SOUTHAMPTON was swept by music mania as a hugely popular festival made a welcome return - boosting its City of Culture credentials.

Music in the City - dubbed the biggest and best event of its type in the area - managed to defy the wind and rain that battered Southampton for much of the weekend.

Most of the outdoor events due to take place on Saturday were hastily switched to indoor venues because of the atrocious conditions.

Large choirs and orchestras were unable to relocate because of their numbers but the rest of the programme went ahead as planned.

Music lovers were delighted to see the festival return after last year's event was forced online as a result of the pandemic.

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City councillor Satvir Kaur, who spent Saturday volunteering at the Dancing Man, cited Southampton's campaign to be crowned the UK City of Culture 2025.

She said: "Events like Music in the City are a great example of why we should win. It was an amazing celebration of local talent, bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds.

"The Dancing Man had a great atmosphere all day."

Oxford Street was due to host nine bands between 1pm and 7pm on Saturday but Sahara and other performers found themselves taking to the stage at The 1865 instead as the weather continued to deteriorate.

Guildhall Square and the ruins of Holyrood Church were among the other outdoor venues that remained eerily quiet.

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Outdoor performances at King John's Palace and Westquay - celebrating its 21st anniversary - also fell victim to the downpour.

But fans of Music in the City were able to enjoy a raft of entertainment at indoor venues in and around the main shopping area.

The event also gave people a chance to explore some of Southampton's history by visiting ancient buildings that survived the Blitz and decades of post-war development.

Singing duo When Harri Met Alli were among the performers who appeared at God's House Tower, the 13th century former gatehouse in Town Quay Road.

Lankester's Vault provided people with a perfect opportunity to escape the weather by relaxing in an underground venue. The listed building has served as a wine cellar and air shelter during its long history.

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The two-day celebration of Southampton's musical talent followed the success of the Re-Claim Street Festival that took place at the end of last month.

Giles Semper, executive director of Go!Southampton, said: "Music in the City is rightly one of the highlights of the year for us.

"Let’s hope it drives plenty of footfall and spend as Re:Claim did the previous weekend. Congratulations to the organisers for pulling off a great event at a time when this is no small feat."

Outdoor performances due to have been held at Bedford Place on Saturday were moved to The Social in Lower Bannister Street.

Yesterday's programme was unaffected because both venues were indoors.

Cllr James Baillie and fellow organisers were praised on social media for managing to find alternative venues for artists who were due to perform in the open air on the first day.

One woman posted: "You've done an awesome job under pressure."

Another Facebook user added: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going. You've smashed it."