Live music thrives in Bedford due to the hard work and dedication of the club-owners, promoters, musicians and the great gig-going public. From open mic nights and intimate gigs to the latest must-see bands and revival acts, Bedfordians are spoilt for choice. We asked some of our town’s movers and shakers for their live music memories (an edited version of this article appeared in the February 2013 issue of The Bedford Clanger. You can read it on line at http://www.scribd.com/thebedfordclanger)
First up, Kev Bailey of The Pad Presents remembers some of the long-gone music venues and the bands that played there. U2 in Queens Park anyone?!
The Horse & Groom, Queens Park: The classic backroom of a pub, this was used in the early 80s by local and touring bands on the circuit, gigs worthy of a mention include U2 and Marillion, this pub has since been demolished.
The West End Club: A social style club in Queens Park, popular with all the local bands in the early 80s inc Dum Dum Boys, Los Marbles, and Sunglasses After Dark
Bedford Boys Club, Bradgate Road (now The Place) : A great venue active during the 80s but forced to close due to noise levels. The venue featured a sunken dance floor which was built to house a boxing ring with a higher standing around the outside. This was the venue for my first ever local gig aged 14 when I saw Sheffield electronic industrialists Cabaret Voltaire, other notable gigs at this venue include The Fall, New Order, The Cocteau Twins, Test Dept, Virgin Prunes in the earlier part of 80s then a wave of bands visited around 1987 1988 with some highlights including Spacemen 3, The Godfathers, Dr and the Medics, Balaam & The Angel and the Chiefs of Relief, an early rock / dance rap crossover band that never really made it but they were way ahead of the game, the band featured the let Matthew Ashman from Bow Wow Wow and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols, it’s the only time a Pistol has ever played in Bedford as far as I know, I will try and bring P.I.L to town one day though.
Polhill College or now Bedford University:The college and local promoters had a spate of putting a few odd gigs on there and as a venue was actually really good, one classic gig sticks out in my mind and looking at the line-up it was pretty special:
Other notable gigs there included Ghostdance and The Godfathers and a smaller gig in the Union bar featuring cult band Bob.
Bunyan Centre: Unusually this venue hosted a lot of post and 2nd wave of punk in the early 80’s, gigs there included The Exploited and Theatre Of Hate to name but a few, however a lot of regular crowd over-excitement brought a swift end to this sort of show at this council-run property.
George and Dragon Mill Street: The upstairs of the George and Dragon hosted a few gigs around 1985/1986 and found itself hosting lot of the bands that were part of the NME C86 scene, notable gigs up there included The Soup Dragons, The Wedding Present, Shop Assistants, The Mighty Lemon Drops, and my fave show was from an obscure band called Bogshed.
Winkles (now the Pad): Still the same size building then as it is now nothing has really changed over the years in that respect however there was the odd gig that took place at this venue both pre my time and later days, gigs included the Galaxie 500, Silverfish (later Ruby), The Cloud (later Teenage Fanclub) the Membranes (ft John Robb / Goldblade) and there was an early visit from a band called the Wake which featured Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream on bass.
Greyfriars International Centre (now Esquires): The early days of the venue the main gig room was downstairs (where the nightclub is now) and a healthy live scene developed around 1987/1988. Some of the more memorable gigs included The Primitives, Voice Of The Beehive, Cardiacs and Robin Hitchcock as well as a very healthy local band scene.
Bowen West theatre – Lansdowne Road (now derelict ): Part of the university this was used for a couple gigs in the late 80’s, one stand out gig included the US band Ultra Vivid Scene. The stage was very low and the building had tiered seats resulting in a small dance floor in front of the stage. A lively crowd at the Ultra Vivid Scene show saw the crowd spill onto the stage with the singer getting punched in the mouth by accident, I think this was the last gig at the venue!
Esquires – 1990 onwards: Esquires grew out of the ashes of the G.I.C and opened up for business around March 1990 reverting to the gig venue being upstairs and the original gig hall turned into a night club (now Holy Moly’s). The opening of the venue coincided with the Madchester scene in full swing and the venue had visits from Teenage Fanclub, Spiritualized and Stereolab. I promoted my first gigs that year bringing Ocean Colour Scene and Chapterhouse to town and I have never really been able to leave it alone since! John Peel also showed up a Babes In Toyland show that year as well, his first and last visit to the venue.
