My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Mervyn Conn

Concert review: International Festival of Country Music, Wembley Arena, London – 26 February 2012

For over twenty years (1969-1991) the premier country music event in the United Kingdom, and perhaps in Europe, was the annual International Festival of Country Music held at Wembley Arena in London, which for many years gained country music a wider audience thanks to TV coverage and provided a springboard for the international careers of many country artists. After a hiatus of another two decades, the original promoter, Mervyn Conn, decided to revive the festival this year. The event was reduced to a single day on Sunday 26 February (at its peak it was held over a three-day weekend), with the majority of the lineup moving on to branded festivals in Belfast, Northern Ireland (29 February), Zurich, Switzerland (2 March) and Mannheim in Germany (4 March).

I felt I couldn’t miss the return of this iconic event, but sales overall seem to have been disappointing. Even with ticket prices substantially discounted close to the event, the arena was far from full, so it is not clear whether there will be a repetition, but those who attended clearly enjoyed the experience, offering generous applause throughout the afternoon and evening. The lineup offered a wide range of acts from various aspects of the broad church that is country music these days, and ranging from veterans to newcomers. Presentation was slick early on, courtesy of the genial Essex based country DJ and occasional singer Steve Cherelle, who did an excellent job. Later on, compering was divided between him, veteran DJ David Allan, who did the job at the original festival, but is now rather obviously frail, and the even older George Hamilton IV. They reminisced about the original festival’s glory days, and it was good to have the event’s heritage acknowledged, but it did get a bit rambling and unfocussed at times. Read more of this post