Macmillan Cancer Support “BLT” festival

Fans at Brick Lane Takeover 2009. Photo: Macmillan Cancer Support

What to do: Go to Shoreditch for a gig? Go there for a curry? Not since the nation faced the question “daddy or chips?” has there been such a dilemma. For once life offers us a simple answer – have a BLT instead. That’s the Brick Lane Takeover, a charity festival organised by Macmillan Cancer Support in the Brick Lane/Spitalfields area.

On Thursday 17 June, the aromatic air of Brick Lane will be infused with the sound of the best new music as it spills out from seven Shoreditch venues that surround the famous curry houses. Venues in the area including 93 Feet East, Vibe Bar, Café 1001, The Brickhouse, Rough Trade, Spitalfields Market, and Cargo will all play host to Macmillan’s event for seven hours from 5.30pm.

In the mould of festivals like the Camden Crawl and Stag and Dagger, the BLT lays out promising up-and-coming acts for music fans to take a taster. Indeed many of last year’s performers such as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Sam Isaac, and Frank Turner have all gone on to perform in front of far larger crowds than the 2,000 patrons at the bijoux BLT.

Bev Burton, who is in charge of booking the bands, is proud of the way Macmillan’s festival nurtures new artists:

“There’s a lot of bands that are everywhere at the moment from [BBC] Radio 1 to headlining things like the Camden Crawl to a lot of up-and-coming talent. We like to support bands, it gives them a great platform to get in front of agents and the industry down here, so it’s really good to pull in some new talent.”

This year’s line-up of fresh-faced talent includes sweet-tongued Eliza Doolittle, whose hit single Skinny Jeans may yet knock Peter, Bjorn, and John’s Young Folks off the top of the best-song-featuring-whistling chart; angular hell-hounds Three Trapped Tigers; and bedroom songwriter Cosmo Jarvis, one of a breed of young men, like Get Cape…, armed with enough off-beat lyrics and sunshine melodies to earn them a legion of fans.

The Doctor and The Pencil at BLT 2009. Photo: Macmillan Cancer Support.

The festival has also been a place for established acts to try out new projects. Last year, at the first Brick Lane Takeover, The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding and Dave Brown tried out their, unsurprisingly, surreal The Doctor and The Pencil DJ set (pictured, right). So keep an eye on the BLT website for famous faces behind the unfamiliar names.

Meeting the BLT team it is clear that they want to create a truly joyous summer evening. Their willingness to make dancing fools of themselves in internet videos to illustrate Get Your Jig On, a competition to win tickets to the festival, tickets to Bestival and more, is evidence of this. Press and Digital Communications Officer Sam Phillips laughs that it is

“all for the cause”.

But there is a serious point to the festival. It is about raising cancer awareness amongst younger audiences. The BLT’s core age-range is fourteen to twenty-one-year-olds and it is to these young people that Special Events Manager Katy Richards is aiming to speak:

“we usually do events that attract a slightly older age group and this was a new type of event to attract a younger audience, an audience that might not actually know much about Macmillan. Cancer might have affected their family, possibly their grandparents but this is maybe their first experience of Macmillan.”

Each of the festival team have been touched by cancer in some way. Alex Blair, Event Manager for the Brick Lane Takeover discovered Macmillan’s work through family illness:

“My mum had breast cancer when I was thirteen…and since then my Godmother died from cancer and she had a Macmillan nurse and so that’s when I found out more about them.”

It is this personal experience, as well as their professional knowledge, that they hope to impart to people who might be experiencing cancer themselves, or in their family or friendship group. There will be a strong Macmillan presence on the night with signs, banners, and staff clad in the charity’s signature colour –

“lots and lots of green.  Macmillan we love our green here” laughs Special Events Assistant Jo Hawton.

And most importantly, there will be Macmillan nurses on hand to offer advice.  Jo encourages anyone with questions about the illness to visit them on one of the Macmillan stalls:

“whether it be about a specific type of cancer or who is the best person to talk to, the time-scale of being seen by your doctor and then having an operation, the nurses on our stand are really good, really lovely girls.”

Tickets are available now at the Brick Lane Takeover website.

Listen below to find out how you can Get Your Jig On

Listen below to hear why the organisers think the BLT is important.

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