Monday, 19 January 2015

Beatlemania set to return to King's Heath on Sunday 15 February

Beatles Fest 2015 will commemorate anniversary of The Beatles' Birmingham debut
ABOVE: The Beatles photographed in 1963 outside one of the Regan venues

Beatlemania is set to return to King's Heath on Sunday 15 February as King's Heath commemorates the 52nd anniversary of the first ever Beatles gig in Birmingham at the old Ritz Ballroom on York Road which was sadly destroyed by fire in 2013.

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m top local musicians will play their favourite Beatles songs in an acoustic session at Fletchers Bar on York Road directly opposite the former ballroom.

Doors will then open at 7 p.m at the Hare & Hounds for a Special Concert by top Midlands tribute band The Born Again Beatles who last year starred at Liverpool's Cavern Club where the Fab Four started out.

Bob Prew and Ken Whittaker, joint co-ordinators of the King's Heath Walk of Fame, said, “This year's Beatles Fest in King's Heath will be the biggest and best so far. We would urge fans to buy tickets for both events straightaway as last year's Anniversary event sold out very quickly with fans travelling from as far away as Lancashire, Yorkshire and Somerset”.

The Beatles appeared at the Ritz Ballroom – one of 4 venues run in the 1950′s and 60′s by the legendary Irish couple Ma and Pa Regan – on 15 February 1963 shortly after releasing their second single “Please Please Me”. Originally scheduled to appear on 11 January, they had been prevented by blizzard like conditions from making the 11 mile journey to King’s Heath from one of the Regans other venues – the Plaza in Old Hill.

When they did eventually make it on 15 February Beatlemania had really started to take off and the Beatles were only able to enter the Ritz by climbing up a ladder from Milford Place. In fact, the Fab Four almost had to appear as the Fab Three after George Harrison arrived late by taxi and was trapped by screaming fans.

“Tell them to turn that racket down” is what Pa Regan is rumoured to have shouted while they were practising! But he was a very happy man really. He had persuaded their manager Brian Epstein to agree to them performing for their previously agreed fee even though they were now No. 1 in the charts! They performed the rescheduled gig at The Ritz during a break from The Helen Shapiro Tour on which they started off as only 4th out of the 11 acts on the bill!

Advance tickets for the afternoon Acoustic Session cost just £3 and are available from the Kitchen Garden Cafe on York Road, King’s Heath or on-line for £3 plus a booking fee from Any remaining tickets will cost £4 on the door. Advance tickets for the evening concert by The Born Again Beatles cost £5 and are available from the Kitchen Garden Cafe or on-line for £5 plus a booking fee from .

Below: The Born Again Beatles are all very experienced musicians having acted as support to Blur, Midge Ure and Wet,Wet,Wet. They regularly perform at clubs and theatres throughout the country and are shown here appearing at Liverpool's Cavern Club last year.


The playwriting contest dedicated to The Beatles is opening its doors to writers for a fun-filled fourth year.

Like last year the plays should be one-act offerings of 40-45 minutes long. They can be about members of the Fab Four, stories inspired by their songs and song-titles or any genuine connection with The Beatles.

“A success for Ace Drama in Edinburgh means we can slash the entry fee this year from £20 to £10. This fee will go directly to the assessor who will give all entries a written critique,” said Jamie Gaskin, The Festival Director, who also devised the competition.

“All plays will be assessed anonymously by a theatre professional and we plan to stage the chosen three over two nights in Liverpool. Professional judges and the audience vote will count towards the final result,” he added.

The winner will receive £150 and entries must be in by Tuesday April 7, 2015.

The Ticket to Write team are delighted to welcome Rio Matchett as the new Artistic Director.  

Rio has worked as a freelance director, dramaturg and producer for the past four years, alongside running the University of Liverpool's theatre programme for two years.

In this time she has directed, produced and toured over thirty shows, ranging from Shakespeare to new writing to dance.

She is also a co-founding member of the Liverpool Players, who produce and tour early modern English and Renaissance drama around the North West.

