LIKE the sounds blaring out from The Leys on June 14 and 15, the benefits of Witney Music Festival will be felt across the town.

Next Friday marks the start of the festival's two week takeover of Witney's music venues, building up to the main event in one month's time.

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Thousands of people will flock to The Leys for the free festival, with this year's headliners including Prodigy tribute act Jilted Generation, alternative rock band Republica and electronic group N-Trance.

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But this is just one part of the event's 'vision statement' of 'building community through music', with people from all walks of life set to gain.

Festival chairman, Eric Marshall, explained: “People see the benefits of the festival when they turn up and enjoy it, but there are so many hidden benefits.”

One of the most obvious advantages of the festival is the opportunities presented to young acts, with a BBC Introducing stage unveiled for the first time last year.

Some local artists, like Witney resident Tom Davies, have even performed on the main stage in front of thousands.

The 18-year-old sixth former at Wood Green School won last year's OX Factor competition, giving him the chance to play the main stage on the Friday of the 2018 festival.

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One year after he had to borrow a guitar that plugged in for the OX Factor final, he is now playing regular gigs as a solo artist and has bought his own sound system.

He said: “It was awesome for me. It launched my career.

“I’d always thought about doing solo gigs but never did it.

“When the competition came up it was a great opportunity.”

Mr Davies is also part of the group New Depth, which is one of five acts in the final of tonight's Battle of the Bands at Rocket bar on Corn Street.

Among their rivals are The Kockroachez, a group of 12 and 13-year-olds, with the competition winner set to win a headline slot at the Witney, Wychwood, Nor Lye and Minster Lovell festivals.

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Many West Oxfordshire artists who play at the festival also gig at venues across the town, with The Elm Tree in West End hosting events throughout the year.

Witney Soul Club will takeover the pub on June 1 as part of the run up to the festival, which is an unsurprisingly busy time for the town's pubs and bars.

Neilson McDermott, manager of The Elm Tree, said: “It’s culturally fantastic for the town - it sets it apart from other small towns.

“It brings business here but also takes it to other places . That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it brings the town to life.”

Mr Marshall revealed more than £65,000 is spent just on holding the event on The Leys, through paying groups such as contractors, suppliers and security who help ensure the two days pass off successfully.

He added: “Where possible we use local people. The only money that gets spent outside of Oxfordshire is generally on artists."

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Thousands more pounds will benefit firms in the town, with the festival proving an unlikely networking opportunity for several small businesses.

Among those is design agency Print Ready Ltd, based on the Windrush Industrial Park.

The business had been running for a matter of weeks when the festival contacted owner, Rich Wickson, about producing memorabilia for last year's event, including programmes and T-shirts.

After volunteering at the 2018 festival, Mr Wickson has again benefited from the event this time around, creating posters and tickets for some of the build-up gigs.

This has put him in contact with other businesses involved in the festival and helped Print Ready Ltd get off the ground.

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But on the weekend itself, Mr Wickson will simply be one of the thousands of people enjoying the music on The Leys, alongside his wife and two sons.

He said: “It’s massive for bringing in thousands of people over the weekend and this year will probably be even bigger with the acts that are playing.

“I was a big fan of Republica in the 90s, so it’s got a big draw.”

Mr Marshall added: "This inclusive approach which ties the community together has meant the festival is entering its 13th year.

"It also ensures the future of the festival, because everyone is invested in its success and stands to gain in very tangible ways."