London Hails Local Heroes

Last Thursday night saw the live final of VF's Local Heroes new bands competition in London. After a closely fought contest, the judges came to a unanimous decision, sending two brilliant acts on their way to festival stardom...

[r-zone1]Merla and Rob McCulloch (pictured, right) are the winners of Local Heroes 2006 and will go on to play six festivals, including Summer Sundae, Get Loaded In The Park, Beautiful Days and Secret Garden.

IST (Midlands Region) and Intervurt (South East) were announced as runners up and will be offered festival slots if either of the two winners can't make any of the dates.

During a night of drama at a packed-to-capacity Islington Academy, fans were treated to a great mix of live music.

[r-zone2]Fans from every corner of the country bussed it down to the capital to support their local heroes, with the Flame Grilled Chinchillas (right) from Swindon (South West Region) receiving the biggest cheers of the night from their loyal supporters. Scooping the prize for Most Resourceful Band of the night, the Chinchillas managed to get their transport to London sponsored by local catering firm Sweeny's in return for a plug on our site. [So here's to Sweeny's, specialists in outdoor catering events, offering a variety of alternative meats, such as Wild Boar, Ostrich and Kangaroo Burgers. Email for more info!]

However, in the end the judges had no doubt as to who the victors should be. Merla (from Doncaster, Yorkshire Region) were declared winners and Rob McCulloch (Bolton, North West) came second.

The panel of four judges – which included Virtual Festivals editor Ross Purdie and Summer Sundae Festival Organiser Richard Haswell – awarded acts on quality of songs, live performance and the F (festival) factor.

[r-zone3]Richard Haswell commented: "The whole evening was really enjoyable, with the standard of bands being really high. The final decision was extremely difficult, but in Rob McCulloch and Merla (right) we think we’ve picked some future stars."

Both winners were commended for their onstage confidence, accomplished live sound and widespread appeal.      

[r-zone4]The night was compered by XFM's Shaun Keaveny, who did a fantastic job keeping the audience on tenderhooks all night.

Announcing the winner he said: "All the acts here tonight have been excellent. Tonight really has shown the wealth of new, unsigned talent out there in the UK."

[r-zone5]Local Heroes, a partnership between Virtual Festivals, Yamaha, Bandwagon and Newsquest, started back in May when bands were invited to upload tracks and profiles on the website Finalists, as decided by over 25,000 votes and downloads, from each of nine UK regions were invited to London for the live final last night.

Ricci Hodgson, Yamaha's Sales and Marketing Director commented: "Year one of the Local Heroes event culminated in a fantastic final –  the quality of all nine bands was really impressive and the atmosphere on the night was electric. It was clearly a tough job for the judges as the musical content and stage presence of all the bands exceeded expectations. That said festival goers are in for a real treat when they hear Rob McCulloch and Merla and we wish them all the very best both in their forthcoming festival appearances. It was a fantastic night."

Stay posted to VF to read all about the winners' progress at this summer's festivals.