York’s Apollo Festival over the moon on its July return at new venue after four-year gap

The Hoosiers: Irwin Sparkes, on vocals and guitars, and Alan Sharland, on drums, percussion and vocals

APOLLO Festival is taking off again this summer after a four-year hiatus, promising the biggest and best event to date.

The family-friendly festival will be held on July 3 and 4 at the new home of York RI in Hamilton Drive, with Musicians Against Homelessness at the core.

New for 2020, the Friday Night Chill focus will be on a chilled-out, intimate evening of food, drinks and acoustic music for over-18s only. The line-up includes 1990s’ acoustic tribute act Melting Pot, Leeds band The Dunwells, Dodgy lead singer Nigel Clark and York’s lady soul, Jess Steel. 

The Saturday bill will be divided between the Main Stage and the Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH) stage.

Jess Steel: soulful York singer, performing on the Friday night

Stereo MC’s, The Hoosiers and Happy Mondays’ alumni Bez and Rowetta, in their On The 6th Day God Created Manchester show, will be the leading acts on the bigger stage, backed up by fast-rising York band The Skylights; Gary Stewart’s Graceland tribute to Paul Simon; The Mothers; tribute acts Ultimate Killers; LMX (Little Mix) and Antarctic Monkeys and a DJ set by Danny Glew.

On the MAH stage will be The Perfect Shambles; emerging York bands The Feds and Seratones; Bravado Cartel; Slow Train; Page 45; The Silents; The Madchester Anthems; Y Street Band; Hot Dogz; VLTAGE and The Peacocks.

In past years, Reverend And The Makers, Inspiral Carpets, Cast, Dodgy and, aptly, Space played Apollo Festival. Now, festival director Stuart Kelly says: “Following a break, we feel the time is right for Apollo Festival to return. We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly festival, affordable for everyone and providing a fun environment for everybody to enjoy.

“It’s fantastic to have the likes of Musicians Against Homelessness on board, not only to see the acts they will bring but also in being able to raise awareness to their cause.”

Gary Stewart: paying tribute to Paul Simon in his Graceland set

Stuart continues: “We’re excited to be at our new venue, York RI, and bringing in the additional evening on the Friday is a new experience that we hope, in addition the usual Saturday, people will enjoy too.

“It’s one of the best line-ups we’ve put together and hasn’t been easy but I’m over the moon with the acts playing on both days. I personally can’t wait to see our loyal supporters come back and seeing new faces enjoying themselves too.”

Looking ahead to the July 3 and 4 festival, Stuart says: “One thing for certain is it’s going to be packed full of entertainment with family quizzes and plenty of free kids’ activities.

“As always, being family friendly and affordable is a huge priority within Apollo, therefore our infamous kids’ quarter will be returning with ten-pin bowling; hay-bale climbing frames; face painting; arts and crafts; balloon modelling; magic shows and workshops; storytelling and a children’s disco to name but a few free-of-charge activities. Back too will be the much-loved funfair for additional fees.”

Skylights lead singer Rob Scarisbrick

An array of street food, drink, craft beer and cider will be on offer, and festival-goers will be permitted to bring in their own picnic food and unopened soft drinks and water (no alcohol and no glass).

Stuart is delighted Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH) will be running the second stage. “We could not be happier to be working with this amazing organisation,” he says.

MAH was founded by music PR Emma Rule with the patronage of music industry guru Alan McGee, the Creation Records founder who famously signed Oasis. The project provides opportunities for up-and-coming talent while raising funds for the UK homelessness charity Crisis, and since 2016 MAH has hosted hundreds of gigs and curated numerous festival stages, featuring thousands of artists.

Emma says: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be partnering up with Apollo Festival this year and to host the MAH stage. Thanks to the festival and artists that support us, we will continue to raise funds to help those living on the streets, while ensuring that people visiting the festival enjoy a fantastic programme of music.”

The Dunwells: Leeds band playing a York festival

Maverick businessman Alan McGee  believes the MAH campaign also gives new bands a platform, in the way that Rock Against Racism did in the 1970s.

McGee, who now manages The Jesus & Mary Chain , Black Grape, Happy Mondays and Cast, says: “Music brings us together regardless of politics or social standing. It’s a great leveller and a vital tool for change.”

Stuart concludes: “York businesses will be given the opportunity to get involved and play a major role in York’s premium family festival, giving exclusivity to these businesses to showcase their company and also give their employees VIP experiences they never forget.”

Friday night tickets cost £5; Saturday general admission is £15; youth, six to 17, £5; under-fives free, at apollo-festival.co.uk. On the day, Saturday’s prices are £20; youth £5; under-fives free.