'We’ve attempted to give you our most cohesive, yet characteristically diverse programme yet'

ONCE we had the Liverpool Summer Pops. Taking place in a tent on the vast gravel car park where the arena now stands, it was warm wine and light classics with a determinedly Radio 2 vibe.

And once we also had the Mathew Street Festival. Taking place bloody everywhere, it grew from a modestly-sized Beatles tribute fest to become an unwieldy, vomit-scented beast.

For many years, these two events formed the core of Liverpool’s summer music schedule but, for a variety of reasons, things had to change. And in 2013, change they did.

That summer saw the first Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF), a multi-headed jack-of-all-genres centred on its free “Summer Jam” in Sefton Park. And now, four years later, LIMF is back for its fifth Sefton Park outing, promising another something-for-everyone line-up across four stages, the Palm House and other adjacent nooks and crannies.

This year, the four-day event runs from July 20-23, and even comes with its own ticketed “VIP experience” offering “the perfect place to chill out” and, crucially, “deluxe toilets” (£10 a day or £25 for the weekend). For the rest of us, it’s either the plebs’ bogs or Keith’s on Lark Lane. Toss you for it.

Free
Not free

As with previous years, LIMF combines free festivities on its four central stages with a series of paid-for events elsewhere – this year in Sefton Park Palm House.

Without coughing up any dosh, you can see headline names including Gorgon City, Corinne Bailey Ray and Naughty Boy, a night of garage sounds with a classical twist presented by DJ Spoony, local stalwarts including The Farm, The Christians and Cast, and a huge heap of other acts covering every genre under the south Liverpool sun.

Meanwhile, the Palm House hosts the hugely respected DJ Norman Jay MBE (pictured) with his Good Times sound system in the first of the paid for “LIMF Presents” events that will all cost a shave under twenty quid a ticket. That’s followed by a sold out session curated by Liverpool’s Circus club night, another sell-out with Trevor Nelson who presents a night of 90s R&B, and a fierce-looking line-up featuring New York hip-hop originals including Kool DJ Red Alert, Slick Rick, and DJ Stretch Armstrong (though no sign of DJ Eagle-Eye Action Man Now With Gripping Hands).

Yaw Owusu, LIMF’s music curator, says: “This year, we’ve attempted to give you our most cohesive, yet characteristically diverse programme yet, which reflects our continued ambition, passion and desire to always step up.”

Something to frighten the kids

Commenting on the festival’s nostalgic theme of “Remember the Times’”, he adds: “LIMF is celebrating amazing periods of extraordinary music, from across various genres, all of which have had a positive impact on our city's culture and its creatives. I hope that, as per years past, true music lovers come out and enjoy what LIMF has to offer – whether it’s the household names, the musical legends or something quirky or emerging.”

LIMF organisers are also trumpeting the return of the festival’s family zone, which this year includes a beach, art workshops, den making, giant-sized board games, and, not to be outdone by the entire city of Liverpool, its own homage to the original Summer of Love. 

For Cathy Cross, family zone curator, there’s plenty of fun ahead. “I’m so pleased to be creating the zone again this year,” she says. “We’re bringing the old favourites back with the beach, game zone and clubhouse for kids, and I'm an extreme den builder, so I’m very excited to be bringing this new area to LIMF. It's a highlight of the year...let's hope the sun comes out to play!"

So whether you too are an extreme den builder or are proud to be a hardcore sitting-downer, LIMF will no doubt have something to offer that’s right up your Sefton Park path. 

As always with events that are obliged to please everyone at least some of the time, it’s a musical mixed bag rather than a narrowly focused niche event. But with well over 150,000 people attending last year and even more expected this time round, it aims to be an accessible and fun weekend out rather than a playground for note-taking musos.

Though if you prefer to swing a six-pack of ale while stumbling down Mathew Street, be our guest.

LIMF 2017 runs from July 20-23. The Summer Jam event in Sefton Park is free, although there are also paid-for events in Sefton Park Palm House. Find more information and ticketing details at www.limfestival.com