Party on the Pitch – History!
The Party on the Pitch is an annual event set up by dedicated volunteers emanating out of Tycroes RFC in the Amman Valley. You know a small rural village is onto a good thing when it can command a projected 8000 people to spend their weekend on a rugby field surrounded by nothing more than trees, shrubs and hills. Indeed its a great achievement and an insight into how popular a well-run and successful event can be.
With a mission statement of an affordable and fun family day out with a motto of “something for everyone”, Party on the Pitch has grown enormously in the four years it has been operating and has emerged from a small and local event into a major weekend capable of attracting chart-topping stars amongst thousands of people.
Tycroes is a village roughly 13 miles north of Swansea and only a matter of minutes from the end of the M4 Motorway, almost ensuring the village’s status as a proverbial gateway between countryside and city. Nestled in between the Betws and Black Mountains (both a part of the Brecon Beacons National Park) the setting of Party on the Pitch is an integral part of the appeal and an opportunity to sample picturesque and welcoming Welsh hospitality at its finest. So how did an unassuming small village become the focus of the South Welsh summer and attract chart topping stars to an area more renowned for the calm and quiet rather than glitz and glamour?
With a population of around 2,000 and nothing more than the typical village amenities of small supermarket, post office and chip shop Tycroes has for a long time, despite its obvious beauty, been noted simply as the last settlement on the way out of a typical Welsh valley and towards the more modern and fashionable metropolis that is Swansea and beyond. Part of an area deeply affected by the closure of the mines and economic difficulties in general, the village has not had much extra-curricular activities to boast about in recent memory and just like in other communities throughout the nation the local watering hole has not escaped the recession.
Despite a welcoming and pleasant environment to relax in and a well-intentioned if struggling rugby team, Tycroes RFC has faced a difficult time with major decisions needed to ensure its survival. Action was imperative to boost income to stop the premises becoming yet another addition to the never ending list of public houses closed due to lack of funds. In 2008 a committee was formed to put together a list of innovative ideas to raise income for the club because unlike major football institutions Arab Oil Sheikhs and American Venture Capitalists are few and far between in Division 5 Welsh rugby! With the rugby season finishing at the end of spring focus was quickly turned to the empty and unused pitches next to the clubhouse and the possibility of hosting an outdoor music event was first raised. Although the clubhouse has the Gelli Suite, an impressive upstairs function room that is used for any normal events the club hosts, it was thought to maximise revenue, attendance and novelty to host the event outside under the summer sun. From this one decision has grown the phenomenon that has become Party on the Pitch and the club has never looked back.
Taking place on Saturday July 5th, the inaugural Party on the Pitch was an unqualified success and the initial viability of the event provided a great launching pad for bigger and better events in following years. With the occasion still very much a small, experimental affair the makeshift stage was constructed on the back of a lorry which was positioned infront of the impressive 854 attendees. To quench the thirst of the crowd there was also a small beer tent available to enhance the festival feel. Headlining the first event was the ever-popular Fat Barry’s Soul Band who have gone on to become Party on the Pitch regulars due to the success of their initial performance, ably supported by P’Tcheaow, The Infamous and Bus Stop.
Whilst P’Tcheaow were performing their set and rocking the crowd the inevitable occurred and the heavens opened, soaking the hundreds on the field but never dampening their spirits only their clothes. Moving the event indoors, the joyous celebration of a fantastic day continued throughout the clubhouse premises; Fat Barry’s took to the stage in the Gelli Suite, the Infamous rocked the bar and Bus Stop braved the outdoor marquee. A successful first year is often looked back on with fondness and nostalgia by all whom attended, the downpour adding to the experience of the inaugural event. Of course, in what has become almost tradition the organisers already had their eyes on bigger and better things for 12 months later.
The following year brought something of a rare coup for the village, chart topping star and the “one and only” Chesney Hawkes performing his hit single to a crowd that had more than doubled in size on the previous year! Closing out the show in the warm summer night, the partying crowd sang along with Chesney as an immensely enjoyable day was brought to a great climax. With many new features at the event including an expanded bar, stalls and food outlets the day began with an unusual but impressive twist as Tycroes RFC became the first rugby club in the UK to show a live Lions game on an outdoor screen as literally thousands of people took in the South Africa vs British Lions test match. Hosted on Saturday 20th June, Chesney was fantastically backed up a diverse line-up including P’Tcheow, The Monophonics, Harry Lewis, Bus Stop, Ross Williams and the returning Fat Barry’s Soul Band. With an extended weekend programme including Towy Boxing on the Friday night and an unforgettable audience with infamous smuggler Howard Marks on the Sunday, the weekend was attended by roughly 2,200 people and was once again a resounding success that could only be replicated by the following year’s event.
Held on Saturday 19th June, the 2010 event was when Party on the Pitch truly began to grow from a humble village show into a major and unmissable showcase of fun, friends and music. Once again orchestrated as something for everyone, the way over 3000 (!) Plus people split evenly between the new and impressive stage, the exciting KidZone and the expanded and popular outdoor bar emphasised the varied appeal of the event and the way it can bring together all sections and demographics of community in a fun-filled atmosphere.
Whether it was the electrifying Sizzler fairground ride, the angelic voice of crowd-pleaser and X-Factor finalist Lucie Jones or the cold refreshing taste of a Beer under the glaring Sun, everyone left satisfied and eager for next years event to hurry around. Welsh beauty Lucie was a huge hit with the youngsters amongst the crowd, all clamouring to get as close to the stage as possibly as the Cardiff-born girl brought the house down with her covers of many famous hit songs before giving up the stage for 60’s stars The Animals featuring the irreplaceable Spencer Davis.
Secondary attractions such as the mini Scarlets merchandise stall and airbrush tattoos proved popular as did the intoxicating Hog-Roast that made hundreds of bellies rumble in anticipation. With the hot summer sun proving reliable and bathing the pitch in a warm glow the event was yet again even more successful than its predecessor with many not wishing to leave and lamenting the fact that it would be another year until they could re-live the experience.
Well that time is almost upon us with the 2011 event approaching quickly. With the organisers building on each event the 2011 again looks to be the greatest extravaganza yet. So from 800 hardy souls braving the rain to 10 times that much flocking to Cae Gelli in just four years to watch a superstar at the top of the music industry, one thing is certain. If you havent been to a Party on the Pitch event before, then the 2011 event is the perfect time to make yourself welcome! For ticket information please check out www.thepartyonthepitch.com or www.nathenamin.com/party-on-the-pitch