Teens set to rock in bid to save town centre hall

Hammerdown rock festival organisers. Foreground, Harry White, background (from left to right)  Sam Oosterbaan, Freya Morris, Harry Tomlin, Dan Deacon, and Alex Langner
Hammerdown rock festival organisers. Foreground, Harry White, background (from left to right) Sam Oosterbaan, Freya Morris, Harry Tomlin, Dan Deacon, and Alex Langner

A group of teenagers will host a music festival at a town centre hall in a bid to save it from redevelopment.

Harry White, from Cuckfield, and a group of friends have organised the Hammerdown rock and metal festival.

The 19-year-old, who is heavily into rock and metal music, will host the event at the Martlets Hall, in Burgess Hill,in the summer and is expecting to attract more than 20 bands and 350 people.

The building is currently under threat after developer Newriver Retail announced a £65 million plan to renovate the town centre.

The latest proposals outline the demolition of the hall and the creation of a ten screen cinema, hotel, 142 homes, library, 283 car parking spaces and 70,000 square feet of retail space.

Harry said the festival was originally organised for a bit of fun but took on a new meaning when he discovered the plans.

He said: “It is not necessarily about the rock festival anymore, it is about saving the venue.”

Harry has played gigs across the country in bands with his friends.

He recently decided he wanted to use his contacts in the industry to create an annual festival in Sussex, to turn the county into a ‘hot bed’ for rock and metal music.

He admitted he had not known about the issues facing the hall until he enquired about booking it.

“I started looking into the background,” he said.

“I think the whole idea is quite ridiculous.

“If it closed down there is nowhere with as bigger capacity in Sussex other than Brighton and I want to make sure the festival is local.

“We are now doing our best to try and save it.”

In September 2015 Mid Sussex District Council gave the green light to the redevelopment.

More than 6,000 people have signed a petition to stop the removal of the hall without a replacement being offered.

Harry believed one of the reasons the council had approved the plans was because very few young people used the facility.

“With no help from anyone older than myself, my team of 15- to 19-year-olds are putting on a 400 people all day rock and metal festival,” he said

“This is something that can help and hopefully save the Martlets, especially with the fact that young people are hosting such a big event.”

The festival is being held on Saturday August 13.

Last year Harry hosted a smaller event at the Danehill Village Hall but said this time he wanted to hold something bigger and better.

He said: “We have got eight acts announced at the moment and in total there is going to be 25 spread across two stages. We have got a lot of really successful acts and its going to be a really good event.”

The teenager and his team have set up a Kickstarter fundraising page to raise money to buy extras for the festival including a barbecue.

Harry added:“It is not just about reaching out to the rock and metal fans, it is about reaching out to the community, to people who love the theatre and think it might be a good way of getting everyone together in Burgess Hill.”

For more information visit www.facebook.com/HammerdownFestival/?fref=

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