OPINION’S certainly not divided over this year’s Split Fest.
With a bill that blends music legends with international bands and emerging Sunderland talent, high-spec sound and staging facilities and a tent that includes a celebration of local culture and food, this year’s weekend spectacular looks set to be the best yet.
This is thanks to the passion of the organisers who’ve fought hard to make the annual celebration a Glastonbury-esque event that the people of Sunderland can be proud of.
Their enthusiasm has proved infectious and this year they’ve been able to attract Indie big-hitters The Charlatans, New York band of the moment The Drums and Sunderland princes of Indie pop Frankie & The Heartstrings.
They’ll be joined by up to 35 other acts who are set to rock Ashbrooke Sports Ground over the weekend of September 17 -18.
Rob Deverson, Split Festival chairman, said: “It’s only twenty months since the first Split in October 2009. And its growth shows we have created something that has a lot of interest and support from the community.
“Our primary interest was to showcase Sunderland music and culture – to show that Sunderland has a vibrant and active music scene, to make the rest of the country stand up and take notice.”
It’s an aim that’s been achieved with national press such as NME magazine taking an interest in the event, as well as it becoming a talking point on home turf.
Speaking about its success, Rob says: “I think people see Split as a very different event. There are music festivals all over the country these days, but we are very focused on Sunderland culture and people have taken that to their hearts. We make it an experience for the audience, not just the bands.
“It’s a coincidence that the first Split Festival was staged in the same year as the first Stadium of Light concerts.
“They have given the city a massive music profile at the highest level, but it’s important to build the interim levels as well.
“I think what Split does is to give up and coming bands a huge confidence boost. They can put the festival poster on their bedroom walls and see their band’s name alongside the name of their heroes who are headlining.”
Three years ago, one of the bands just beginning to ply their trade was Frankie & The Heartstrings when they played the first ever Split.
Today, they’ve toured the globe, won national acclaim for their catchy tunes, have bagged a Top 40 debut album and are working with a top producer on new material.
Lead singer Frankie Francis from Houghton said: “I’m really excited and really proud to be playing Split this year.
“It’s an amazing thing that’s happened in Sunderland and it’s great that we have been part of it every year. We supported The Drums a couple of years ago so I’m looking forward to catching up with them.
“It’s great that they have chosen to play in Sunderland. Plus,I’m looking forward to seeing The Charlatans. They are legends.”
Heartstrings drummer Dave Harper said: “The first time we played Split three years ago, we were punching above our weight.
“Since then we have toured the UK, been to Japan, America, things I never thought I’d do as a punter, never mind in my dream job being in a band.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to seeing the crowd. I like the fact that families can come here and have a great time, it’s not just about drinking as much lager as possible.”
Ambitions are high for Split Festival which was born from a collaboration of bosses at Ashbrooke Sports Club with local musicians from bands such as The Futureheads and Coal Train.
As well as wanting to become the greenest festival in Europe, Split wants to maintain its founding ethos of attracting a high calibre of acts to Sunderland while also celebrating local sounds.
Barry Hyde, frontman of The Futureheads, said: “I hate the term VIP, but our ethos is that everyone who comes will get VIP standard hospitality that is generous, North Eastern and very mackem. The whole point of Split is to overwhelm people in a very nice way.”
* For tickets visit www.splitfestival.com or click on the EXTERNAL LINK to the right of this story.