Brad Bradstock: 1950 – 2023
I feel honoured to be asked to edit this appreciation of Brad Bradstock whom I have known and performed with throughout the last forty years. His achievements and the tributes that follow speak for themselves. He was a unique talent and a lovely person. It was wonderful to sing in harmony with him. (Marion Hill)
Brad has been key to local music and drama since 1973 when he came to Milton Keynes.
Brad acted in nearly 30 plays and he directed four. He made three radio broadcasts, wrote five music scores, provided many voice-overs and performed at countless folk festivals.
From 1981, he performed as a star actor, musician and singer in Living Archive MK’s nationally acclaimed musical documentary dramas at Stantonbury Theatre.
These were created from Living Archive’s collected memories of local people during the ‘80s to the mid-90s; and they spawned Brad’s special shows.
Brad’s special shows
I’ll Tell You What Happened was Brad’s one-man show which retold the memories of local man Hawtin Mundy. Hawtin himself was a remarkable storyteller. Born in 1896, his memories inspired two books and the documentary play Days of Pride, about life in New Bradwell and Wolverton, and on the Western Front in the Great War. In 1996, it won a Sony International Radio Award, broadcast on BBC Three Counties Radio.
Anthony Lane remembers:
‘We’d invited the great man, Hawtin Mundy, to join us for the last night of Days of Pride in November 1981. He sat in the front row and said a few words to a packed Stantonbury Theatre at the end of the performance. I recall him saying that he wasn’t much of a theatre man but had marvelled at hearing (his eye sight was very poor) words put into drama and song. He reflected briefly on the carnage of human life portrayed in the show and then said those immortal words: “Black, white, brown or yeller, why can’t we all live togevver?”
He was given a standing ovation.
It was all too much for me, I thought the emotion would get the better of me so I got off stage. A few blokes were in the men’s dressing room including Brad. When we were urged to go back on stage to continue with the applause for Hawtin, Brad just said, with tears rolling down his cheeks, “Forget it, it’s too much for me.” I felt exactly the same. A great memory of a moment sharing my life with two great people.’
In Living Archive’s film, Brad retells Hawtin’s memories in New Bradwell, both as a Great War soldier and beyond; and he sings songs composed by local songwriters for the Living Archive documentary dramas – as well as contemporary ones.
See and listen to the 13 chapters of Hawtin’s story on Hawtin’s Tales – Living Archive
Mr Worker’s Walkabout was based on the life of Stony Stratford resident Tom Worker. It had been dramatised in 1992 in the musical documentary drama Worker by Name, covering Tom’s schooldays and his working life at Wolverton Works throughout the Depression years. In 1998, Brad Bradstock perpetuated Tom’s tales – in role – with a guided tour around the Stony Stratford that Tom knew so well.
Sue Malleson remembers:
‘During one Stony Stratford festival, I recall being in a group of people guided by Brad in a walk-about around in the guise of Tom Worker. Brad had the accent, the stance and the movement plus the ability to answer unscripted questions from his audience in the persona of Tom. Within five minutes I realised that my disbelief had been totally suspended; Brad had indeed become Tom. Brad was a superb actor, totally convincing.’
A Glance from A Train was Brad’s show with Eric Thompson about Wolverton. This also toured the UK and told the story of ‘the coming of the railway to a sleepy North Buckinghamshire village and its subsequent effect on the people who lived and worked there.’
Eric and Di Thompson remember:
‘Brad and I (Eric) first met in the Stantonbury Campus / Living Archive documentary plays of the early 1980s. We got on so well together, we decided in 1995 to put together a show telling a story of Wolverton and the railway, A Glance from a Train, drawing on the songs and dialogue in the plays. Over the next five years we performed the show at a number of venues around the country – many great memories of working with Brad on this.
Among many successful performances, one stands out: Sunderland Arts Centre, a February afternoon, an audience of four. After the first song one of them stood up and asked if this was the glass blowing class! ’
(See Week 29: A GLANCE FROM A TRAIN – Living Archive – recorded for LAMK in 2020)
Brad’s involvement in drama
Living Archive’s musical community documentary plays
Brad acted, sang solo and in harmony, and played his guitar (or melodeon or drums) in –
Burston School Strike (1975): Stantonbury’s first documentary drama about a school strike.
All Change (1976, 1988, 1999): The first full- scale community docu-drama, about Wolverton.
Your Loving Brother Albert (1978, 1984, 1998): based on the letters of a local soldier.
Days of Pride (1981 and 1993): Hawtin Mundy’s experiences in the Great War.
