Back to Bradford...

Back to Bradford,
Or a story of visiting “the holy places” ;-)

by Stranger


Here I want to tell you about my visit to the places which probably every old Smokie fan is dreaming of. Namely – to Bradford and its suburbs where the whole Great Story basically began in the old 60's...

While preparing for my journey I one more time refreshed “the equipment” in my memory, i.e. had a look through frames of the “widely known in narrow circles” documentary about Smokie filmed in 1977, at the height of their career. As you might remember there are episodes where the still young but already famous members of the band were taken to different memorable places of Bradford, to reminisce about the times when it all began?… I had assiduously memorized all those shots hoping to see many of those places and later I will refer to this film. But you will agree, even with having all those memorable places in your mind it seems extremely hard to find them all by yourself in an unknown city within a limited period of time. Fortunately, the man who had agreed to show them all to me and my companions was found!The Elizabethans And that was not just a man but a person who had been at the cradle of our favourite band! Ron Kelly – yes, the one who had already played the drums in The Sphynx, The Yen, The Long Side Down, The Four Corners, The Elizabethans and certainly in Kindness! I hope, I don't have to explain to you WHAT or rather WHO was meant by these names?.. ;)) Now Ron plays in Alan Silson's band, he is a very nice and kind person who highly appreciates the attention of the fans. It's also very important that he has a phenomenal memory, as he still remembers a great many of the details, stories, addresses and everything else, which must be hard to memorize for such a long time.

It should be said that Bradford was not the first place which I visited during my trip to Great Britain. At the moment of arriving in Yorkshire we had most of Scotland behind us with its inimitable landscapes and ancient castles. I guess that it's hard to surpass Scotland in beautiful views. But nevertheless those Yorkshire landscapes also appeared very lovely to me – green picturesque dales, blooming cherry and apple trees, hills spangled with pasturing sheep, stone fences – actually nearly all those views were captured on the cover of Smokie's vinyl LP “Changing All The Time” from 1975 (I will be back to it later).

Having arrived at the place in the evening we found our overnight stop and had a meal at one remarkable pub ;)). I called Ron to arrange for the next day. We were staying at a place which is 6-7 miles from his location and the time was already about 8 pm. Suddenly Ron asked me, do you want me to get to this pub now?To Bradford! I felt troublesome for a minute, but only for a minute and I said, yes, of course!... ;))) An hour later Ron entered the pub and it was very pleasant for me to meet a well-known face in a foreign country at last!! I presented some gifts to him and he did the same to me – he gave me a large photobook and a book about Bradford signed by himself and the vinyl single of the band Stormer, which was recorded on Ringo Records in 1978 with Ron Kelly on the drums. Nearly two hours of our nice chat flew by in a blink and the time came to say goodbye. Ron was so kind to take me in his car to my guest house and we arranged to meet the next day for the tour across Bradford.

So, the next sunny April morning we met with Ron. He took us to his car and started out towards Bradford telling us about “the places of battle fame” on the way. I must remark that about 30-40 years have passed since the time when it all took place, so no wonder that many buildings have changed their look and some of them have disappeared without a trace. For instance, the houses, which stand out in rows on the cover of the mentioned LP are no longer there – Bradford is not the same “cardboard city” any more… Mark Jordan's officesAnother aspect is that you can't film or photograph some places for a long time or go inside to have a look because it's all private property and certainly not everybody would be glad about unhoped-for visitors.

The first “historical place” we visited was the building where offices of Mark Jordan - who was the first manager of the guys - were situated in their time. There were also their practice rooms.

The next point for a stop was the well-known St.Bede’s Grammar School – a Catholic boys' school which Chris, Alan and Terry attended and where they first met. Remember the episode in the documentary where they recall their school days and sing the Beatles's “Love Me Do” by the walls of this school?.. ;) In general, the school appears to be a rather big complex of buildings on a large territory which includes even a football field.

Welcome to St.Bede'sSmokie near school
Singing "Love me do"that was here...
 it was somewhere here...
St.Bede's gatesSt.Bede's main

Then we passed by several houses where Chris had lived with his parents in his early days. And that were not all of his Bradford addresses, by the way... ;) – Chris's family changed their residence rather often. Guess you'll agree, they are totally unremarkable houses and even without memorial tablets “Here lived Chris” on them... ;)) So thanks to Ron who remembers them all perfectly, as we would never have found such things without him!

