Much-loved indie band Viola Beach remembered six years on from their tragic deaths in Sweden

The music world was today mourning the loss six years on of much-loved indie band Viola Beach and their manager.

The Warrington band – Kris Leonard, 19, River Reeves, 19, Tomas Lowe, 27, and Jack Dakin, 19 – and their manager Craig Tarry, 32, where all killed when their hired Nissan Qashqai plunged off a bridge into a canal in Stockholm , Sweden, after it drove through two barriers on a motorway.

The tragedy on February 13, 2016, remains a largely unexplained accident after a coroner at an inquest into the deaths said he didn’t believe it would ever be known what exactly happened.

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But today – six years on from the tragedy – music fans around the world, and friends and supporters of the band, are still grieving the loss, whilst remembering their music, reports Cheshire Live.

And fundraising in the band’s memory is expected to help young bands in Manchester and beyond fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams, as Viola Beach did.

To mark the anniversary, a limited edition rainbow vinyl edition of Viola Beach’s self-titled album was released on February 11 by Fuller Beans Records.

Its rainbow design pays homage to a rainbow umbrella the lads were once photographed with for a press shot.

The band and their manager lost their lives in 2016

The band’s family members and fans all hope the release will shoot Viola Beach’s music up the vinyl charts.

In the months after their deaths – in April 2016 – several of the band’s friends, influencers and chart-topping acts performed at a tribute concert held in their memory at Parr Hall in Warrington – including Blossoms, the Courteeners, the Coral, the Kooks and the Zutons.

Their only studio album Viola Beach’ was released posthumously in July 2016, reaching number one in the UK charts on August 12 after a public campaign to boost sales.

Singles ‘Boys That Sing’ and ‘Swings And Roundabouts’ also appeared in the UK singles charts, the latter debuting at number 11.

But their legacy did not end there.

In the same year, Coldplay honored the late band by covering ‘Boys That Sing’ during their headline slot at Glastonbury Festival.

Reading and Leeds festivals also paid tribute in the BBC Introducing set, where the boys had performed the previous year.

In memory of their talent and passion, River Reeves’ family founded the River Reeves Foundation, which aims to help other musicians fulfill their dreams like he did.

Viola Beach playing at Warrington Festival in 2015

Since its inception in 2016, the foundation has been a strong and passionate campaigner and fundraiser for a multitude of causes.

On the 12-month anniversary in 2017, Arriva Buses launched five buses in Warrington, one of which was a recording studio, with the names of the four late music stars and their manager.

Reeves’ father, Ben Dunne, organized a music event called RivFest in 2017.

The festival was created to inspire the next generation of artists and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

The three-day festival returned in summer 2021 to Warrington’s Golden Square Shopping Center after a pandemic-induced hiatus, and included performances from acts such as ex-Hacienda DJ Graeme Park and rock band Everything Everything.

In 2016 Ben, alongside five close friends – known as Riv’s Riders – raised £15,000 for the foundation by cycling from Penzance to Warrington.

This year, they will be taking part in the mammoth 330km Tour Du Mont Blanc route for the foundation, aiming to raise £50,000 to support the launch of a program in September with the Manchester-based Royal Northern College of Music called the RNCM Young Artists .

Emergency services at the bridge in 2016

This will train and support young pop musicians aged between 11 and 18 in the North West, just like Viola Beach, supporting their ambitions and giving them opportunities to fulfill their musical potential.

The River Reeves Foundation is also helping raise money to support the RNCM’s wish to offer full bursaries for up to 50 per cent of people in the programme, so their financial circumstances will not stop them from accessing music training.

In 2021, River’s younger brother Quinlan rowed for nearly 12 hours, raising more than £5,500 for Warrington Youth Rowing, the River Reeves Foundation and Child Bereavement UK, who had given the family support after the tragedy.

In the heart of Warrington, in Golden Square Shopping Centre, the Foundation runs the ‘newest and funkiest charity shop’ in the town.

Vintage Viola, founded by River’s mother Sharon Dunne, first opened its doors in The Cockhedge Shopping Center in 2018.

Viola Beach guitarist River Reeves

The charity store sells second-hand and vintage clothes and items, as well as handmade jewelery from independent local businesses.

As well as raising money for bursaries and grants for young musicians, they also encourage sustainable shopping and fashion.

They also sell Viola Beach merchandise such as a rainbow umbrella, a symbol which has become synonymous with the late band.

A bronze memorial for the band was unveiled in September 2021 near Parr Hall.

More than £30,000 was raised for the frieze, which was sculpted by Tom Murphy as a physical celebration of the short-lived, but incredible, lives of the five men.

Despite six years passing, Viola Beach are undeniably still present in the fabric of Warrington town and across the world.

The efforts of family and friends to keep their memory alive, and help other young northern children follow their passions, just like the band did, has made sure that the world will never forget.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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