News story

Britain’s biggest music festival: a summer of free community concerts

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Communities Minister Don Foster has announced that 250 free concerts will go ahead this summer, featuring the best of local musical talent.

The concerts will be both free for people to attend and for musicians to enter and will bring people from different backgrounds together to listen to a wide variety of music. Over 200,000 people are expected to attend the concerts in July, making the attendance even greater than that of festivals such as Glastonbury.

Compering St Pancras’s ‘Station Sessions’ performances from the Pandemonium Drummers, the Vision Choir and the Uke Choir, Communities Minister Don Foster launched the ‘Our Big Gig’ series of concerts and pledged to make it Britain’s biggest free festival.

Don Foster performing with ukulele group, the Uke Choir.
The Pandemonium Drummers who performed at the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Watch a video of the Our Big Gig launch

Video transcript (MS Word Document, 23.5KB)

Speaking at the launch Don Foster said:

These events will provide free music, entertainment and the chance for people right across the country to meet and get to know other residents of their city, town or village. Last year 200,000 people attended free concerts over the closing weekend of the Paralympics, and just like the games themselves they brought people from all walks of life together. The government is keeping the Olympics spirit alive and making the games and their legacy benefit current and future generations and these concerts are an important part of this.

Concerts will take place from 11 to 14 July across every part of England - from Cornwall to Cumbria and London to Lancashire - with further concerts expected in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are being organised by the Superact arts organisation, with the Department for Communities and Local Government as the main sponsor and further funding from Arts Council England and the National Lottery.

Last year 224 community-led performances took place on 9 September 2012 - the closing day of the Paralympics - under the name ‘Bandstand Marathon’. Our Big Gig is the successor scheme to this and is part of the UK government’s formal Olympics legacy commitment.

Giving communities a say in their local event

The government and Superact are looking for volunteers to take on the role of community event organisers to set up concerts in their areas, including choosing the date, time and venue. Anyone can find out more and apply to hold or perform at an event on the Our Big Gig website.

Don Foster added:

I’m calling on all aspiring musicians and their communities and councils across the country to come forward and set up a free local concert this summer to showcase every kind of music and instrument from accordions to xylophones and zithers.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said:

Our Big Gig will be a real summer highlight. Up and down the country, communities will be involved in running their own music events, in a range of venues, introducing audiences to new bands, artists and styles of music. This is a great opportunity for communities to think big, to nurture home grown talent, and to come together, in celebrating the many joys that music can bring. I can’t wait to see the results.

Further information

The Our Big Gig series of concerts is being organised by not for profit arts organisation Superact, with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, Arts Council England and the National Lottery.

More photographs of the launch event are available from the DCLG Flickr channel