It’s full steam ahead for musical extravaganza

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The chug-chug of the first trains for 46 years rolling into Galashiels in September will have to compete with the sound of music.

To celebrate the opening of the Borders Railway, an ambitious weekend programme of live performances featuring no fewer than 100 bands is being organised in the town.

Sandi Thom and Bill Jeffrey

Sandi Thom and Bill Jeffrey

The extravaganza – on September 4, 5 and 6 – is the brainchild of local music promoter Bill Jeffrey, who has been planning an urban festival for over a year.

“The idea really came together when we learned the date for the first trains which is, by any standard, a cause for celebration and great civic pride,” said Bill, whose clients include his singer/songwriter son Craig Jeffrey.

It is also an acknowledgement that the centre of Galashiels must become an attractive place to visit if it is to fully exploit the economic benefit of the £355m railway.

According to Bill, that means having, among other things, a vibrant live music scene.

“I really want to kick-start a new culture, with the town’s many venues putting on all sorts of music – from classical to rock, from jazz to traditional – on a regular basis and I hope the 100 bands in the Borders festival will do just that.”

Through his company, Jeffrey Music Promotions (JMP), Bill says he has already been swamped with expressions of interest on social media from bands and solo performers, both local and from across the UK, wishing to participate.

And according to Bill, a number of pubs, including the Salmon, the Auld Mill, the Reivers, the Ladhope and the Abbotsford, have agreed to host live music sessions over the weekend.

He is also in talks with Scottish Borders Council in a bid to set up outdoor stages in the amenity areas of Market Square and the top of Channel Street.

Bill is due later this week to meet the trust which runs the new Mac-Arts centre (the former St Andrew’s Church in Bridge Place) to find out how that 400-capacity venue can be used for headline concert performances during the festival.

Anyone wishing to check out this new venue can do so tomorrow (Friday) when jazz/folk innovators Celtic Heat play from 7.30pm till 11pm.

Next month Bill is meeting Ian Smith, the musical supremo of Creative Scotland – the national development body for the arts and creative industries – to discuss a range of issues, including the possibility of partnership funding to help market the festival.

“I estimate the event will bring in at least £250,000 to the local economy that weekend,” said Bill, who wants to hear from any other venues willing to get involved and from local musicians keen to perform.

Contact him on william.jeffrey1@btopenworld.com and keep up to date with developments on Bill’s JMP3 facebook page.