Chris's houseChris's houseChris's house

After that we had a short walk across Bradford's central park called Lister Park with a splendid edifice and lake in the middle – Cartwright Hall. It's a rather beautiful place. But during our walk we didn't see any European faces – this district is completely populated with Pakistanis, whose population is very big in Bradford!.. Naturally, in the 60-70's the situation was not like this, here lived mainly English people. Now in Bradford there are entire areas of Pakistanish and Bangladesh people and this is striking, by the way.Valley Parade

We also drove to the well-known stadium called Valley Parade, the home of the Bradford City football club. Remember it was on fire in 1985 and afterwards Smokie reunited for the charity concert? Now it's rebuilt, a regular game was scheduled just for that day. We got into the club merchandise shop of “Bradford City” – and I was deeply impressed by it as not a single team from the ex-USSR has a trace of such a shop! But look, “Bradford City” doesn't even play in the Premier League... Indeed, in England there is a cult around football. Though golf and rugby are also much in favour here, as well as cricket which is still strange for us.Former "Moore's music shop"


Then our way passed through the city centre. We drove by that same place where in the 60's the shop called “Moore's music shop” was situated and where young Ron Kelly met Alan Silson for the first time. Ron has described this historic episode in detail on Alan's site in the “Band Anecdotes” section. Nowadays it's not a music shop anymore but something different. But anyway, it's HISTORY!St.George's Hall


We also passed by one of the main concert halls of the city called St.George's Hall. Chris Norman had performed in it just a few days before our arrival... We were late... ;)) But the meeting with the Maestro was planned for the same “hard day's night”, so that's why there was no place for sorrow!.. ;))


St.Augustine's School


After that Ron took us to St.Augustine's School where Alan Silson went to when he first went to school. We also passed by the house where Alan's Dad lives and where Alan lived until he left home after Smokie had become famous. During our tour Ron also very often pointed at the places where the guys had performed or rehearsed in their early days or used to hang out for a rest. Of course, that was accompanied by some funny (or not so funny) stories connected with those places.

At last we got to one more place which can be seen in the mentioned film. In the 70's that was a house under the traditional English sign “Fish & Chips” which was maintained by Alan's parents – Rene and Jack, hence the name – Jack's Fry-In. Remember, in the film Chris eats a chip heartily after his solemn announcement: “A Jack fried chip!”... ;)) And here it is – the same small building near the crossroads! Now there is no such sign on its wall, inside is some Chinese shop... Well, as Bob Dylan sang, “the times they are a-changin'”...

Jack's Fry-In at that time......and now
at that time...... and now

At that time I had frames in my mind: Smokie running over this crossroads before they enter the “Fish & Chips” (just like the “Beatles” at the Abbey Road!... ;)) ).

cross nowthat same crossroads

Birkenshaw middle school

Then Ron drove us to “his lands” – places where he was born, grew up, played as a child, went to school and so on. Unlike Chris, Alan and Terry who attended St.Bede's, Ron studied at Birkenshaw middle school. In the history of the band this place is also famous for the fact that they played their first ever public gig in 1965 exactly here.



GomersalAnother remarkable place which was also a kind of “first one” was the house in Gomersal where Ron lived for quite a long time and which was the first place where the guys ever played their instruments together and where they used to rehearse every Saturday morning whilst Ron's parents and neighbours were at work. Here Ron again recollected a funny story. Well, soon after he had told it to us it also appeared in the mentioned section “Band Anecdotes”... ;-)

Getting back to the documentary... ;) Here I would like once again to express my admiration for Ron. Before my trip he hadn't seen that film, you know. And I passed him the DVD with the film and English subtitles hurriedly attached by me only at our overnight meeting. So in the morning he already commented on Bradford views through the prism of that film! But that's not all – he totally “struck me down” when on the same morning he confidently told me about historic sights of Russian cities whose names I had mentioned in our night talk, can you imagine?!!.. When and where had he learned that at night, had he slept at all, I have no idea... ;))) What a man!...
So you remember, in the documentary our four guys enter the house where Chris's grandparents were living? Ron quickly recalled where it could be and so, here it is! Exactly, it is!.. ;))

Chris's houseChris's house

Our tour was doubtlessly crowned by a visit to the well-known bridge or, to say more precisely, viaduct featured on the “Changing All The Time” LP cover... ;)) While we approached that place my heart already began to palpitate...;) And here it is! We stopped, enjoyed the sight and made some photos. But that was only from the distance and from one side. And then Ron suddenly drove around the place and got us to it from another side! We pulled up very close to it, but there was a kind of problem typical for English roads – they are often rather narrow and you can't stop where you want, only at the parking places. Anyway, somehow our car got to park onto the edge of a road and we hurried to the viaduct! We had to run across some green field where usually sheep and cows graze – fortunately it was “free”... ;) By the way, even that miserable field was also somebody's private land but ... who of us cared at that moment?... ;)) At last we came running and here it is – the same viaduct! Ron even made a kind of ceremonial bow to it just as to some deity... ;)) Yes, indeed, that was a moment of happiness!.. Wish we all could get together to this place some day!!


Thank you, Ron!So, at that point our short “survey” excursion around Bradford was over. Of course, here I mentioned not all places we have seen but only those which can be interesting for Smokie and Chris fans. It's a pity, we didn't have enough time for everything, as usual, and had to miss some things. But I hope that was only my first encounter with these lands. The same evening we had to be in Grimsby where Chris Norman had to perform. After taking a cup of coffee we expressed our hearty thanks to Ron Kelly for his great welcome and bid goodbye to him. Hope not for long... ;)) Thank you, dear Ron, for everything one more time!!!

And then... Then there was the concert of Chris!.. And you can read about it in the next report!.. :))







© Stranger (Moscow), 04.05.2007

Used frames from the documentary “Glitzerlicht und Hinterhofe” (Germany, 1977)