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John Lennon Northern Lights Festival Durness Sep 2007 

NEMIS (New Music In Scotland) blog

Thursday, July 5, 2007

John Lennon Northern Lights Festival Durness Scotland banner

The band that John Lennon made his first public appearance with 50 years ago today (July 6) are to play at a festival being held in his honour in the remotest corner of mainland Scotland.

The Quarrymen will spend three days at the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival in Durness - even playing in Britain's own natural Cavern... Smoo Cave, the country's longest sea cave!

It now means that the festival being held in Lennon's beloved Durness - where he spent many childhood holidays - now carries the endorsement of his family, including the ex-Beatle's widow Yoko Ono Lennon, will be attended by several of them, including his sister Julia Baird, as well as artists who knew him and his original band.

Ironically both Ms Baird and Stan Parkes, Lennon's oldest surviving relative - who will be attending the festival in Durness - were both at John's first Quarrymen gig 50 years ago today (July 6)! At the same event Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time.

Now as well as The Quarrymen, the cream of British arts will be descending on Durness, a village of just 356 people, for three days between September 28-30 for the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival.

But today (July 6) n the 50th anniversary of John Lennon's first public appearance, festival promoter North Highland Tourism announced that Lennon's original Quarrymen, the band that gave birth to The Beatles, will be joining an all ready impressive bill at the Sutherland village.

The Quarrymen - who normally only play a couple of gigs a year - got back together in 1997 to celebrate the most momentous meeting in pop music history. They enjoyed themselves so much and interest from fans was so great that they decided to re-form the group forty years on!

The current Quarrymen lineup comprises three of those five original musicians - Colin Hanton on drums, Len Garry, former bass player, now playing guitar and replacing Lennon as lead singer and Rod Davis,  from Quarry Bank School, at first the banjo player but now on guitar.

Davis played when Lennon was in the group, Garry played with Lennon and McCartney, and Hanton played with all The Beatles - except Ringo Starr - on the famous Percy Phillips recording session which produced "In spite of all the danger" and "That'll be the day" which feature on the famous Beatles "Anthology" album. The Quarrymen, of course, eventually evolved into The Beatles.

The other members of the original group were Lennon's lifelong friend, washboard player Pete Shotton, who retired in Dec 2000 for health reasons and guitarist Eric Griffiths who sadly died in January 2005.

"We really wanted to play this festival because Durness meant so much to John," said Rod Davis.

"We have played all the other important places like The Cavern so this was the missing piece in the jigsaw for us.

"We can't wait to come and play and talk to people about John and those times. And playing in Smoo Cave really excites us. It will be just like The Cavern!"

The Quarrymen play the music which influenced the birth of The Beatles, the skiffle and Rock 'n' Roll of the mid fifties.

The Quarrymen usually only play a handful of gigs each year.  So far in 2007they have played in Liverpool, New Jersey and Russia.

Beatle biographer Hunter Davies wrote the story of The Quarrymen, which was published in 2001.

In it he chartered how on July 6, 1957 John Lennon and The Quarrymen were playing at St Peter's Rose Queen Celebrations and Garden Fete in their home village of Woolton.

They were on stage singing their version of the Del Vikings 'Come go with me'  when one of their old friends Ivan Vaughan arrived with a schoolmate from Liverpool Institute High School. That schoolmate was Paul McCartney and that was the moment The Beatles began.

Later that day McCartney met Lennon face to face and demonstrated his prowess on the guitar. Lennon realised that he had to persuade the talented "Macca" to join The Quarrymen and a few weeks later he became part of the group.

Shortly before his death Lennon tried to buy Durness, where he spent many a happy holiday in his childhood. He previously returned in 1969 with Yoko Ono and their respective children Julian and Kyoko, but suffered a car crash which hospitalised them for several days in Golspie.

Film writer Derek Yeaman, who has meticulously researched that incident, will also be presenting a talk on those events during the festival.

The cream of British arts including top musicians, poets, writers, artists and photographers are taking part in the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival.

Among those taking part are chart toppers Nizlopi, the Queen's Master of Music Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, artist Peter Howson, poets Carol Ann Duffy and John Cooper Clarke and singers Julie Fowlis and Donnie Munro.

Bands like Mr Hudson and The Library, King Creosote, Blazin Fiddles and Eclipse and writer Kevin MacNeil are also taking part.

A whole range of up and coming bands and performers are also on the bill - plus there is even a rave in Smoo Cave. Details can be found at  www.northhighlandsscotland.com/festival or 01971511777.

Organisers also announced that singer Allison Crowe will be coming all the way from Canada, just to perform. Allison has simultaneously been in the top three on Amazon's downloads in the Rock Singer-Songwriters, Hymns, Blues, Jazz, Broadway and British and Celtic Folk charts.

In addition top Glasgow band Popup - hailed as "one of the hottest bands of  2007" by NME - have also been added to the festival bill. www.myspace.com/popuptheband

"We are daily receiving requests from bands and performers from around the world to take part. This event has really caught the imagination of a great number of artists," said a spokesman.

Astronomer Jim Johnston, the head of Farr High School in Bettyhill will even be presenting a unique Skywatch talk by projecting images on to the wall of historic Balnakiel House, once home of the Lords of Reay, while pointing to the stars above (weather permitting)!

Details and tickets for the festival are at www.northhighlandsscotland.com/festival
or 01971511777



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