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Running Clubs

A Tale Of Two Cities

By chance, the first club that was home to my weekly gig nights was The Funhouse in Keighley where I ran mostly punk and skinhead gigs for almost ten months during 1982.

 

By mid-December 1982, however, I found myself without a venue. As I wasn’t ready to quit, I started looking round for other possible venues. Having broadly succeeded in a small town like Keighley, it seemed obvious that I might be even more successful if I could find a suitable venue in either of the two nearby cities of Bradford and Leeds. I lived in Bradford and the centre of Leeds was just a twenty minute train ride away.

 

Through my northern music mag, Wool City Rocker, which I ran from 1979 until 1981, I knew the owners and managers of numerous venues in both cities, most of whom were well aware of what I’d been doing for Monday night attendance at The Funhouse. Urban clubs could be fairly certain of attracting crowds on Friday and Saturday nights. However, for most of them, Sunday through to Thursday were dead nights when most didn’t even bother to open. Many were struggling to stay viable and closures were becoming commonplace. City centres were derelict and dying, as so graphically expressed by The Specials in their 1981 hit ‘Ghost Town’ which begins: ‘This town is coming like a ghost town / All the clubs have been closed down / This place is coming like a ghost town / Bands won’t play no more…’. This was Thatcher’s Britain. Unemployment was soaring, nowhere more than up here in the north.

 

The gigs I was running already appealed to disenfranchised youths, not just punks and skins who were unwelcome elsewhere, but also many other youngsters who were low-paid or unemployed Their disillusionment and sense of alienation was shared by many school kids and students who knew they were pursuing qualifications which offered little chance of work. The punk and indie scene of the early eighties was their culture. Now what I was discovering was that the venues also needed my gigs because I could bring in the crowds on their dead nights. And the staff wanted the extra hours of work. And the breweries wanted the extra sales. I wasn’t just providing much needed work for bands, income for their management, agents, record labels, etc. I was helping to keep venues afloat and providing work for bar-staff, bouncers, p.a. and lighting crews, etc.

 

I therefore found that loads of venues were keen to host my gigs. They’d help pay for flyers, for adverts in the local and national press, for some of my expenses and so on. They’d also be keen to help me make a success of the gigs in whatever way possible.

 

The upshot of all of the above was that, by mid-January 1983, I was running weekly gigs in four different venues – two in Bradford (The Manhattan Club and The Palm Cove) and two in Leeds (The Warehouse and Brannigans). For bands, this worked brilliantly. It meant that they could do two consecutive nights for me, one in Leeds and one in Bradford. This helped me by reducing my overheads. I could pay a bit less for the bands because I was giving them two gigs only ten miles apart. Many of the bands and their entourage of roadies and fans would stay overnight at my home. In all, I had more than seven thousand people stay overnight at my terraced house between 1982 and 1988. Once again, this lowered their overheads and so lowered mine. The basic plan I developed was to run indie band nights at The Warehouse on Sundays and The Manhattan Club on Mondays, with punk nights at Brannigans on Tuesdays and The Palm Cove on Wednesdays. One unforeseen advantage of this set-up was that, with popular line-ups, a good percentage of the audience for the first night would be there again for the second night. It seemed that, by chance, I’d hit on a formula which could work well for everyone involved.

 

Two month later, I added a fifth venue to these four when I began putting on local bands every Wednesday night at another Bradford nightclub, Fagins. Surprisingly, I’d found that if you run one or two gigs a week, running more doesn’t entail that much additional effort.

 

To run gigs well, you need working formulae. My main one throughout this period was simple. Even if I felt shit at the end of a night – which I sometimes did, usually due to unforeseen hassles such as racism, drugs, violence, injuries, low attendance, complaints, carping criticism, etc. – none of that mattered. All that did matter was that three groups of people left the venue happy – and they were the audience, the performers and the staff of the club. If that happened, then the gig was a success. That’s a good yardstick. It’s not about you, it’s about the people for whom you do the work.

Nick Toczek, July 2018

The Funhouse, Keighley

Gory Details Part One

Including: The Business, Teenage & The Wildlife, March Violets, Sisters Of Mercy,

Southern Seath Cult, Seething Wells...

The Funhouse, Keighley

Gory Details Part Two

Including: Radio 5, Danse Society, 1919, New Model Army, Abrasive Wheels, The Elements, The Shakes, Little Brother...

The Funhouse, Keighley

Gory Details Part Three

Including: Newtown Neurotis, The Three Johns, Disorder, Chaos UK, The Fits, Vice Squad, The Lurkers, The Xpozez...

The Manhattan Club, Bradford

Fatal Shocks Part One

Including: The Cocteau Twins, The Jazz Hipsters, The Fall, Attila The Stockbroker, Seething Wells, Newtown Neurotics...

The Manhattan Club, Bradford

Fatal Shocks Part Two

Including: The Icicle Works, Billy Bragg, Sex Gang Children, Requiem, Play Dead, the Go-Betweens, The Adicts...

Nick Toczek's Gory Details flyer1
The Warehouse, Leeds

1984 at The Warehouse

Including: The Fall, the Cocteau,The Icicle Works...

Palm Cove, Bradford

Gory Details at Palm Cove Part One

Including: ...

Palm Cove, Bradford

Gory Details at Palm Cove Part Two

Including: ...

Brannigans, Leeds

Natural Disasters Part One

Including: s...

Brannigans, Leeds

Natural Disasters Part Two

Including: s...

Brannigans, Leeds

Natural Disasters Part Three

Including: s...

Brannigans, Leeds

Natural Disasters Part Four

Including: s...

Flyer 1 (1983).jpg

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Nick Toczek Venues Flyer 2 (1983)