Recent credits include an adaptation of Albert Camus' L'Etranger for the Young Everyman and Playhouse, In Wonderland for the Everyword Festival at the Everyman. Rio's directing interests also include puppetry and the early modern period.

For full details about how to enter the contest go to

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Statue 4 Eppy Concert Announced

 The Statue 4 Eppy Concert Announced To Raise Funds For Brian Epstein Statue. Also Official Launch of Campaign Single ‘Our Friend’.

A star-studded concert on Saturday 28 February 2015 at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre is the latest fundraiser in the high profile Statue 4 Eppy campaign.

This is latest move by organisers to both continue to raise the profile of the campaign and boost funds to create a statue in honour of legendary Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in his hometown of Liverpool.

Brian Epstein took four Liverpool young performers and shaped their careers into the biggest pop band in the world, the rest they say is history.

Now a group of Liverpool campaigners are working tirelessly to raise £70,000 to have Brian’s amazing efforts formally recognised with a permanent statue in Liverpool. It will be created by acclaimed sculptor Tom Murphy, who also created a statue of John Lennon, which stands proud in Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The Statue 4 Eppy Concert will take place on Saturday 28 February 2015 at the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool hosted by BBC Radio Merseyside’s Billy Butler– It’s a fitting venue as the theatre is named after the legendary Beatles Manager.

The show will celebrate the life and career of ‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein through an evening of  music. The first names on the bill to be announced are iconic Liverpool artists Ian Prowse, Ian McNabb and Billy Kinsley & Tony Crane. More names will be announced in the coming weeks.

Tickets are priced at £20 and are on sale now from the Epstein Theatre box office.

The date of the concert is one of particular significance as it also marks the official release of the recently recorded single, Our Friend, official song of the campaign.

The song has been written by Statue 4 Eppy campaigner, Bob Pitt, and includes the voices of acclaimed Liverpool artistes Ian McNabb, Andy McCluskey, Beryl Marsden and Ian Prowse, who are joined by guest celebrities including Tricia Penrose, psychic Derek Acorah, and actors Paul Barber and John McArdle. The song also features Billy J Kramer, who was managed by Brian at the height of the Merseybeat era.

Brian Epstein was very influential within the thriving music industry of the 1960s in both Liverpool and London. But it was that lunchtime concert in the Cavern Club featuring four young Liverpool men that would change their lives, Brian’s life, and musical history forever. He spotted a special talent, nurtured it, and it was a career which would take Brian and The Beatles onto a global stage and brought with it worldwide fame.

This year has seen a lot of recognition for Epstein. The music genius was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after a campaign from fans; a commemorative Blue Plaque was unveiled at the London offices of Epstein’s company NEMS; and the play Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles ran for six weeks at Leicester Square Theatre in London’s West End. Brian would have also celebrated his 80th birthday in September.

Statue 4 Eppy’s Fiona Williams said: “Brian Epstein remains one of the most influential people in the history of modern music. He was a complete visionary who achieved so much during his short life. It is incredible that he still has not been officially honoured or recognised by the city or the people of Liverpool.

“Our campaign to create a permanent statue, with the expert help of sculptor Tom Murphy, is our opportunity to say thank you to Brian. The single, Our Friend, will be released on the same day as our Concert 4 Eppy, the proceeds of both will go towards the statue fund. We’d encourage music enthusiasts who have ever enjoyed a Beatles or Merseybeat song to support us.”

The Statue 4 Eppy organisers are interested in hearing from individuals or organisations who would like to get involved in the campaign as a sponsor. To find out more email

The official campaign website is


The Statue 4 Eppy Concert
Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
Saturday, 28 February, 2015
Time: 7.30pm
Tickets £20

The Epstein Theatre
Hanover House
85 Hanover Street
L1 3DZ

To book tickets please call 0844 888 4411, go online at or in person at The Epstein Theatre Box Office from 2pm - 6pm on Monday - Thursday and 12pm - 6pm Friday - Saturday. (booking fees may apply)


