Blues legend Paul Jones will headline Dereham Blues Festival 2014

Paul Jones playing the harmonica at a Manfreds gig at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay. Photo: Denise Br

Paul Jones playing the harmonica at a Manfreds gig at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay. Photo: Denise Bradley; - Credit: Archant © 2007

Master musician and BBC radio presenter Paul Jones will headline a summer event which aims to celebrate Dereham as a cultural hub for Norfolk – and elevate the county's status as the UK's blues capital.

The announcement that the Manfred Mann frontman will perform at the Dereham Blues Festival has been hailed as 'a real coup' as organisers seek to raise the profile of the event in its second year.

The inaugural festival attracted 20 bands and an estimated 600 music fans to pubs and venues across the town centre last July, with visitors travelling from as far afield as London, Wales and Newcastle.

But it only became possible to secure a big-name act by utilising the professional facilities at Dereham Memorial Hall – which was beyond the means of the committee last year due to the regulations, technical requirements and cost involved

Now the confirmation that Paul Jones will play at the hall on the opening night on July 11 is seen as an endorsement of the national stature of the event – while the inclusion of the flagship arts venue indicates the festival's all-inclusive ambitions across the town.

Other new features for 2014 include an online community radio station broadcasting live from the Plough, and the chance to join a blues choir which will be trained up to perform in public during the festival weekend of July 11, 12 and 13.

Doreen Aitken, treasurer of the Norfolk Blues Society (NBS), said: 'It has given the festival a heart, and that has only come about with the support of the Friends of Dereham Memorial Hall (FODMH).

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'It is highlighting Dereham as the heart of Norfolk and its potential for being a real cultural hub. Musically, it is about getting the best that Norfolk can offer, and that is on a level with the best you can get anywhere in the UK. It is now becoming a mainstream festival, with eyes from all over the UK looking at it and wanting to take part.

'We attracted Paul's attention last year – he mentioned us twice on his Radio 2 show, and so this year we have been very, very lucky to get him. It is a real coup, a unique show and a real privilege for Dereham to see it.'

The headline show will be a one-off performance by Paul Jones with the Dave Thomas Blues Band, a Norfolk-based outfit led by the seasoned guitarist and bandleader Dave Thomas, who brokered the agreement to bring the musicians together in Dereham.

Paul Jones was the original front-man with the 60s group Manfred Mann, making million-selling records alongside the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals.

He founded The Blues Band in 1979 and, more recently, he has broadcast on all five BBC Radio networks as musician, DJ, actor and critic. He is president of the The National Harmonica League and has recorded with artists including Tina Turner, Percy Sledge, Katie Melua and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

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