So ska, so good for music event

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Shed loads of reggae, sheer willpower and a bargain ticket price - these are the ingredients behind this weekend’s United Colours of Music festival at Don Valley Bowl.

When Steven Cowens gave up employment to establish his own events company, he had no idea what was in store.

Within days of setting up his company - Lane Events - he was renting Portaloos, meeting the police,the fire service, organising security and, most importantly, booking bands.

And one of those bands is UB40, who will be playing at the huge event this weekend. Not bad for a first shot.

“It’s brilliant that we have UB40,” said Cowens. “They have sold more than 76 million records. Not many bands have done that and yet they are playing as part of this festival.”

UB40 aren’t the only impressive act performing this weekend. Indeed, the Birmingham reggae pop act will share a bill with The Skatalites, the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra and The Beat.

“It’s an unbelievable line-up and we did a lot of research into what bands to book. Tickets are still on sale for the event. “It’s a good price, £35 for the day and £65 for the weekend. If you go to Leeds Reading you’d be paying a lot more.”

Securing all these big names, however, hasn’t been easy, as Cowens explains.

“It’s been a real eye-opener and a proper learning curve. It’s a lot more time-consuming organising a festival than you’d think - there is so much to do but hopefully it will be worth it as after this event we will have credibility as a company.”

As for the choice of music genres for the festival, he says: “I called it United Colours of Music because I wanted to pick up on the subculture of ska, reggae, mod, skinhead and punk music. There are a lot of people into this music and it attracts the older ‘above 30’ crowd, which is what I wanted.”

UB40 will no doubt pull in fans. They were, after all, the band who most avidly popularised reggae in the 1980s and even now, more than 30 years since they formed, they are looking ahead to the release of their latest album, Getting Over the Storm, on Universal / Virgin Records. The album follows Labour of Love IV, which was released in 2010.

UB40 play on Saturday and Sunday’s headliner, the Skatalites, are flying in from Jamaica especially.

“It really is a fantastic event,” says Cowens. “We just need to get people out more in Sheffield. We have some great venues in this city and I am a Sheffield boy and very proud of it so I want to keep as many events as I can within the city.”

United Colours of Music also features the Sex Pistols’ Experience, Jungle Lion, the Lambrettas and the Neville Staple Band, among others.

It takes place at Don Valley Bowl from noon to 11pm on both days. For information call 2512969 or 07739700733.