Manchester. A city with an immensely rich musical heritage. A heritage which has been rightfully celebrated for its impact on the world throughout pop-culture history. Manchester is one of the founders of underground escapism in the form of ‘The Hacienda’ nightclub, and is the mythological setting of Sex Pistol folklore; to mention just a couple of its historic milestones. (Sorry, ‘Bez on Big Brother’, you just missed out.)
Less than 20 miles up the A666 however, the culture, creativity and sheer talent diffused by the city has seeped into the overlooked industrial bones of Bolton town. The legacy of the late great Pete Shelley founding seminal punk band Buzzcocks with Howard Devoto at The Bolton Institute of Technology in 1976 set the bar way back then, and right now in 2019, there may just be enough potential contest.
Many town centre business closures and dwindling job opportunities have marred the town in the past, and such dilapidation is one of the first impressions of Bolton. It could be argued though, that the same down ‘n outery has acted to inspire creation. It’s an age-old sentiment that artists work best amongst struggle, and is one that could be applied to the creative residents of Bolton.
In the centre, the turning cog of the town’s grafting ethos gives great cause for artists to write about working-class upheaval amidst a typically grey backdrop. The bars & pubs in which the people drink their wages serve as the setting to many-a-tale of happiness, conflict, romance etc; well documented by the likes of Our Fold & The Jade Assembly.
On the flip of the coin, however, the much greener outskirts of Rivington and the surrounding hilltop villages hold an adventurous source of escapist inspiration with an essence of magical whim, which is also heavily evident in the output of Bolton’s musicians such as James Holt & Toria Wooff.
Take all of this and add a sense of unbreakable pride and you have the ins and outs of Boltonian artistry, an ideology that is cemented in the work of local artists past & present, showcased by the songs in the playlist below. (Found on Spotify by searching: Bolton Artists NE)
Our Fold – Victim of Lies
Jordan Allen – Never Give It Up
James Holt – Come Out to Play
Jade Assembly – Nothing Changes
Attic Doctors – Tour De Force
Toria Wooff – Collision Course
Cherry Ghost – People Help the People
Two Weeks Running – Waste of a Day
Peur – Hollow Skies
Badly Drawn Boy – Once Around the Block
Buzzcocks – What Do I Get?
Of course, the music is just a fraction of it, as the people who spend their time and money on supporting artists help to fuel the passion, are equally as essential in keeping the wheels turning. Westhoughton’s Jordan Allen selling out 560 cap Manchester venue Gorilla before announcing a headline show at O2 Ritz is a recent testament to this.
Last month, two coaches worth of supporters followed Our Fold, Jade Assembly & The Attic Doctors over to Liverpool and acted as an amazing representation for the towns love of live music.
Also not to forget the hardworking folk who play pivotal parts behind the scenes through Bolton FM, Big Unit Studios, Rock-It and Booth’s Music Courses to name just a few local establishments.
A blow was dealt to Bolton with the closure of the Blind Tiger bar/venue, which hosted live music & club nights week in week out, serving as a hub for music lovers & a starting platform for many bands. Event organiser Dawn Price said,
“It is sad to see a town the size of Bolton with so very few venues who now host Live Music but the Demise of Music venues is a similar story across the UK.”
Award-winning venue The Alma Inn very nearly suffered a similar fate to Blind Tiger but is thankfully still going strong due to new ownership, as are the new club nights/live show ventures at Kahiki Bar.
Annual event Bolton Food & Drink Festival saw 400,000 people descend on the town in 2019 which had local artists performing over two stages throughout the weekend.
Recent features on ITV & national radio for James Holt & The Jade Assembly have shed light on the talent that resides within its boroughs, but despite this, coverage of the town in this respect is pretty limited, and first impressions might make some of these remarks seem quite unbelievable; but upon hearing echoed thoughts from other artists who grew up in Bolton, it confirms that they ring true.
How has growing up in Bolton affected your songwriting?
Damien Riley – Lead singer of Our Fold
“One of the first songs I wrote was called ‘King of Howfen’, which came from growing up in Westhoughton and loving the local history. It was based on a novel idea on the civil war. I also love writing about the gritty backdrops within the skeleton of Bolton. Growing up here affected my songwriting massively, how could it not!?”
“My first experience of being in a band was through Rock It! A Bolton-based organisation that helps put young musicians into bands and give them opportunities to perform. It was vital for my music development. Bolton also has a strong musical heritage that I think is often overlooked or taken under the umbrella of the Manchester music scene, and any young band or artist growing up in Bolton has a rich history to draw from. A lot of my early songs were written about local places & landmarks. For example, I had a song called “If You’ve Ever Been Down Moss Bank Way”. They say write about what you know, and there’s no better place to write about than your hometown.”
© Karen Mcbride
“For me, bands like Jade Assembly and Our Fold were pivotal in our development and sound. Bolton is a really close-knit scene and they set the bar for us, helped me get my early shows and I’m lucky enough to regard them both as great mates now. Although the Bolton scene is small, we all look out for each other and now with the likes of Attic Doctors & James Holt coming through, the future’s looking bright for us all. I’d say Bolton definitely shaped us all. We write honest music. Honest lyrics, which is a rare quality, no matter the difference in style, that’s what unites all the bands from Bolton.”
John ‘Foz’ Foster – Frontman of The Jade Assembly
“Growing up in Bolton and meeting different people from so many walks of life has affected me massively. It’s given me a really broad spectrum of things to write about. All of my songs are straight from the heart and are always very honest – I’m very proud to be a Boltonian. There are many references to our home town in my songs, especially in ‘Our Town’.”
“Living here and seeing names out of Bolton like Jordan Allen or the Jade Assembly heading off on UK tours with some of our favourite bands inspires us massively and instills a sense of pride for our town. It definitely impacts the way we write and create music, we really want to put a Bolton stamp on our name.”
Matty Dagger / Header Image Gaz Haywood