Belfast Telegraph

Holding court with Tom Ravenscroft As the BBC Radio 6 presenter launches this year's In the Court Of at the MAC, he talks to us about his famous dad, making school discos cool and why he's a little cautious of Belfast...

Claire McAuley

Following in his famous father's footsteps, Tom currently presents his own show on BBC Radio 6 Music and is well-known for championing new sounds. Something similar then to Peel, who, as his obituary reads, was "a hero to fans of alternative music".

He's not out to emulate his much-loved father though, but he's still out to get us listening to new music, however obscure.

He said: "I don't like elitist listening – underground music for underground people. It should be about getting people to listen to something they wouldn't ordinarily hear."

It's perfect then that Tom's taking over the reins at this year's at the Court Of at the MAC – a week-long festival which will run from September 24-28.

This is the second year of the event, which after a successful first run with Duke Special, promises to deliver us an exciting and diverse line-up, with a bit of something for everyone.

Curating a festival would be a lot of pressure for anyone, but even more so if you're in Belfast and John Peel's your dad.

Not so for Ravenscroft. He said: "I don't feel any pressure when I come here, more cautious. I know how much this city meant to my father – he loved the people and the music. Belfast for me is is like going to Liverpool, both places had a very special place in my dad's heart, and I really appreciate that."

The week kicks off with the soulful and sultry sounds of New York based Nina Nastasia and Belfast's own songstress of the moment, Katharine Philippa, followed by some comedy, a Slow Dance Party, and finishing with two nights of some of the most exciting and newest acts in the business.

Tom explains: "This year's festival is kind of like one of my radio shows. It starts off quite melodic and slow, but by the end we expect everyone to get up , get dancing and be ready to party."

Comedy comes in the form of Adam Buxton.The former half of cult duo Adam and Joe, brings his new show the Kernel Panic to the MAC, fresh from a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Adam looks within the soul of his laptop in this show to take us on a comic journey of the digital age. It's already selling-out to crowds at this year's Fringe, so we can perhaps expect something similar here.

Plonked in the middle of the week, straight from east London is the Slow Dance Party. Akin to the MAC's sold-out Studio 54 event held back in March, Downstairs at the MAC will be transformed into a disco dolly's dream.

Expect disco balls, flashing lights and perhaps even a cheesy dj as the night, according to Tom, lets you relive your days at the school disco.

He said: "It's a chance for you to get close to that someone special –if there was ever that boy (or girl) you were in to, strut your stuff, get close and get your heart thumping."

Tom will be joined by the Slow Dance Party DJs on the decks – but let's just hope it's not a case of boys on one side and the girls on the other.

Finally, the Friday and Saturday nights feature triple bills from some of the UK's most interesting live acts of the moment. On Friday local indie stalwarts, Girls Names are joined by the outstanding mercury nominated Ghostpoet and the strangely wonderful Songs of Walter.

Saturday turns it up a notch once more, when San Francisco's psychedelic act Moon Duo (more well-known for Wooden Shjips fame) are joined by the electronic maestro Deptford Goth and dance beat hugger Kelpe.

These shows are fresh, exciting and ultimately something entirely new for Belfast. And with two of our own amongst the fray, it seems our city's music is making an impact across the water.

Tom said: "Belfast has a great music scene and there's quite a few bands I love from here. I've always loved Girls Names, I play them on my show quite a bit, and I found out about Katharine after she handed me a demo at a BBC introducing event here."

"Her voice is hauntingly beautiful. I can't wait to hear it live and in such an amazing setting as this."

"Another Belfast band I wanted to feature was Sea Pinks, that was until I realised that they were kind of doubled booked!" (Singer and guitarist Neil Brogan is the percussionist in Girls Names).

"This line-up is kind-of like my dream one; well, add in Neil Young and we're there!

"It's the kind of festival for those stuck listening to the same music over and over again.

"You're sure to find something different and the diversity makes sure there's something for everyone – and who knows, it may open up a whole different world of music to you."

Tickets for In the Court Of are on sale now. Ticket prices start low and will rise over time. For more details visit

DON'T MISS...1. Deptford goth

Hotly-tipped as the next James Blake, this self-made producer (right), is one of music's most exciting prospects. Also known as Daniel Woolhouse, Peckham's Deptford Goth sounds like Bon Iver remixed with Jamie XX. It's electronic music that's sorrowful and introverted and as Tom put it; 'careful, you could fall in love.'

2. ghostpoet

This former Mercury Prize nominee is a trip hop artist that likes to rhyme about every day life. According to Tom, 'the mood, nosies, tempo, the way it stolls along is a cumulation of many aspects of modern music and yet unlike anything else. It's just so bloody cool.'

3. nina nastasia

Probably Tom's pick of the festival is this Hollywood born, New York-based singer songwriter. The artist (left), was the first artist Tom chose for the week and his love for her 'borders on madness'

On her first visit to Belfast we can expect a sparse, haunted folk sound that will cut listeners to the quick. John Peel was also a big fan, and having recorded six sessions with her, she became a close family friend.

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