New exhibition celebrates the music and fashion of Bradford during the 1970s and 80s

Given the huge leap forward in technological advances over the past two decades and the ever-quickening pace of change in the burgeoning digital age, the gap between the generation who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s and their millennial children is probably far greater than that between previous generations.

Artists Steven Ashley, Nagbea Nagbea, Johna Johnson, Gary Cavanagh, Papa-T and Fritz Skylark.
Artists Steven Ashley, Nagbea Nagbea, Johna Johnson, Gary Cavanagh, Papa-T and Fritz Skylark.

For those growing up today, the pre-internet, pre-mobile phone, pre-social media past really is another country. A new photography exhibition in Bradford, put together by a group of friends whose formative years were spent embracing the joys of punk, reggae, mods, scooters and sounsystems, offers a glimpse into the vibrant youth culture of the city forty years ago.

Being Young in Bradford is the latest show at the Trapezeium Gallery, a pop-up artspace in the city centre established around a year and a half ago by a group of four volunteers, three of whom are graduates of Bradford School of Art, with the aim of supporting local artists to exhibit their work.

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Bradford has a wealth of creative talent and should be City of Culture - Dave Baldwin“We know how difficult it is for artists to find spaces and we wanted to show the artwork of local people,” says Ken Woods, one of the co-founders of Trapezium Arts. “And because we are in a city centre location we can attract a non-traditional art audience. People can just pop in for 15 minutes or so while they are out shopping to look at some art.”

Conquering Lion Sound System, 1982

Exhibitions are changed on a regular basis, generally every five weeks, and are a combination of shows by invited artists and ideas pitched by local creatives and collectives. It is a great example of a democratic and inclusive approach to the arts. This particular show is a case in point.

The secret Hollywood ‘hack work’ of Bradford’s JB Priestley“It came about when one of the Being Bradford collective, Nagbea, came in to talk to us about their idea,” says Woods. “We all have art backgrounds but we are not necessarily looking for people with formal training, it is about showcasing local creative talent.”

The six contributors to the exhibition – Nagbea Nagbea, Johna Johnson, Gary Cavanagh, Papa-T (Herb-T/Uncle), Fritz Skylark and Steven Ashley – collated photographic memories of their teenage experiences in their home city. “We all grew up in Bradford and the idea grew out of a discussion about photo albums,” says Nagbea.

“As we have got older we have continued to meet up and we thought it would be nice to look at the things we were doing when we were young. We all have teenage kids now and we wanted to show them what we used to do. One of the nice things that has happened since the exhibition opened is that some of the visitors have offered their own contributions to extend it. That means they are participants in it which is great, so the show is growing from people viewing it. It has been interesting hearing other people’s stories from that time.”

Early 1980s Punk goth chic, Being Young in Bradford exhibition.

It chimes with the group’s aims – and those of Trapezium Arts – to build a dynamic and accessible archive documenting Bradford’s rich and diverse social history. Crucially, it is an archive created by and from the perspective of the people who lived it. “With an exhibition like this you might expect to see references to celebrities and big events that occured during that era,” says Nagbea.

“We have got a bit of a punk rock element to it but the focis isn’t on the Sex Pistols or The Clash, it is about kids who lived in Bradford at that time.”

Trapezium Gallery, Bradford to December 21.