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The Inspiration Behind Freckfest

Willie Freckleton was Irvine’s very own ‘Mr Entertainment’

Part of the very fabric of our wee town, he was the man who for many a year brought so much entertainment and good music to the people of Irvine. He knew a hot ticket when he saw one, and crucially, he knew what the folks of Irvine wanted, whether they realised it or not.

Willie gave breaks to many acts that would go on to proper, global success. Billy Connolly. Oasis. Alan Cumming. All diverse, yet all owing a small part of their success to Willie, who saw fit to put them on the bill when precious few would give them the platform for success. 

Willie also booked the big acts of the day, regardless of their ‘hip appeal’ or otherwise. “They get bums on seats,” was a well-voiced Willie phrase. Whether he was booking Runrig for yet another sell-out show, or making sure The Jam, The Smiths, Madness and many other bona fide chart acts included a stop-off in Irvine as part of their nationwide tours, Willie did indeed get Irvine bums on seats. 

If he wasn’t looking after the needs of the Singing Kettle, Willie was bringing The Clash to town and setting aside part of the dressing room as a makeshift barbers so that Strummer and Jones could give Mohawk haircuts to the fans. If Willie wasn’t organizing haircuts (again!) for Thin Lizzy from George the Barber at Irvine Cross, he was handing over a brown paper bag stuffed with US dollars to his idol Chuck Berry - the agreed fee for the gig before he took to the stage. Everyone has a story about Willie. And all are complimentary. Ask around. Before long, you’ll bump into someone who knew Willie. And they’ll tell you the same. Willie was a true gent.

That ‘bumping into someone’ part is crucial to the story of Freckfest.

Two folk meet for the first time in ages between the aisles of one of the town’s supermarkets. They start reminiscing. 

“You still into your music?”

“’Course I am! You?”

“Aye!”

“It’s a pity we don’t get the bands stopping off in Irvine the way we used to.” 

“We would if Willie was still around.”

“We should do something in his name…a night with local bands. Maybe give the door money to charity.”

And from little acorns mighty oaks grow…

The idea for Freckfest (the most obvious of names for this pipe dream of ours) was banded about around Easter time. Other people came on board. Freckleton family members and friends thereof, each one with their own particular bag of talent and a bigger bag of enthusiasm. The core team – Freckfest’s very own Magnificent Seven – gathered around a table once a week and planned. And planned. And planned. Timescales were considered. We had less than four months to make this thing a reality. Roles were adopted and adapted. Event Manager. Production Manager. Local Artist Liaison. Funding Co-Ordinator. Press Officer. 

As the jobs grew, the responsibilities increased. Everyone did their bit and a whole lot more, and slowly but surely (though, not too slowly – four months, remember?) an event was planned. Not one night as originally considered, but three nights. Freckfest. The small festival with big ambitions. A whole weekend of ‘name’ bands, up-and-coming ones to watch out for and talented local acts. We even brought Rock On The Watter back from retirement.

“I met my now wife at Rock On The Watter in 1993. It was an honour to be invited to play Freckfest.”
Alan Hayburn, drummer, What the Blood Revealed

A great emphasis was placed on the local bands. Willie was a champion of Irvine’s talent. He wanted everyone to have their chance in the spotlight. Our local bands were getting the chance to play on a big stage, with a professional production team behind them, on the same bill as household names. Willie would’ve approved of our idea, we were sure of that. 

The decision was made to allow under 12s free admission. After all, today’s children are the Freckfest audience of the future. Besides, it enabled the whole family to enjoy Freckfest. Mum and Dad could have a drink while the kids had their faces painted and everyone enjoyed themselves.

“We came down on Saturday afternoon and had a great wee afternoon. We all enjoyed it. It’s not often you get something all the family enjoy when you have such varying ages - my kids are 3, 10 and 16. Well done guys.”
Denise Donnelly

When the doors opened on the Friday and the customers came, we had validation that the people of Irvine (and beyond) were behind us. From the friendly greeting at the door, to walking into the arena and seeing the stage, the lighting and the big screens, to actually hearing the music in crystal clear volumes, the audience responded positively.

“Brilliant setup. The sound was immense. The big screens were superb. Great value for money.”
Brian Wilson Jnr

“The Magic Numbers were class of the highest order! Good people, good music and good times!”
Craig Robertson

“I had the best time rocking out with the Colin Kennedy Band and singing along with Sean Kennedy. Both were utterly brilliant. JJ Gilmour was another high point for me. And the Magic Numbers! Wow! Brilliant production. Whoever did the sound did an amazing job. It was immense. Book me in for Freckfest II please!”
Pauline Gilgallon

“What a brilliant event! Couldn't help thinking you were trying to please everybody and managed to! Surprisingly eclectic mix of artists you deserve a huge pat on the back for organising a fantastic event!”
Jim Barr

The smooth running of Freckfest wouldn’t have been possible without a large, dedicated team. A like-minded group of local volunteers was recruited. They did everything and anything required to ensure the event ran smoothly from run-up to shut down. Whether working the door and wrapping wristbands around concert goers wrists, or running the merchandise stall and selling not just our own Freckfest-branded products, but those of many of the bands playing too, or tidying the venue as customers came and went, the volunteers were a crucial part of our success. 

Local business came on board. Two Irvine publicans, The Ship Inn and The Kings Arms. fed and watered the audience for the entire weekend. The Kings also provided highly trained security staff. A happy audience was one of our priorities.

We were blown away by the comments passed to us in conversation, email or via our Facebook page. 

“The whole set-up was excellent, well done for dreaming this up and having the foresight, determination and drive to see it through. Looking forward to next year already.”
Jim McCleary

“Great weekend guys. Well organised. Well run. Well done!”
Derick Smith

“Such a well organised event - congratulations to all and thanks so much for putting Irvine (incorporating Kilwinning) back on the musical map!”
Robert McGilvery

“A pleasure to be involved, a brilliant team, awesome setup and a fantastic line up!”
Irvine Beat FM

“Freckfest was a total joy in every possible way.”
Scott Pyper

“Freckfest was brilliant! No-one can say there’s nothing to do in Irvine. Can’t wait for next year.”
Nicola Hollas

 

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