Aristocrats fight for The Darkness

IT MAY be a case of toffs and rockers as two wealthy aristocrats are going head to head in a battle to welcome home the current kings of British rock music.

IT MAY be a case of toffs and rockers as two wealthy aristocrats are going head to head in a battle to welcome home the current kings of British rock music.

It's a scenario that would have been absurd little more than a year ago, when their fathers were in charge, and thoughts of inviting The Darkness round to stately homes to play in front of tens of thousands of fans would have been unimaginable.

But ever since the Earl of Stradbroke and Lord Somerleyton stepped aside and handed over the reigns of their estates to two men who are more lad than lord, the unthinkable has been thought.

And today it seems that the race to play host to the Lowestoft-based rockers was hotting up between the 26-year-old Hon Hektor Rous of the 4,219-acre Henham Hall estate and the 32-year-old Hon Hugh Crossley of the 5,000-acre Somerleyton Hall estate.

Both men are desperate to break with family tradition and offer a stage for the band, who are yet to play a concert in north Suffolk since hitting the big time.

But while the four piece band including former Kirkley High School pupils Justin and Dan Hawkins and Ed Graham have always wanted to play a "homecoming" gig, it has never happened.

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Now, Mr Rous appears to have stolen a march on Mr Crossley in the battle to make sure it does.

Mr Rous says that he is in "promising" talks with the band's management over his idea to bring 100,000 fans to north Suffolk and to transform the estate into one of the world's most prominent music festivals.

He said it could turn into a "mini city" with space for revellers, overnight camping and car parking on site. And if the rural concert proves a hit he plans to make it an annual event.

Mr Rous, 26, said: "However, it's a mammoth operation and I wouldn't want to jump to any early conclusions. The summer would be the perfect time but it really depends on the band's schedule and what they would prefer."

And although he would not be drawn on the cost of the venture he admitted it was "ridiculously expensive".

Mr Rous added that he had approached Waveney District Council for their support and that Events Management Group , who are responsible for the British Grand Prix and Knebworth music festival were looking into other issues including insurance and traffic management.

Meanwhile, north of Henham, Mr Crossley was staying tight-lipped on his own plans to attract the band to Somerleyton Hall, although it is believed he too has been in contact with the band's management.

A spokesman for the Hall said "We truly wish for the Darkness to come home to Lowestoft and do a homecoming gig, that would be fantastic."

They declined to comment any further. But both men could be in with a chance. A spokeswoman for the Darkness said the band yet to confirm their plans for 2005.

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