SMALL town musicians with big ambitions are being offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business.
Tim Rice-Oxley, who has enjoyed worldwide success as a founding member of Keane, was unveiled earlier this year as the patron of the inaugural Battle Arts and Music Festival.
The Ivor Novello Award winner grew up in the town, with Battle and the surrounding 1066 countryside providing much inspiration for the band’s unique sound.
Now Tim is returning to his roots to provide one-to-one mentoring sessions for eight selected musicians aged 10-22 as part of the festival programme.
It took a chance encounter and some sage advice from rock legend Roger Daltrey to help the fresh-faced boys from Keane on their way to the big time.
But ten years after Keane’s hugely successful debut album Hopes and Fears, Tim believes it is time to give back and help young musicians hone their craft.
Speaking exclusively to the Battle Observer, Tim said: “I found as a kid it’s very hard to get these opinions, especially from anyone who has been out playing in a band and lucky enough to do what I have done.”
The thirty-eight-year-old says the local music scene has changed a lot since he grew up in Battle.
He recalled: “There wasn’t really any live music as such, apart from the occasional pub bands, and I did not know anyone who was in a band or knew anyone who was into pop music, writing rock songs or making contemporary music.
“And I certainly didn’t know of anyone who had any success with it.
“I think when you live in a small town, it’s always going to be hard to find that support.
“But I do think it’s changed over the years, and the Battle Festival is supporting that and that’s great.”
The new Battle Arts and Music Festival boasts an eclectic programme, with concerts and events catering for all ages and tastes.
Tim says he feels that getting young people involved in particular will bring ‘energy and longevity’ to the new-look festival.
He said: “When I was a kid, the Battle Festival was a big thing. But it seemed like an incredibly grown-up, exclusive, thing.
“I know the people who want to get it started again like the idea of making it a much broader thing and getting a lot of different artists involved, getting young people involved and getting that vitality.
“It’s a massive thing where everyone feels included and that’s what a festival should be.”
He added: “I love the idea that anyone can get involved, in theory.
“If you are recording a song on a dictaphone in a little village near Pevensey, you can get involved in the festival.
“It’s getting people from all over the place involved and feeling the ownership of this big community event.”
Speaking to the Observer under the towering Battle Abbey Gatehouse, Tim revealed that although his career has taken him around the globe, his heart still belongs to a small corner of Sussex.
He said: “I love this town. My mum and dad live here and it’s been a huge part of my life.
“Battle is such an inspiring place.
“I think the whole of this area is rich in culture, in art, and it’s time that we start celebrating that a bit more and making more of it.”
He added: “Not having anyone to talk to about my crazy music aspirations when I was a kid, I thought it would be nice to pass on what I learnt to other people and make people realise it is possible to come from a little town like Battle and achieve anything.”
Keane are currently on hiatus, but Tim says he hopes the band will work together on a new album ‘at some point in the future’.
* For more information about the mentoring sessions with Tim Rice-Oxley, who will also be taking part in a special festival Q&A session, visit www.battlefestival.co.uk