Halton Music Guide
As the birthplace of Nicola Roberts, Mel C, David Dawson & John Squire, Halton is rapidly becoming a melting pot for musical talent, is it the world-famous River Mersey, the backdrop of the Chemical History or landscapes that provide the inspiration for artists and literary greats such as Lewis Carroll, to create their own beat (Vibes) here, let’s find out…
First stop on our tuneful trail is Spike Island, an artificial island between the Sankey Canal and the estuary of the Mersey. Back in 1990 on the 27th May Indie legends The Roses Stone, led by locals Ian Brown and John Squire held a concert here, which is one of the most famous concerts that defined a generation, a landmark event which was immortalised in its very own film. Now a Green Flag award-winning parkland with items of industrial archaeological interest and a canal, on the Trans Pennine Trail. It is the perfect space to wander and reflect.
From the 90’s to 1969 with one of music’s greatest showmen, Freddie Mercury played in his pre-Queen band Wreckage at Wade Deacon High School, at what is thought to be the band’s final appearance, at the then Grammar School for Girls for their end of term dance. The concert is famous for Freddie adopting his signature half mic stand, due to a faulty mic stand on the night.
Moving on to what has become a musical myth on Monday 13 September 1965, a then virtually unknown singer-songwriter called Paul Simon wrote the song Homeward Bound here on Widnes Station, whilst waiting for the train to Hull to play his next show. It was a lovesick message to his girlfriend Kathy. Just after playing Howff Folk Club at the Grosvenor Hotel! The song would become Simon & Garfunkel’s first UK hit, reaching number 9 in 1966.
For big-seater stadium gigs, there’s the DCBL Stadium, home to the Widnes Vikings with many world-famous stars gracing the stage here including Elton John and Bryan Adams to name just a few. Time it right, and you could get to hear a different kind of music in the form of Widnes Vikings fan chant –“Who’s that team we call the chemics, who’s that team we all adore, they’re the boys in black & white, and they play with all their might!”
From stadiums to halls, stand on the site of what was The Queens Hall which hosted concerts by many famous names such as Gerry & the Pacemakers, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays also The Beatles who played the hall a total of five times, after their last gig the on the following day, the band went to London to record their debut, single Love Me Do, with George Martin at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. The record came out on 5th October 1962 and reached number 17 in the charts. The Widnes concerts mark the exact point at which The Beatles went from a local band to becoming a global phenomenon.
On the same street, the beat goes on at The Studio, once part of the Queens Hall, a space for all things sound that hosts Live events, rehearsal rooms and recording studio, fostering talent and promoting music, arts and culture in Halton, each year providing over 300 young people with a phenomenal 2500 sessions in music and arts.
Just a short trip across the water is Runcorn and the award-winning Brindley Theatre, this 400-seater auditorium has seen many famous names grace it’s stage including Lulu, UK’s 1969 Eurovision Winner. The Brindley also has big plans for an enhanced extension to create an exciting cultural hub in Runcorn.
Another local & global superstar Gary Barlow, who at the tender age of 14 was the resident singer and keyboardist at close by Halton’s British Legion Club. It was here that he first performed his own material including the first public performance of the massive hit, Million Love Songs. A 3-minute walk away is the Castle Pub, where you can be sure to hear plenty of riffs and licks from local talent, all set in the historic grounds of Halton Castle, you can also soak up the 360° views across the Mersey, Cheshire Plains and the surrounding area.
Next up is Norton Priory Museum & Gardens, one of Halton’s hidden gems. Once home to a medieval church, this is the most excavated monastic site in Europe. During the summer season, the tranquil 2.5-acre Georgian Walled Garden comes alive in summer with al-fresco performances and award-winning theatre productions.
One event that needs no introduction is Creamfields, one of the largest dance-music festivals featuring world-class DJ’s and live acts from all over the country, all set on the Daresbury Estate over the August bank holiday weekend. When it’s not on, you can wander the birthplace of Lewis Carroll and enjoy a delicious Daresbury Dairy Ice Cream and listen to the sounds of nature at the close by woods or reserve.
So, there you have it the whistle-stop tour of Halton’s musical past and present – isn’t it time you tuned in and visited for yourself!