B.B.C Radio Leeds

Ask any musician what is one of the main pleasures they derive from playing music and many will tell you it’s the idea of communication. It is a universal language with can communicate ideas and emotions, regardless of age, gender, nationality or culture. Music played live is also a powerful platform to communicate with people; an intense and exciting experience for the performer and the listener. It’s of the here and now and that’s life in its purest form. This is why so many musicians hanker after the opportunity to play live, whether it be playing infront of a few mates in the intimate setting of a house party, or playing to a crowd of 30’000 at Wembley stadium.

Playing in Rock My Reception has given us a great chance to play the music we enjoy to hundreds of people over the last couple of years, learning what tastes different people at the wedding party have in music by asking them for requests. Just recently, however, that audience has been expanded from a hundred-strong, at say, a country wedding venue to potentially thousands in the Yorkshire region when we were given the opportunity to play on the Liz Green breakfast show on BBC Radio Leeds in November/ December 2014 and January 2015.

We were first contacted by the station after one of the editors had read an article in one of the regions newspapers about how we had reached the finals of the Wedding Industry Awards in London, and contacted us asking if we’d be interested in performing a few songs in the breakfast slot, and taking requests from listeners phoning in. This bolt-from-the-blue invite was every jobbing musicians publicity dream come true and we immediately accepted their kind invitation without a moments hesitation!

Believe it or not musicians are not generally known for their propensity for early morning rises: staying out partying all night and rolling into the sack at 6am maybe, but those images of milkmen whistling whilst doing their rounds to the dawn chorus are, to most musicians curled up in their warm beds, a myth or legend that supposedly happens, like Father Christmas and the tooth fairy. For Rock My Reception, however, when the BBC ask you to be at the Leeds studio for six o’ clock, you double set your alarm for 4:30 am, drink lots of tea and coffee, warm your voice up in the car by singing along to whatever’s on the radio or on a C.D., then try your bestest to look awake and no what planet you’re on when you get there!

Fortunately for us the team at Radio Leeds were friendly, energised and exuded an enthusiasm which was infectious and it was a total pleasure to be there regardless of how earl title was and Liz Green, the breakfast shows presenter made us feel at home straight from the offset. The drill was simple: so, we’d have a brief chat in a question and answer-style with Liz about what we were doing, then in the interim, callers would ring up the desk and ask for their favourite requests. As this is what we did at every wedding we played at- what could be simpler! At our Christmas visit Kieran opted for a festive jumper whereas I decided against my Christmas hat. Liz did bring my lack of festivities up in our interview too- mind you, she wasn’t wearing a sexy Santa outfit either, which would’ve been nice, but you can’t have everything!

On the Christmas episode we brought along Wedding Film maker Ollie Bostock to film the proceedings and make into a promotional film, which he did brilliantly and is now on show on our website. Over the three episodes we got asked for modern day requests like the Killers ‘Human’ from a pensioner called Cath in Leeds, we got asked for requests for Christmas songs like the Pogues ‘Fairytale in New York’ and even our old guitar teacher Adrian Bottomley rang in to kindly heap praise on us and request Chuck Berry’s ‘Run Rudolph Run’, which we really enjoyed playing: we had a quick practice of it in a side studio in the break! We had a call from an old school friend Gareth Lockwood ringing in for his request of Bad Moon Rising and none other than rugby player Eorl Crabtree- Huddersfield Giants prop forward, ringing up and ‘bigging us up’!

It was a fantastic experience to not only be playing on regional radio, knowing that you’re providing music to such a wide audience, but to also get speak to the listeners and to take their requests. Even one of the brides who had booked us to play for her wedding rang in recommending us the perfect acoustic wedding band. A truly humbling experience when a customer gives you a plug on the radio! One of the greatest accolades came from Liz when she kindly named Rock My Reception as the ‘Radio Leeds House Band’, a title, and experience which we shall definitely be dining out on for a while!

The Wedding Industry Awards 2015

2015 has seen the fourth annual TWIA ceremony at the plush Cafe de Paris in London’s Leicester Square. It recognises excellence within no fewer than 27 different fields in the wedding industry and provides winners with a golden opportunity to use that recognition of their achievements to springboard their career into the stratosphere!

