. The chart topper also included her well known string of hits such as ‘Right Here’, ‘Don’t Be So Hard On
Yourself’ and ‘Hold My Hand’ before then slowing things down to what I can only state was a very emotional segment of her time on stage at Bedford
Park. Glynne stood quietly at the front of the stage to introduce her next song of the evening and then dedicated it to a young girl and her mother.
She continued to say “before I came on stage tonight, I got to meet a very special young girl, she’s so special and deserves some love”. The singer
then continued to sing her balled ‘Home’. Many sang along as they swayed their hands gently through the air. It was rather difficult to hold back the
tears during this stage to be honest. It wasa beautiful and heartfelt few moments. Jess Glynne is well known for her upbeat pop
tracks, so the pace was picked up once again, getting everyone into the party mood they came to experience. This performance brought so much to the
weekend’s event. Fun, emotion and pure pop brilliance!
To close saturday night, the organisers of the concerts had the perfect plan. To end the night on a huge party! Woo Hoo! Bring on Felix Buxton and
Simon Ratcliffe, aka Basement Jaxx! The duo hit the stage and took their place behind a huge DJ deck as they pumped out some ravetastic tunes. As they
played remixed of their own hits including the mighty ‘Red Alert‘, crowds of people were jumping around like hyper school children without a care in
the world. All under a fantastic laser light show. What a way to end the night!
As with previous years, the final day of frivolities at Bedford Park brought the most pompous yet patriotic day of my festival season calendar. The
Bedford Park Proms. Proms day has always been known to feature performances showcasing a variety of renditions of songs from musicals and film
soundtracks. Before attending the event that day, I had said to my partner (to quote myself) “I guaruntee that we will hear music probably the biggest
film sountrack of the last year, The Greatest Showman”. Yes,I was pleasantly 100% right! It’s a soundtrack that I personally love to listen to very
regularly, so I was excited to witness the children of the Pilgrims School Choir sing ‘A Million Dreams’ followed by the Bedford Girls School Choir
singing their version of ‘The Greatest Show’ – which had a brilliant foot tapping routine to go with it. Parents, teachers and pupils from both school choirs should
feel incredibly proud of their efforts during their performances.
What was fresh to see was a a brilliant set from the very talented Joe Bygraves. It was like watching a protege of Ed Sheeran’s standing on stage with
an acoustic guitar and soft vocals. He and his music were definitely a bighighlight of the day in my opinion. Not only did he perform his own
versions of songs including Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ and Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, he also had a great range of original songs to offer too, including ‘Childhood Sweetheart‘ and another, which was inspired by the fiesty fictitious character Daenarys Targaryen from the popular TV series Game Of Thrones. Joe’s music can currently be found on both Spotify and itunes. I highly recommend you check him out – especially if you’re a big fan of a certain red headed guitar playing male
The official start to the Proms begins now! The Bedford Town Band kicked things off with a pretty impressive feature. All of their music was taken
from the 1996 film ‘Brassed Off’ which starred Ewan McGregor.
Of course, the Bedford Park Proms wouldn’t be the same without the return of the mesmerising talents that make up the London Gala Orchestra. I’m no
classical music buff, but I didn’t need to be to appreciate just how magical their symphonies can be. They even had me singing rather loudly “Just One
Cornetto!” (Some of you will know what I am referring to there) haha. During some performances the orchestra were also joined by other guests including
the Bedford Choral Society and of course the evening’s operatic soloists. Tenor Jeff Stewart and the nation’s musical sweetheart Lesley Garrett. Both
were intruguing and enchanting to watch as they performed both alone and together. The pair even at one point sang a beautiful duet while drinking a
glass of tipple and dancing as if they were ready for the wow at the ballroom.
Lastly in true proms style to end the evening and the weekend long event, the site was filled with sea of red, white and blue flags and costumes during
a very british and patriotic segment before the big finale! A very spectacular firework display that filled the air with colour and sparkle and
contentment in our hearts.
There is no doubt about it that the organisers of this annual event deserve a huge round of applause and a pat on the back for yet another job well
done and a successful 2018 weekend event. I loved every minute of last year, I had so much fun this year, and preparations for next year’s weekend are
already underway. I only hope I will be lucky enough to attend as a reviewer for a third time in 2019.
For more photos click below
All photos by Kane Howie www.kanehowiephotography.co.uk