The teachers behind sensational AMP Awards

The AMP Awards team including, centre, Josh Hill and Marian Farrar. (Picture by
The AMP Awards team including, centre, Josh Hill and Marian Farrar. (Picture by

By Graham Chalmers

It could and, by any rights, should have been a bit of a mess but, from the start, the AMP Awards has been a spectacular success, writes Graham Chalmers.

Always more than merely a schools battle of the bands, the idea this most friendly of competitions should do so well so quickly was a surprise to the organisers themselves, admits larger than life AMPs director Josh Hill who still MCs the final to this day.

“If I were honest, the very first year was chaos. We had the roots of a great idea but it needed refining and honing. We had six schools and seven bands involved - and ended up with 500 students in the audience at Harrogate International Centre! It was an amazing day.”

Young bands from across the district themselves often say how wonderful the experience of appearing in the AMP Awards final is, from the winners of the very first AMPs, metal band Book of Job, from St John Fisher’s and St Aidan’s Joint Sixth Form, to 2012’s winners Purple Mafia from Ripon Grammar School.

And anyone who’s ever enjoyed the privilege - and sheer fun - of being an X Factor-style judge at the AMPs, like myself, will tell you how high the standard of the whole thing is and what a great spirit runs through it.

Unsurprisingly, it takes a lot of work by a lot of people to make this blue ribbon event work each year but the original blueprint came from just two teachers - man of action Josh, who was then a music teacher at Boroughbridge High School, and the unflappable Marian Farrar, head of Business & Community Partnerships at St Aidan’s High School in Harrogate.

Marian said: “I had the idea for the AMP Awards format after meeting a young musician from Rossett School in a group called Kid October who told me about how few opportunities locally there were for his band to show off its musical talent.

“I asked him what it would mean if they could play at Harrogate International Centre. The enthusiam of his response got me thinking about the most practical way of making it happen.”

The plan was ambitious. Not only would this battle of the bands provide an unusually professional and prestigious platform for young indie, pop and rock bands from local schools - no spit and sawdust pub venues for this competition - it would also encourage pupils’ business acumen, event planning, marketing and financial skills.

So, when this year’s crop of musical hopefuls appears in the spotlight of the big stage at Harrogate’s Royal Hall next Wednesday night for the 2015 final, what hundreds of cheering teenage fans will see is just the tip of the iceberg.

For a kick-off, each band is matched by a business team of youngsters from their own school with support from their teachers.

In the build-up they have to organise their own heat in the school including the event management and marketing.

The bands who actually make the grand final are fine-tuned with the help of music mentors such as Rich Huxley of Hope & Social at a development day at top Harrogate studio Audio Active.

All the while, their business teams are being advised by experienced mentors from local companies.

Each band produces its own video for the final - and even the hospitality at the Royal Hall next week will be handled by the students themselves.

No wonder the AMPs has now expanded its horizons to become a truly Yorkshire-wide phenomenon.

To the Harrogate AMPs final have been added sister events in York, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Yorkshire.

It’s the collaborative nature of the whole set-up from the bottom up which has made such rapid growth possible.

Josh said: “Over the years we have worked with some truly amazing people who have helped guide our young people. The network of individuals and companies who have given their time or financial assistance has grown incredibly.

“AMPs is really a network of like-minded people, driven to improve the opportunities for young people across Yorkshire.”

And this most superior of ‘battle of the bands’ maybe about to get even bigger.

Josh said: “Plans are already afoot to expand AMPs into a further three locations in Yorkshire. And we’ve got an idea to develop a record label for young bands.”

l The AMP Awards final takes place at the Royal Hall, Harrogate on Wednesday, February 11.

Tickets are available on 01423 502116 or book online at

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