Deep breaths as club goes up against giant 02

Patti Smith, pictured at Hebden Bridge Trades Club by Paul Clarke
Patti Smith, pictured at Hebden Bridge Trades Club by Paul Clarke

The Trades Club is taking on the world famous 02 Arena in the race for Music Week’s live venue of the year award.

Music Week is the industry’s bible and Hebden Bridge Trades Club won the nomination to take on the 20,000 capacity 02 Arena thanks to votes from acts who have played the club and their promoters.

Trades Club promoter Mal Campbell said: “Although it is brilliant we have made the shortlist for one of the industry most prestigious awards the real pleasing thing is we are there thanks to the support from acts that play our venue that is owned and run by its members.

“We have invested heavily in a new PA, and we always make a real effort to look after the acts when they are with us, but the real reason we have been nominated is because of our brilliant audiences who the bands love playing to because they create such a great atmosphere.”

The turning point for the 200 capacity club that began life as a union hall for local weavers in the West Yorkshire town was persuading punk legend Patti Smith to play her smallest gig for decades.

Since then there have been sell out gigs from Buzzcocks, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, folk legend Nic Jones, Edwyn Collins, art terrorists CocoRosie, Temples, Jimi Goodwin, Joan As Police Woman, The Fall and four sold shows from radical comic Mark Thomas (his latest date at the club is this Saturday, March 15).

It’s current status is the icing on the cake following three decades of hard work to build up an enviable reputation.

This writer first stepped through the doors of what was then a smoky room 30 years ago, when former Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico appeared at the venue.

Then 18, I thought it was something of a miracle that such a legendary name was to play there (Nico, then Manchester based and in the throes of personal problems that meant she was almost on the doorstep, I later discovered, which must have helped).

But it was typical of the left-field suprises - many of whom are capable of drawing good audiences - the club has always been able to produce, covering a breathtakingrange of music. Over a period of time I have caught acts as diverse as reggae great Desmond Dekker, first generation hardcore Canadian punks DOA, oddball John Otway, the redoubtable masters of satire Half Man Half Biscuit, country bluesman Larry Johnson, R&B and psychedelia pioneers and 60s hitmakers the Pretty Things, Julian Cope, folk stars Steve Tilston and Bridget St John, and African acts Thomas Mapfumo and Real Sounds Of Africa there.

Last week I marked three decades of gig-going at the Holme Street venue by watching the great Michael Chapman mesmerise the audience with his late night vocal delivery and stunning guitar work. “I always like playing here,” he said. You felt he really meant it, and with bands like The Selecter on the horizon (it’s Thursday, March 27, not the 28th as we reported last week) also mentioning its reputation, it is a sentiment that is spreading.

The club also provides gigs and support slots for local bands like, back then, Todmorden’s Some Paradise/Victory Mansions and Langfield Crane, and Hebden’s own The Last Peach, something that continues to this day with bands like The Stations and ska specialists Owter Zeds (whose own career is now as long as the Trades!)

For diverse entertainment, look no further than this week’s bill, in which cutting edge comedy from Mark Thomas on Saturday is bookended by Trans, featuring former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler on Friday night and up-and-coming Irish bluesman Simon McBridge on Sunday. Tonight features lyrical melody duo Me and Deboe while on Monday a gig by Bellowhead founders Spiers and Boden is already sold out.

The other venues in the running are Camden’s The Black Heart, The Leadmill in Sheffield and London’s The Lexington.

The majority of awards will be decided by hundreds of judges in senior positions across the industry and the winner announced on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at The Brewery, Central London.