What a wonderful weekend! I was honoured to have been asked to come back to host the main stage of Bradford Festival for yet another year, a gig I never fail to enjoy and, seeing as over 100,000 people turn up, I think I’m not the only one. This year was certainly no different with some fantastic acts appearing on my stage along with a plethora of other entertainment all around City Park.
Let’s start at the beginning, though, with Friday’s events. The daytime was taken up by Party in the Park, a day for school kids to all come along and perform. Although Centenary Square around the main stage was closed off to the public to help keep the 1,000 children safe there were still plenty of parents stood outside the crowd barriers to support their offspring. Over the course of the day we had choirs, dance troupes, orchestras (wind, youth, brass etc!), soloists, samba bands, a group of saxophonists and some cheerleaders amongst others. It goes without saying that there is a very talented generation coming through in Bradford and the day spawned my favourite moment of the whole weekend (but more on that later). Friday night saw the start of the Festival proper (no disrespect to the kids) with a performance by local band Nervous Orse.
Saturday saw the start of the street theatre, arts and crafts activities, music and dance plus the poetry, storytelling and reading. There are too many acts for me to list them all so I shall just name a few favourites. On stage I thoroughly enjoyed Hope and Social with their hearty mixture of covers and original numbers all of which oozed their own style of playfulness and charm. Chainska Brasika really got the crowds dancing to their loud and flavoursome ska beats, Paprika who treated us to some wonderful Balkan style music and Sam and the Womp who gave us a madcap set featuring dance music fused with live brass. All in all quite wonderful!
Strolling around City Park (and indeed pretty much all of the centre of Bradford) were some wonderful street performers. Again, my favourites were George Orange performing his remarkable one man show Man on the Moon, Corey Baker Dance‘s innovative production of Phonebox, Q20 Theatre‘s hilarious Mexican (spoof!) boyband Los Romanticos and Wet Picnic‘s cleverly scripted and delightfully funny The Lift.
Unfortunately I didn’t really get the chance to take in the poetry performances as they were all just a little bit too far away from the main stage for me to be able to spend any time at. Gutted as I’d heard nothing but good things! Same goes for the fun fair, too, although to be fair I’d heard nothing but screams from there….!
So all in all it was a fantastic 3 days and the best part was that absolutely none of it felt like work. That type of gig doesn’t come around very often but when it does you know you’re in the right profession.
I can’t finish without telling you my favourite moment of the whole 3 days, though. It came out of the 8 minute performance by Chellow Heights Special School on the Friday morning. Around 10 or so primary age children took to the stage to perform their own samba composition called Chellow Beats. As the kids, conductor and various carers came onto the stage one young boy started crying. And screaming. And flailing. He was clearly very distressed about being on the stage in front of a large group of people. His carer tried to calm him down as did the conductor but he wasn’t having any of it, huge streams of tears were hurtling down his face. Instead of removing him from the stage, though, they decided to start their piece. It was like a switch had been flicked, suddenly he started laughing. He grabbed his drum and began to play. Now samba is a very precise form of music where drums can only be struck in very particular rhythms. This young boy was beat perfect – and he wasn’t even looking at the conductor! He knew the 8 minute piece off by heart, knew all the rhythm changes and all the different patterns he had to play. But what really made it for me was the fact he was smiling and giggling all the way through. By the end of it his cheeks still had tear stains on them but his mood was a million miles away from just a few moments ago. That is the power that music can have over people, the enjoyment that it can create, the freedom it gives, and seeing it so perfectly presented in this young disabled boy is why it was my favourite moment of the whole Festival.