We’re really pleased to hear Threadfest is returning for a fourth year in a row this May. For those not yet familiar with the event, what’s it all about?
Hi Haigh, yes me too! The initial impulse with Threadfest was to offer a free taste of the independent art and music scenes in Bradford. It emerged from my role as Fellow in Music at the University of Bradford and my realisation that students and people new to the city often find those scenes difficult to access because they are so dispersed or underground. So I acted as a facilitator to pull together different venues, promoters and organisations to put on a joined-up programme for Spring Bank Holiday weekend, with a map showing the various venues. It’s grown over the last few years to the level of national attention and The Guardian had it in their guide to the best metropolitan festivals.
Am I right in thinking you’ve approached it slightly differently this year? What was the thinking behind this change in format?
It’s been great fun doing a city-wide festival, but a lot of work for what is essentially a very small team with a lot of voluntary input, so for 2015 we want to focus it down, so when we return to a larger format we can do it better!
This year we’re bringing Threadfest all under one roof, using the multiple spaces and stages at Bradford Playhouse. This will allow us to get a better idea about who the audience for the festival is and hopefully allow them to experience a more diverse range of music and art as it’ll all be in one place.
We’re also offering weekend tickets this year at £27 that will guarantee you access to the full three days, as well as pay-what-you feel day tickets available on the door. So the option to financially support the festival is there for those who are committed but those who are curious can still take a punt for whatever they can afford.
Who will be performing and who should we be looking forward to?
We have some amazing acts this year: sometimes you get lucky with who’s around and available and this year has come together exceptionally. We have Richard Dawson returning – he played twice at the first edition of Threadfest – and he’s got a lot of mainstream attention this year, which has been lovely to see as there’s been no compromise to his music or approach. People are very excited about Circle, from Finland, and have already been talking about flying over just to see their take on progressive rock. We also have Michael Chapman the Yorkshire-born folk guitarist and singer, as well as local Qawaali musicians, Italian free jazz and a live art programme. There’s too much to mention! The festival is getting a lot more attention this year because of the diversity and quality of the line-up, which you can see at www.bradfordthreadfest.com.
How healthy is Bradford’s independent/underground scene at the moment?
The interesting thing about doing Threadfest is that it acts as a kind of barometer for a section of the independent music and arts scene each year. So you see what new venues and collectives have popped up. I think Bradford is punching well above its weight in terms of experimental and adventurous music; FUSE Art Space and Golden Cabinet (as well as the M@BU programme I run) are bringing world class acts to Bradford week in week out. It’s nice to work with organisations new to the festival this year too, like Total World who put on some really exciting non-western music gigs, and The Live Room who have a great reputation for contemporary folk and roots music in Saltaire.
Do you have any highlights from previous years events that stand out?
I’ve felt like a proper sap at previous festivals because I do bang on about how Bradford’s cultural scene is more honest, authentic, generous and co-operative than that of other cities where ‘the industry’ is more present, and there’s certainly been moments at previous editions of Threadfest where that’s been palpable. Seeing Richard Dawson spontaneously collaborate with Bradford folk singer Stephanie Hladowski in the Treehouse Café, or Patrick Dowson rounding off the weekend with an impromptu rendition of his Born In The BRI take on Springsteen at The Irish Club have really shown that there’s some magic moments to be had in Bradford.
There must be a lot of work involved to get something like this off the ground – who else is involved in organising and running the festival?
The festival is headed up by Arts on Campus at University of Bradford and comes from the M@BU music programme. This year Recon and Bradford Playhouse are also helping realise it, which makes it feel much more manageable. And we get some support from Bradford Council, to allow us to make it affordable for those who can’t pay normal festival prices. The key to Threadfest is the willingness of other organisations to get involved, whether directly or just helping spread the word, and I feel like Bradford’s got bags of that united spirit. There’s a lot of partners this year, including other venues, promoters and collectives, all listed on the Threadfest website. We all want to show that Bradford’s a great place for music and art, and to have a weekend to encourage people to explore what Bradford has to offer year-round.