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Review: Petta Fiesta songwriting competition @ Cult Cafe, Ipswich, May 2!

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Review: Petta Fiesta songwriting competition @ Cult Cafe, Ipswich, May 2!

IP1 Events Editor, Amy Wragg, went along to Petta Fiesta’s inaugural songwriting competition. Held at Ipswich’s Cult Cafe on Friday May 2, the event reaffirmed Amy’s love for the local music community that she invests so much time and energy in.

Music competitions are often thinly veiled popularity contests but I was intrigued when this songwriting competition came to my attention, as it quite clearly bucked against the trend.

Petta Fiesta, a music festival in Stowmarket, invited unsigned 16-24 year-olds to submit three original songs to the competition, with the (frankly) awesome prize of a place on a professional songwriting camp up for grabs. The event was supported by the MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society), which collects royalties for songwriters and publishers, so they quite clearly knew their stuff.

The finalists had already been revealed on social media so my excitement was only increased by a gloriously sunny cycle into Ipswich, in the knowledge that I would be seeing at least two artists I already knew were fantastic: Woodbridge’s Charlie Law and Fern Teather from Ipswich are both exceptionally great musicians and songwriters, so I wasn’t surprised to see them make the shortlist.

As a dedicated promoter myself, who is quite obsessed with the wealth of talent in our local community, I was pleasantly surprised to see three other artists performing that I had never heard of – Gussie Stafford, Polly Haynes and Isabella O’Reilly, with Georgia Roworth making up the complete set of six finalists.

The gig was held at the delightful Cult Cafe on the Waterfront; fast becoming my favourite place to hang out in Ipswich. The atmosphere was great and that Friday night feeling was in full effect upon arrival. Straight away I knew this gig would be special as a mixture of friends, family and fans crowded around the stage making my first problem of the evening finding somewhere to sit! (My favourite kind of problem.)

After scoping out the room, I took up residence next to the sound desk and made friends with the people on the table next to me who turned out to be a contestant’s parents (Isabella O’Reilly). They were lovely folks and I was most impressed with their general support for all the contestants. In fact, everyone was really supportive; generous applause was abundant after each excellent songwriter took the stage and there was a real feeling of warmth in the room.

My second problem for the evening was trying to decide who I thought would win! I don’t know about you but whenever I watch a music competition I always play ‘judge’ in my head and try to predict the winner. The extraordinary talent of each songwriter was quite impressive and whilst I had my favourites (music is subjective after all), it was quite breathtaking to think all of these artists were under 24. I mean, really? Wow! It was also quite reassuring to see that the entrants were female by majority – go ladies! I’ve seen so many line-ups at gigs that only have one ‘token’ woman performing that it warmed my heart to see the norm reversed, for a change.


Whilst the judges had the unenviable task of choosing their winner, a guest performer - rapper and producer Nomis - took the stage to entertain us during the interval. His speedy delivery and engaging performance won me over instantly. Bursting with energy, he spat lyrics at an incredible speed, and with great clarity. I’m keen to hear more from this talented chap and left wanting to book him for an acapella set so I could really listen to his lyrics. I’m a word junkie, so putting a rapper on without their music is always an exciting and revelatory gig for audiences and organisers alike, as far as I’m concerned.

Thankfully the judges didn’t leave us hanging and returned promptly with their (unusual) and applaudable verdict: all of the entrants won a place at the songwriting camp! Whilst this might be a little unconventional, I personally think it was the right decision. I don’t know how anyone could have chosen one from this amazing group of young artists.

Post-event, I messaged one of the organisers, Andy Corrigan, to get a bit of background and found out the Petta Fiesta team have a long history of working seriously high up in the music industry and wanted to run this event to ‘give something back’ to the local music community they care so much about.

This year’s Petta Fiesta will be their fourth and I’m kicking myself that I have to work at Sonisphere that weekend. It’s a small festy with a capacity of only 1,500 and a sensible ticket price to boot. But don’t let their size fool you – it’s a labour of love. All of the stalls are handpicked and there is a Wild West-themed area with oodles of funky décor. It sounds like it will soon become one of the most exciting events in the Suffolk calendar and I’m putting it firmly in my diary for next year. I love little festivals as they foster a really unique atmosphere and Andy’s years of experience in the industry is sure to result in a wonderful weekend of fun.

All in all, it was one of those nights that reaffirmed my love for the music community; a room jam-packed full of lovely people, talented songwriters and skilful event organisers, in a friendly venue. It couldn’t have been better. Thanks for having me along for the ride!

Words and Photography: Amy Wragg


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