A former Darwen musician will have the honour of kick starting the UK’s newest folk festival when it gets underway at Blackpool’s famous Winter Gardens tomorrow.

Robin Fitzpatrick is a member of the first band to appear on the festival’s introducing stage, Thrifty Malone.

Lancashire Telegraph: Thrifty Malone from Gibraltar to Blackpool and (below) Robin on stage with the band

The band - Alan Jenkins (lead guitar), Martin Winterstein-Smith (drums and vocals), Robin on mandolin and vocals and Trevor Emmett (bass and vocals) - have flown over from Gibraltar to be part of the three-day event.

Robin and his family moved to Gibraltar from Darwen around 10 years ago. Prior to that Robin was part of the Territorial Army in Blackburn for a number of years.

“To get to play at a festival like this is a pretty big deal for us,” he said. “I just sent an email to the organisers and I was able to include a video of us performing on Gibraltar TV.

“They got back straight away and said they wanted us to play on the introducing stage. At that point we didn’t have the details but then they came back and said we would need 45 minutes of original material.

“At that point I think we had about 20 minutes - we’re not that quick at getting stuff out there!

“But we did have a lot of original stuff which we’d written but hadn’t worked up as a band. The songs certainly weren’t gig ready. This would be around July time and I said to the rest of the band that I was confident we could get a full set sorted and they agreed straight away. So from then on we’ve hammered it in the rehearsal room and now have a list of 12 original songs which we’ve whittled down to nine to play at the festival.”

Robin and the rest of the band flew over earlier this week and have been putting in some final rehearsal time at a studio in Blackpool.

“We had hoped to get a couple of warm-up gigs but it being January in Blackpool not many people were putting on live music,” he said. “But the bonus of being in the studio is that we’re going to record all our songs which we can then release later in the year.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Rob Fitzpatrick on stage with Thrifty Malone

Followers of the East Lancashire music scene might remember Robin from his time with the band Three Chord Dukes who regularly played at pubs and clubs around Darwen.

With Thrifty Malone he performs around 30 or 40 gigs a year on Gibraltar.

“There is a very vibrant music scene on the island,” he said. “There are a lot of very talented musicians.

“Last year John Otway and his band came over and we were asked to support them. They brought around 100 travelling fans with them and they were such lovely people.”

Robin said the band was hoping to return to the UK this summer for more festival dates.

“Now we’ve got these original songs which had been bouncing around for a while gig ready, it’s given us the confidence to get out there and play more festivals.

“It’s just a question of letting organisers know about us and covering our costs. Ideally we need a few dates in a row as we can’t really fly over for one date.”

But first they open in Blackpool.

“We don’t know if we’re going to playing to a room full of people or an empty room,” laughed Robin. “But either way, for us its great. We don’t care; we’re going to have fun. It’s an honour to be there with all these other acts - it’s a real thrill.

“Some of the other artists on the introducing stage are phenomenal. Just to be able to mix with them will be great for us.

“It also gives us a chance to catch up with family and friends while we are over here even though it is a bit of a flying visit.”

Thrifty Malone play the introducing stage at the West Coast Folk Festival At Blackpool’s Winter Gardens at 3.45pm tomorrow. Headliners include Richard Thompson, Eddi Reader and Cara Dillon. Details from www.westcoastfolkfestival.co.uk