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Simmer Down reggae festival returns to Birmingham

SUMMER SOUNDS: Dennis Seaston of Musical Youth playing at Simmer Down 2014

SIMMER DOWN Festival returns to Birmingham on Sunday July 23 – in its seventh year, the free open air event is one of the largest music and arts festivals in the UK.

Celebrating the city’s rich cultural diversity, the festival offers a unique free family event in Handsworth Park, where headline acts Jamaican reggae ambassador Freddie McGregor and Wolverhampton-born conscious roots messenger Macka B, share the stage with some of Birmingham’s finest artists, musicians and DJs.

There will also be arts workshops, participation activities, a children and young people’s meadow area, plus craft and food stalls, and a licensed bar area.

Mukhtar Dar, festival director of Simmer Down Festival Community Interest Company (CIC), or SDF, said:

“We’re delighted to be back in Handsworth Park with such internationally acclaimed stars like Freddie McGregor & The Big Ship Band, and Macka B, alongside local artists.

“Music more than any other genre brings communities together – reggae music in particular with its roots in struggle and its message of peace, unites us all. The richness of humanity lies in diversity.

“The main headline corporate sponsor is Birmingham-based food manufacturing company The Crucial Sauce Company whose backing for the event reflects their pride in their roots and values. We have also received support from Prostate Cancer UK.”

PUTTING DOWN THE MOVES: The Floodlit Dance group at Simmer Down 2015

Jesse Gerald, who chairs the festival, added:

“Simmer Down is needed more than ever with the closure of The Drum last summer, which was a key partner and arts-based ally. The absence of a free community festival was intensely felt last year.

“With Birmingham now having the highest number of young people in Europe, getting as many talented local people involved as possible is a top priority.”

This year the festival will host more than one stage – the production and programming of this second stage is being supported by Aspire4U, a CIC dedicated to helping emerging talent.

Project manager Jenna Varndell said:

“The festival will offer a platform for scores of young people to obtain work experience, have opportunities to perform on stage, carry out event and project management.”

Organisers have worked tirelessly to ensure the 20,000 capacity event, which is also part-funded by Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council.

SDF, while becoming one of the biggest festivals in the West Midlands, it is also firmly rooted in its local community and delivered in partnership with local community organisations. There are participatory arts works delivered by local artists and coordinated by the Perry Barr Arts Forum, plus a wide range of showcase performances and workshops organised by the award winning Aston Performing Arts Academy.

Musical history was made at Simmer Down 2014 when international reggae legends Steel Pulse returned to their Birmingham roots to share a stage with Apache Indian and Musical Youth. All three bands still play across the globe, but they all agreed that their return to Handsworth, where they grew-up, was something very special for many local people.

The main stage line-up for this year also includes Black Voices, Ras Tweed, Ras King Bobo, Motown in Dub, Khaliq, Mikey Tuff and Robbie Levi. The event will run from 12.30pm to 7.30pm on Sunday July 23.

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