by Hannah Anstee
This weekend Inkfolk celebrates its 5th birthday and closes the doors on their last four-day party. I chat to Chris Price, Charlotte Mellor-Meecham and James Holroyd about the good times.
When I first heard about Inkfolk in 2012 I was dubious. I couldn’t understand how a one room basement in a disused, old cotton mill could hope to offer art, cinema, music and dancing all under one roof. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Now in its fifth year, the festival is a massive success, both creatively and commercially and has become a Hebden Bridge institution.
Inkfolk is a four-day festival (five times a year), held in a basement called Machpelah in Hebden Bridge. Inside you will find exhibitions ranging from photography, fine art, illustration, projections and installations.
Musically every evening is different, spanning all genres, including folk, techno, dub, drum and bass, disco and house. Charlotte and Chris utilise the diverse local scene of up-and-coming live acts, bands, DJs, established outfits and music obsessives to create Inkfolk’s unique house-party vibe.
Chris Price and Charlotte Mellor-Meecham (below) are the couple behind this legendary event.
Charlotte describes how it all started:
“We pooled together our resources and experience, using our skills as an artist and DJ to create a space that could house all forms of art exhibitions, showcase independent films, play all types of music, supply a bar and host proper parties.”
“Yeah there was nothing going on in the town at the time. I was already doing WTF which was just a monthly party in an old pub. There was something else needed to give the young people and everyone else a place to go. So it was kind of set up for that, and also just for us just to do something interesting.”
The Saturday night is often the ‘golden ticket’ and always sells out. Chris explains why:
“The Saturday is predominantly house, disco and techno. There’s no pretentiousness, just good music, good sound and great people. The people are really important; musicians and party-goers alike.
We’ve built a team of mega residents with Andi Hanley, who was the Body and Soul resident. Foss, who’s been doing stuff since he was 16 like me. James Holroyd, who’s obviously an amazing DJ and has been the Back to Basics resident for 20 years. Of course we had Joe Lucas for ages too until he went fishing.”
“It’s a community dance vibe. Everyone’s welcome, it’s all people and it’s all ages. People from 18-60 and older. We’ve sold tickets all over the UK, people come from everywhere. I don’t know how they know about it, it must be word of mouth – we look after people and it’s a great party.”
Over the years Inkfolk has sold tickets in 42 towns and cities in the UK, people come from everywhere. James Holroyd (Inkfolk resident) knows why:
“Hebden is just a unique place. I don’t know what it is, there’s something in the water that attracts really good people – really open minded people. Lots of people have moved there, I always see loads from Manchester and Leeds, people gravitate towards it. Also it’s a very close community but it’s also really loose and open.”
“The mill’s brilliant and the promotion’s great. Charlotte dresses the place up really good, it all looks good and feels good and it’s just dead laid back.
“I always come away saying ‘that was the best one’. It’s always really difficult to get out of there. It’s really difficult to leave. It’s nice to play, because you get really open ears, people are responsive to anything. I’m always finding records and I suddenly think ‘that’s an Inkfolk record’.”
The festival has also showcased some brilliant films over the years using a pop-up style cinema. Stand out ones include ‘High On Hope’ the film about the origins of the rave scene in the eighties. ‘Stop Making Sense’, the Talking Heads film where the whole room got up and danced and more recently the award winning film by Ben Davies, ‘Northern Disco Lights’.
Back in the early days they tried doing a kids cinema event but it didn’t last too long. Chris elaborates:
“It was because all of the mums. They left their kids with us and we had about 40 kids to look after between me and Charlotte and always after a massive Friday night – it was hardcore. We put Japanese manga on for them like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle – they loved it. Yeah it was good but we let that go after three.”
The most talked about night is Manuel Gottsching playing his album E2E4 live at the cinema in October 2016. He’d never played in the UK before and many people were puzzled that this guy was coming over to Hebden Bridge to play this massive gig.
Chris explains how it came about:
“I didn’t know what to do for my 40th, so I did that on a whim. I saw him billed at Dekmantel and thought ‘ok maybe we can do that’. It had never been done – it’s a seminal album that spawned a generation to make dance music and I knew it would be amazing – 82 emails later we had it. It was the first time ever in the UK so a premier for England. We sold 492 tickets in a 500 capacity so we nearly sold out but not quite.”
“It was interesting to do but it was very testing in so many ways, basically because we’d never done anything on that scale before. On the night I warmed up with Moonboots and Rough Fields. Manuel Gottsching played and he was incredible, the whole cinema was dancing.”
Charlotte’s film was played on the cinema screen during the night and it blew everyone away. She told me:
“It’s such a beautiful building and I got to show my visuals on the cinema projector that I’d been working on for months, alongside his performance. It was such a thrill. Then we all headed back to the mill and celebrated in true Inkfolk fashion.”
Manuel loved Hebden Bridge, Chris said:
“He said it was his favourite gig that he’d ever played other than the one in New York. That only topped it because they painted the concert hall in the chequerboard from his album.”
So why is Inkfolk coming to an end guys?
“Trevor, the owner has built flats above on the top floor, in fact he’s renovated the whole thing now into office space and a Steiner school. He was actually ok for us to carry on but we made the decision to finish here. It wouldn’t be fair on the new residents to have a four-day party underneath you.”
And finally what’s the weirdest moment from any of the nights?
Chris: “Yeah, that was a Friday night for Depthcutz, a drum and base and jungle night. It was really busy and this girl was trying to get in. It’s 150 capacity and we were bang on and the doormen couldn’t let anyone else in because it was just too packed. So she decided to go over to the canal and jump in and swim across to the other entrance. She still didn’t get in as she was 14. She was stood in a pool of water at the top of the steps pleading to come in. Madness.”
Charlotte: “Yeah we’ve had some pretty wild times over the years and some hilarious moments too. The most random object I’ve found at the end of a night was a giant tub of fish food; it turned out the owner didn’t even have a fish. You try working that one out when you’ve had no sleep for four days.”
So what’s next then?
“Love International festival in Croatia, we’re doing that again, that’s a great festival to play at. We”ll collaborate with Joe Black and put Mr Scruff on again, we can’t do it this year because he’s totally booked out. There’ll be a few little bits, some one day events and we’ll just keep our toes in.”
Any final comments?
Charlotte: “We couldn’t have done it without the continued support of our families and friends and the community of Hebden Bridge. I just want to say a really big thank you to all the artists and contributors that I had the pleasure of working with and curating. There was a whole host of talent coming through those doors and I’m just glad I got to be part of it.”
Chris: “Yeah a massive thanks to everyone involved and also the staff of course. It’s been interesting and it’s been amazing.”
No Chris and Charlotte – THANKYOU!
The final ever four day Inkfolk starts TONIGHT folks… it’s sure to be the best one yet… see here for details.