JOHNNY Vegas stressed the importance of celebrating the “fantastic musical and artistic” talent in St Helens as he unveiled plans for a new town centre music festival.
The actor and director used the promotional launch of the Westfield Street Music Festival to speak passionately about the creative potential that exists in his hometown.
St Helens is widely known for its rugby league and industrial heritage, but Vegas – real name Michael Pennington – feels its prowess in the arts is often downplayed.
Announcing the date of the festival as Sunday, June 8, he told the Star: “We have as much potential here as anywhere else and it’s about time that we not only recognised this but celebrated it.”
The event, the idea of Zoo Bar owner, Paul Griffiths, will run between noon and 6pm, with the musicians playing in pubs and bars along the street.
There are also plans for street entertainers and buskers to add to the atmosphere.
Vegas, who has directed a video that marks the comeback of former Beautiful South singer Jacqui Abbot, who is from St Helens, believes the festival will showcase the pool of talent that the town continues to produce.
He told the Star: “A music festival in St Helens is as important as any other festival.
“Especially in this economic climate the temptation is to not celebrate the arts or anything we are really good at.
“And there is so much good that comes out of the town. Paul from the Zoo Bar works effortlessly to bring bands and people in to the town which perhaps ordinarily we wouldn’t get.
“I think it’s more important than ever to come together and say look we’ve got a great town, we’ve got great people and we can put together these things just as good as anybody else.”
Always keen to highlight fresh and upcoming talent, Johnny cited the band Stillia as an example of local talent.
He explained: “Andy (Bowden) our mayor was at Stillia’s gig at Top Nogs (the Eccleston Arms) not long before they were signed.
“I got chatting to them through Twitter and there’s another band doing great.
“We’ve got to keep a focus on the fact that we do have fantastic talent within the town and we need to promote that and remind people that all this is possible.”
Low aspiration, particularly among teenagers, is regarded as major problem by education leaders and Vegas believes a shot of self belief would do St Helens good.
He added: “It’s fantastic with the lads from Stillia because it’s that classic tale of in a time where everyone wants instant success with shows like X Factor these are lads who have knuckled down from an early age, got out there and gigged.
“For me – they have done it the proper way but have found success quite early on.
“It is fantastic.
“I’m riding on their coat tails.
“This is my pension plan, befriend everyone when they are starting out then years later I can say do you remember that gig I came to.”