The three day Bradford Festival once again took over City Park this year, with music, poetry and dance across two stages and an eclectic range  of street theatre patrolling the Mirror Pool. Here is the first the first of a three-part review, looking at Friday’s festivities…

It was as if the city had planned the sun to burst into life at 4pm on the Friday as this year’s Festival began. Following a schools event during the day, with enthusiastic performances from the cheerleaders of Trinity All Saints, the Feversham percussion group and Dixon’s Music Academy alongside various big sings and mass dances, the festival proper began with the rock school and a samba group.

I joined the party as Masharti took to the stage, packing out the space with people and instruments against a backdrop of exciting LED lights to keep the atmosphere up. They performed in front of a full house packed with proud parents and keen onlookers and were joined by the Songstars on vocals. The musical styles continued with the Bradford Youth Training Orchestra delivering tunes such as the famous Star Wars theme, followed by the Joint Intermediate Wind Bands with numbers such as You Only Live Twice winning over the crowd.



These early sets showcased great young Bradford talent, although some performances struggled to connect. The quality of the acts improved with the arrival on stage of the seven-piece Saxophonics, dressed in black and Madness-style fezs. Starting with a quick riff of the Universal film theme, they were the tightest and most professional band so far, showcasing great skills on their instruments and throwing in the Pink Panther theme and later on the famous Indiana Jones number.

Other attractions around City Park included rides in Norfolk Gardens with one particular attraction attempting to rival City Hall for height. The stage itself was surrounded by food outlets selling Indian food and stone-baked pizzas. There was also a pop-up pirate bar from North Parade’s Al’s Dime Bar doing a roaring trade in mocktails, pints and spirits.

Then we got the impressive urban trip-hop stylings of Vanessa Maria, including original material with strong lyrical messages and a great performance. It was similarly great to hear Mila Lee from the Leeds School of Music who followed her acoustic-led cover of Nina Simone’s Fever with a mashup that included Smalltown Boy, Feeling Good and Too Close.


Vanessa Maria

The quality of the acts built as we passed six o’clock, with the Bradford Youth Wind Orchestra’s including a number from Hairspray and a beautiful montage of Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Hakuna Matata, both from the Lion King.

They were soon followed by a collaboration between the Bradford Youth Brass Band and Hammond’s Brass Band whose version of West Side Story’s Maria and other famous numbers were high-energy and tight, with the crowd enraptured even as the winds blew fret from the Mirror Pool all over the seating! Soon we got into the Bradford Youth Orchestra whose orchestral version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was something to hear, as was their take on Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. Three cuts from Carmen also saw some strong matching dances from Kala Sangam, their interpretations lifting the music. A grand ending to their set included another Bond theme.

The Two Man One Man Band

The Two Man One Man Band

All that was left on the Friday was for a brief changeover performance from the instrument-packed Two Man One Man Band whose energetic antics were a real crowd pleaser, as were Bradford’s very own Nervous ‘Orse as the headliner. Their tight harmonies and catchy indie-rock tunes were really great and they got some of their followers up dancing in front of the stage. I’ve always meant to see them and I was won over by their strong performance with a great light show.

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