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Simmer Down reggae festival went down a treat

REGGAE UNITED: Music bought many people together at Simmer Down (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

IT’S BILLED as one of the biggest free reggae festivals in the country – and Birmingham’s seventh Simmer Down Festival certainly lived up to its theme of peace, love and unity – a fitting tribute for the city’s famous reggae legacy.

Families basked in glorious sunshine in Handsworth Park, enjoying the feel-good vibe listening to headliners such as Jamaica’s Freddie McGregor and Macka B, the big man with an even bigger message in his lyrics.

ON THE BEAT: West Midlands police officers enjoying the bass (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

The event was a triumph for festival director Mukhtar Dar, who told The Voice it had been a real challenge to stage Simmer Down for the first time without the support of the Drum arts centre which was forced to close last summer.

BIG SHIP SAILING IN: Freddie McGregor, happy to be in Handsworth Park (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

“We had some anxious times before the big day, but we’ve got a fantastic team behind us such as Alex Williams, along with great volunteers who have all worked so well together,” he said.

REVELLERS: The feel-good vibe was catching (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

“Birmingham is a great multi-cultural city and I’m passionate about bringing those communities together at a festival like this where there’s no segregation or division. We need communities to come together and celebrate our commonality through music, not our differences.

CALL AND RESPONSE: Macka B in full voice with the crowd (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

“Music, more than any other genre brings people together – especially reggae with its roots in struggle and its message of peace. This is what Simmer Down is all about.

RED, GOLD AND KEEN: Robbie Levi takes to the stage (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

“It’s also about paying tribute to our rich cultural diversity here in Birmingham and remembering the great reggae legacy given to us by artists such as Steel Pulse and Apache Indian who helped to make Birmingham an international city.”

FUN IN THE SUN: Visitors enjoy the bright weather (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

More than 22,000 revellers came from across the UK to enjoy music set across two stages - artists included Black Voices, Robbie Levi, Leesha Mac, Myki Tuff, Motown in Dub, Khaliq, Iam Malakhi and Ras Tweed, who travelled from his home in France to be back in Handsworth where he grew-up. They were all introduced by dynamic duo ‘Legend of Legends’ Trevor McIntosh and partner Sharon ‘Shazzy D’ Bhola-Harris who linked up all the entertainers.

ON THE MIC: Ras Tweed back at home in Handsworth (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

Wolverhampton-born Macka B played some of his classics from a 30-year career including Wha' Mi Eat and 45, but not before he’d acknowledged the 125th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. Later, Freddie McGregor also paid tribute and got the crowd to sing ‘happy birthday.’

CROSS-OVER APPEAL: Motown cast members in dub (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

Macka B told The Voice he always loved to play in Birmingham because he was once part of the city’s now famous Wassifa Sound System. A vegan for many years and a great advocate for healthy eating, Macka B had this message for the next generation:

KICKING BACK: A festival-goer chills out and enjoys the vibe (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

“It’s not how much you eat, it’s what you eat, so check out your food for chemicals and negative substances. We only have one body, so take care of it.”

IN GOOD COMPANY: Rudolph Walker, left, congratulates Maxie Hayles on the release of his new book (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

Veteran actor Rudolph Walker, who plays Patrick Trueman in EastEnders, was on hand to support Prostate Cancer UK, one of the event’s sponsors, with their flagship campaign Stronger Knowing More. He told The Voice:

“I always love coming back to Birmingham because I have very fond memories of working here in the ‘60s for the BBC and forming many lasting friendships here.

“I’ve been involved with Prostate Cancer UK for seven or eight years – my message to all African Caribbean men is get yourself checked out if you have any worries at all. A simple blood test is all you need to allay concerns. But, my message is also to women too. Today I’ve heard some heartbreaking stories from women who wished they’d pushed their husbands to the doctor’s earlier to get tested.”

IT TAKES TWO: Hector Pinkney, also known as Mr. Handsworth, left, with Myki Tuff (image credit: Harry Goldenfeld and Tony Brady)

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