The Wedding Industry Awards- abbreviated to TWIA- was set up by Damian and Anna Bailey and run through their company 23 Events Ltd. Damian is himself, an award-winning wedding photographer and Anna, from a strong event management background. Their combined experience of meeting every facet of a wedding day-from the bride and groom themselves, to the caterers, venue owners, transport providers, musicians, d.j.’s; Damian and Anna, over the years, have seen a plethora of talented and dedicated suppliers striving to achieve their very best for the couples big day. As a result of this hard work many couples have,in the past, wanted to publicly thank these suppliers in return for their contribution in making their wedding day so special. Sadly, there had been no such platform. That was all to change when TWIA was established in which the couples themselves could vote for, and rate, their favourite suppliers via the TWIA website, also providing a few kind words.

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TWIAs Damien Bailey pictured interviewing Kieran and Dominic at Middleton Hall

In the last few years the TWIA name itself has grown into a byword for industry excellence-a ‘kite mark’ for the wedding industry. The judging panel is second to none in experience and expertise, the votes are client-based which in turn ensures that the results really have meaning and the award itself has kudos.

To ensure every supplier gets their field of expertise recognised there have been a total of 27 different categories ranging from BestvWedding Dress Providers, Hair and Make-up, Best Transport, Best Wedding Cake Makers, Caterers, Bands, D.J.’s and Best Wedding Venues to name but a few. There is also one final category known as ‘Best Newcomer’ which recognises a burgeoning, newly established business in the wedding industry, and their hard work and achievements within their first year. One such business to win this coveted award was the 2014 winners- acoustic wedding band ‘Rock My Reception’. Band member Kieran Stokes said, ‘We were initially entered for the Best Live Entertainment category. The competition was incredibly high and we didn’t expect to win- before we knew it they were reading out the nominees for the best newcomer category. There were 40 different companies and our name was amongst them. When the winner was announced and it was us we were astounded!’.

But what effect did winning the award have on Rock My Receptions business? Kieran said, “After winning the award we really went to town using the press pulling-power it provided. After writing our own press release and sending it, along with a high resolution photo of us at the awards to our local newspaper, the publicity snowballed. Suddenly the regional papers were interested in printing our story in their business section and we were then invited onto BBC Radio Leeds to play live requests on their breakfast show to the listeners. Our wedding bookings for 2014 increased from 15 from the previous year to 60. That was all down to us winning the TWIA Best Newcomer award and acting swiftly on publicising it.”

Another success story from TWIA was the 2015 winner for Best Entertainment category magician Sam Fitton from Manchester. Upon collecting his award he triumphantly flicked his deck of cards, showering them into the air, much to the delight of the audience. His charisma, professionalism and sheer breathtaking skill ensured his well deserved win at the awards. Surprisingly though, Sam has only been in the wedding entertainment business for only two years after taking somewhat of a career change- he used to be a policeman!

Although Sam is undoubtedly one of the countries finest close up magicians, he is keen to stress that it is not about the magic tricks or fooling people; “It’s about lighting up Auntie Jackie’s face, baffling the perpetually moody teenagers and making sure that you and your guests have an absolutely amazing day”.

Sam uses not only his incredible talent for magic, but his own humour and warm personality to entertain guests. At a recent wedding in Clitheroe, one guest remarked, “That magician was fantastic- his sleight of hand stuff was incredible! We were stood right infront of him and he turned a flaming handkerchief into a bottle of champagne! Not only that but he made us really belly laugh- he’s better than anything on the telly”.

Sam’s story has already attracted press interest and has been printed in the widely circulated Manchester Evening News. Undoubtedly, he will certainly be rightfully reaping the rewards of his TWIA success during 2015 and beyond.

Final recognition should go to the hard work and 100% commitment of the TWIA founders themselves, Damian and Anna Bailey. It is through their sheer dynamism and belief in TWIA that it has become a credible and reliable independent awards process for an industry estimated at 3 billion pounds per annum. Anyone lucky enough to achieve a TWIA badge will wear it with pride and a wedding couple can be rest assured that their day is most definitely in very safe and reliable hands.

Bands from a home town

When Wikipedia sprang onto the then infant ‘world wide web’ back in January 2001, arms flailed and cries were heard from roof-tops afar: ‘The Encyclopaedia Britannica is now redundant!’ Those leather bound fonts of all knowledge, once adorning the bookcases of many a learned scholar, now simply no more than decorative in their function. Indeed, it did seem as though the days of thumbing through the hallowed pages of the countries oldest published encyclopaedia would be well and truly over and maybe many other printed sources of information, to boot. There’s no doubt that Wikipedia is an amazing feat of modern technology. Information on just about any subject known to mankind at your fingertips. However, this doesn’t mean it’s faultless, and it was while checking out some information on bands and musicians of significance hailing from Huddersfield that I came across some glaring omissions!

