I have been a music lover all of my life. I remember when I was a small boy my dad had this huge pair of Wharfedale headphones, which he often used to put over my head and encourage me to listen to music. He had been a DJ himself in the early 1970s and in our house; there was always music on of some description.
I remember hearing Stevie Wonder from a very early age as well as the pop music of the late 70’s and 80’s. I got my first LP record at the age of 6, which was Adam and the Ants Prince Charming and from the age of about 13, I spent the majority of my pocket money on vinyl and CDs from the Wax Museum on Westgate, just soaking up all of the music I could. One chance purchase led to discovery of another musical style which in turn led to further discoveries. Quite fittingly, the shop is still there albeit somewhat smaller and is actually called “Discovery”.
When I was older, I discovered pubs and clubs where music was everywhere and as well as playing my own music, I often wanted to have a crack at DJing and eventually in late 1995, I got my first break at The Smithy pub.
The Smithy closed in the April of the following year and it wasn’t until almost a year later until I had the opportunity to DJ once again, this time at a pub called The Empress which had just agreed to take on the rock and alternative format. I actually DJ’d here on and off for the next 7 years and was even involved in putting one or two live bands on. It was The Empress which gave me the bug to get stuck in and try and improve the local music scene
Ambivalent Productions, The Ivy Bar & Drive
The Empress closed at the end of June 2004, so a couple of us founded Ambivalent Productions and attempted to get something going at a bar called The Ivy, a bar which had previously been called The Wheatsheaf and hadn’t hosted rock/alternative music in 10 years at the time. From the end of July, we put quite a few bands and DJ nights on, we drummed up a fair bit of interest and it started to happen. However there was a total communication breakdown with the management, which coincided with an opportunity to relocate things to Bradford University.
In the October of 2004, we started a night at Bradford University called “Drive”. This occurred every Saturday night and consisted of 2 or 3 live bands + DJ till late and ran until the following March. After our tenure at Bradford University finished and they got a new entertainments manager in, I decided to concentrate on just being in a band (Jigsaw Culture at the time), since studying for my degree part time whilst working full time significantly diminished my spare time. The others involved decided to knock it on the head about the same time.
In our time at The Ivy and Bradford University, I had cut my teeth at putting gigs on and even attempted a little live sound engineering, albeit very limited but had still not DJ’d since The Empress days.
The Mannville Arms
Fast forward then to late summer / autumn of 2007 and my friend Tom Marshall was heavily involved with a pub, which had been off of the alternative radar for many years. It was called “The Head” at the time but most of us remember it as “The Mannville Arms”. About this time Mick and Billy Dunn signed the lease for it and by the following spring, I had started DJing again and the pub had returned to its original name.
In the May of 2008, I organised my first all day charity event in aid of The Seedlings, a local drama group with learning difficulties and by the end of the summer, following Tom’s departure I found myself in the position of overseeing the entire entertainments calendar at the Mannville Arms, as well as keeping my hand in DJing.
The popularity of the venue increased during the course of the following year, garnering interest from bands from all four corners of the UK as well as from further afield. Our live nights remained popular amongst people from various musical backgrounds and a lot of old faces, who had not been seen in the pubs of Bradford city centre for a good while, started appearing once more.
In May 2009, a year after the Seedlings event, I arranged Stanfest in honour of a very good friend of mine who was dying of cancer at the time. The day was made all the more poignant by the fact that not only did Stan help choose the bill himself but he actually passed away on the morning of the event.
The Zuu Bar, The Black Swan and The (new) Empress
In October 2009, Mick and Billy’s tenure at The Mannville was cut short by the brewery and after a blinding final night’s party on the Halloween, we relocated the operation across town to The Zuu Bar.
Gigs at the Zuu bar commenced in earnest the week after, moving across as many of the existing Mannville bookings as we could, as well as honouring any pre-existing Zuu bar bookings. The venue soon garnered interest with a lot of the Mannville regular crowd and also some new faces.
In the year that followed, many bands and promoters went through the Zuu bar, from small local outfits to long established acts such as Sham 69, Marseille and Ed Tudor Pole. We took on many different genres from indie to extreme metal and there were also some extremely good comedy nights for a short while.
In the early part of 2010, the Black Swan came under the same management as the Zuu bar and eventually, Billy settled as tenant there. I also looked after the events for the Black Swan part time for a while, as and when I could manage.
The Mannville Arms was reopened under new management and in May 2010, after much deliberation, I organised Stanfest 2 there, which was to become the last major event ever at the place before it was closed for good.
In December 2010, I left the Zuu bar and decided to take a break from events to concentrate on other areas of my life, which had been neglected somewhat in the preceding couple of years or so. I had ploughed a lot of energy into making gigs and events happen but the workload had taken its toll and I needed to take stock and reprioritise a few things.
Throughout the next couple of years I was involved to some degree with various Bradford venues including, The Polish Club, The Commercial Inn, The Black Swan, Bradford Rios and The New Beehive but chose not to continue with the regular week in, week out work.
In the summer of 2013, five years after I started doing events at the Mannville Arms, Mick made a return to the scene with a new venue called Vampire. After taking a look at the place with him, I fell in love with it and I just had to get involved. The club opened in mid-September and lasted just six months, closing in the February of 2014. In that short time, we managed to get quite a vibe going with a host of club and live nights to suit many alternative tastes. The club was gaining a decent following but behind the scenes, things were less than ideal and the business arrangements simply broke down and became unsustainable.
Tavern In The Town
Just prior to the end of Vampire, Mick had been approached by a local friend and businessman who had his own pub company. He was looking to open a brand new venture which was to be on the site of Bradford Rios on Barry Street and wanted Mick to run it for him. Mick duly accepted and after a hefty refurbishment, the place was named Tavern In The Town and commenced trading in March 2014.
I started filling the events calendar as best I could but after a couple of months, after much soul-searching, I decided to step down. With a full time job and two bands on the go, I simply no longer had the time or energy to give the role the attention it required.