The history of Esquires from that point in is quite well documented through various websites however there are some favourite gigs that do need a mention, Mansun (Glastonbury Warm up), Shed 7 + Supergrass, Super Furry Animals, Space, Therapy, Muse and a personal fave gig of mine Carbon Silicon which featured Mick Jones from the Clash: putting on a band with a member of the Clash don’t really get much better for me! Another funny story that springs to mind is when the Thirst Club scooped a warm up show for the Cambridge Folk festival with The Beautiful South, the gig was supposed to be low key and just really for fan club of the band and the gig was not to be advertised locally, for some reason the tickets sales were very slow on this gig and it did not sell out which was very odd when commercially the band were at their peak, it later transpired that the record company mailed the database of people living in the Bradford area instead of Bedford, that explained the lack of people and the number of Northern accents in the building that night.
The Angel MK 1 – Elstow Road: Famed on the Jazz circuit as well as Rhythm and Blues etc the venue also hosted the odd gig in the late 80’s of interest with worthy visits by Urge Overkill, Thrilled Skinny and the venue was later home to the Thirst Club at the very beginnings of the Brit Pop explosion, some great bands came through at this time including Elastica, Sleeper and Compulsion and the infamous and only visit to Bedford by Oasis. Another notable gig would be Credit to The Nation, the bands politics had recently upset the NF and as a result the venue was threatened to be firebombed on the day of the gig, I think it’s the only gig that has had a police car out the front all night!
Civic Theatre – Horne Lane: Now turned into offices for Bedford Council this venue never reached its full potential for the gig going public and now never will. There are some gigs that took place worthy of a mention including headline shows from New Wave of New Wave band S*m*a*s*h, acid jazz funksters ‘the Emperors New Clothes’ and a gig by Shed 7 which was recorded by Radio 1 who later aired some live tracks recorded at the show. These live tracks also surfaced later on the b-side of one of their top 20 singles.
The Angel mk2, The Broadway (Now Klub Kristal): Owned and run the same person as the original venue I started promoting there along with local indie legend Milky (qv) as the Roar Club around 2006 / 2007. Although it didn’t last long, some of the stuff we managed to bring to town was quite impressive including a sweaty show with ska legend Neville Staple, The Young Knives, Bromheads Jacket and a low key warm up date with Razorlight which sold out on 2 minutes online. We also put on early shows from Jamie T with Laura Marling supporting who we paid just £12.50! The club lasted about 18 months then went as quick as it arrived.
Corn Exchange – St Pauls Square: Prior to hosting our first gig as Pad Presents in 2011, I promoted a gig at the venue back in 1990 with Ocean Colour Scene, back then the venue was ill equipped for gigs and after that initial effort by myself I never promoted there again or saw a band at the venue up until we started putting events on. Roll forward to 2011 and our initial trial for a show was to host a Ska Festival for St Georges Day. Pleasingly we found that the staff at the venue were as enthusiastic as ourselves and got right behind us to make the gigs work. We have tried to promote a varied music programme at the venue for Bedford as much as the enjoyment for ourselves. So far we have had shows from Levellers, The Beat, Neville Staple (The Specials) Adam Ant, From the Jam, Chas & Dave, The Selecter, The Blockheads, Alabama 3, Marc Almond, The Damned, The Dickies, Vintage Trouble, Bad Manners, Dr Feelgood and Hawkwind entertaining close on 8000 people in our first 2 years. We aim to bring some great acts to Bedford this year and have already booked Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks and US Punk legends The Misfits. Bands that have already played for us are frequently asking to return.
Looking into the future we will continue to bring new stuff to Esquires, just in last in the last 18 months we brought Ghostpoet, Mona, Alt J, Parma Violets to name but a few to town and we will continue booking established touring acts the town, quite often we are asked who are we going to book next? On the list of a few bands I would love to snare include some mid 90’s indie action from Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, Shed 7 or similar and looking further back I would love to get Echo & the Bunnymen, Public Image Ltd and Peter Hook and even Soul II Soul playing in town, as long as people keep on showing up we will try and deliver the goods, what this space!
