Still a relatively new festival feature in the metal calendar, Mearfest actually started back in 2010. Paramedic Brian Mear had been nursing his mother until she died after a six-year battle with abdominal cancer, and, in order to raise money for the Thames Valley hospice, he decided to stage a festival.
“I’d previously organised ten years’ worth of rock charity nights through work so I thought I’d put on a three-day outdoor festival and name it after my Mum,” he recalls. “It was a great success – two hundred people came over the weekend to see fourteen local bands and the whole thing cost me £34 to stage. The response ever since has been very positive, but when I decided to make it an all-NWOBHM show at the Borderline in London to raise funds and awareness after Molly’s death a lot of people thought that I was mad, and that no-one would turn up.” he pauses. “We sold a quite respectable 350 tickets for that show.”
Molly was Brian and his wife Claire’s daughter, who died two days before her birth in August 2013. Claire also had experience in the music business, and between the two of them they’d already raised a tidy sum through charity gigs before this tragedy set Brian down a different path. Combining his love for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and traditional metal with a desire to raise money for charity gave rise to a new musical focus for Mearfest, and the metal fest that it is today was created. “So we had bands like Desolation Angels headlining our first ever ‘all metal’ show in Central London in 2016, and then Toledo Steel played late last year at a show we held in Hastings.”
Although Mearfest now blends two of Brian’s key interests, it’s not something he would claim to be therapeutic. “It is a lot of hard work – as anyone who’s staged a festival will tell you – and it can be very emotional at times. And we have encountered jealously and unpleasantness occasionally which is difficult to comprehend and even more difficult to deal with. So it’s not what I would call therapeutic, but having said that we have done a lot of good by raising large sums of money for our charities and that’s what spurs us on.
“And,” he continues, “if Molly had lived she would have had Down’s Syndrome so we have raised a lot of money for Down’s Syndrome North East. At our last show in October we both attended their annual conference and handed our cheque over. Individuals got up and gave a ten-minute kind of presentation of their interests, and one young guy did his on Mearfest, to the soundtrack of AC/DC, saying the friendship and enjoyment of Mearfest had transformed his life. As you can imagine, that was a special moment for us both.”
Another Dissonance act, Neuronspoiler, are on Brian’s radar, but at the moment the next Mearfest is planned as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the NWOBHM and this birthday bash will be featuring bands from back in the day. The event takes place on 1/2 June 2019, at the Farnham Royal Village Hall, Slough, and will feature, among others, Quartz, Weapon UK, Airforce, Traitors Gate, Blackmayne and Satan’s Empire. “It’s going to be quite a party!” Brian laughs.
Worthy causes – and metal – always need your support, so put the date in your diary now.
More information at www.mearfest.org