Moving tributes to special Clitheroe person Matt who 'touched all our hearts'

As a journalist, accomplished broadcaster, promoter, festival guru and loving family man, the importance of making the best use of time coursed through Matt Evans’ life.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 10:00 am
Forever loved by all - Matt Evans

Matt was one of those people who seemed to have more hours and minutes in his day than anyone. But it was his deep compassion and emotional intelligence that touched all our hearts.

And those who knew him as a friend, husband to Judy, father to Roscoe and Marlon, and dear son to Jean and Colin, knew what really set him apart as a special person.

Just spending a few hours with Matt or sharing a cup of tea with him was an educational experience because he had a one-man mission to spread joy and happiness.

And the torrent of tributes from heartbroken friends, all who were touched by his presence, is testimony to a man who made his own giant footprint in life.

Matt had that rare ability to make everybody feel special. He couldn’t wait to tell you about a new record he had just heard, or the new film he had just watched, or the new book he had just read, because he wanted you to taste what he had seen or heard.

He was wise but never precious and there was always a beautiful chaos surrounding his life. Matt could arrive at an appointment later than a Northern Rail slow train wedged behind a herd of cows on Whalley viaduct, but somehow it would always be alright on the night. He would smile and say: ‘Ah mate, things will be good.’ He just wanted to share the love and Matt had it in bundles.

Matt’s mum Jean said: “We are immensely proud of Matthew’s life and achievements. He was an incredible, loving son who brought us great joy and taught us so much. There will always be a Matthew-shaped hole in our wonderful family, as well as many amazing memories.”

When the devastating news emerged of his untimely passing, Mark Riley began his BBC Radio 6 programme by dedicating the show to Matt.

Riley said: “The last live gig I saw was organised by Matt Evans, the American singer BC Camplight at The Grand, Clitheroe, in January 2020. What an inspirational man Matt was.”

Then, even the easy-going Mancunian DJ – once a member of Matt’s favourite group The Fall, Instead, he cranked up the dial and let the music roar – The Buzzcocks’ pop punk classic Fiction Romance raising the roof. Matt would definitely have approved.

Music and helping others to find a path in life was Matt’s elixir - and that’s why people gravitated towards him. He dished out kind-heartedness, encouragement and care in equal measure.

And he did change people’s lives. “He was such a generous and understanding man who gave us our first break,” said Danny Finn, the lead singer of the Soul Convicts. “He had no reason to roll the dice on us as a band. The show we performed at The Grand in 2017 was a springboard that helped us achieve some of our biggest gigs to date.

“We would never have managed to do those shows without Matt’s commitment to giving bands a chance to shine.”

When Matt completed his degree at Sheffield University, where he met his wife Judy, he quickly emerged as a successful club promoter. He handed Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys one of their early gigs – long before the steel city lads found world stardom.

Flip over the sleeve on their debut album – Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not - and there’s a credit to Matt. ‘Thanks to Curly Matt - best wishes, Arctic Monkeys.’

Seoirse McKinney from Sheffield said: “Matt left Sheffield ten years ago, but so many people in the city still know and remember him. Matt was my best friend, but I reckon he was best friend to at least a dozen people I know, so that says it all really.“Matt was the nicest guy you could ever meet.”

But if anything was chiselled in Matt’s own image, then it was his eclectic music and arts festival Cloudspotting. With more contacts than an MI5 agent criss-crossing the globe, he drew musical talent from Africa, Asia and Europe to the lush pine woods of the Gisburn Forest. Matt just loved outsiders or somebody with a different spin on life.

Like Ichi, a Japanese-born experimental songwriter from Gloucestershire, who brought his beautifully bonkers one-man show to Cloudspotting in 2019. Ichi churned out a virtuoso performance, playing bizarre home-made instruments, including a piece of plastic guttering and a hat box pedal drum. Matt was in his element when unearthing new music and

uncut gems like Ichi. And when you tuned in to his radio show – Ribble Rebel Radio - you’d be just as likely to get four minutes of thumping German techno from Berlin than a delicate Scottish folk ballad from the Isle of Lewis.

Musical variety ran through him like a stick of seaside rock. Cloudspotting 2021 was three days of unbridled joy for the campers and crooners who had emerged blinking into the

mid-summer dawn after the dark sorrow of last winter’s nationwide lockdown.

Manager at The Grand, Steven Lancaster, said: “I’ll always have an incredibly loving memory from the last time I saw Matt. On the final evening of Cloudspotting we were sat around

the fire pit, chewing the fat about the festival. I looked up, there was Matt, with a tiny can of craft beer in his hand, sporting a wide grin. He was just in this happy place.”

Mr Lancaster continued: “He was relaxed, happy and loving that sense of achievement of celebrating Cloudspotting’s 10th birthday. I had never seen Matt look so contented.”

Matt joined the Grand in 2009 and transformed the venue. He attracted world famous artists that would not have looked out of place at a trendy London theatre, never mind a

small market town in the sleepy Ribble Valley. And when we were all locked behind our doors during the Covid-19 health emergency, there was Matt, thinking about his few remaining work colleagues at The Grand and how he could help them. Again, it was just typical of the man. His brilliant pitch secured a £260,000 government grant, enabling the theatre to kick-start their programme of events and plan for the future.

"But Matt was much more than a promoter – he was the much-loved public face of The Grand. With a microphone in hand, or just perched at reception greeting customers, he always found the right words, whether introducing mad-cap Shakespearean actor Brian Blessed or punk film legend Ten Pole Tudor on to the stage. But he was just as much at home saying hello to one of the theatre’s loyal volunteers, often offering them a quiet word of reassuring encouragement.

Matt’s brother Mike said: “Matt was 11 when he saw his first live gig, The Fall at Clitheroe Castle in 1985. It meant an awful lot to him that he was able to bring The Fall to Clitheroe again in 2013 to open their British tour 28 years later. In typical Mark E Smith style, the last three songs were sung from the dressing room and there was a live album released of the show a few years later.

Mike added: “At Clitheroe Royal Grammar School Matt put on gigs and club nights at places such as C’est La Vie in Blackburn and the Lodestar in Ribchester, and that was the

beginning of him promoting shows.”

Matt’s favourite gig was The Chameleons at Manchester Academy in 2000 and the song Belfast by electro ravers Orbital, says Mike, will always remind him of his brother.

Matt immersed himself in life and faced many hurdles with the selfless courage of a hungry lion. And when he bravely underwent major heart surgery, our first chat wasn’t about his gruelling ten-hour operation, but the new pals he had met in Intensive Care.

‘There’s a Barnsley supporter and a Leeds fan and another chap who loves his dub (reggae) stuff, the craic is really good here,” said Matt. And then he was off, writing the next chapter, championing an up-and-coming young band from Hebden Bridge, planning a gig or ferrying his 11-year-old son Roscoe to nets. Roscoe, who has followed in his dad’s footsteps to Clitheroe Grammar School, has inherited his father’s love of cricket and Matt was so incredibly proud of that. Most of all, though, I’ll remember Matt’s kindness to others and his bold and creative spirit.

Life will never be the same again without Matt Evans, but his is a light that will never go out.