Next up, Gareth Barber of the Pad Presents shares his behind-the-scenes secrets:
Bedord Clanger: What is the most memorable live gig you’ve been to in Bedford?
Gareth Barber: There are probably 3 gigs that stand out, Graham Coxon, being supported by the then unknown Bloc Party a few years back, Myself and a good friend Marcus semi stalked Coxon around town during the day while we were giving out flyers for the afterparty, a night called ‘Superchunk’ we used to run at The Pad, eventually we spoke to him in Cafe Creme, gave him a flyer and he took the mick out of us! The others are Ghostpoet and Seafood at Esquires and also Vintage Trouble, we’d booked them the week after seeing them on Jools Holland, the place was packed and they played for nearly 3 hours non stop.
(Watch Vintage Trouble here: http://youtu.be/6fbMmrDItSg)
I’m not sure if the main memories from that one are from the band being incredible, the week of leg pains afterwards or a certain someone being passed out supporting his weight on his forehead in the Esquires cloakroom.
BC: What makes live music so good?
GB: The obvious one is seeing artists in the flesh, people that, especially when you are younger, you spend hours of your time on, sitting in your room playing their cds over and over until your parents get to the point of wanting to kill you. Overall though it’s the experience that a live show gives you, the atmosphere, the anticipation when the lights go down, sharing the moment of being in a room with however many other people that a as passionate about what is happening in front of you. And the beer, beer in plastic cups.. Lovely..
BC: What is the best gig you’ve ever put on?
GB: For atmosphere I would probably say Does it Offend You, Yeah?, the band had an insane tour manager called Lofty who staggered out of the van when they turned up, with a beer in his hand, muttering something about drugs. He then preceded to stumble about for the rest of the day whilst hitting on a Vice magazine reporter they had in tow. At the time I was only 22/23 years old and myself and Chris Smith ran regular gigs under the name ‘Hungry Bears’ (I don’t know why). We had booked them a couple of weeks after they were on the front cover of NME, but also accidently booked them when esquires was already booked upstairs. We had to put them on in the club downstairs and hired in a ridiculous 12K PA that made your teeth tremble, the kids were going nuts and myself and Chris ended up holding 200 of them back behind makeshift crowd barriers with the band playing right in our faces. Some guy broke his collarbone, that’s when you know it’s been a good gig! Other than that probably Skinnyman at The Pad or the first ever big gig we put on at the Corn Exchange.
BC: What would be your dream line up?
GB: Hard question because there are loads of people I’d love to book or would have loved to if they weren’t now defunct or dead! Some strange line ups coming up but out of the alive – Outkast with Eels, Devo, Queens of the stone Age, Justice and Aphex Twin. From the not alive/defunct section it’s going to be more obvious, Hendrix, Beastie Boys, Gangstarr, The Clash, ESG. Me and my lady friend Lou would actually die happy if LCD Soundsystem reformed and I got the chance to put them on.
BC: Why do you love what you do?
GB: I got the bug from the first ever show I put on, speaking to a man with the biggest grin on his face ever, telling me how happy he was that we’d put his favourite DJ on. It’s a weird, almost addictive buzz that happens from the moment you book someone after spending hours of your time chasing them, all the way through to the pressure of fronting loads of money not knowing if it’ll work, only having your gut to go on and then it all coming off (or not) in the end. You get to meet loads of weird and wonderful people and I like the pressure to make sure it’s a good show, which in the end is the most important thing. The only reason I started is because I didn’t like what was getting put on, which at the time wasn’t alot, so I did it myself. The added bonus is that it adds to the cultural side of the town I live in and in turn hope that it promotes the town in a positive way too.
Happy new year everyone! If you’re looking for some culture to kick off 2013, then make sure you book tickets to see Romeeo & Juliet at Bedford Theatre on Friday 25 January:
Icarus Theatre Collective & King’s Theatre, Southsea present
Romeo & Juliet
Friday 25th January, 2013
Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)
Bedford School Students: £5
Following on from the sell-out show of Macbeth, the highly acclaimed Icarus Theatre Collective presents a bold and exciting new production of Shakespeare’s most tragic tale – Romeo & Juliet.
