Posted by Micky on July 4 2011

Lulu, Rick Astley, Kiki Dee and McFly… perhaps not the sort of artists you’d expect to find at the Llangollen International Festival.

But organisers hope the eclectic mix of performers will help attract more than 40,000 people to the annual week-long event which begins today.

While 4,000 performers from 50 different countries and a range of musical genres will be competing at Llangollen this year, the event is now trying to entice new audiences, with contemporary chart-toppers McFly due to headline the festival’s closing concert.

Mervyn Cousins, chief executive for the event, said: “This year we have taken an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach.

“We still have 4,000 competitors coming from all over the world providing a great variety, as has always been the case.

“And the week will build to our showpiece event, the choir of the world competition on Saturday which has grown and grown over the years.

“We’ve got our usual classical concerts throughout the week, but then we’re also looking forward tremendously to welcoming Lulu, Rick Astley, Kiki Dee and McFly. It’s hugely exciting.

“We’ve tried to do two things this year, that is, to keep our core audience – and we have the same competitions as we had last year. But secondly we are trying to open up and diversifying our audience throughout the week.

“We were looking for a young contemporary act to do that and, from the four or five artists we approached, McFly were the first to get back to us, and we were delighted with that.

“It’s not the easiest of times, but give us some good weather and I think we’ll be talking about a very successful week again this year.”

Lulu will perform at the opening gala concert today with her special guests including Rick Astley and Kiki Dee.

Tenor Russell Watson will headline tomorrow evening’s concert, supported by teenage mezzo soprano Faryl Smith, who rose to fame on Britain’s Got Talent.

Friday will see West End and Broadway star Ruthie Henshall perform The Best Of The West End featuring soloists from the London stage, accompanied by the orchestra of the Welsh National Opera.

Mr Cousins said: “Our Russell Watson concert is already sold out, others haven’t yet, including McFly, but we hope they will. And we are staying positive about the weather.

“In the last couple of years we have seen footfall of around 40,000 and, with 4,000 primary school pupils here for our Children’s Day on Tuesday, we are hoping for similar numbers on the site.

“We’re also expecting politicians, folk artists and people representing the Olympics here as guests throughout the festival.”

For Mr Cousins it will be an especially emotional event, his last in the role of chief executive which he has held for eight years.

“This is a chance for me to thank the artists, staff, volunteers and performers who make this event so successful every year,” he said.

“I always enjoy the festival, even if my role means that the week can be quite frenetic, and I don’t think I will enjoy it any less or more when I return as a member of the public in years to come.

“Having said that, I expect there will be a lump in my throat on Saturday when I hand out the prizes at the choir of the year competition because this is such a special event.”

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