Scene One: Three students and a venue manager with big ideas
Infest festival started back in 1998 as an idea to get people into the bar at Bradford University Students’ Union over the summer, when the students had gone home.
The venue manager was a guy name Geoff who had worked at the world famous Leeds goth club Le Phonographique in the 1980s. That was the era of The Sisters of Mercy, and Geoff knew that goths like to drink, a lot.
Some time in early 1998 the call went out organise a event that would attract some goths to Bradford. Gareth Harvey aka Gadge, Bradford’s top goth, was asked by Geoff the venue manager to get something together. Gadge signed up us friends Crusty Chris Molyneux, who had been working at Student Union events instead of studying archaeology, and club-kid Maxi Slag Niblock, who seemed to know everybody, to make it happen.
Gadge, Chris and Max went away for the weekend to the best show they knew about, to drum up some interest. A trip to Whitby Goth Weekend in April 1998 got the ball rolling.
With a bit of help from the Student’s Union entertainment manager Floyd, they secured a headline performance from Alien Sex Fiend. The year after, the boys booked the first UK performance for Apoptygma Berzerk.
In the late 1990s the internet was coming of age and internet news groups were a popular way for goths to communicate. uk.people.gothic was as important to the early days of infest as printed flyers and traditional networking.
Scene Two: Terminal Productions
By the year 2000 the Students’ Union had lost interest in trying to attract goths to sell them cider and black. The name had been built up but the funding for Infest had disappeared. This was a time when the old student union gig circult was starting to struggle, at least in Bradford.
Enter stage left: Mark Guy aka Gus. Mark had been in contact with Chris since 1998 and had been booked as a DJ, due to appear after Alien Sex Fiend. At the time Mark was running the Underworld night at Jilly’s Rock World in Manchester. He was working in the music industry full time, and was successfully showing people in the UK a glimpse of a more global goth and industrial music scene.
Mark brought a new twist to the booking policy for Infest. Not only did he build on the establish goth, futurepop and electro industrial scene, but he added rhythmic noise acts from Ant-Zen and Hands productions.
This era of Infest in the 00s can be characterised by gatecrasher-esque cyber kids, with their neon woolly hair and cyberdog fashion, and with rubberists and kinksters who wouldn’t look out of place in the cult movie Preaching to the Perverted. Infest after parties were often held at the local Anarchist social club and venue, the 1 in 12 club.
Scene Three: The end of the student gig circuit
In 2009 the venue closed for refurbishment. The Bradford University commercial department had enjoyed Infest generating healthy bar profits for them for over 10 years, but their traditional entertainments and technical services teams had taken a financial battering every other month of the year, making constant losses. This probably happened due to the changing work-life balance for students, following the introduction of significant tuition fees from 2004 onwards. The social side of student life had been eroded, which left the university gig circuit on it’s knees nationally.
When the venue reopened it had been reconfigured to be used as a student cafe and social centre, with much less emphasis on live gigs. The courtyard bar was gone, and the admittedly ageing touring equipment that had characterised UBU throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s was sold or disposed of. Bradford University was no longer a training ground for young people to enter the music industry.
Mark and Chris had been kept in the picture when the new venue opened, and while it was different, it still just about worked for a three day event with 16 or so live acts.
In 2011 Bradford University revealed plans for their new sustainable student accommodation at The Green, on campus and within a stone’s throw of the venue. This new onsite accommodation gave Infest a holiday camp feel, and kicked off the era of the student halls after-parties.
Scene Three: 20th anniversary and the Covid-19 pandemic
In 2018 the festival celebrated their 20th event. An official warm-up night was added on the Thursday, headlined by Peter Hook & The Light. Hooky’s other bands are of course the original Post Punk act Joy Division, and seminal synth act New Order.
2019’s show came and went, with the popular additional Thursday night warm-up being passed to Flag Promotions and Cryonica Recordings, and relocated to a dive bar venue in town. This allowed Terminal Productions to focus on the main event.
2020 was the year of the global Covid-19 pandemic. A crisis for the music industry and for humans in general. Businesses were closed. Livelihoods lost. Lockdowns enforced on people for their own safety. With all of that spare time stuck at home, and the need for an artistic outlet, bands and DJs across the world took to a relatively new online streaming platform called Twitch. Originally launched as a way to broadcast video-game livestreams, it became a sort of public access TV for the pandemic. In a bid to keep the spirit of infest alive and to keep supporting their chosen charities, Infest went online as stay-in-fest in 2020 and 2021.
To be continued…
Read the Infest Festival Wikipedia page here.