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Review of the Bootleg Beatles

by BBFC Member Mark Wesson

Christmastime is here again and that means The Bootlegs are back in town. On a wet and miserable Thursday night in Nottingham, slightly earlier in December than normal, the locals gathered in Langtry’s, The Orange Tree, The Three Crowns….anywhere to avoid the sky-high bar prices in the robbing Concert Hall. By 8pm, kids from one to ninety two (not quite that young but possibly older)  were seated and ready, a splendid time guaranteed for all. The lights went down, the murmur of anticipation swelled into a cheer and the now-familiar introductory scene-setting 60s film flashed on to the backdrop. But here was the first of several changes to the show from previous years – less than a minute of film before The Bootlegs took to the stage in darkness and then ripped in to She Loves You (if this wasn’t the first song blame John Smith and his very good friends Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, not me). And wow – here was another change. New George looked fantastic, right down to the lopsided grin. It’s been a long, long, long time since Old George has properly looked the business and they have played a blinder with his replacement . Musically, vocally, physically spot on. A side-effect of this welcome upgrade though is that Paul now looks even more out of place (someone get William Campbell on the phone!), especially in the early part of the set when they are in the collarless head-shaking phase. These days Bootleg Paul resembles a slimmed down and less violent Sylvester Stallone making Rocky XXXVI – Streetfight For The Last Werther’s Original. His days must be numbered (in large print).

This Boy, Twist and Shout, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Help!, I Feel Fine, Day Tripper, Paperback Writer….the early belters were delivered as accurately as you could ever hope to hear. They are a stunning band and New George seems to have improved the sound. In fact it is far easier now to spot what doesn’t sound 100% as opposed to what does (eg. the solo parts on Taxman. Not enough distortion. Like Ringo, it’s only a small thing though). Before Yesterday, we had an updated gag from George -  “and so for Paul McCartney of Liverpool, Britain’s Got Talent!”. The song was performed well enough but Paul seemed to sound less like Beatle Paul here. On the rockier tunes and on backing vocals he still sounded great (man) but exposed on this ballad, he just seemed to sound like a good singer, not McCartney. It was less nasal, a little too light. Maybe New George had scratched ‘P45’ into the back of Sly’s acoustic and it had unsettled him. 

There was a new costume change in to dark blue/green double-breasted suits with red silk shirts. I hadn’t seen those before. This was after we had been treated to another butchered segment of the familiar backdrop film. Relatively-New John is excellent but he seemed quite distant, something more noticeable during the pre-Pepper songs. I couldn’t decide if he was actively trying to nail John’s casual indifference or was tired of touring or just plain bored with the early tunes. He looks and sounds terrific but that air of latent menace is missing. Like Yoko though, it’s tiny and insignificant in the scheme of things.

Halftime drinks were waiting for us on a table away from the bar. If you ever go to the Concert Hall, I can’t recommend ordering these highly enough (just don’t drink mine). You are more likely to find a sensible football pundit on ITV than get served at the bar in the interval. The second half rocked and rolled along beautifully – Get Back, All You Need Is Love, A Day In The Life, Revolution, Let It Be. Can you go wrong with such classics? Well, yes you can. I have seen and heard enough thoroughly woeful versions to know when they are actually done justice and The Bootleg Beatles are utterly faithful in every way. The banter with the crowd (acknowledging committed dancers in the front row, meaning they should probably have been committed), the studied mannerisms, the quality musicianship, the careful use of strings and brass….but more than all these is the feel. Through time and hard work they have simply mastered the perfect feel and it is testament to the patience and knowledge of the original band that they are able to replace older members so seamlessly. They’re still the act we’ve known for all these years.

Apologies if I missed a dancing elephant on stage during Hey Jude or the entire twelfth row spontaneously combusting but by the end John, Paul, George and Ringo had been eclipsed in my mind by John, Jack, Jim and the burning need for a massive bag of salty chips. Can’t buy me love? No, but you can buy me a pint in The Bell before said chips while I ramble on for 20 minutes about a fire extinguisher and New George’s teeth. Oh and a ticket for next year’s show. You can do that.