"There's added pressure, but Lytham Festival will always be special"

Work under way setting up Lytham Green for Lytham Festival
Work under way setting up Lytham Green for Lytham Festival

Some things may have changed at Lytham Festival HQ this year, but it’s one event in Cuffe And Taylor’s calendar which will always keep a place in their hearts.

The company sold a ‘controlling stake’ to entertainment giants Live Nation earlier this year, but the homecoming shows on Lytham Green this week are still special.

Work under way setting up Lytham Green for Lytham Festival

Work under way setting up Lytham Green for Lytham Festival

“It’s the one show or festival in the year I really, really look forward to,” director Peter said. “Family comes and I see friends, even if I only have time to say ‘Hi’ in passing.

“Last year, on the Sunday [when the West End Proms were cancelled mid-show due to gale force winds] I didn’t want it to be mine, but it’s always nice to be able to stand there, on home turf, thinking ‘I did this’.

“But it is added pressure if it goes wrong, you can’t leave like at other venues, I live here the other 51 weeks of the year.”

On the eve of the opening night on the Green, Peter said accommodation website booking.com was showing 97 per cent of rooms in Lytham and St Annes as sold.

“Restaurants are getting booked up too,” he added. “It’s all positive for the town.

“We’ve always said, while everyone’s doing well out of it - and yes, it does cause some issues - but while people are doing well from it and want us to keep going, we will.”

Last year’s festival saw events cancelled for the first time in its history. A cinema night was called off in advance, and the week’s climax West End Proms show was pulled mid-performance as gale force winds and monsoon-like rains swept in.

Peter’s confident that won’t be the case this year, and like any summer event planner has been scouring the long-term weather forecasts.

“I’m quietly confident we’ll be OK,” he said. “But it has changed how we look at things, I’m definitely more conservative.”

Peter admits tears were shed backstage when the team made the decision to call off the show and evacuate the arena.

Luckily, the acts committed to a repeat performance for 2017, and all but one of the performers will be back on the Green for this year’s closing show. “For someone like Lea Salonga to say she’d come back was brilliant,” Peter said.

“She’d flown in on a 17-hour flight from Manila and didn’t even set foot on stage.”

Highlights this year for Peter will be Thursday’s Hacienda Classical night, which he thinks will surprise crowds, and the rescheduled West End Proms.

“Thursday will be the real surprise of the week,” he said. “It’s the one people will say ‘we didn’t really know what it would be’, people who’ve got weekend passes who wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to come to that night will be surprised.”

Having the involvement of Live Nation in Cuffe And Taylor hasn’t changed much in terms of planning for Lytham, Peter’s still in charge of booking the acts. And he says his dream line up would feature Take That and Stevie Wonder, but for the former at least, he hasn’t been able to ‘make the money work’.

That’s not to say the day won’t come where the stars could appear on the Green.

This year’s Saturday night stars, Madness came to Cuffe And Taylor this year having previously turned down an approach, and the 80s Vs 90s night artists are clamouring to appear.

“They all want to play it,” Peter said. “For the quality of the production we put into that night, there’s no other 80s night in the country putting on the same quality.”

So now it’s time to throw open the gates, and - in the words of Madness - Welcome to the house of fun.