Search for Swanage’s top talent to share stage with star band

A competition for talented singers and songwriters in Swanage will see the winner appear on the same stage as the popular World Cup band Toploader this summer.

Toploader, who performed at the FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar, are headlining the Music By The Sea Festival at Prince Albert Gardens in Swanage, Dorset on Saturday 2nd September 2023 to raise funds for local charities #Willdoes and Cancare.


South Coast band Toploader played live at England’s World Cup match against France in Qatar

Winners will meet and greet Toploader

The band’s frontman Joe Washburn has already praised the ambience of the festival and the vital work done by the charities which both support the wellbeing of young people, and is now looking forward to hearing the best of local talent, too.

Music By The Sea wants to hear from solo artists or duos who write and perform their own material, and will give the best a slot on stage at the concert.

They will also get a backstage opportunity to meet and greet Toploader, whose 2000 hit Dancing In The Moonlight has now been downloaded more than two billion times.

Galaxy Thief at Music by the sea concert

A million plays on Spotify for Galaxy Thief, pictured here playing at Music by the Sea in 2022

Swanage’s Galaxy Thief also star at show

The concert also features Swanage’s Indie rock band Galaxy Thief, whose hits include Timewaster with over a million plays on Spotify and YouTube since its release last year, featuring front man and co-writer Rhys Messenger.

Any local musicians wanting to take part in the competition are asked to upload a 30-second audition video to the #Willdoes Facebook event page, or email it to by midday on Saturday 26th August 2023.

The festival is in memory of Henry Searle and William Paddy, two local young adults who tragically passed away. Founder of #Willdoes and mum of Will, Lesley Paddy, and Vicki Searles, mum of Henry, are both enthusiastic about giving a breakout chance to talented local musicians.


Will Paddy’s mum Lesley took her charity’s message to Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle

“Thrilled to have such a prestigious band”

Lesley Paddy said:

“Both charities are thrilled to have such a prestigious band headline at the festival and support such great causes.

“We’re also really keen to support upcoming talent. It’s such an incredible opportunity for someone to become famous!

“We really think this will be the year that brings in a great crowd and puts Swanage on the festival map!”


The new #Willdoes bus was open for business at Bestival in August 2023

A safe space for the young to meet and talk

The #Willdoes charity is dedicated to the memory of William Paddy, who grew up near Swanage. Funds raised contribute to charitable projects that benefit young people in Dorset and the surrounding areas.

Its latest project, launched in February 2022, was the #Willdoes bus, a £116,000 project to buy a double decker bus, refurbish it as a mobile community space and send it out across Dorset.

It offers youngsters a safe and warm space to meet with each other as well as the chance to talk to youth workers, counsellors and medical professionals.

Cancare offers financial support to local cancer patients, their families and carers at any stage following diagnosis. Swanage resident Henry Searle was diagnosed with brain cancer at 19 and died aged 25 after a long brave battle. His family including his mother, Vicki, raise money in his memory for Cancare which supported him.

Vicki and Jonathan Searle at Music by the sea concert

Henry’s parents Vicki and Jonathan Searle with the tree planted in his memory

“So many talented people in Swanage”

Vicki said that the festival had been very successful as a purely local event over its first two years, and that adding food, bars and a big name group was a chance to take it to a new level.

She added:

“Most of the bands that take part are Henry’s friends, it was set up because of his love of music, he used to watch Galaxy Thief a lot, so that’s how it all took off.

“Galaxy Thief have played with Toploader at Foodie Festivals this year. Ben Bowerman, whose son is Galaxy Thief’s lead guitarist, introduced us to Toploader and they were really keen to do this concert for charity. They have never been to Swanage before, so they are looking forward to that, too!

“We are trialling the headliner act this year to see if we can increase the takings for our charities, but I don’t want the festival to get too large as I think that might spoil what it’s all about.

“But we are trying to make more of a day of it, with local food companies as well as local bands, and if our competition can provide a breakthrough for more local talent, that would be extra special.

“There are so many talented people in Swanage and I often hear people in the background playing on their guitars or singing, and they are the people we are trying to encourage to come forward.”

Music by the sea concert

Music By The Sea festival in 2022 – this year will see the addition of a top headline act

Really looking forward to playing at Swanage

Joe Washburn from Toploader said he can’t wait to headline Music by the Sea to help raise awareness of and funds for the ‘amazing’ charities.

Joe said:

“We are really looking forward to playing at Dorset’s Music by the Sea Festival in Swanage – it’s such a fantastic festival with a great family vibe and incredible local food and drink stalls.

“We love local festivals where there’s more than a hot dog stand and it’s more about the whole ambience – the crowd really gets behind you. If you have never been to this before, come along, you won’t be disappointed.”


The band is a great supporter of local music festivals and young people’s charities

“The pandemic was really difficult for children”

Toploader guitarist Daniel Hipgrave added:

“Summer is one long tour for us from May through to October with festivals every weekend, which is amazing because you are out in a nice warm field in the sun with crowds enjoying themselves, then back home by Monday morning, doing normal family stuff.

“We are looking forward to doing our festival set in Swanage, trying to make it as up and happy and fun for everyone as we can. We are into the whole local festival scene, the world would be a much sadder place without them, so we need to keep them going.

“Music By The Sea is a family festival for a great cause which we are really supportive of, raising money for young people, and we would like to get as many people along as possible to support it.

“As parents with kids in their 20s we know how the pandemic was really difficult for that age group, there were a lot of children sitting at home when they should have been out doing normal things. There’s a few depressed kids out there and we have to keep an eye on them.”

Food and drink stalls will include the Salt Pig Too from Swanage, Purbeck Cider and Purbeck Ice Cream, both from near Corfe Castle.

Watch Toploader’s Dancing In The Moonlight

Further information

  • Local musicians wanting to take part in the competition are asked to upload a 30-second audition video to the #Willdoes Facebook event page, or email it to by midday on Saturday 26th August 2023.
  • Music by the Sea takes place at Prince Albert Gardens, Swanage, from 11 am to 9 pm on Saturday 2nd September. Tickets can be purchased online through
  • Support the #willdoes charity
  • More information about Cancare Purbeck can be found online

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