Photography: Michael Sheerin and Keith Ainsworth

The focus on this year’s LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, which is often quoted as being the largest free music event in Europe, will most likely fall on the eye-catching events in and around Sefton Park on the weekend of 22nd-24th July. Summer Jam’s three days of live music bring some huge names to the heart of the city, in chart-topping acts Lianne La Havas, Sigma and The Wombats, and in a series of world-class, one-off commissions. As we’re watching the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and legendary Merseyside acts China Crisis, Mick Head And The Red Elastic Band and John Power on LIMF’s main stages, we can be reassured that the city’s great tradition as a music hub is being strengthened by another strand of this sprawling festival: the LIMF ACADEMY.

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In its basic premise, the LIMF Academy gives unsigned artists from the area the unparalleled opportunity to perform alongside the superstars at the LIMF Summer Jam, in front of thousands on an international platform. It also provides the artists with access to workshops from industry experts on many facets of music production, songwriting and personal development. The initiative is open to musicians aged 13-25 who are looking to take to the next step in their promising career – and this year’s LIMF Academy intake of 20 of the most promising artists has just been finalised (see page opposite).
On top of that comes an Elite Music Development programme, which serves to create a legacy that lasts long after the final plastic beer cup is cleared away from the green fields of Sefton Park. Each year, three of the Academy’s participating musicians – deemed the ‘most ready’ artists by a panel of judges – are invited to attend further masterclasses on performing, songwriting and production, which form part of a year-long package of vital support. This year, bedroom artist turned pop sensation LUMEN, slick producer SUEDEBROWN, and 16-year-old bluesy singer-songwriter ELEANOR NELLY have been named the Academy’s Most Ready artists, heading up a mightily impressive and eclectic selection of musicians. As ambassadors of the festival, the three musicians will play in a series of regional and national showcases throughout the next year, and will also receive one-to-one mentoring with LIMF curator Yaw Owusu. To further cement this opportunity, each artist will receive a bursary of £2500. Quite a package. It’s no surprise, then, that LIMF walked away with the award for Best Festival For Emerging Talent at the 2015 UK Festival Awards.
With traditional routes into the music industry on the decline, programmes like LIMF Academy are becoming ever-more important to the development of young musicians. Since launching in 2013, the LIMF Academy has provided opportunities for almost 6,000 young artists to access the kind of industry insights that would normally only be available to artists on major label development deals. “As an incubator for local talent to reach its full potential, it is invaluable,” says James Murtagh-Hopkins of UK Music, one of the four judges I had the pleasure of joining to select this year’s Academy artists. “In setting up the Academy, the city of Liverpool is not only investing in its cultural future but also establishing a respected platform for talent from Merseyside to shine, whilst also building its own music industry infrastructure that feeds directly into the wider sector.” This sentiment is echoed by fellow judge Joe Frankland, who, as Investment Fund Manager for PRS For Music Foundation (who invest a lot of money in LIMF Academy), is well aware of the importance initiatives such as this play in the music industry support network. “As a funder, we’re increasingly seeing a need for support in early stages of a music creator’s career. While support for young musicians is really important, very few organisations mix creative support with industry development – so when the two meet as effectively as they do through this scheme, it’s only going to have a positive effect. We expect others to mirror their approach soon.”
Another benefit of being named as one of the Most Ready artists is the chance to work with Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Levine. LUMEN, Eleanor Nelly and Suedebrown each spent a day in Levine’s Liverpool studio working closely with the experienced producer to record a track, getting the chance to benefit from Levine’s boundless expertise and enthusiasm for new music. “This year we had some outstanding entries,” Levine, who’s also one of the Academy judging panel, told us after completing the sessions. “I really love Eleanor’s vocal: it’s really special, and with her very young age it will develop further. LUMEN is a very interesting act; he has superb potential: he’s a multi-instrumentalist and has great original vocal sound. Suedebrown is this year’s Micheal Seary, who has blossomed since going through LIMF Academy as one of our Most Ready artists in 2015. I feel Suedebrown, who already has superb tracks, will also develop as a result of the mentoring offered.”

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The LIMF Academy is a fantastic development initiative for the region’s young musicians, enabling LIMF to engage directly with grassroots artists. Radio Merseyside’s BBC Introducing host Dave Monks, the final piece in the Academy judging jigsaw, believes that the process helps the festival to cement strong links to the city’s infrastructure that will reap their rewards for many years to come. “I think it’s vitally important for the festival to continue to engage with emerging musicians from this region: having a platform like LIMF Academy offers an inclusive route in for new musicians, along with additional opportunities,” he says. “It’s not a cliché to say that there are lots of amazing, talented musicians here, so, for the longevity of the festival, building these early relationships with new artists is a good thing. Every year, we continue to discover artists with great potential who are given brilliant opportunities throughout the year.”
“We’ve seen an amazing number of artists based in Merseyside breaking through in recent years,” continues Joe Frankland. “It’s clearly one of the most exciting scenes in the UK, so I think it’s crucial the likes of LIMF Academy are helping the next generation to break through.”
Our legacy is in safe hands.

See all the LIMF Academy artists performing on their own stage at the LIMF Summer Jam on 23rd and 24th July, and keep up with the progress of all the artists in the programme through the regular updates at limfestival.com.

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LIMF Academy at Summer Jam

Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th July, Sefton Park

HALEM
SPARES
THE BASEMENT EFFECT
I SEE RIVERS
ALEX HULME
KATIE MAC
SCARLET.
AZTEX
DARYL DAVID
LUNA
SHRINKING MINDS
SUB BLUE
PAIGE LESLIE
HICARI
NATIVE KINGS
ASTLES
CLARE SOPHIE

ELEANOR NELLY
L U M E N
SUEDEBROWN

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