Sheltered Lives (1983): Local life after the First and into the Second World War.
Nellie (1984): based on the 1WW Home Front diaries of a local young woman.
The Jovial Priest: (1986): the life of New Bradwell’s eccentric priest.
Now Wolverton’s A Place (1988): a compilation of the community dramas so far (which Brad directed)
Worker by Name: (1992): the stories of Tom Worker of Stony Stratford.
The Story So Far: (2001, 2003): 25 years of Living Archive’s documentaries
Caz Tricks remembers:
‘So much to celebrate: the fabulous music he has given us from his solo work to the groups including The Living Archive Band and Kobold; his theatre work as actor and director; his radio appearances and in particular his absolutely wonderful performances as Hawtin Mundy, a character he could become within a breath. When I directed Your Loving Brother Albert at MADCAP I was delighted to have the Living Archive Band as part of the show and Brad was so much part of that.’
Brad as director/organiser as well as performer:
Brad was the Director for the cast of both Now Wolverton’s A Place and The Story So Far. He also supplied the vocals and his acoustic guitar to all performances. In 2003, The Story So Far was a sell-out performance at The Stables at Wavendon.
In addition, Brad ran the Wolverton Acoustic Club for a few years from 2004 for ‘singers and instrumentalists – any age – any style – any standard’.
Called The Price-of-a-Pint Acoustic Club, it met at Wolverton’s Madcap Theatre:
‘Whether you like blues, folk or modern music… whether you perform covers… or your own compositions… whether you just want to listen and sup real ale… …we will provide you – every Sunday evening – with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, a platform where you can share your musical talent, and a chance to meet fellow musicians who, like you, want to explore ideas and enjoy good music. For further information, contact Brad Bradstock…’
Philip Ilett (Baron Makabre) recalls:
‘I remember his amazing work at Wolverton Acoustic Club, his musical talent, along with his cheesy jokes (which I enjoyed). He was a warm, friendly man who put a smile on the faces of all who know him. He was a local legend who will be missed.’
Brad’s involvement in other performances:
For BBC Radio:
Miss Buss & Miss Beale
For Anglia Television:
The Front Row
For the Stantonbury Campus Drama Group:
The Reluctant Doctor;
The Pot of Gold;
Fire in the Bush;
Lark Rise to Candleford;
Measure for Measure;
Ophelia – Bryony Lavery;
Sticks & Bells & Morris Men
… and The Mysteries (Tony Harrison version)
Elaine Leigh (Lainey Nevitt) remembers:
‘I have happy memories of working with Brad in the drama group. He had the dubious pleasure of hauling me up and down on a rope when I played an Angel in our production of The Mysteries. Always on cue, he let me out and pulled me in, between songs, from the top of the scaffold tower.
One night he stepped back too far and to stop himself falling, flung an arm out and grabbed the nearest thing – the boob of one of the singers! Not sure who yelped the loudest but there were many stifled giggles up there that night!’
Brad’s contributions to music:
The Living Archive Band
The Living Archive Band started up in the 1980s and has continued for nearly four decades with a ‘shifting assemblage’ of musicians and singers. Brad has been a member throughout.
The current band (Marion Hill, Sue Malleson, Neil Mercer Chris Mitchell) last met in June 2022 when they were preparing for their ninth album, of original Second World War songs by MK songwriters.
Brad performed with the Living Archive Band in December 2018, when MK Community Choir held its 10th anniversary Christmas Concert at the Ridgeway Centre, Wolverton; there was another full-scale concert with the choir in 2019. Craig McLeish, MKCC’s choirmaster, played bass with the Band at the Celebration Kevfest in memory of Kevin Adams in April 2022.
The LA Band also performed with other musicians, such as the acapella folk group Jack in a Barrel for their Remembrance Concert in Turvey’s church.
See also Search results | Living Archive for information on the LA band’s past gigs, their members and their music archive of Milton Keynes songs.
Brad’s other bands
Brad’s first MK band, Hemlock – subsequently the Cock and Bull Band – played throughout the UK and toured France; but Brad played in many bands: The Stak, Rubber Duc,; Sunday Suits & Muddy Boots, Spud and the Fabs, Blazing Apostles…
Brad’s more recent performances were with Kobold, a three-piece acoustic band with Godfrey Yeomans and Dave Crawford (https://soundcloud.com › thekobold3)
His performance at special gigs and folk festivals:
Brad made solo appearances at many folk festivals, including at Towersey, Cleethorpes, Bracknell and Sidmouth.