In defiance of their families and in secrecy from their closest friends, hopeful young lives burn amidst a celestial and cataclysmic backdrop. Sun and moon shine down on star-crossed lovers as they hide their passion and sexuality from their warring families and their closest friends. Misadventure, family pride, and ancient quarrels abort and bury the most joyous of beginnings, the most hopeful of love stories as Romeo and Juliet, driven apart, find their world becoming a constricting, single mausoleum of fate and death.
Citizen journalist, Helen Lindop, reveals all about the #citizenbedford workshop and how you can get involved:
Don’t be alarmed if you’re stopped in the street by one of Bedford’s newly trained #citizenbedford reporters.
These citizen journalists are reporting on Bedford’s progress as a Portas Pilot town using video, audio, articles and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The first #citizenbedford training session was held on Saturday 3rd November in the Harpur Suite and presenters included Adam Perry from the Media Trust, gardening editor of the Guardian Jane Perrone and Ben Raza of the Bedford Times and Citizen. Subjects covered included video and audio recording, interviewing techniques and writing articles for newspapers.
Bedford was chosen to be one of the twelve Portas Pilot Towns earlier this year, a project which will provide funding and support to breathe life back into the town centre. With so many of us carrying around video equipment in our smart phones and the easy availability of social media, there has never been a better time for Bedford residents to tell their own stories about our town. #citizenbedford will enable us to document our progress as the Portas Pilot project unfolds and enable us to share what we want to see in Bedford
As Adam Perry said during the workshop, “If you tell your own story, you can control your own destiny”. Everyone is welcome to join the #citizenbedford team and no experience is needed, so it is not too late to join.
And if you see #citizenbedford reporters out and about, we’d love you to tell us about what you want to see in Bedford.
If you would like to find out more or become a citizen reporter, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow @BedfordPortas or search using the #citizenbedford hashtag on Twitter or join the #citizenbedford Facebook group.
St Cuthbert’s Hall has been at the heart of the Castle Road community for decades. Once a traditional church hall, it is fondly remembered by the many local residents who have used it over the years. Last year, following fears that the hall might be sold for commercial use, local residents raised money to keep the hall as a community amenity. While generous sponsors and tireless volunteers improved the hall and maintained its place at the heart of the community, its facilities were dated and a more secure future needed to be found.
Step in Angelo Bartiromo – local businessman and restauranteur – who saw the enormous potential of St Cuthbert’s Hall and has taken on the four year lease. Angelo – current owner of Angelo’s café in Castle Quay – will become the leaseholder on 25th December and has already started improvements.
“We are really looking forward to the year ahead,” said Angelo. “We will be maintaining the Hall as a community space, but will be able to offer a wider variety of services. By installing a bar and full industrial kitchen we will be able to offered catered packages to those wishing to hire the hall. From weddings and themed banquets to children’s parties, conferences to performance space, we will create a versatile hall at the heart of the community.”
From 2nd January, Angelo will be kicking off his tenure with fitness boot camps called Simply Circuits. Four personal trainers will be on hand to whip post-Christmas bodies into shape and a registered child-minder will run a ‘stay and play’ session upstairs. To find out more, head over to St Cuthbert’s Hall on 16th December from 6-8pm for an open evening of demonstrations. If you sign up on the night you will receive one month’s free membership.
Alongside the wedding and party packages, the hall will be available for hire by community groups such as choirs, am-dram groups and playgroups and will also hold exhibitions and conferences.
If you would like to book the hall or talk to Angelo about a function, please contact:
It’s an exciting time to be Danni Nicholls right now. Not only has she just returned from Tom Robinson’s Immersion Songwriting weekend in Kent (yes – THE Tom Robinson), but she’s just about to head off to Nashville (yep, Nashville) to record her debut album with Emmylou Harris’ bass player, Chris Donohue. Oh – and she can count This Is England/Snow White & The Huntsman superstar, Johnny Harris (JOHNNY HARRIS!!!) as a fan of her beautiful blend of Americana. I know!
