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Jonathan Markwell


A resident of Lincoln for 25 years, Jonathan is a keen writer and contributes regularly to all of Lincoln's major music websites.

Lincoln’s very own School of Rock opens its doors this month to any eager Ed Sheerans and budding Billie Joe Armstrongs in the city.

The Absolute Rock Academy is holding a one-week workshop during the school holidays for anyone aged 10-16 who wishes to get to grips with guitar, bass or drums.

The idea came to organisers Scott Ballard and Jody Barratt as a way to get young people not just learning instruments, but also jamming with other like-minded musicians of a similar age, while promising a fun time for those attending.

Classes start from July 23-27, and because the academy is supported by Lincoln College, it will be based in the Knights Building on the college campus.

Students will be split in age groups 10-13 and 14-16. Each group will have two hours of tuition each day followed by a performance at the end of the week if they are comfortable and wish to.

Students will have access to the college music department’s equipment and facilities too.

Those attending the Absolute Rock Academy will be taught by a range of tutors, including members of Lincoln’s busiest and most promising unsigned bands.

These include Casey Howden, drummer and percussionist with The Treehouse (pictured) and Ballard himself, who is one-quarter of The Freefall.

Ballard said: “My time in The Freefall has been brilliant for developing my live playing.

“We want to inspire the students the same way into advancing on their instruments to reach a higher level and give them the confidence to both work with other musicians and perform”.

“You always learn something from playing with other people, no matter how small.”

For an acoustic duo, Changing Horses make a lot of noise — not just on stage, but also amongst music fans. They’ve secured enviable press attention and praise, despite not even releasing anything yet.

However, all that changes next week with the launch of their debut EP, something their fans have been waiting for for some time.

Far from the average acoustic act, Ric Birtill and Francesca Cullen have a sound that veers wildly from swirling, soporific pop to careening punk. Having started their musical endeavours in Preston, the band now call Lincoln their home and are launching The Nashville Sessions at Back To Mono record shop on June 8.

The debut release from the band began life over two years ago when recordings Birtill made caught the ear of the right people. He said: “I wrote these songs and didn’t know what to do with them. Francesca was always very supportive of my music and insisted we do something with them.

“These session musicians who play for Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello got hold of some of the early demos I’d done and said they’d love to do something with it. They took us both out to Nashville to record for a week.

“That was the first thing we did as a band, it’s really how we started.”

So what took them so long to get the music out amongst the people?

Francesca Cullen said: “It takes a long time to get everything together and to begin with we didn’t know what we were doing.”

Ric Birtill added: “We had a lot of different things to work through and bad decisions to make, but we finally got there.”

Francesca isn’t sure how to pinpoint the band’s sound: “We’re a bit punky. People say it’s folk because we have a violin and a mandolin, but we’ve played folk festivals before and people just give us strange looks.”

Those attending the official launch will be able to make up their own minds, and will also have the opportunity to get a limited edition press-pack edition of the album.

“There’ll be no gimmicks or guerrilla marketing, it’s just us playing a few songs at Back To Mono.”

As anyone who’s heard them can attest, that’s all they need. The event starts at 4pm and entry is free.

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