Food Festival honours Saltburn music legend

The first ever Saltburn Food Festival acoustic stage is to be named in honour of local music legend John McGough, who died earlier this month after a long battle with leukaemia.

The stage is the brainchild of Saltburn restaurateur and singer-songwriter Josh Newell-Brown, who was a close friend of John’s and had recently been working on new musical projects with him.

It will bring together around a dozen of the area’s most talented musicians, many of whom were inspired to take up their instruments by 53-year-old saxophonist, writer and producer John, who worked with artists including James Arthur, Jools Holland and Jocelyn Brown.

“John loved Saltburn and was a friend to everyone, so it seemed fitting to name the stage after him,” said Josh, who hit the headlines earlier this year after winning the North East final of the SoundWaves music competition at Newcastle’s O2 Academy.

“He was passionate about supporting and encouraging musicians, giving us the benefit of his wisdom and the confidence to help us realise you can fulfill your dreams.

“People would say music isn’t a proper job and you can’t make a living out of it, but John would politely put them in their place and say you can – and he did! He’s my hero and I’m really going to miss him.”

The John McGough Stage will be in Station Square, outside Signals Bistro, which Josh recently took over, keeping it in the family more than 30 years after his father first launched the popular eatery.

Artists will take turns to play every hour on the hour, alternating with the five world-class chefs demonstrating at the live festival cookery theatre every hour on the half hour across the other side of the town’s roundabout on Station Street.

The welcome addition of a dedicated live music stage for this, the sixth Saltburn Food Festival, came about after Josh took the proposal to organiser Lorna Jackson, who he has known all his adult life.

“I thought the festival was really missing some more live music and, much to my delight, Lorna thought it was a great idea,” said Josh, 27. “Most of the acts are local and it’s important to support aspiring artists and give the younger ones a chance because I remember how hard it was to get gigs.

“Whenever I hear live music at a food event it’s always nice to stop and have a drink and listen. As stressful as it is putting it on, it’s very special to be able to get everyone together in this way and pay our respects to John as we do.”

Josh started off as a teenager playing keyboards in the band Save Arcade and has been playing guitar and writing songs since he was 21.

His track Shine, released on the Inner Treasures EP recorded to raise funds for Dreams Come True, a charity for children with serious and life-limiting conditions, has racked up an impressive 100,000 plays on streaming service Spotify.

“Now I’m older and my sound’s maturing and the songs are getting a bit deeper and I’m learning what I want to achieve with my music,” he says.

“Winning the North East SoundWaves final was unbelievable and earlier this month I played in the grand final in Birmingham, which meant I’d reached the last eight out of a thousand artists and bands. I didn’t win, but it was an amazing experience.”

Combining music and food comes naturally for Josh, who took over Signals after his brother, Rory, and sister, Lydia, who initially ran the business after their dad retired, bought a property on Spain’s Costa Blanca and are starting from scratch converting it into a restaurant bar and bed and breakfast along with their cousins, Dawn and Paul. Their exploits are currently being filmed for a Channel 4 documentary.

“We’ve recruited a new chef, Willem Fuller, who was formerly at Lord Stones Cafe, and we’ve rebranded and launched a new menu,” says Josh.

“Willem mixes things up a bit, creating a fusion of traditional English food with continental influences. I want to do things my way, without forgetting that Dad ran it for 30 years and it’s been very successful.”

Saltburn Food Festival features a record-breaking 125 stalls and takes place on Sunday July 29 from 10am to 6pm. Admission is free and a park and ride system will be in operation from Guisborough Fountain Street Car Park, Guisborough Hall and, for the first time, Freeborough Academy in Brotton. The train will deliver you to the heart of the festival, as will the X3 and X4 buses, so avoid the queues and let someone else do the driving! For further information and updates visit saltburnfoodfestival.co.uk.

The line up on the John McGough Stage includes Josh Newell-Brown, Annie Lince, Liv Cornwall, Ben Muriel, Harvey, Danny Devon, Chris Pryke, Luke Finn-Forster (Swilly Chill), Elizabeth Sykes, DJ Liam Dunning and friends of John McGough.