Canary Wharf venue in London. (Photo credit: Nunzio Prenna)
It's London-based promoter Peter Conway dreams to connect country music with its UK roots in the unique Nashville Meets London festival, slated to take place in Canada Square Park on the 97-acre grounds of Canary Wharf, London, August 13-14.
“Last year I came to Nashville with a UK-based country band I manage, Raintown, to play the CMA Globalfest and see what the country music scene was all about,” said Conway, who has managed bands and promoted concerts in the UK for more than 30 years.
While in Nashville, Conway met AristoMedia founder and CEO Jeff Walker. The pair bonded instantly.
“We started talking about an idea for a new festival and I said the place to do it was Canary Wharf,” said Conway. Walker had visited the large entertainment/shopping complex in London before and a deal was made.
Sadly, Walker died suddenly in August 2015. Even so, Conway decided to launch the event in 2016 as a tribute to his comrade while working with Walker's son and daughter to make it happen.
The lineup for the free event includes both established and up-and-coming acts. American Young, Logan Brill, Ty Herndon and Logan Mize Four will be traveling from the U.S, while Yola Carter, Megan O'Neill, Pauper Kings, Hannah Rose Platt, Honey Ryder and William the Conqueror will represent the UK.
The shows will take place at the Wharf, a park surrounded by more than 300 shops, bars and restaurants located in the former London Docklands. Conway has been a programming consultant for the Wharf for more than 20 years, working with owners to put on the annual Canary Wharf Jazz Festival in Canada Square Park for the past decade. The event has grown to be the largest free jazz festival in the UK.
Canary Wharf spokesperson Sian Astrop said the Wharf's Arts and Entertainment division hosts more than 200 events and activities throughout the year, drawing more than 250,000 attendees in 2015 for events, 80 percent of which were free.
Country Collective at Canary Wharf (Photo credit: Nunzio Prenna)
“Music, along with other entertainment genres, plays an important part within the Canary Wharf Arts and Events program,” said Astrop, adding that sports, comedy, theater, film and dance also contribute to the mix.
Nashville Meets London will take place in the same 2,500-3,000-capacity festival space as the jazz fest. Conway predicted a modest 1,500-2,000 attendees per day for the first year of what he said will be an annual event.
“We decided to start small,” Conway said, “and due to funding and logistics we ended up with four bands from the U.S. and six from the UK, who will each get 60-75 minutes to play.”
The event is a co-production of Canary Wharf Arts and Events, Peter Conway Management and the Nashville-based AristoMedia Group. Conway said Canary Wharf's unique structure enables him to pay the bands to perform while also put on the event at no cost.
“Unlike the C2C [event at the O2 in London],” Conway said, “which is supported by the CMA where, unless you're on the main stage you have to pay to play there and pay for your visa, travel, hotel.We're paying airfare, arranging visas and giving the acts a small fee on top. The Canary Wharf management group is the estate manager of this huge financial and shopping complex, and each office there pays a service charge to the estate, and from that charge Canary Wharf and Arts can use it for programming.”
Astrop said in 2015 the charity elements of large events and activities within Canary Wharf helped raise over $333,000 for a variety of causes.
Events like Conway's act as a marketing arm for the Wharf group, attracting more publicity and foot traffic to the area.
“I don't have to worry about selling tickets,” said Conway, “and I can program an event with great artistic content in a great environment with good sound and lights and I don't have to worry about attracting punters.”
While Conway, Aristo and the artists are helping to promote the show using their social media feeds, the Canary Wharf group will also distribute information to attract the all-important 18-30 demographic.
“I think if things go as we're hoping,” Conway said, “agents in New York will be banging on our doors to get artists on our stage.”
Without low overhead, Conway added that he is also freed of another worry: concessions. With more than 90 restaurants and bars in the area surrounding the park, Conway said patrons can sit at tables in the back of the park to dine and enjoy the music or bring their food and drink to the lawn.
“We have two big screens as well,” said Conway, “and the sight lines are perfect.”
Interviewed for this story: Peter Conway, 011-44-208-378-1012; Sian Astrop, 011-44-207-418-2000.