Thursday, 5 April 2012

Art Farmers Open Mic, New Beehive Inn, Bradford (14.3.2012)

There is something good happening in Bradford right now.  For starters, there’s a brave new monthly magazine called ‘HowDo’ (see cover shot of Issue 3 below) that is establishing itself as a positive voice for arts and entertainment in the city.  HowDo describes itself as an inclusive cultural magazine by the people of Bradford, that gives a platform for expression and a means to communicate cultural happenings.  Then there is the intriguingly titled group of ‘Art Farmers’ – a collective of like minded artists, musicians and creatives who have dedicated themselves to putting Bradford firmly on the cultural map, and have also established this once a month open mic at The New Beehive, on the outskirts of the city centre (see poster left).

If you’ve read my book, or any of my other blog posts, you’ll know that I have a preference for the eclectic and varied open mic night.  So the Art Farmers Open Mic had immediate appeal to me, the name suggested something curious and different – growing your own music and entertainment in a unique micro-climate.

The New Beehive is a wonderful venue and one in which the decor and dim lighting worked together in a way that made me feel like smoking had never been banned and gin was still sixpence a bottle.  I went back in time when I entered its old world rooms and only the wall paintings gave the game away, as the images of famous rock stars and singers are scattered randomly around the bar.  

I get talking to Doug Thompson who is a key person behind the Bradford uprising and HowDo magazine.  An artist in his own right, he is also a serial networker and before long I’ve been introduced to a sculptor, a graphic designer, a poet and a musician.  Time slips by through interesting conversations and then I notice all the seats are taken, and there’s little in the way of standing room, the place has nicely filled up with performers and listeners alike.

The compere, a skilled musician by the name of Jerrad Barraclough (pictured below with hat) kicks off the night with a song called Fat Chance.  Then Jerrad introduces the next guy as Harris, who takes us through a story song about stalking the Deli Lamar, which goes down a treat.  Ben Clarke reads two poems, the first is a clever piece called Epidermis and the second is called Waiting for Breakfast.   The poetry gets a good hearing at this open mic, which isn’t always the case at music open mics, but you get the feeling here that the audience are up for anything and will give everything a fair proper listen.

A singer called Ben is joined by a cajon player and its always good to hear a bit of rhythm moving things along.  Toes are tapping and heads are nodding, except for one guy in the corner who a little worse for wear, has fallen asleep at his pint.   Then Steve Pass reads a treat of a three minute story about a lad who was sent to school with pig tails, presumably through a misguided attempt by his parents to toughen him up.  When he finally gets his way and has the pig tails removed the piss taking doesn't stop, it just gets worse, as all his fellow pupils snear ‘Where’s your hair gone Piggy Becky?'  It’s easy to listen to something like this and not appreciate how much work goes into the words and I’d like to hear more short stories of this quality at open mics.

Then it was my turn and I played ‘A Good Year for the Spiders’ and ‘Smells of London’ and was knocked out by a positive response.  I mean you can never be sure what people will make of the live electronics mixed with spoken/sung words and I've had my fair share of knock backs, so it felt good to be appreciated for my efforts and I even got to play an encore.

After Poet & the Loops there’s a full band fronted by Sam, who had been doing the sound, they play some upbeat blues and ska tunes.  And then a singer called Katheryne (see pic below right), who it turns out has only played here once or twice before, plays some gentle and thoughtful pieces which the audience seem ready for.

There were more quality players too, but I'd fallen into an odd conversation with a drunk who took ages telling me of a place I should play somewhere I’d never heard of, and then finally got to the whole point of the conversation and asked me for a pound - "on a point of principle".  I'm still not sure what that principle was, but the band played on and it all felt like a very special kind of night, the type that doesn't come along very often, so I gave him his quid and he seemed happy at that.

There's some great things happening in Bradford right now courtesy of the Art Farmers and HowDo magazine.
[Photos courtesy of Douglas Thompson and Art Farmers Bradford]


  1. What an amazing review for Artfarmers & Howdo. Thanks so much Martin. Means a lot coming from you 2 considering you wrote the book on open mic.

    Our next open mic will be on Wed 18th April @ The New Beehive Inn, Bradford. Hope to see you there.

    We are going to have a making table in the corner for crafty types who make things rather than say things 2.

    Here's the event listing :

    1. Was a wonderful night, and I only tend to review the good uns on these pages. I can't make the next as me band Old Man Pie are in the Yorkshire Unplugged finals and rehearsing that night, but I'll defo be back for another installment of art farmers. Keep on creating!