SKELETON COAST FESTIVAL returns bigger and bolder than ever for its third year, switching up its location from West Kirby to take up residency on Wirral’s stunning coastline at Leasowe Castle. The castle itself, dating back to 1593, is elegantly decadent and, in the words of festival organiser Martin Moseley, “it’s bloody haunted”. It’s usually reserved for weddings and more high-falutin’ functions, so this year’s event places it in an interesting fix. But, with its shed loads of history and decidedly A Warning To The Curious spookiness, Moseley believes it’s a “pretty fitting setting for a 700 strong crowd of night freaks.”
The birth of the Skeleton Coast Festival was first concocted, Moseley admits, “after one too many sherries in The Coda Maine” reminiscing with Alfie Skelly about The Coral’s now legendary A Midsummer Night’s Scream festival way back in 2003. A stellar day with an even better line-up – The Coral in their peak, The Libertines, The Zutons, The Thrills, all packed under a big top tent in New Brighton – A Midsummer Night’s Scream immortalised an insanely exciting period in Merseyside music, and even left the NME swept up in the buzz; “New Brighton has never seen anything like it […] five thousand people monging out in a big suburban field”. Nevertheless, in the time that’s passed, there has developed a sense of derision around the peninsula as no decent festival, or even a live music venue has emerged since that triumphant day in the sun. Taking matters into their own hands, this was something Moseley and Skelly were eager to change in their first “hairbrained idea” of the festival. After Skelly DJing and helping with band nights in The Coda, the realisation dawned that the area was brimming with potential, and a festival trumpeting this talent kickstarted the focus and mantra that would become Skeleton Coast.
This year marks their third effort, and tickets sold out in double quick time. In their collaboration with Wirral New Music Collective, the festival is loaded with Wirral musical godfathers and emerging prospects. To add to the enthusiasm surrounding the small festival, and nicely coinciding with the release of their eighth album Move Through The Dawn, THE CORAL take this year’s headline slot along with TIM BURGESS AND THE ANYTIME MINUTES. Moseley sees The Coral taking centre stage as fitting as they have been the driving force behind the festival, with frontman James Skelly’s own Skeleton Key record label being home to many of the bands on show. Moseley continues to praise Tim Burgess and The Charlatans’ “huge influence to most northern bands”, finding it great to be able to slot Burgess’ side-project into the melting pot.
Nevertheless, Moseley emphasises that “new talent is and always will be the backbone of the Skeleton Coast,” and it’s this genuine zeal for new opportunities that seems a masterstroke. It keeps all factions of the crowd safe in the knowledge that musical satisfaction is a given, and excitement broods to see the new curation of local artists in an intimate and familiar location. The highlight of this year’s crop will certainly be gutter-punks THE MYSTERINES. Stickers around town have been emerging, emblazoned with the tag-line ‘Who Are The Mysterines?’, yet with no accompanying social media or online music to stream, this alluring question seems to garner no answers. Uncommonly, their mysterious profile seems only to be hyped up by traditional word-of-mouth. After a recent Miles Kane tour support slot and an electric gig at the sweltering EBGBS, talk has snow-balled as the only place you can see the raw, no-nonsense, Stooges-esque rockers is up close and personal.
Other highlights include more Skeleton Key assets in the hazy, harmony-filled psychedelia of THE FERNWEH and purveyor of fine folk and captivating lyricism, singer-songwriter MARVIN POWELL. NIAMH ROWE from The Sundowners and synth-pop five-piece FUZZY SUN are other notable additions to the line-up.
Despite its relative small size, The Wirral’s contribution to the British music scene over the past few decades has been impressive to say the least. Wirral New Music Collective has been set up to ensure this continues – and intensifies – ensuring the hype of emerging Wirral and Liverpudlian musicians is a hype that will never die down. Moseley believes the Wirral is “a haven for musical talent”, yet unfortunately an area with “not a great deal for them to showcase it without having to travel, or being lynched by a group of jewellery shakers with volume readers!” In an area shrouded with musical heritage, no live music venue seems criminal, and has to change; “Every city, town, village should have creative outlets, it’s what makes the world go round.”
Moseley finishes by elaborating the showcase talent is for “all over the North West, not just Wirral acts. Every act we put on our festivals are there for good reason and deservedly so. I seriously suggest you get down early doors and catch each and every one of them, a few minds will be blown.” A statement this bold is enough to turn a few heads in itself, and with the established and promising Northern acts on the bill, it seems a festival ready to turn heads to the Wirral and turn heads to the fantastic talent cropping up around the area. Creativity, music and opportunities must be inextricable with society; it’s what makes the world go round.
Skeleton Coast Festival takes place at Leasowe Castle, Moreton, Saturday 1st September.