Book brings to life John’s time on the music scene

John Winstanley with his book about the music scene in Chorley
John Winstanley with his book about the music scene in Chorley
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For years, John Winstanley had a typical family life and worked hard in his job at a bank.

But the prospect of middle age and redundancy led to him following a new path.

John, 51, of Thirlmere Drive, Withnell, said: “I was just turning 40 and going to be made redundant. I could have easily bought a red Porsche instead.”

It was a poster advertising a concert by a Sex Pistols tribute band that changed things for John in 2002.

He said: “I was sitting in a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Blackburn and saw a poster for a show. I thought I might like to go to that.”

John went along and met Roy Hesketh, a man who had started producing his own fanzine, Pogo ’til I Die, about punk bands.

He said: “The next night, anotherb tribute act, The Jamm were on, and I asked the owner if I could interview them.

“A few days later, my article was in the fanzine. I really got a buzz off it. I thought that was the start of my journalistic career.”

John became a regular contributor to the fanzine and also started to watch live music more regularly.

Seven months later, he found himself becoming a part of Chorley’s music scene.

He took voluntary redundancy after working in a bank for 21 years and set up his own music business, A3H Promotions.

Plans were soon underway for his first show, at North Bar in Blackburn.

And the main attraction was Glen Matlock, bassist from the Sex Pistols.

“When I was going to be made redundant, I realised I needed a big act for my first big gig. I already had a big event with local bands,” John said. “I got him to do ‘an audience with’ thing in 2003.”

John’s redundancy from the bank was rescinded, but he decided to go ahead with his gig and A3H Promotions.

He said: “From seeing a Sex Pistols tribute band to having the real thing on the stage was amazing.”

John, who spent most of his childhood in Euxton, had dabbled in the music scene before.

His dad, Frank, was a professional piano player and had moved North with his family because there were more opportunities on the cabaret circuit.

John was also a musician, playing drums and piano at clubs around Chorley.

But he found that he preferred listening to music and watching live bands rather than playing himself.

And John was able to make the most of that passion when he was asked to get involved with the restricted service licence for Chorley FM.

He said: “That was a great experience.

“There were three of us and we decided to do an alternative music slot. We got lots of bands on and it was a great time.”

While at Chorley FM, John found his next step in the music world.

After an interview, he was asked to become the manager of Let’s Not Lose Mars To The Commies, an emo/skate/punk band from Chorley.

John said: “I had got a lot of skills from working in the bank that I didn’t realise would be useful – selling, communicating, leadership, holding meetings.

“Now, you can go on courses to be a manager or a promoter. I was like the band – they didn’t know how to make it and I didn’t.

“All I brought to the table was pure energy and integrity. The talent was theirs.”

The band had sent a CD to a competition run by Kerrang magazine and were chosen as the support act for band Farse for six dates of their UK tour.

Their first support slot was at the well-known King Tut’s in Glasgow and was hailed a success.

The Commies went on to play regular gigs, but the band members later decided to go different ways and played their final gig at Chorley Community Centre in December 2003.

It brought to an end John’s time leading the band.

He said: “I fell in love with it.

“Unfortunately, love is blind and I didn’t always make the best decisions or the best moves, but whatever I did, I did with integrity.

“Everyone knew my heart was in the right places.”

It was not long before he found a new band to manage – an indie band named Pretendgirlfriend.

They had previously played at John’s launch party and he had invited them on his radio show.

He organised a tour and a whole host of gigs for the band.

John also decided to set up a kind of music collective, named the Digger Movement, where he got together local bands to record CDs and book gigs together.

It led to him becoming involved with the Wigan Digger Festival, which sees 10,000 people enjoy live bands over a weekend each year.

John managed Pretendgirlfriend for three years, before deciding to take a break.

John, who is married to Helen and has two daughters, said: “My children were early teenagers and I thought I had to draw a line and help them. I was trying to be there for them and encourage them. I was being a parent.

“I was a bit exhausted as well.”

While not being directly involved in Chorley’s music scene anymore, John has helped out as a roadie for Shaun Maxwell from the Taser Puppets.

And he has spent the past five years writing a book about his experiences in the industry.

Unsigned Unscene was self-published and John describes it as “a bit punk and DIY”.

John said: “My book is all about the people who never got recognition.

“Yes, I tell my story but it’s also about them.

“I wanted it as a document for prosperity, for people from Chorley to see this is what was a phenomenon in 2002.”

He also hopes the book will provide useful advice for anyone hoping to make it in the music business.

John said: “If it helps anyone else not to make the same mistakes as me, that would be great.

“It’s a guide to bands, managers and promoters.”

The book was released just weeks ago and John is holding a launch party at 8pm on Friday, April 25 at The Railway pub, on Steeley Lane, Chorley.

It will include live music and John hopes as many people as possible will attend.

The following day, he will give a reading from the book and talk about his experience of self-publishing at 2pm at Knitty Nora’s.

It will be part of new literary festival, What’s Your Story, Chorley?

John’s immediate plans will see him focus on promoting his book and continuing his work with Wigan Digger Festival.

And he looks back fondly on the time he spent working in Chorley’s music scene.

He said: “I don’t missed the intensity of what I was doing.

“I enjoy it more now because I don’t have the urge to push flyers in people’s hands or promote hands. I can just enjoy music.

“I’m very proud of the bands and the musicians I worked with in those five years.

“I have been able to work with some phenomenally talented musicians and learned a lot about running a business.”

n Unsigned Unscene costs £14.99 and is available from Amazon, as well as local shops including Ebb And Flo, Townsend Records and Malcolm’s Musicland.