A MONTH of free outdoor concerts in South Shields will kick-off this weekend as Pixie Lott, Aston Merrygold and Phats & Small take to the stage at Bents Park.

The stars will be joined by local singer Jen Stevens and youngsters from the South Tyneside Samba Drum Club in the first of four free concerts this Sunday, 8 July.

The Sunday concert series, supported by BBC Newcastle 95.4FM and sponsored by Port of Tyne and Colmans Seafood Temple, takes place each summer as part of the South Tyneside Festival’s packed entertainment programme.

This year’s shows are set to feature The Vamps, The Cutkelvins and New Hope Club on 15 July, Scouting for Girls, The Fizz and Roachford on 22 July and Heather Small, Atomic Kitten and Lemar on 29 July.

The concerts also showcase up and coming acts drawn from across South Tyneside and the North East, giving them a chance to appear on stage in front of crowds of up to 20,000.

While fans were able to buy advance Priority Plus tickets to guarantee earlier entry to the park and access to a dedicated bar area and toilets, the event remains free to attend.

Admission to each of the shows is on a first come first served basis, and the gates will open from noon for Priority Plus ticket holders and at approximately 12.45pm for free admission.

Concert-goers are welcome to take their own food and drink on the day, although there will be a number of food outlets along with licenced bars on site.

For added security, bag searches will be in place and visitors are advised to leave sharp instruments at home and not to attempt to take glass into the park.

Councillor Alan Kerr, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council, with responsibility for Culture and Leisure is looking forward to the first of this year’s shows.

“There is something incredibly special about the Sunday concert series here in South Tyneside,” he said. “Where else can you see so many big stars for free here in the North East?

“Each year the team works tirelessly to attract the biggest and best names available, and over the years our concerts have grown in size and stature.

“Now our event has become one of the most renowned on the festival calendar, and we are all very excited about welcoming the public to Bents Park over the next four Sundays to enjoy what we are sure will be among hottest performances of the summer.”

For more information on the South Tyneside Festival, including all four concerts, visit www.southtynesidefestival.co.uk, or follow SouthTynesideEvents on Facebook and @stynesideevents on twitter.