Big Wheel Blues Festival

Blues rock band King King to perform at Friday night's concert. Photo, Alan White

Blues rock band King King to perform at Friday night's concert. Photo, Alan White

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One of the island’s biggest annual music weekends is set to take place.

The Big Wheel Blues Festival returns to the Villa Marina tomorrow (Friday) to Sunday. There are ticketed concerts on the Friday and Saturday nights as well as two free stages of local musicians from 12.30pm to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, with family entertainment courtesy of The Children’s Centre.

For the first time, there will also be a free afternoon stage at the Strand Centre, in Strand Street, Douglas, on Saturday to spread the music a little further.

The first island blues festival was held in 1999 and one has taken place every year since; previously held in Laxey, but for the past couple of years it has been held at the Villa.

Festival Friday night opens with duo Leonie Evans and Ben Sayers, a real treat for lovers of traditional acoustic blues. They are both stalwarts of the Bristol roots music scene, but who also travel all over Europe bringing their style of early acoustic blues to an ever increasing fan base.

In complete contrast, second up is Jo Harman and Company, a five-piece electric outfit and finishing the night is blues rock band King King, led by front man Alan Nimmo, who was described in Classic Rock as having a voice that’s part Otis Redding and part Paul Rodgers.

King King’s album Standing In The Shadows was selected as one of Paul Jones’ albums of 2013 for his Radio 2 show, the only British act to be chosen. Not only that, but for the second year running King King won the Best Band award at the British Blues Awards 2013.

Opening Saturday night is duo The Red Wine Serenaders from Italy, winners of the European Blues Challenge 2013, who play country blues and ragtime, hokum, jug band and rural music from the 20s and 30s.

Second on the bill for Saturday night is Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra, a six-piece acoustic band featuring guitar, mandolin, accordion, double bass and drums. They play their own brand of Western Swing, Blues, Gypsy Jazz and Country, or ‘North Eastern Swing’ as they’ve coined it.

The festival night will be brought to a climax with a big band sound from Steve Roux and the Brass Knuckle Blues Band, a six-piece with horn section, delivering what has been described as the big city sound of Albert King and Albert Collins, reminiscent of the great Stax recordings.

‘We think we’ve come up with yet another wonderful and varied roster, hopefully with something to please most people, and are looking forward to a superb weekend of blues,’ said The Big Wheel Blues Festival’s Pete Christian. ‘Of course, we couldn’t do it without the backing of sponsors and supporters, so huge thanks to Domicilium, Peter Norris Music, and the Isle of Man Arts Council.’

Tickets cost £22.50 per night. To book call 600555 or online at

The Big Wheel Blues Festival, in association with the Island of Culture 2014, will provide a free afternoon of music outside the Strand Centre on Saturday (or inside if wet). Thanks went to centre manager John Shakespeare for accommodating the event.

Artists from the island will be joined by Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra and Good Biscuits (Good Biscuits are Leonie Evans and Ben Sayer), which are both bands from the UK, who are to perform on the main stage for the festival, but have agreed to do an extra performance for shoppers.

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