‘It seems as if Brad was always there, on the folk music circuit. I do recall singing on the same bill as him so many times over the decades; so many festivals and events…’
‘I enjoyed all of the LAB gigs with Brad. Centenary gigs for the Great War were great. Bletchley Park was a special venue.’
‘I knew him for 15 years and feel privileged that he was happy to include me in his musical life. During that time, together with Dave and between the LA Band and Kobold, we played getting on for 200 gigs together.’
His musical scores:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Alice in Wonderland
Son of Man
His help in the studio for Living Archive projects:
‘Brad came to my studio in early June 2022 to help out on the MK songbook project. We’d recorded a great version of The Permanent Way and were moving on to Do You Ever Think Of England? He was in a fair bit of pain, but sat himself on a stool and said “I’ll have to play and sing at the same time first otherwise I won’t know where I am!”
He then played through a beautiful version, guitar and vocals together. I must have got lost in enjoying the track, because it wasn’t until we were recording the guitar parts separately, that I noticed he’d snuck an extra beat in before one of the choruses. I didn’t want to ask him to re-record everything, so I didn’t say anything. He then performed a cracking one-take vocal. Full of emotion and honesty. Over the years, I’d had the good fortune to hear Brad’s wonderful voice many, many times and I’d always greeted his wonderful smiling face after a gig with the same line:
“Your voice is like a fine wine Brad, it just keeps getting better!”
As Brad was leaving the studio I said it again. He beamed his lovely smile and said,
“I think it’s corked Tom! Oh and by the way, I might have added a beat or two in Do You Ever Think Of England. It’s just the way I play it. Can’t seem to help myself! It drives the band mad.”’
Brad’s support as technician – and studio producer
For Redway Special School:
Brad worked at Netherfield’s Redway Special School as the ICT Technician and Systems Manager – and was also their inspirational singer-guitarist:
Amanda Marlow, Mayor of Milton Keynes comments:
‘Terribly sad news to learn that a Redway School legend has gone. Brad Bradstock was the school’s IT Technician, but really Brad was the man who brought a smile to everyone’s faces. He sang beautifully, he was the teller of truly terrible jokes and puns and he was a friend to every child who came through the doors of Redway School.
Brad, throughout lockdown and for many months afterwards would hold virtual sing along sessions either via YouTube or on the school’s Facebook page. He provided a vital link to our children who struggled without the daily routine of school. As parents, some of us would try and catch him out to get him to sing rock classics. He always rose to the challenge. He will be truly missed by all of us. ‘
Michele Welborn remembers:
‘Brad was a regular visitor to my classroom when I worked at Redway. What a character – what a musician! I knew he had a twinkle in his eye for Sam, who was my wonderful classroom assistant at that time…’
Steve Cobham says:
‘Just been chatting with my son. He remembers Brad Bradstock from when he was about four. He liked Brad very much – always loved meeting him – and he came up with his own take on my dear friend: Brad had “kid charisma”. Choked me up that did.’
For the Living Archive Band:
Brad’s technical support extended to much of the Living Archive Band’s needs: he hosted their website and included access to their music. He also provided and set up the sound system needed for their many gigs and performances – including amps and mics. He would say: ‘We only need a power socket, I have the rest.’
The stories of Hawtin’s Great War, Days of Pride had been recorded live at Stantonbury Theatre in 1981. With Kevin Adams, Brad mixed the songs for the LA Band’s 2019 album A Bob a Bloody Day taking the lead for over half of them, with backing vocals and guitar throughout. (Link: A Bob A Bloody Day | The Living Archive Band (bandcamp.com)
Brad’s songs … and his voice
Naomi Rose: ‘My favourite singer of all time. I will never forget that voice.’
Dave Crawford: ‘He had such a lovely voice particularly suited to the emotion that the folk songs needed. I think the Valley of the Shadow is the song that’ll stick in my head for the longest time. He really was stunning when he sang that one, difficult to imagine anyone else singing it. His voice was a bit of a one-off. ‘
Neil Mercer: ‘I remember the first time I heard Brad sing; I was very taken by his voice, which was clear and tuneful, with a special warm quality. A truly great, distinctive voice. So to work with him in the Living Archive Band was a delight, made all the more enjoyable by his sense of humour. We made quite a lot of recordings together, and his performance of songs like James McConnell and Valley of the Shadow I still find very moving. And of course he did the definitive version of The Night the Stones Rolled into Town by Kevin Adams and myself. I was looking forward to doing more music together, and I only wish we could have.’
Debbie Brock: ‘I loved his voice – he was mesmerising, singing on Armistice Day at MK Rose.’
