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Live / stage review

"Glad to be able dance, celebrate and sing with friends": Sounds From The Other City returns

A three-year wait for Sounds From The Other City was ended in glorious fashion this May bank holiday Sunday.

1 May 2022

Whilst the Prime Minister was flouting the rules to hold an illegal party, wonderfully welcoming and creative parties such as Salford’s Sounds from the Other City (SFTOC) festival dutifully followed the law in place at the time and postponed. For two years.

No doubt the creators of SFTOC wondered if this inspirational occasion would ever take place again.

Since first flourishing in 2004 when unlikely places such as Salford Central railway station provided the backdrop to unlikelier orchestral performances, the organisers have consistently pushed the boundaries of entertainment in a wonderfully creative manner.

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Walking map for Sounds From The Other City 2022

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Occasionally engaging with the Salfordians that frequent traditional boozers such as the Rovers Return or the Albert, it has always been an alliance with the local people and not a takeover. It brings a lot of revenue to the developing area, one that is now unrecognisable from that of 2004.

There have been a lot of changes. The Angel Centre – a place that in previous years simultaneously held a doctors surgery whilst serving hot meals to a crowd witnessing some intense math rock artistes – is now more of a food bank type centre, reflecting changes not just to Salford but also the wider country.

So both the area and festival have evolved over time, but some familiarities remain. There’s always an anticipation of ‘Who will I bump into?’

SFTOC Bexley Square Ged Camera

Arty flags flying at Bexley Square during Sounds from the Other City Festival

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We've heard the phrase, ‘If you build it, they will come’. But will it happen? Oh, ye of little faith. They did turn up and in their droves. Those friendly faces who have experienced SFTOC in the past and know the smorgasbord of entertainment that awaited them dusted off their dancing shoes/boots/whatever, and strode proudly into the fray. Newcomers mixed easily among them, as illustrated at the New Oxford by the ‘Do you remember the first time?’ crew.

Live music at SFTOC

Live music at the Hot Bed Press venue at Sounds From The Other City

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Yet within the smiles hid the ‘So you got through Covid, then?’ question.

The event has always been fluid as to where any nominal ‘centre-point’ may be, so it's logical that the Regent Trading Estate complex that formed a hub in 2019 was once again used to draw people in. But there was still an appreciable number of people who turned up at the entrance to Islington Mill; so long the traditional place to collect your wristband. Possibly the extensive scaffolding and a building wrapped in a modern form of condom may have provided a clue to the nature of the extensive restoration works that are required. It will be back.

Creative facial features skittles at SFTOC

People wearing large facial features and directing people to play skittles at Sounds From The Other City festival

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In the Regent Courtyard – a rather noble name for a tent, albeit a very large one – a set of ‘bangers’ from club nights of years gone by had people throwing their arms in the air as if they didn't care that daylight was flooding through. Smiles on their faces indicated that they were just glad to be able dance, celebrate and sing with friends.

People dancing at the Regent Courtyard tent at SFTOC

People dancing at the Regent Courtyard tent at Sounds From The Other City

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Diversity of all types is embraced at this event and the musical selection is wide.

Fancy listening to a classically trained musician supported by a drummer? That's easy. See Edance Ng on a specially erected stage on Bexley Square, who would also throw in a bit of jazz. Only 20 yards away, inside the nearby New Oxford pub, the people behind Queen Latifah were pumping out pop tunes whilst sliding across the floor in gold lame capes.

Some vibrant R&B tunes to get you dancing? OneDa at Regent would be right up your street, whilst some of those who work at Cafe Blah (Withington) were strapping on guitars as part of Threads, for the pleasure of a phalanx of followers at the Old Pint Pot.

Gold capes at SFTOC

Queen Latifah wearing gold capes at Sounds From The Other City

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When the day departed, the warmth and energy of the crowd didn't fade. The pavements of Salford were tested as groups checked the listings and bypassed each other several times over.

Refuel stops from the local community were sought, no doubt contributing to the local economy.

So as the sun descended behind the new skyscrapers that shadow Chapel Street, the event slowly moved into the next phase; the part where the club network comes to the fore. Venues such as Yes opened up and, as the amplifiers and guitars were packed away across the daytime stages, those with the stamina danced away until the early morning cafes opened.

Can we do it again next year, please?

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