Toploader: Dancing in the Swanage sunset at music festival

As the sun started to set over Swanage in Dorset, well known band Toploader took to the stage and got everyone dancing at the Music by the Sea festival in memory of Will and Henry, two local lads who died tragically young.

The event at Prince Albert Gardens which took place on Saturday 2nd September 2023, is now in its third year and while it started small, this year the headline act was Toploader, famous for its hit song Dancing in the Moonlight.

Toploader at Music by the sea

Toploader on stage in Swanage

Remembering Henry Searle and Will Paddy

Music by the Sea festival was originally started by Swanage residents Vicki and Jonathan Searle to raise money for charity in memory of their son Henry who died in his 20s from a brain tumour.

Funds raised go to the cancer charity Cancare and #Willdoes, a charity dedicated to the memory of Will Paddy, whose life ended at the early age of 14.

The festival has now expanded to remember other local young people who have died recently including Gaia Pope, Elise Dominy and Jack Gillespie.

Music by the Sea festival Sept 2023

Remembering Henry, Jack, Elise…

Music by the Sea festival Sept 2023

…and Will

Lesley Paddy, Vicki and Jonathan Searle at Music by the sea 2023

Organising a brilliant and enjoyable event to remember their children (left to right) Lesley Paddy, Vicki and Jonathan Searle

“It’s been such an amazing day”

Vicki Searle said:

“This year is a trial to see if by having a big name band we can raise more money for the charities, however making the event larger has been a lot of hard work.

“We’re keen not only to remember Henry but also to include other local people who have lost someone. It’s been such an amazing day with so many people helping out.

“We’d like to thank Swanage Beach Buddies for picking up the litter, Swanage Carnival committee for their stewarding, those helping out with the raffle and tombola, the bar staff and all the local food stalls who have paid for a pitch as well as donated. We couldn’t do it without them!”

Lesley Paddy, mother to Will added:

“I just hope everyone has had a good time. The weather has been so warm – perfect for an event like this. It’s a great way to raise money for #Willdoes while everyone enjoys themselves as they listen to the music and gaze out towards the sea.”

Swanage School at Music by the Sea festival Sept 2023

The Swanage School perform in memory of former pupil Jack Gillespie

Laura Jolly and Emma Fidler at Music by the Sea festival Sept 2023

Swanage talent (left to right) Laura Jolly and Emma Fidler

“It brings everyone together”

With the sun shining and Swanage Bay sparkling behind the stage, the day started with a number of local bands and singers including Karen Grant, Gary Deamer, and duo Emma Fidler and Laura Jolly.

Speaking after they came off stage Laura Jolly said:

“We were involved in fundraising concerts to pay for medical treatment for Henry when he was still with us, so it’s nice to be part of the Music by the Sea festival now. It’s a good way to remember Henry and also Will.”

Emma Fidler added:

“Henry was the life and soul of a party and loved his music, so remembering him through a music event like this is so appropriate. Looking round and seeing so many people, it’s lovely to see how it brings everyone together.”

Toploader with Lesley Paddy and Vicki Searle at Music by the Sea in Swanage
Nigel Martin

Toploader with Lesley and Vicki at Music by the Sea in Swanage. Left to right: Drummer Rob Green, lead vocalist Joe Washbourn, Lesley Paddy, Vicki Searle, bass player Matt Knight and guitar and vocalist Dan Hipgrave

Joe Washburn from Toploader at Music by the sea festival 2023

Toploader front man Joe Washbourn in Swanage pledges to return

Dancing in the Moonlight became a global hit

Since forming in 1997, Toploader have had more than two million album sales and a string of top 20 hits. In 2000, the single Dancing in the Moonlight became a global hit and transformed the band into a household name.

Despite travelling the world, lead singer Joe Washbourn revealed that none of the band had ever been to Swanage before.

Speaking to Swanage.News Joe said:

“This is the first time I’ve been to Swanage and I’ll definitely be back – it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s so nice to come here to such a lovely festival and to help raise money for such good charities. We’re 100 percent here to back improving young people’s mental health.

“We’ve all got kids – I’ve got a 17 year old daughter. In our generation we didn’t talk about mental health issues but now there’s so much pressure on kids – there’s peer pressure, the internet, social media – so starting a dialogue and talking about things is so important. And doing it through music is even better!

“It’s a beautiful setting here in Swanage but I’m sure there are problems just as there are in other places. We came from Eastbourne – a coastal town – so I know that often the expectation is to stay in your town. We were lucky to be able to travel and achieve a lot of things. Young people should know there are opportunities out there for them.”

Galaxy Thief at Music by the Sea festival Sept 2023

Galaxy Thief on stage in Swanage

Galaxy Thief at Pilton Party
Catherine Bowerman

The day before Music by the Sea, Galaxy Thief were invited to perform at the Pilton Party in Glastonbury on an impressive stage in front of Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis

Galaxy Thief at Music by the sea festival 2023

Galaxy Thief just after performing on stage in Swanage (left to right) Rhys Messenger, George Bowerman, Jake Trim and Ben Watton

Stepping stone to playing at Glastonbury

One group of local lads who are looking to exploit every opportunity is the band Galaxy Thief, who were the main support act at the festival. Formed in 2017 they are steadily getting their music better known and performing at more venues across the UK.

The day before the Swanage gig they played at the Pilton Party at Glastonbury in Somerset – the thank you to the local residents for having their village taken over for the world famous Glastonbury music festival. The band’s lead guitarist George Bowerman said:

“It was a really great experience performing our original music to 8,000 people. It was an amazing stage with sound and crew – a next level experience and hopefully a stepping stone to playing at Glastonbury itself. Today, performing alongside Toploader has been really fun as well!”

Toploader at Music by the sea festival 2023
Toploader at Music by the sea festival 2023

Toploader performing to the Swanage crowd

“Do it because it’s your passion and you love it”

So what advice has the lead singer of Toploader got for anyone who wants to make it in the music industry? Joe Washbourn said:

“It’s a different world now than when we were starting out. Music can be a hobby or a profession but you have to do it because it’s your passion and you love it.

“We wouldn’t do it unless we loved it. You have to write good songs and engage with your audience. When you’re on stage you really need to feel that you’re part of the audience.

“When people listen to your music they need to be able to forget about their lives and the things that worry them, before having to get up the next day and go to work and face everything again. If we can help people forget things for a bit, then we’re doing our job!”

Watch Toploader on stage in Swanage

Further information

Music by the Sea festival Sept 2023

The tree planted in memory of Henry Searle overlooks the crowds as they being to arrive at Prince Albert Gardens

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