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Next week’s Peace One Day concert won’t be the first time Pixie Lott has enjoyed Derry backing on a bill.
Local favourites the Wonder Villains will be playing support to the chart-topper at Thursday’s Ebrington Square gig, which marks the opening of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
But a couple of years ago, Lott actually engaged the services of Foyle MP Mark Durkan as a backing singer when she was hosting a charity night at the House of Commons.
It was a small, acoustic event in the Terrace Marquee, and for her final number, Midnight Train to Georgia, the Brit Pop icon asked MPs in the gathering to accompany her.
Mark Durkan recalled: “Kevin Brennan, the MP for Cardiff, who plays in the parliamentary band MP4, rallied us into an ensemble of sorts, where I contributed what I can only describe as some choral mumbling.”
The Westminster event was an awareness-raiser for Lott’s charity Cardiac Risk in the Young, which aims to reduce the rate of sudden death in youngsters.
To the delight of his daughter Durkan got his photograph taken with Lott – it now has pride of place on his office wall - and he also got to meet the singer’s mother.
The SDLP man, however, will have his work cut out for him to get back to get for the start of the Derry gig. He’ll be at Westminster most of the day where the Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be addressing both houses of parliament.
Durkan commented: “While I really hope to back in Derry in time, I have no intention of repeating my previous singing performance, unless they want to change the title to the ‘Give Our Heads Peace’ concert!”
Ending with a bang
Pixie Lott plans to go out with the biggest bang possible when she closes the Peace One Day extravaganza to a backdrop of a massive fireworks display launched behind her from the River Foyle.
“It’s going to be amazing,” said Peace One Day founder Jeremy Gilley.
“There will be big fireworks display as Pixie does her final song. For us it’s all about the show and the city itself, and whoever is there will have a great time.”
The Peace One Day concert is the first major event to be held at Ebrington Square.
And the massive fireworks display to end the concert is the responsibility of pyrotechnic specialists DRP.
Lott is one of the hottest properties around at the minute, and the Mama Do singer has become almost as well known for her fashion sense as her songs.
She caused a stir when she turned up for an afternoon sound check at the Royal Albert Hall cheekily dressed in her bathrobe and slippers.The 21-year-old stole the show when she finally appeared on stage.
But her choice of outfit for the showpiece Derry concert is being kept a closely-guarded secret.
Lott is joined on next week’s bill by Dublin blues and jazz singer Imelda May, indie band the Guillemots, Derry outfit the Wonder Villains and singer songwriter Newton Faulkner.
And the concert will be compered by Jude Law, Peace One Day ambassador.
Law and Gilley have already visited Derry and were hugely impressed with the Ebrington Square.
Sherlock Holmes star Law has become a passionate advocate of the Peace One Day project.
“I’ve seen how Peace Day saves lives,” he said. “Peace One Day is inviting all sectors of society to observe a global truce on Peace Day 21 September 2012.
“It’s up to all of us to get involved, and the Derry-Londonderry show is a key marker on that journey.
“When I left Kabul I was hugely moved, not by the conflict that I had read so much about but by the people’s courage and the people’s sense of hope.
“It seemed they really wanted to make this day, Peace Day, work and they did.”
Film-maker Gilley adds: “Our message is the same as it has always been.
“We want people to stop fighting. We don’t want innocent people, children, women to suffer unnecessarily and unfairly.
“We’re so excited to be opening the London 2012 Festival in Derry-Londonderry. It marks the three-month countdown to Peace Day 2012, the focus of our Global Truce 2012 campaign.”
May finds Derry a-peeling
The organisers of Derry’s Peace One Day concert have been told to keep a copious supply of oranges on hand for Irish singing star Imelda May.
The 37-year-old Dubliner committed herself immediately to the music festival at the city’s Ebrington Square – even though she will be seven months pregnant at the time.
And she says the pregnancy has gone smoothly, apart from a mad craving for oranges which she is consuming by the barrel-load at the moment.
Her appearance at the Peace One Day concert is likely to be the singer’s last public appearance for a while, although she has been incredibly busy right through her pregnancy.
Recently she has played dates across the UK in Cardiff, Nottingham, Gateshead and at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
That was just last month when she joked with the crowd: “There’s a little bit more of me than usual tonight.”
May counts Bono among her biggest fans – the U2 singer surprised her by presenting her with a bunch of flowers on RTE’s Late Late show earlier this month.
She has earned her success the old fashioned way and caused a little controversy – but also won more than a few fans - with her damning criticism of shows like the X Factor.
“Some people think the only way of doing well or of having a career in music is to go the X Factor route,” she said.
“But a lot of people lose the joy out of music by going that way possibly because they’re so incredibly focused on other people’s ideas of success.”
May’s bluesy style won her the Female Artist of the Year at the 2009 Meteor Awards.
Guillemots to air new songs
Music fans in the city will be the first to hear brand new material when the Guillemots play the Peace One Day concert on June 21.
The enterprising Birmingham line-up have promised to released no less than four albums this year.
So far only the first, Hello Land, has appeared. But frontman Fyfe Dangerfield says they want to completely redefine the way that albums are made and released.
“We didn’t really want to make another record in the traditional cycle where you record as album, sit on it for months as a press campaign builds up to its release and then tour for months afterwards,” he said.
“It feels way more exciting to make as much music as we can, put it out as soon as it’s ready and let people gradually find out about it through the year. So this is what we are doing.
“At the end of the year we will collect all four albums into some sort of special box set thing which will have vinyl and all that in it.”
The Guillemots are no strangers to Derry. The Mercury Award nominated band played the Nerve Centre back in 2006 shortly after the release on their acclaimed debut album Through the Windowpane.
Big score for Villains
Derry band the Wonder Villains reckon playing the Peace One Day concert will be their best gig since landing a spot on Radio One’s Big Weekend.
The teenage indie-pop quartet burst onto the scene with catchy songs like Zola and Ferrari which led to them supporting Scouting for Girls and New Young Pony Club.
Lead singer Eimear Coyle says the Radio One show helped bring them to a new audience.
“We got the boat over and the weather was great and it felt like the band had gone on a great holiday,” she said.
“We were able to watch back some video of our show which I really enjoyed and I thought we looked pretty awesome.”
So far supporting Socuting for Girls has been their career highlight but playing in front of thousands of home fans at Ebrington Square might just top that.
“That was a really cool experience for us,” Eimear says.“I think they were number one in the charts when we played that show with them. We were psyched about that, and I’m sure they were too.”