Bradford Stories: No Hands
Highlights of Bradford culture, nominated by Hidden Bradford
For the latest in our series of Bradford Stories, musician and promoter Ben Holden talks about the route he took from playing in internationally acclaimed Bradford bands like This Et Al and Dolphins, via promoting big city centre gigs, to finally running one of the most successful and interesting nights in West Yorkshire, No Hands. No Hands has moved around Bradford and has been at the Polish Club, the Playhouse, the University and the 1in12 Club. It’s a free alt pop party with a dedicated following in Bradford and beyond.
No Hands is a free and unpretentious club night with bands, DJs and other stuff. It’s run by a bunch of likeminded friends in to music with an urge to create a safe and welcoming environment for people to enjoy.
We have a passion to create special events for the people of Bradford and beyond. We do it for love not money. We make and distribute our own zine with local culture stuff in it.
It was born out of frustration of having nowhere to go and nothing to do in Bradford if you were in to the slightly more skewed or alternative forms of music, art and culture. We’ve found we can take its formula and the people who do it pretty much anywhere and have the drive and determination to make stuff happen there.
We find this inspiring and heartwarming and thrive on making something out of nothing purely through working together, and hope to inspire others to do so too, especially in Bradford. For that reason alone I don’t see ‘No Hands’ as just another club night, it’s a creative entity and takes on many forms and hopes to create social change and bring people together for a livelier and more active cultural scene.
It’s not exclusive or a members-only club. We urge people to contribute to whatever we do, be it through DJing, playing in a band, writing something, drawing something or just interacting to make something happen.
Having been involved in events and other happenings in and around Bradford throughout previous years, my personal involvement was to start No Hands as an alternative choice to the usual fare on offer in town.
Being in touring bands for years gave me the taste for putting on gigs and wanting to be involved in the local scene, or at least give it a go. In pre-recession times the Council thought it was a good idea to throw a bit of cash our way to put on gigs at the wonderful St George’s Hall, this manifested in ‘BD1LiVE’. A monthly gig with the intention of bringing in national touring bands and having local bands support.
It really did work for a while and even had its out-of-town contingency popping over each month to see what was going down.
It was a lot of hard work, and with red tape and council wranglings, silly expenses and dwindling funds – that and people just couldn’t afford to come out as much – things eventually faded out and we realised this wasn’t a realistic sustainable venture, which was a shame as there were some amazing times.
With recession hitting hard we naturally downsized. Around that time we ran a fanzine called ‘Mono’ which acted as a tool to not only promote what was going on around Bradford, which was a lot at that time, but it was also a catalyst for local bands, clubs and venues to promote their wares and an ideal promotion tool for the BD1 gigs.
People seemed to feel involved and part of a ‘scene’ and contributed reviews, ramblings, art and there was a genuine feeling of community. The marriage worked splendidly for a few years and there was a buzz around the city that ended in ‘The Big Gig’; Building a massive stage in the Love Apple car park, we asked a load of bands to play and had our very own little festival. In Bradford, imagine that.
Things feel to be slowly getting better and there’s a definite thaw in the air from harsher times. With more vibrant activity popping up weekly, there’s a definite spark again and of course there’s always hope.
And hopefully you can see the correlation between what was happening and what we were doing in Bradford just a few years ago, albeit with a bigger (and not much needed) budget, and what we are still trying to do today with the same intention for free.
We’re still having just as much fun, making ace stuff happen independently and keep on happening, so get involved!