Subculture Uncovered

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Thursday 12th July 2018

Johnny Marr performing at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Photo ©Laura Dean.

Located in Hyde Park, Leeds, The Brudenell Social Club is one of the UK's leading independent venues, regularly nominated for awards and equally celebrated by gig-goers and musicians. 

Like its more westerly situated Yorkshire neighbour, The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, The Brudenell owes its beginnings to the industrious history of early 20th Century Yorkshire. A group of local businessmen built a wooden clubhouse on the site in 1913, with the intent of providing a social and recreation club that was independent of any political leaning and organisation. The structure stood for 65 years before being replaced by the current building in 1978 in the modest architectural style of the time and continued its role as a social club throughout the 1980s. 

“Seen some incredible gigs there: Oceansize, Melt-Banana, Rolo Tomassi, Loop, Envy, The Locust. The latter I attended on the day I moved from Hull to Manchester, spent my first night of freshers' week in Leeds”. - Alex (via Twitter)

By the early 1990s, the demographics of Hyde Park had begun to change reflecting the area's proximity to the University of Leeds. When Malcolm and Patricia Clark took over the license in 1992, they saw the potential for the club to host live music appealing to the student population, and the Brudenell as we know it was born. 

With its capacity hitting the small venue sweet spot at around 400, the club progressed from local grassroots bands and student nights to bigger things. Though it weathered the Hyde Park riots in 1995, the venue's life was almost cut short by noise complaints in 2004. By this time, the running of the club had passed to its current manager, Malcolm and Patricia's son Nathan Clark who had grown up around the club, collecting glasses from age 12. Nathan organised a campaign to keep the venue open and raise funds for new soundproofing that would allow them to operate within the permitted parameters. 

“Saw Secret Affair there, great gig venue. Amusing seeing the mods suited sitting in the battered bar pre-gig”. - Talia (via Twitter)

"Brudenell Social Club. It's my local. It has the best sound/sound guys of any intimate venue I have played, and you can get a pint for £2. Enough said". - Daniel Hyndman, Mush

With the indie revival of the noughties taking hold, The Brudenell was in the right place at the right time to accommodate rising Yorkshire bands that included The Cribs and The Kaiser Chiefs. The club became a favourite of Wakefield's Cribs who held their three-night December 'Cribsmas' residency there in 2007 and returned in 2017 for a five-night slot to mark the anniversary. Another performer who has become a return visitor is Cribs alumni, and guitar icon Johnny Marr.

“Inadvertently heard Johnny Marr perform ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ last month while having a pint outside”. - Riley Mackroy

“I managed to catch a haunting performance from Scott Matthews there. I’ve never seen so many people so quiet and in awe”. - Pearl Thompson

Johnny Marr is on record as a being a big fan of the Brudenell's atmosphere, ethics and the crowd it pulls in, all of which must result to some degree from the manner in which Nathan Clark operates the venue. Local bands are encouraged and supported alongside left-field programming from further afield, and the club is run as a nonprofit organisation. Staff are paid a living wage, and surplus cash is put back into the fabric of the venue, with recent modernisations including accessible toilets and an extension that serves as a community room and additional performance space.

“We supported Purson on tour in 2016. Their final ever show was at Brudenell, all their fans came backstage to celebrate the end of the tour with us, they were all dressed up in 60s-esq outfits, the dressing room ended up looking like the album cover to Sgt Pepper, it was great”. - Joe Fisher, Crosa Rosa

In 2013 the Club marked the 100th anniversary of the original social club's opening with a line up of bands that included The Fall, The Wedding Present, Girls Against Boys, Loop and Rocket from the Crypt. A perfect chapter marker for the club. As one wave of bands pass another will follow. The location and attitude of the Clarks and The Brudenell lend themselves perfectly to the current movement of countercultural bands and youthful non-conformity.

While it's endlessly debatable where The North begins, there's no denying that the Brudenell is one of the key venues that provide a northerly station for bands from other pockets of fresh talent across Britain, such as London's Brixton scene. In addition, it also allows emerging and established left-field artists from West Yorkshire and the relatively nearby Greater Manchester area to pool and concentrate their influence upon the National scene.

“I accidentally got lassoed with a mic cable in a mosh pit by Lee Broadbent from Cabbage, despite it involving me being accidentally strangled it's probably one of the best experiences I’ve had there, plus their set was excellent”. - Marcus Popple

Located in, and serving, a conurbation with the highest student population in the UK (including London) it shouldn't be surprising that The Brudenell has as many devotees as it does, but it is a reassuring indicator that it is the case. The Brudenell has become the focus of a scene that has seen bands such as Hookworms meet, socialise and eventually play at the venue, before progressing to bigger things, and all of this is made possible by the sense of community that The Brudenell processes, thanks to its management and patrons.

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