So, what was it like being in a massive house in Kent with Tom Robinson and a dozen singer/songwriters? “It was amazing! We got there at 9am on Saturday, left at 5.30pm on Sunday and spent all weekend collaborating and writing songs,” explained Danni. “The concept is based on The Frustrated Songwriters Handbook and the aim is to write 20 songs in 24 hours. No-one’s ever achieved it, but it really pushes you and makes you think outside your comfort zone.”
But while spending 48 hours with one of the industry’s most influential people is exciting, it’s her album that Danni’s at Clanger HQ to talk about. And first off, we wanted to find out how she got to work with Chris Donohue.
“Last year, my manager and I went to the Americana Music Awards in Nashville. My manager knows Chris, so we hung out with him and he came to my show. I was performing in an old launderette in East Nashville called The Family Wash, and afterwards we had coffee and talked about making an album together
This was clearly an offer than only an insane person would turn down, so in April Danni headed back to Nashville to try out co-writing, heading straight to Warner/Chappell on Music Row. Here, in the Liberace Lounge (can this story get any cooler? –Ed), she began putting together the songs that will form her debut album.
And that’s where we can all become part of the story…
“To be invited to record my debut album in Nashville was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” explains Danni. “But it don’t come cheap”
So when I returned from America I launched the pledgemusic.com/projects/danninicholls site to begin crowd-funding the project.
I fly out to Nashville on 9th December have already raised 60% of the amount needed.
We’ve got until November 4th to raise the remaining 40%.
“There are packages available to suit all budgets, so from just £8 you can become part of my journey and will receive a digital pre-release version of the album as well as exclusive video diary updates documenting the experience. Other packages include the opportunity to receive signed lyrics, a pair of my cowboy boot, interview me over Skype from the studio, your name printed in the sleeve-notes or of course, if you’re so inclined you can stump up the whole amount and get everything!”
This really is a unique chance for you to be part of Bedford music history. You can not only help fund the recording of Danni’s album, but you can become part of the journey.
“I can’t predict what’s going to happen,” said Danni. “But I can work hard and make my own luck. As soon as the album’s released I’ll set off on a couple of tours and hopefully perform at some festivals too. I just want to keep going with my music and see what happens.”
So why not see what happens with her?
To pledge anything from £8 upwards, go to www.pledgemusic.com/projects/danninicholls.
Listen to Danni’s music here: http://www.danninicholls.co.uk
On Thursday 11th October, Bedford’s Portas Pilot Town Team held a training session at Bedford College’s South Bank Arts Centre in conjunction with Media Trust to launch the #citizenbedford project. Utilising traditional, social and new media, our goal is create a multi-layered documentary of our Portas Pilot journey through citizen journalism.
Our aim is to encourage as many people as possible to become citizen reporters on Bedford’s Portas Pilot journey. In association with Media Trust, and with the help of volunteers, we will offer FREE training in film-making, interviewing, social media, writing and blogging, all under the umbrella of #citizenbedford.
No experience is necessary, there is no age limit, there are no barriers and everyone’s welcome to join us.
We got the idea from the #citizenrelay initiative that Media Trust developed in Scotland. They wanted to chart the Olympic Torch relay across Scotland and record the grassroots stories that the ‘big media’ wouldn’t cover. They wanted to find out how people felt about the torch coming through their towns, their pride in knowing some of the relay runners and guage public feeling. They didn’t have an agenda, other than to report on something unique that was happening in their community.
And that’s how we feel about #citizenbedford. We don’t have an agenda. But we do have a unique opportunity to tell the town, the country and indeed the world about what we’re doing to try and make our town better.
It might just have been me, but the feeling at yesterday’s events was of enthusiasm, inspiration and collaboration. That between us we can do this. And the more the merrier!
Our first event and training session will take place on 3rd November. Full details to follow on the #citizenbedford Bedford facebook page.
Please feel free to unleash your inner citizen journalist and get invovled.
If you need convincing about how effective people power and citizen reporting can be, check out this case study here.
