Liverpool's 'fringe festival' to see thousands descend on iconic street

Andy Scott, co-owner of Black Cat on Smithdown Road
Andy Scott, co-owner of Black Cat on Smithdown Road -Credit:Liverpool Echo

Thousands of people are set to descend on Smithdown Road this weekend for Liverpool's own "fringe festival".

Smithdown Weekender is a free, four day event held over the bank holiday weekend, with everything from rock, indie and jazz music to DJs and spoken word poetry. Andy Scott, 42, and Kevin Mcarthur, 43, started the festival back in 2015 with the aim of bringing bars together in the area and celebrating everything Smithdown Road has to offer.

The festival has been so successful it's now in its ninth year. It brings thousands of people to the area twice a year in May and October, to watch local talent at different stages held at venues along the length of the road.

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When the festival first started back in 2015, Andy was running a bar called Evil Eye on Smithdown Road, while Kevin owned Kelly's Dispensary. Andy now owns Black Cat bar and bottleshop and Kevin runs the Handyman pub.

Andy told the ECHO: "The area was very segregated [in 2015], bars were all doing their own thing. There wasn't much going on so I met up with Kevin and said 'why don't we do a festival to celebrate Smithdown Road?'

"Let's get artists and DJs and whatever it might be and have a kick arse weekend of live music. The weekend is always free.

"We didn't know what to expect that first year. Everyone was really excited by it and thousands of people turned up on Smithdown Road that year. It was 2015 and we thought 'there's something in this - this is quite special.' Now we do two a year in May and October."

"I'm not saying the festival is totally responsible [for it] at all but we tried to make the area more of a destination, a bit more of a Lark Lane, where people go from bar to bar. That's what we wanted to do with Smithdown Road.

"All these amazing places have opened - we've got LEAF, Belzan, Nomad. We've got all of these places popping up where you can go for a night out without having to go to town."

Musician Ed Poole, playing at the Black Cat for the 2023 Smithdown Weekender
Musician Ed Poole, playing at the Black Cat for the 2023 Smithdown Weekender -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world's largest performance arts festival which takes place in Scotland every August. Andy said: "As time has gone on we've almost modelled ourselves on the Fringe Festival. It used to be that we would book every since act, now every venue is responsible for their own line up and we work together as a collective Smithdown Weekender."

This year's Smithdown Weekender will have seven stages held at venues stretching from Penny Lane to Gainsborough Road. They include: Black Cat, Frank's Bar, the Handyman, NOMAD, Penny Lane Wine Bar, the Beeswing and Bean There.

The line up includes the likes of jazz fusion band Olvine, the Strange Collective and Mamadou and the Lekette. Liverpool Indie Choir will also be performing at the Handyman on Sunday, followed by Alter Ego’s spoken Word evening at Bean There from 6.30pm.

Black Cat will also be hosting a "hangover quiz" on Monday with a £50 bar tab to be won. You can find the full line up here.

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