Greg Lambert talks to Nice n Sleazy’s Ivan Harrison as part of a series of interviews with Morecambe festival organisers.
When punk music exploded in 1977, Ivan Harrison was 18 years old.
As safety pins and mohicans were all the rage in Britain, the music of the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers spoke to the teenage Ivan who like many youngsters of the time, was looking for somewhere to belong.
”Punk was new and different, I was into music in a big way and I was rebellious like a lot of kids were,” said the Morecambe taxi driver, looking back on that exciting summer.
“I was an apprentice plumber with Lancaster City Council at the time but I jacked it in. I didn’t like being told what to do, it felt like I was still at school.
“I was also into The Jam, I’d been to see them at Lancaster Uni. I lived across the road from the William Mitchell, so I went in wearing my leather jacket with ‘The Jam’ logo on the back, a T-shirt and my jeans, and I got barred for life!
“Punks didn’t have a good image and the William Mitchell was a lot posher then!”
Around 20 years later, Morecambe became a hotbed for the revival of punk music.
For almost a decade, punks descended on the resort every year in their droves for the ‘Holidays in the Sun’ music festival, later renamed ‘Wasted’.
Hundreds of acts included big names such as Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers and Hazel O’Connor.
It was estimated that the event was worth more than £1m to the town’s economy and organiser Jennie Russell-Smith even described the event as “the Glastonbury of punk”.
These were heady days for the Morecambe festival season when Summerbreeze, Womad and the Festival of Light and Water were also big draws in the town.
Ivan got involved in the Wasted events first as a fan and later as an organiser.
“Those festivals were huge,” said Ivan.
“It used to fill up the town for a week. There was never any bother from the punks, only from locals.
“The last two years the punks were in Morecambe I got the Trimpell to use their fields for camping.
“They had it at Salt Ayre but they were struggling, and it was a bit far out, so I persuaded them to camp at the Trimpell. There were thousands camping from all over the world.”
But then in 2005, main promoter Darren Russell pulled out of Morecambe and took the festival to Blackpool.
At the time, the Festival Market was used as a concert venue for the punks and market traders were upset at being forced to move out at peak times.
“I knew Darren was going to Blackpool because he was fed up of fighting the council all the time, and the market traders,” said Ivan.
“It was terrible. We were losing everything in Morecambe, starting a downward spiral. We lost Womad and all the entertainment was going. It’s coming back a little bit now but it will never be like it was.”
So Ivan decided to run his own punk music event, naming it after a Stranglers song ‘Nice n Sleazy’.
Eleven years later, Nice n Sleazy is still going strong and will return to Morecambe from May 26-29.
Around 70 bands will perform including punk legends Sham 69 and Peter and the Test Tube Babies.
Two indoor stages with bars and an outdoor stage, as well as a beer marquee and camp site, will turn the Trimpell into a mini punk and ska music haven for the weekend. The new Exchange pub on Regent Road will also host a festival launch night on May 26.
Ivan is proud of how the festival has grown and kept going despite battles to attract funding from the local authorities year after year, and a struggle to raise the profile of the event.
“There is always somebody who comes up to you and says ‘we didn’t realise there was a punk festival in town’,” said Ivan.
“When people talk about what’s going on in town we never get a mention.
“But I think it will be busy this year.
“The Travelodge is sold out. We’ve got 16 rooms booked there. The York Hotel is also full.
“We’ve got Big Fat Panda from Blackpool, Dirt Box Disco, the biggest punk band at the moment, and Ska Face, also from Blackpool, who packed the Blackpool Winter Gardens last September.
“The punks like Morecambe. They have an affinity with Morecambe. Ska is getting popular again.
“I’m sure it will be a good weekend. We hope for good weather.”
As well as bringing visitors to Morecambe and money into the local economy, Nice n Sleazy will also raise funds for good causes the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and for Morecambe man Gary Butler, who will later this year walk the Great Wall of China to raise money for St John’s Hospice.
Ivan and the festival have also been recognised with a fourth Visitor Sunshine Award nomination this year. He has twice won our Entertainment Award in the past, voted for by the readers.
Now he says the next step for the festival is to find a venue in central Morecambe because the event keeps on getting bigger and bigger.
Ivan would love to put bands into the Festival Market like the big punk festival used to do.
This is bound to be a controversial move with the market traders.
But Ivan believes using the market as a festival venue would be a positive move for Morecambe and he has already spoken to Darren Clifford, Lancaster City Council cabinet member for tourism, about his views.
“I’ve put a letter into the council,” he said.
“The market needs to be used for festivals. Not just for us, but for other events as well. It could be 4,000 capacity.
“And if not, people need to know why it’s not being used.”
Ready to shake things up, the 18-year-old who got banned from the William Mitchell still has that rebellious streak nearly 40 years on!