Bradford was one of ten cities in the UK, and one of two in the North, to host BBC Music Day on 5 June, a nationwide celebration of British music in all its forms as part of the new BBC Music strand that kicked off last October with the God Only Knows promotional video. The sun came out for the city to celebrate the day, and the mix of music, food and attractions brought Bradfordians young and old to the city centre.
A huge stage dominated City Park, showcasing a variety of acts throughout the day. There were smaller acts in the Pavilion café, and a BBC tent in the shadow of City Hall featured give-it-a-go activities for the younger members of the audience, including a chance to read the news and free family drop-in activities from Words In The City as part of the Ilkley Literature Festival, with activities based around words and poetry. There were also more events at sites around the city, including Kala Sangam Arts Centre with South Asian traditional musicians Vejay Venkat and Arian Sadr and performances from Leeds College of Music students.
BBC Look North came live from the Park that Friday, supported by students and staff from the University of Bradford, whose outside broadcasting truck was streaming audio and video from a variety of acts around the site alongside the BBC Radio Leeds broadcast.
The atmosphere at City Park was buzzing, with busker-style acts scattered around, fundraisers in fancy dress, a big screen relaying all the acts and the voice of a town crier loudly promoting the activities, “..food delivering a variety of flavours to compliment the music. We look forward to seeing you all. God save the Queen!”
I spoke to one of the performers, Lynsey Cawthra, after she finished a beautiful cover of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, and asked her how she’d got involved with the BBC Music Day, “I used to work for the music and arts service and they asked me to take part. I perform soul, folk, and I do covers as well as my own stuff. BBC Music Day is really important as it brings the whole community together and it’s a day out for all the schools taking part. It’s a really good thing for Bradford as a whole.”
The main stage had a range of music throughout the afternoon, from a wind band to contemporary guitar groups and a rock school, showing off different genres and styles to highlight the breadth of British music. From 1pm activities included the Community Big Sing with over 700 schoolchildren gathering to perform, dressed in their branded multi-coloured tops, making a bright rainbow across the mirror pool.
The schoolchildren would later team up with BBC Look North’s Harry Gration to perform Anna Meredith’s Connect It, in what was declared to be the largest mass body percussion piece, with those in City Park using their hands, legs and bodies to create noise. Connect It is one of the BBC’s Ten Pieces, an initiative to showcase a group of important pieces of music to school children, all played during the day. These included Holst’s Mars from The Planets suite performed by the Hammonds Saltaire band, and Handel’s Zadok The Priest as a collaborative effort from Bradford Youth Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia and the Bradford Festival Chorus.
The schoolchildren would later team up with BBC Look North’s Harry Gration to perform Anna Meredith’s Connect It, in what was declared to be the largest mass body percussion piece.
During the afternoon there was a spirited performance of The Lion Sleeps Tonight from the pupils of Keelham Primary school, and more choirs and wind bands. We also had a range of orchestras on stage, both professional and amateur, and smaller performances in the Pavilion café including the duo Waiting for Wednesday with a preview of their performance that evening in Forsters Bistro.
As afternoon turned to evening the stage entertainment was replaced by BBC Introducing hosted by presenter Alan Raw, who brought on a great selection of bands for the growing crowd in City Park. Leeds-based Negative Panda began with some uptempo rock songs including Stay Warm before Maggie8 arrived on stage to deliver their ‘Hindi Indie’ music, with great catchy genre-hopping songs including their latest single Hussain Bolt. I caught up with the Leeds-based four piece at the side of stage after their performance and asked them how it was up on stage. “It was amazing,” lead singer Nivedita Pisharoty told me, “We’re used to playing in tighter spaces, venues the same size as the actual stage.” I asked them how their music career was going, “It’s picking up now as we’ve just recorded a new album and we’ve had quite a lot of interest in India, and a few other places. We’re also playing a lot more.”
Looking forward the band have some festival dates lined up, “We’re hoping to try and organise a tour around India and Europe at some point. We’re going to focus on finishing up the new album over the next month or so, and then start to get some shows together!”
The day came to a close with the Hammonds Bradford Youth Band conducted by Morgan Griffiths, with a mixture of classical music and more populist material, alongside a spirited version of lengthy pop classic MacArthur Park. Finally we had some more orchestral work and a double-header of Bradford-based rock bands, the catchy Mexanines and the brilliant Man Can’t Fly, neatly finishing off a day showcasing a wide range of music from choirs to rock bands, orchestras to acoustic acts, and showing off the city nationally via the news, radio and television.