Pop goes retro at Reload Festival in Norwich this weekend

Crowds at last year's Reload Festival. Photo: Lee Blanchflower

Crowds at last year's Reload Festival. Photo: Lee Blanchflower - Credit: Lee Blanchflower - 99PROBS Music

Rewind back to the biggest hits and hit-makers of the 1980s (and 90s) as the Reload Festival returns to the Norfolk Showground this weekend. SIMON PARKIN and EMMA LEE catch up with some star names.

Reload Festival is returning this weekend. Photo: Lee Blanchflower

Reload Festival is returning this weekend. Photo: Lee Blanchflower - Credit: Lee Blanchflower - 99PROBS Music Media

This year is the 30th anniversary of Walking on Sunshine, the evergreen hit from Katrina and the Waves and it could almost be the anthem for Reload, the nostalgic two-day music festival which returns to the Norfolk Showground this weekend.

The upbeat catchy song may have only actually reached number eight on its initial release but it has gone on to have an amazing afterlife featuring in numerous films and commercials — the rights to the song changed hands for a whopping £10 million last month.

That's the nostalgic power of music to be able to take us back in time and it is what draws crowds to Reload whose line-up reads like a who's who of 80s and 90s pop with UB40, M People, Marc Almond, Howard Jones, Limahl, Level 42, Rick Astley, Jimmy Somerville, The Beat, Cheryl, Mike & Jay from Bucks Fizz, The Boomtown Rats and indeed Katrina Leskanich, of the Waves fame.

'I do quite a lot of these festivals, and everyone still seems to love the 80s music,' she says. 'At the time we thought 'what is it with this music'? But listening to people like Howard Jones, these are such memorable melodies, you can really get into it and sing along. The 80s ended up having this iconic thing about it, which I don't think you get with 2000s music.'

Having wowed the Reload crowd at last year's inaugural festival, Rick Astley will be back at the Norfolk Showground by popular demand.

Rick shot to fame in the 80s. A protege of Stock Aitken Waterman's hit factory, in 1987 his debut single, Never Gonna Give You Up, shot to the top of the charts and a new star was born.

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After parting ways with Stock Aitken Waterman, he continued to make records before taking the surprising step of retiring from the spotlight. However the last 10 years have taken him all over the globe and the internet meme Rickrolling - where a disguised internet hyperlink turns out to lead to a video of Never Gonna Give You Up - has won him a whole new generation of fans.

'One of the things I remember about Reload was they had a table tennis table backstage,' he laughs. 'I didn't manage to play with the artists, but I played with different band members. It just epitomises the whole thing - it's so chilled out by the time you get onstage you don't feel like you're doing a gig.

'It's weird. There are deja vu moments where you think 'wow' and can forget yourself and think you're 21 and then realise you're not, you're 49,' he continues. 'Being on stage, for me, this is what I'm supposed to do. This is why I started.'

This year's festival is also venturing into the 1990s. On Saturday Heather Smalls will be reuniting with M People to perform some of the band's hits which made them one of that decades biggest selling artists.

'At festivals like Reload there's an eclectic bill - people doing it because they're still loving it, there are no egos backstage - the warmth you feel out in the crowd is the warmth you feel behind the scenes,' she says. 'I'm always very nervous beforehand, but the minute I get on stage it's all good. But the audiences are amazing and that's why I do it.'

Conquering her nerves is one of the reasons she's heading out on a solo tour early next year, which includes a stop at the Princess Theatre, Hunstanton, on February 13.

Headlining the first night are three original members of a band credited with helping define reggae music for a generation – UB40's Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue. Ali left the band in 2008, followed by Mickey. Astro remained with the band (which also continues to tour) until 2013, when he left to team up again with Ali and Mickey.

'I can't wait,' says singer and rapper Astro, who describes reuniting as 'like putting on an old pair of slippers'. 'Everything fits. There are no band politics to contend with. We have a blast. It's fantastic. It's what I love. My life revolves around being on stage. When you're stood on stage and the audience is singing the songs back to you it doesn't get any better than that.'

•Reload Festival, Norfolk Showground, September 11-13, £105 (family weekend/camping), £72 (weekend), £39 (day tickets), 0871 2241112, www.reloadfestival.co.uk



UB40's Ali Campbell, Astro & Mickey Virtue

Billy Ocean

M People

Marc Almond

Howard Jones

Simon & Oscar from Ocean Colour Scene


Kenny Thomas

Bad Boys (Tribute to Wham)


The Boomtown Rats

Level 42

Rick Astley

Jimmy Somerville


The Beat

Cheryl, Mike & Jay: Formerly Bucks Fizz

Altered Images

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