Two weeks was all it took to plan and run an exciting live music event to tie in with the Rock Against Racism photography and memorabilia exhibition, which ran until recently at the Impressions Gallery.

Organised in conjunction with local community radio station BCB, Live from Bradford featured an exciting mix of local acts, musicians and poets performing to a packed-out gallery.  All of which centred around the striking backdrop of activist, photographer and graphic designer Syd Shelton’s distinctive black and white photography.

The images on display were brought together as a record of the Rock Against Racism movement, formed by musicians and political activists as a response to the racial intolerance in the UK in the late 1970s stirred up by some politicians and fascist political parties. The photos included shots of protesters and activists, and many of the bands who performed at gigs under the famous slogan of Love Music, Hate Racism.

The event was presented by local radio presenter and breakfast DJ Dan Carroll and published poet Nick Toczek, with the acts chosen to highlight the powerful message of tolerance and optimism, and that racism has no place in modern society.

The two-hour event began with a beautiful performance by Vanessa Maria, fresh from Leeds Festival and on the eve of her appearance at this year’s Bingley Music Live.

Taking a break from straight-up presenting, Nick Toczek delivered a selection of great spoken word poems between the acts, showcasing a mixture of different styles, from his recent children’s books to more gritty, adult and political offerings. On the lighter scale the very visual Dragon On The Bus – about a strange encounter on a bus to Undercliffe – got the crowd laughing with its clever rhythms and striking imagery, and Cars In Cairo, though perhaps only created for its central pun, was a laugh as well and once more very evocative of a time and place. There was also time for Toczek to talk about his experiences as a journalist during the period when the photos were taken, and moments interviewing musician Danny Sprang and band Bad Manners down in London.

Returning to the music, Imani Hekima was up next and began with a haunting version of Two Tone classic Ghost Town by the Specials, the eerie notes of his instrumental casting an intentional chill over the audience. We also got showcases of music from The Selecter and the appropriately titled instrumental number Missing Words.

After a few more weighty and political poems from Nick Toczek we got a set from blues singer Ben Bluewater whose deep Southern-style vocals and twangy acoustic guitar really set the mood, with a song from John Lee Hooker amongst his short set.

The main acts of the event were followed by young Bradford singer/songwriter Mila Lee, who demonstrated her delightful voice with jazzy takes on classic songs, including Nina Simone’s Fever and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.

The event was finally wrapped up with an energetic set from a local DJ, tieing up a great two-hour showcase of local acts and a final fitting tribute to the Rock Against Racism concerts in the last few days of another exciting and thought-provoking exhibition at the Impressions Gallery.

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