Martin Ferns: ‘What a wonderful voice and guitarist! A great musician all round.’
Di Duff: ‘I loved to hear him sing … his Valley of the Shadows is one of my all-time favourites.’
Lainey Leigh (Nevitt): ‘He was a wonderfully talented singer and musician who I know will be much missed.’
Rib Davis: ‘Brad had such a warmth of character and of voice that I can still feel and hear, although we worked together a long time ago. I always knew that I could rely on that tremendous richness of his voice to give any song a greater depth than it might otherwise have had! He managed to combine a certain weight and solidity…with that twinkle.’
Sam Hill: ‘His legacy, and brilliance in his words, music and performance will shine on and probably outlive us all! I remember him telling me after a Days of Pride production at Stantonbury theatre how much he loved performing with the LA Band. Back Home Again and Bright Battalions were beautiful and will always be my favourites. And how could I not mention Valley of the Shadow.’
Poppy Hollman: ‘That Incredible Voice. For me it was the voice of Milton Keynes. All those songs sung to give voice to the people of the city’s past. Whose stories we wouldn’t have heard or felt without it. From his incredible Hawtin Mundy show to his eloquence and poignance in songs of war. His passing is such a loss to the musical landscape of the city.’
Sue Malleson: ‘With Brad gone there is an enormous hole in the creative sector of Milton Keynes. But luckily he recorded many of the Living Archive Band repertoire in recent years and has left great legacy for the next generation.’
Caz Tricks’ special local radio programme with the Living Archive Band, featuring Brad, in May 2022 can be heard on: https://www.mixcloud.com/tricksy/sunday-15th-may-2022-only-in-stony-sunday-special-the-living-archive-band/
Brad’s personal qualities
Eric and Di Thompson: ‘Brad was such a delightful person to know and work with, with his quick wit and wonderful sense of humour.’
Lainey Leigh (Nevitt): ‘He was such a lovely man.’
Sue Malleson: ‘We’d be about to start a song during rehearsal, and there he’d be with a succession of quick-fire jokes, all worthy of a groan or giggle, which made it impossible to sing for a while. It seemed as if he saved them all for us at rehearsals which became great fun – but probably longer than they would otherwise have been! Often, after he’d tuned up, when he wasn’t sharing jokes, he’d suddenly start the accompaniment for a different song he’d been learning or just fancied singing. The whole band would join in and we’d do a passable rendition, complete with full harmony – all never to be repeated again. Just a golden nugget of beautiful music created for absolutely no reason other than it was a delight to do. A voice in a million, a true friend and an inspiration. Gone far too soon.’
Martin Ferns: ‘I only knew him through his performances and therefore his music – of
which luckily there are some examples on YouTube, (e.g. Stantonbury Village/ What Do They Think We Are – YouTube ) which I’ve been watching in the last couple of days. Clearly a lovely person. May he rest in peace.’
Tom Hill: ‘A truly brilliant storyteller, musician, vocalist and all-round human being. He’ll be missed so much and we are very lucky that he left such an incredible musical legacy.’
Caz Tricks: ‘Brad was a good, kind friend and will be much missed by so many.’
Godfrey Yeomans: ‘I regarded Brad as one of my truest friends. He was so special to so many people, to people who knew him for a lot longer than I did. I can honestly say there was never a dull moment, whether it was the pleasure of playing in support of his amazing musical talent or laughing or groaning at his jokes. He will be so terribly missed by us all.’
Sue Malleson: ‘Brad kept on doing live feeds, singing with Dave Crawford when Dave visited him in the care home, and the last one was not very long before he died. They streamed them live on Facebook from Brad’s hospital bed. His voice was perfect even then. And he was still doing things for a laugh. It summed up Brad’s attitude – he was determined to keep doing what he loved doing right to the end. He didn’t mind people seeing him lying in his bed. Dave and he streamed live on 17th December – perhaps the last time. The harmony was superb, as ever.’
Dave Crawford: ‘The 17th was the last live show. He was always the one keen to do it, I was happy enough just messing around! The look on his face when he was singing and belting out harmonies was brilliant to see.’
Naomi Rose: ‘Isn’t it true that the best musicians are not the famous ones doing great big stadium gigs, but those you meet in real life and get to listen to in smaller spaces? The ones you actually meet and know, who you can play music with and be inspired by. RIP Brad Bradstock.’
See Brad’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@BradBradstock
From Sam Bradstock:
If anyone would like to make a donation, we have chosen Willen Hospice. They looked after Brad so well. This is the link: Tribute to Brad Bradstock (muchloved.com)