Photography: Georgia Flynn / Photography: Robin Clewley /

LIMF Academy stars XAMVOLO and ELEANOR NELLY are the latest artists to benefit from the award-winning support offered by the country’s largest free music festival; we find out more.

For what seems like forever and a day, Liverpool has bubbled over with musical talent, and not just from those born here: folks come from all around the world to soak up the culture and feed off the heritage of the city, to find inspiration and hone their art.

As keen supporters of nurturing local, grassroots artists, Bido Lito! believe that LIMF Academy, the development arm of Liverpool International Music Festival, has contributed massively to the Liverpool music scene over the past five years, and we are proud once again to play a part in the launch of the 2017 programme. Bido Lito!’s Editor Christopher Torpey will return to the selection panel, alongside festival curator Yaw Owusu, BBC Introducing Merseyside’s Dave Monks and Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Levine. Joe Frankland from PRS for Music and Oliver Morris from UK Music will also be on the judging panel; both of the institutions they represent are integral to the funding of LIMF Academy.

The idea behind the Academy project is to provide workshops, expert advice, studio time, publicity and experience to shortlisted young artists. Each summer, the artists perform on the Academy stage at LIMF’s Summer Jam festival in Sefton Park, sharing a bill with some of the UK music industry’s best new talent. A festival highlight from 2016 was hearing Eleanor Nelly, XamVolo and Amique fronting the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra at the opening ceremony on the main stage. Start with breath-taking, then add some.


At the end of each year the three artists that the Academy deems to be Most Ready move on to the Elite Talent Development Programme. As part of this, they are awarded a healthy bursary and a further 12-month programme of support and promotion, including studio time with Steve Levine. Last year’s lucky three, Eleanor Nelly, Lumen and Suedebrown, have shone through: Eleanor and 2015 Most Ready artist XamVolo have since landed deals with the legendary Decca label. Proof, if needed, that LIMF Academy works, from Liverpool to the rest of the world…

This year’s LIMF Academy application process launches on 6th April and is open to 16-25 year-olds. To prove that the Academy takes that younger end seriously, consider Eleanor Nelly: having applied for the programme in 2015 while she was still at school, she was named a One To Watch artist and received a boost in profile; the following year she applied again and was placed through the Academy’s mentoring and development programme; now, with the assistance of one of the biggest record labels in the word, she is ready to go global, at just 17. We asked her how important the LIMF Academy support has been in helping her take her unique brand of infectious country folk to the next level.

“Yeh it has, one hundred percent! Being a part of the masterclass sessions and getting the mentoring has been a massive help in helping me find my feet, and working out what route I want to take. You learn things from industry professionals, from their experiences, that you probably couldn’t learn anywhere else!”

If it all sounds like hard work, Eleanor doesn’t agree, insisting that she has enjoyed being involved with the programme right from the start. “There are so many things I got to do and see, and especially being the One To Watch and the Most Ready. BUT, my favourite part of it was playing with the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on the Main Stage: I still have no words to explain just how amazing that was for me. One of the most amazing gigs I’ve ever, ever had, ever!”

Eleanor is a powerhouse of enthusiasm and has the potential to inspire other like-minded teenagers to give it a go, and she recommends that any budding artists should take a chance and apply. “I’d tell them to just go for it. Being a part of the Academy is a massive help to reach that next step, whether that’s just for exposure, the experience, the mentoring and masterclasses, or the feedback. What have ya got to lose?! You’re in the best city for local and live music, do it and smash it!”

“I’d tell them to just go for it. Being a part of the Academy is a massive help to reach that next step" Eleanor Nelly

Similarly, XamVolo – a soulful 22-year-old jazz/hip hop pioneer who can melt a room within seconds of breathing into the mic – is full of praise for the opportunities LIMF Academy has opened up for him. “I reckon I learnt a lot about the live show from being in the Academy; the opportunity to play a fair few gigs helped me familiarise myself with how to interact with an audience organically. It was good to have the support there to keep moving forwards. Everyone can benefit from some career direction at any stage, particularly such an early one.”

What advice, then, would he offer anyone who is thinking of applying? “I’ve felt most confident about my music when there was a reason behind making it. Aside from the confidence boost and the real-world motivation to create, the tangible support the Academy offers you helps you think about everything in a different way. I can only think of good things that have resulted in being a part of it.”

The panel of judges recognise the breadth of talent on offer, each year finding it difficult to select the twenty longlisted artists, who are then all able to attend masterclass sessions, as well as perform at showcase events across the country. BBC Radio Merseyside’s Dave Monks tells us that the level of talent runs across the board, explaining “they all possess something that made them stand out, they are distinctive. I think Eleanor’s performance at the Magnet confirmed she had something that made everyone keen to have her involved last year.”

In contrast to the tired TV talent shows that tend to hold a formulaic approach, one that could potentially alienate more individualistic artists like XamVolo and Lumen, projects like LIMF Academy are vital in encouraging individuality. LIMF collaborator Joe Frankland, from funding body PRS For Music, recognises this: “The Academy’s knack for unearthing young, fresh talent is great – but, more importantly, that talent comes out of this completely clued-up and ready to go.”

The potential of these new artists is staggering and we can only wonder what new talents will emerge in 2017. So, if you’re sat there wishing you were the next breakout star to sign up with an internationally-renowned record label, what are you waiting for? The Academy is open.


Applications for this year’s LIMF Academy open at 9am on 6th April. You can see more about the LIMF Academy programme, and how to apply, at


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