Raglan could be set to become a music festival town like Byron Bay if local promoter and mentor Tom McCormick has his way.

The expat Irishman reckons Raglan could become a mini-version of the New South Wales surfing town, even if Byron Bay’s “overdoing it” with its seven major music festivals.

He cites bookings that are going “off the hook” and says tribute band Fleetwood Mac – in town last weekend – kickstarted a full-on summer season of concerts from New Zealand and overseas, culminating in the return on Waitangi weekend of world-class Kiwi saxophonist Nathan Haines who studied jazz music in New York in the ‘90s.

Both gigs will headline at Raglan Club which Tom says has “opened the door” to bands, giving the town another venue besides the Yot Club which has also been bringing in top acts like Kiwi soul singer-songwriter Hollie Smith.

The Yotty and the Club have “joined the party”, says Tom. It’s about co-operation rather than competition, he explains, with all layers of musicians creating little niches and ticket deals being done.

He reckons a “healthy” local music scene could well lead in a year or two to another major Raglan festival on the same scale as Soundsplash. “It’s time to reclaim Waitangi weekend for the big one … time to wind it back up again,” he says. The eco-reggae event regularly attracted thousands to Wainui Reserve some years back, before competing festivals like Raggamuffin took hold.

Tom, who runs a small production company known as the Blabbering Tree Collective from his home in Bayview Road, says he has the backing of DB Breweries’ event manager who can provide the infrastructure for a music festival. He’s confident the town, with its location and track record of legendary bands, has the credibility to carry it off.

He envisages a collaborative effort over several days using not only Wainui Reserve but all available venues in town including the town hall and the Old School and also with, for instance, a jazz band in the hotel and a choir in the church. “A major festival not a rock festival,” he differentiates.

Waikato District Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Xtreme Zero Waste – with its profile at festivals around the country – could come on board, he says.

So too could the local emergency rescue services in town which have benefitted the past two years from fundraising gigs at Raglan Club, courtesy of the home-grown Mudsharks and West Coast Jazz who have volunteered their time for free.

Meantime Tom’s excited about Raglan’s inclusion next month in the North Island tour by top Irish singer Pauline Scanlon, who will perform the traditional music of Ireland and New Zealand in a modern context.
It’s billed as a concert “from Carnegie Hall to the Raglan Town Hall” and Tom reckons it will be a quality of show not seen in town since Green Fire Islands, coincidentally also a collaboration of contemporary Celtic/Kiwi music and Raglan-inspired.

Then the summer bookings just keep on coming, he promises, with a mix of tribute and ’80s bands from Herbs to Mi-Sex, and NZ blues rock group Swamp Thing. Raglan Club’s the main venue but Tom’s sure many local music-goers will – as they did with the recent Herbs and Shona Laing tour – gravitate downtown to the Yotty after the shows.

E Symes