16 of the UK’s best new wave of Prog bands are getting together this Summer to celebrate the life of Rush drummer Neil Peart. The event, called Prog For Peart is two concerts each featuring eight Prog bands held on two days & reads like a who’s who of the current generation of UK Prog. Bands such as The Room, The Far Meadow, IT and This Winter Machine to mention just a few have all stepped up and offered to play at the charity event to raise money to combat Glioblastoma Multiforme; the killer disease that robbed the world of the best drummer of his generation.
Prog For Peart is to be held at The Northcourt, a 200 capacity venue in Abingdon, Oxfordshire on Friday 2nd July and Saturday 3rd July starting at midday on both days and running through until midnight. I caught up with organiser Mark Cunningham and asked him how it all came about.
“Well, I was at the bar last January enjoying a pint when my phone buzzed to let me know a news notification had came though. It was the announcement of Neil’s death. It took the wind out of my sails I can tell you. I’ve been a Rush fan since the late 70s and 2112. After the initial shock, you’ve got to remember he’d only been retired a year or so at that time; I looked up Glioblastoma Multiforme and discovered it’s a nasty form of brain cancer that is currently effectively a 100% killer with average life expectancy of 15mths from diagnosis. I realised then why Neil had retired and how he had gone downhill so fast.”
“I decided, I can’t let this pass without doing something and I had already booked the Bravado lads, who are a terrific three-piece Rush tribute band, for that July so they were my first port of call and asked them how they’d feel about turning it into a charity event. I have got to say that they were immediately very supportive and said they would be delighted to. In researching GBM I found out that there is a UK charity called the Headcase Cancer Trust who raise funds for research into its treatment and that they are supporting research work being carried out by Nottingham Trent University. I knew then I had found what I needed to do to celebrate Neil’s life.”
“At this point I was only thinking about maybe three bands. Anyway Covid hit us pretty much right away after that conversation with Bravado and lockdown quickly followed. It became obvious that there was going to be no full scale gigs for most of the year soon after that. But, this idea wouldn’t go away. So, with a bit more time on my hands than I usually do, I decided to email a few of the bands I really like in the current generation of ‘progsters’. That led to being introduced to a number of contacts within the industry and it just grew. I was stunned at the reception I received which was universally positive and in most cases bands immediately agreeing to perform on the bill. Before I knew it, what was going to be three or four bands turned into a full day and the interest was still there. So, I took the gamble and here we are now with two gigs each with eight fabulous bands. I have got to say the bands and the guys in the industry have been wonderful. I mean, a bloke you don’t know and have never heard of contacts you out of the blue and asked you to donate your time and music in the middle of a global pandemic? Well they all listened to me and almost everyone I asked who had a gap in their diaries said yes. Those that are busy have agreed to participate by sending something for the memorabilia auction we will have on the Saturday. Again all funds going to Headcase Cancer Trust. We’ve also got stalls selling records & CDs, food etc. There’s going to be Prog & Rock Karaoke in the lounge bar at a quid a go with that too going to Headcase and through them to NTU’s research program.”
“When it all comes down to it, that’s what all of this is about really. GBM is a horrible disease and the research that NTU is carrying out has shown some very positive indications. They are intending to take the next step and move on to human trials and we’re hoping that the money we can raise through this will help them take that next step. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if part of Neil Peart’s extraordinary legacy was a contribution to ridding us of the disease that killed him?”
Prog For Peart will be held at The Northcourt, an indoor music venue at Abingdon United Football Club this July 2nd & 3rd. Tickets are on sale already for Friday, Saturday, Weekend and a very limited number of Camping tickets. They can be bought via the venue website: https://www.northcourtmusic.com/