Matt Cooper is an opera singer based in France who is passionate about bringing new music talent to Bordeaux. With a deep love of music, food and wine, he tells Culture Trip why the breathtaking countryside of Bordeaux is the perfect place to set up a vibrant new music festival – University Battle of the Bands.
Matt Cooper has always loved performing, particularly playing the clarinet and saxophone as part of an ensemble. He attended Birmingham Conservatoire then ENO Operaworks, and has been lucky enough to work with Grange Park Opera, Buxton Opera Festival and Longborough Festival Opera.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Today, he is putting his experience to good use by helping younger generations realise their dreams of performing music. Having been a young artist himself dealing with the struggles of breaking into the industry, he wants to give a platform to young people to be discovered and appreciated.
‘Now that I am fulfilling my passion to sing in incredible productions, I really want to try and support other young artists to be heard,’ Matt tells Culture Trip. ‘A recent article about the headliners at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals prompted raging tweets such as #musicisdead – well, it definitely isn’t and I want UBOTB (University Battle of the Bands) to be the platform to show this! The standard of the bands really is amazing.’
Interestingly, the festival actually started as a birthday party for Matt’s brother-in-law, Harry, and his in-laws, David and Jo Clancy, located in the breathtaking countryside of Bordeaux, after converting an old barn into a stage.
‘The music business is so competitive and it is difficult to know where to start,’ says Matt. ‘So my in-laws and I have decided to build on their boutique festival in order to set up an international university competition that will act as a great platform for students to come and perform in front of students, tourists and music professionals, get feedback and have the chance to win prize money and recording time in a studio.’
‘It is a beautiful site with 360-degree views, picturesque sunsets in the evening, hay bales and great music. Lots of my friends have performed and represented their universities, creating an amazing boutique festival atmosphere. It is a special event where everyone gets to know everyone else and people hear new music, which is always a good thing.’
This year is special because the festival opens up the French market to the English bands and vice versa. ‘Hopefully in years to come we can open up to more countries. The council of our local commune, Grand-Brassac, has voted unanimously to support the festival and host it behind the beautiful church in the centre of the village,’ Matt explains.
It has taken a lot of time and research to make these festivals possible, contacting universities, bands and talent companies to gain their support. But this year, things are really taking off, as the festival will be collaborating with New Street Records, a student record label in the UK, and Crous Bordeaux, a national French university battle-of-the-bands competition.
‘We have a larger location this year; we’ve set ourselves up as an asso (French charity) and we are working with local producers of food, wine and beer to really root the festival in the local region and culture and promote local produce in the area. We’re also developing an exciting app to help the bands to promote themselves and The Grand Final at their universities.’
The app aims to give a bigger platform to aspiring musicians. The idea is that students will engage with the new app, upload their profiles, share music and events, manage their own gigs and grow their fanbase.
‘We really want to make UBOTB a great success. Growing it from a boutique festival where we know everyone, to one that students, locals and tourists know and talk about, and are willing to travel to, has probably been the most challenging aspect. That’s one reason why we are building the app and have expanded to include French universities – to spur local interest.’
He has high hopes for this year’s festival, working on engaging not only the local community, but also tourist bodies and major companies, in order to promote La Grande Finale and attract a great crowd. It promises to be even more exciting than ever.
‘The highlight is always when the musicians get on the stage and realise how supportive the crowd is: if you think about it, everyone is on holiday, they’ve probably travelled a bit, the setting is beautiful, wild and fantastic, and everyone is in the mood to rock!’
‘It’s those serendipitous moments when musicians from different bands come to play together in a stunning setting which creates special times with the sun going down and moments under the stars with everyone dancing until they watch the sun rise. Last year’s festival was a unique moment where we had The Former Kings play and rock the countryside.’
In the past, the festival has welcomed undiscovered talent including the eight-piece band Grand Majestic, Jack Jenkins and Aaron Heffenham. This year, there’ll be around 12 bands over the three-day Grand Final, including Eleanor Fawcett and Tom Auton, Toby Charles, and Coffee Machine from Tours.
‘The spectacle of UK, Irish and French students coming together for a great weekend of music is an exciting one and we think the atmosphere will be electric,’ says Matt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.