The North of England has produced some of the worlds most influential bands, no doubt about that. It’s only when searching the internet for sub-divisions into county’s and town’s where these bands started out that things become interesting, and according to Wikipedia, Huddersfield only gets one band of note originating from this celebrated town! Why is this, and have they omitted anyone else of any worth?

Firstly, it has to be said that Huddersfield has long been a hotbed of talent. It has produced excellence in academia, architecture and distinguished actors and performers ranging from Sir James Mason,to Jodie Whitaker and Lena Heady all sprang from it’s bracing pennine valleys. It is the birthplace of Rugby League and the filmic setting for numerous T.V. and film productions from Summer Wine country to the ominous local shop in the BBC sitcom The League of Gentlemen. Huddersfield is the northern Hollywood, so why not Motown too?!

Wikipedia rightly credits the thrash metal band Evile as one of Huddersfield’s proudest exports. A band who were once described by Kerrang magazine as “Carrying the genre’s whole ‘revival’ on their shoulders”. They formed in 2004 and have since released four successful albums and several sellout tours across America and Europe. This is, however, where Wikipeadia’s area of expertise ends; a sorry standing when placed next to Sheffield’s armful of famous and not-so famous acts in its hall of fame! So who can we rightly add to the list and how far can it go?

Well, the bods at ‘Wiki’ obviously didn’t dig deep enough when they omitted the talented Billy Curry- violinist,piano and keyboard player, most notably with 80’s new wave band Ultravox. Another of Huddersfield’s finest is David Hewitt who left the town in the mid-70’s and had a major success as bass player in the rock band Babe Ruth, particularly in North America. David recently returned and currently resides in the Holmfirth area of Huddersfield where he frequently plays bass in a band with his wife, Dana, in The Dana Ali Band. It should also be noted that indie band Embrace often cited themselves as hailing from Huddersfield, as opposed to their actual smaller satellite town of Hipperholme. Even the Sex Pistols chose their last British gigs to be played in Huddersfield on Boxing Day at music venue Ivanhoes, as a benifit for the children of the striking firefighters. So, Huddersfield had its fair share of talent but why wasn’t it spread more widely?

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Babe Ruth. Dave Hewitt pictured on the right

There maybe many reasons that Huddersfield never spawned more signed, hit-making musicians/bands. Maybe its geographical location wasn’t as appealing to the talent scouts as a direct train link to the likes of Sheffield or Manchester. Also, as big a town as Huddersfield is, it doesn’t have the same number of music venues per square mile as the aforementioned cities- ergo, the kudos or networking opportunities that some of the more sprawling cities have to offer.
Also, Huddersfield has always seemed to have a boomerang effect on its musicians. Since the 1960’s, many of its homegrown talent tried spreading their wings and strutting their stuff down in the music Mecca that is London, only to return to be the big fishes in their small pond, sometimes even bringing with them an effected southern twang!

Rock My Reception acoustic wedding band is an act who’s members, after reaching for the stars in their four-piece guise as post-indie band ‘Serf’, certainly caught the moon of success after changing tack and tapping into the lucrative wedding market. Reverting to the simple and effective format of two acoustic guitars, plus vocals, their selling points are playing songs from any era at the request of guests, which provides a personal and original twist to the genre of ‘wedding singers‘. Their success at the National Wedding Industry Awards in 2014 and 2015 has firmly cemented their standing as one the countries leading wedding bands.

Whatever the truth is regarding the lack of hit-parade-storming, column-inch-grabbing acts throughout the fifty-plus years of rock n roll, Huddersfield’s best kept secret has been its true, original, homegrown talent- some of which whose artefacts still exist in the form of old photographs, vinyl, cassettes battle-worn from years of playing and storage. Some committed to dusty, mouldering obsolete formats rarely used. Snatches of pure magic, preserved like flys in amber.

Maybe, one day someone will collate all these relics and print them, for posterity, in a leather-bound volume: Huddersfield’s very own definitive Encyclopaedia Britannica!