The Manhattan Club, Bradford
Part One: Taking Risks
Pearl Gladstone Minott (known to all as Bibi) was born in Jamaica in May 1931, moving to the UK in the 1950s. At first he lived in Bristol, working in a glass factory, before moving north to Bradford where he found a job with North Eastern Gas and later worked as a bus conductor. His marriage, in the early summer of 1960 to Rosita Hellewell, was one of the first inter-racial marriages in Bradford. They set up home at 18 Spring Gardens in Manningham and had eight children. Bibi ran the Cricket Club in Thorncliffe Square, but is best remembered for his other club. This was The Manhattan Club (later renamed The Capricorn, but always known simply as Bibi’s) which was at The Edwardian Bar on Cornwall Terrace close to Valley Parade Football Ground. Later, from 1993 until it lost its licence in January 2002, he also co-ran (with his daughter, Angela Minott) the Planet Venus nightclub on Sunbridge Road.
In its early days, Bibi’s was one of the first (of very few) clubs in Bradford to operate a policy of admitting black, white and Asian clientele. Until his death in May 2007, Bibi continued to welcome all to his club. As a consequence, he had no problem at all with admitting punks, goths and skinheads, which is why Bibi’s became the first of my four new weekly clubs in Bradford and Leeds.
Having opted for Gory Details as the name for my Keighley nights, I wanted something similar for this one and so named these club nights Fatal Shocks. My opening night – on 3 January 1983 – was a one-off gig headlined by soon-to-be-massive Leeds goths The Sisters of Mercy. Supporting them was Bradford skinhead ranting poet Seething Wells. This was an excellent opener for me. I liked and got well with Bibi and was on good terms with Andrew Eldrich and his fellow Sisters and with Swells (aka Seething Wells, real name Steven Wells). Also, the fast-growing reputation of both of these acts meant that the new club was impressively full.
The following week, I kicked off my Sunday night club at The Warehouse with a double bill of The Cocteau Twins (another fast-rising act) from Grangemouth in Scotland. Their quirky support was a guy called Woye Rnaalk who used taped music. This package also did my second Monday night at Bibi’s.
I talked earlier about the role played by Tony K’s Red Rhino in York. They worked closely with Geoff Travis’s London-based Rough Trade which, like Red Rhino, was both a record label and a leading indie distribution company. Between them, Rough Trade and Red Rhino distributed the releases of virtually every indie label in the UK together with almost every self-released disc, on top of which they also took on releases from numerous indie labels worldwide. Through Tony I’d got to know Geoff and his team at Rough Trade. And it was through them that I got offered many of the headline acts which I booked for the Sunday and Monday nights, starting with The Cocteau Twins.
While I would lose money on this Sunday-Monday run of gigs, they’d establish me as a fair and reliable promoter, a reputation that’d do much to enable me to keep going and book some excellent acts over the next four years.
Next up after The Cocteau Twins was one of my all-time favourite gigs. I got to put on The Fall… amazing! For their two gigs they were supported by a local band, The Jazz Hipsters.
Mark E Smith, The Fall’s frontman, had a reputation for being difficult and so, as they got out of their van to come into The Warehouse, I introduced myself as the promoter and said: ‘If you’ve any problems, large or small, during these two gigs please don’t get upset. Just come to me. I’ll sort it out. That’s my job.’ I also did all I could to ensure that they were happy throughout. There were, in fact, no complaints from them.
I’d taken a risk putting on The Fall. They’d cost me £400 per night. Add to that twice paying the support band, plus the p.a. and lighting people. Factor in printing the flyers and other publicity costs, etc. and I’d overheads of at least £1,300. Charging £2 entry for the unwaged (who made up the vast majority of the audience) and £2.50 for those who weren’t unemployed or students, I’d needed at least six hundred paying customers to break even. Given that these were two brand new clubs, that was highly optimistic. However, to my amazement I came very close, losing only a hundred quid.
The Fall were managed at that time by Kay Carroll,. After the two gigs, while the band was packing up, Kay approached me and said that they’d heard about me losing money. I said I had but added (truthfully) that it wasn’t much and that it had been well worth it to have earned the right to say I’d actually put on The Fall. She told me that Mark reckoned I’d been the best promoter they’d ever worked with and had asked her to give me back the hundred quid I’d lost. I tried to refuse it, but she said Mark would insist. Just before they left, Mark came over to me, checked that Kay had given me the hundred and pressed another twenty quid into my hand saying: ‘It’s been a pleasure to work with you, mate. Get yourself some beers and a curry’. I did exactly that, but not for a couple of days. The very next night I launched my new punk club at Brannigans in Leeds and, the night after, my new Bradford punk club at The Palm Cove. These were busy times.
If you’re a promoter, one of your worst experiences is pacing up and down outside an almost empty venue praying for a crowd of punters to suddenly appear and magically make the gig a success. When that doesn’t happen and the artists you’re putting on are brilliant, it’s doubly embarrassing. This proved to be the case with both of the gigs the following week. I’d booked Blood & Roses to headline with Ritual as their support band. Neither was well known but both had been getting amazing write-ups. I hoped that The Fall gig would mean that plenty of people would return the following week. I was wrong. The audiences for The Fall had been well over two hundred and fifty at each venue. Never rest on your laurels! A week later, only a couple of dozen turned out at each night. Those who did caught two excellent bands. Those who didn’t cost me dear! Luckily, my Tuesday and Wednesday night punk gigs were, from the outset, drawing good crowds. Overall, I made no money but, subsidised by my own gigging and rent from lodgers in my home, I subsisted.
Week four at The Manhattan saw my club playing host to two familiar bands – The Nightingales and Collenso Parade – who’d also played my Leeds gig the previous night. Both had gained fans from their previous gigs for me. Both gigs went well. Yet, once again, I was taking risks by putting on bands which I knew were good but which were yet to become established. My hope was that my audiences would come to trust my taste. Now, there’s real naivety… as my audiences would patiently teach me by simply not coming whenever I overstepped the mark!
They did, however, turn out for my next gig, a double-bill of Attila The Stockbroker and The Newtown Neurotics. These two acts were close friends and political allies in the fight against all things Thatcherite and were wholly committed to causes such as the miners and the unemployed. Their gigs were among the most relevant and politically charged at this time.
Some venues work, others don’t. While I’d continue to run gigs at Bibi’s, its Sunday night sister gig wasn’t working out, as you’ll find out in my piece on the gigs at The Warehouse. As a result, the following week’s gig was the last of that run. In order to continue, I’d have to revamp the whole set-up. I not only did this, but bounced back with not just four gigs per week but five!
Meanwhile, there was one last gig at The Warehouse on a Sunday, followed by the same artists – Punching Holes supported by Little Brother – appearing at Bibi’s on the Monday. Newcastle post-punk art-rock band, Punishment Of Luxury, formed in 1976 and quickly became tipped for stardom. With a growing following they clocked up an impressive rep but never quite hit the big-time. In 1979, for example, they appeared at Reading Festival, taking the stage just after The Cure and immediately before The Tourists and Motorhead. Everything looked good for them but nothing worked out. In 1980 their singer, Brian Bond, quit and formed Punching Holes. Ill-fated, they too were much praised and much hyped, but to no avail. They released one single, ‘La Mer’ c/w ‘Mad Mother’ which came out just before I booked them. Their support, Bradford ranting poet Little Brother, was sharp, witty and had a good local fan-base. The two gigs were however very poorly attended. Things had to change. They did, as you’ll see in part two.
Nick Toczek, July 2018