Want to get involved or get in touch?
twitter: @BedfordPortas #citizenbeford (obv)
Facebook: #citizenbedford Bedford
At the Bedford Clanger we want to encourage as many people as possible to become ‘citizen journalists’ during our Portas Pilot Town journey. We want you to video, photograph, interview, blog, tweet and generally tell the world about what we’re doing in Bedford to help revitalise our town centre.
Whether you’re a student or retired, a business person or unemployed, a stay-at-home mum or house-husband, we’d love you to get involved!
We can’t do this without you and there’s … ABSOLUTELY NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!
You’ll have the opportunity to take part in free training sessions and meet like-minded Bedfordians eager to record the events, actions, successes, failures, highs and lows of the Portas project.
Bedford Portas Pilot, The Bedford Clanger and Media Trust would like to invite you to join us on THURSDAY 11TH OCTOBER at either 4.45pm or 7.30pm at the South Bank Arts Centre, Bedford College to find out more.
To book a FREE place at this event, please email your details to: email@example.com specifying if you would like to attend the 4.45pm or 7pm session.
Bedford has been selected as one of the 12 initial Portas Pilot Towns. The aim of the Town Team is to utilise the £51,000 funding to encourage new BUSINESSES to take premises in the town centre, to provide training and guidance to new and existing retailers and to engage with Bedfordians to collaborate on how the town centre can be improved.
Media Trust is a charity that works with charities and not-for-profit organisations to empower them to have a voice and to be heard through the media. Media Trust’s newsnet initiative is championing citizen media/citizen journalism and Bedford is a beacon town for the project. Following the success of the Olympic torch relay in Scotland (#citizenrelay), our aim is to work with Media Trust to create a similar network of reporters, bloggers, videographers etc… under a common ‘hashtag’ across all traditional and social media to document this extraordinary journey that Bedford and the Town Team are on.
#citizenrelay – A Template
University of West of Scotland’s #citizenrelay project, which has inspired the #citizenportas idea, brought together a number of partners, including Media Trust and Leicester’s Citizens’ Eye, to train citizen journalists to capture the stories of the Olympic Torch as it passed through communities across Scotland.
At four key cities across Scotland Media Trust’s newsnet worked with UWS and Citizens’ Eye to deliver training to some 60 citizen journalists to enable them to utilise a range of free tools from video to Twitter and Audioboo to report on the progress of the torch relay.
Training enabled potential citizen reporters to understand how they could produce short reports, often using nothing more that a mobile “smart” phone, that reflected the community perspective on the Olympic flame’s journey, capturing the sights and sounds that would otherwise have gone unnoticed or unreported.
The training sessions were practical and focused on helping people to grasp simple interview techniques, how to prepare and create an interview without the need to edit. For the #citizenportas project Media Trust’s newsnet aims to replicate this training and to help those wanting to play a part understand how they can capture the stories that will form part of the Portas Pilot in Bedford.
Over the course of the training people will learn how to prepare for and conduct interviews, whether on video or audio, how to shoot video interview using a Smart phone (iPhone’s or Android’s), and how to upload video to You Tube and Audio to Audioboo.
#citizenportas – A Vision
It is of the utmost importance to the Bedford Town Team to involve as many people as possible in the project. It is also paramount that we remain as open and transparent about our plans as possible.
It is with this in mind that we want to encourage a wide range of people to become citizen reporters on the events, actions, successes, failures, highs and lows of the Portas project.
Whether it’s out and about interviewing shoppers about their view of the High Street, to filming focus groups as they discuss specific elements of Bedford Portas, we want you to be involved every step of the way. Who knows, you could be selected to interview a government minister, or could be part of the #citizenportas film crew filming the Channel 4 film crew filming the town team? Or you could even put some questions to Mary herself.
The overall aim of #citizenportas is to amass documentary evidence charting all aspects of the project – on video, twitter, blogs, facebook and in The Bedford Clanger and other traditional media. This can then be used by future Portas Pilot town teams to learn from our experiences.
#citizenportas – A wider aim
It is our further aim to encourage all Portas Pilot towns to sign up the the #citizenportas initiative, providing nationwide coverage of all projects.
Bedford will be leading the way in citizen reporting of this exciting event. Join in so we can spread the word around the country.