The Final Long Division – One to Remember

By June 19, 2023



All photo credits: Andrew Benge


Back in January, Long Division announced that this year’s festival would be the last.


Born out of local music fanzine Rhubarb Bomb in 2011, Wakefield’s own ‘celebration of independence and DIY culture’ has since played host to emerging artists and household names for over a decade. Structurally similar to the likes of ‘Live At Leeds’ just over 10 miles up the road – Long Division is so much more than your standard, citywide music festival.


Whilst previous years have featured impressive headline slots from The Cribs, Billy Bragg and Sea Power; it places equal emphasis on cultural engagement across the local community.  Showcasing some of the hottest up-and-coming artists from West Yorkshire and beyond.


The festival’s final chapter is a painful story of austerity, funding cuts and a government that simply doesn’t care.


This end is everything that Long Division fought hard to work against by carving out a vital cultural space for Wakefield and its surrounding areas. Speaking to the BBC following the announcement, director Dean Freeman noted: “We didn’t want to compromise or dilute what we do and we also felt passionately that getting to write your own ending is perhaps something many festivals, shops, labels and bands don’t get to do.”


I was apprehensive with my expectations for the day itself, worried that its usual buzz would feel somewhat tainted (perhaps rightfully so?) by a niggling feeling of loss. The reality, however, was something far greater. If the day was to be bittersweet – and at points it very much was, then the sweetness and joy would always prevail. The festival was a collective unit, from staff to artists to crowds themselves, all refusing to go out with anything less than a bang.


It boasted a sense of community that ran so deep that you’d be forgiven for mistaking swarms of yellow and black across the city for a local football team. On a day of unlikely blistering Yorkshire sun, it felt odd to be bopping between sweaty, dimly lit venues in the hopes of making the most of the stellar lineup, but crowds were not deterred.


Here’s a round-up of everything I got to catch at the final Long Division:


Bug Teeth


Kicking off my day at Unity Hall’s main gig room was Glastonbury ETC long-listed Bug Teeth. They’re a band I’ve kept a distant eye on for a while now, having followed the same (surprisingly common!) migration from Norwich to Leeds that I also undertook a few years ago. No strangers to local DIY scenes, it was a delight to finally catch them live.


Performing in matching crafted bug hats, the ethereal sounds of Bug Teeth seduced the room with their twinkling blend of shoegaze-influenced indie. Coupling pensive baselines with dreamy vocals, the set was reminiscent of Cocteau Twins and Life Without Buildings, with a modern and at times, darker edge.

Ellie Bleach


Nestled in the attic of the Unity Hall, London-based musician Ellie Bleach took to the stage. A slightly cosier setting to the airiness downstairs, Bleach and her keyboard delivered soulful vocals and tender yet tongue-in-cheek lyrics to an eager crowd.


Promising to ‘attempt to lift the mood of the damp room’ (the only downside to popularity in such an intimate setting), Ellie danced through the set with ease. ‘Doing Really Well Thanks’ saw her capabilities shine through. A track about heartbreak, being fine, seeming fine, and really, not being fine. Bleach builds narratives around worlds and feelings we know painfully well. Both in her lyrical prowess and live delivery, her inherent wittiness shines through.


Every moment feels like a wink and a nudge to the audience. She’s spiky but sensitive, and a clear one to watch.




My first gig of the day in the Theatre Royal was Leeds-outfit Drahla. Showcasing the real beauty of Long Division’s format, there was something uniquely refreshing about watching their melting blend of post-punk and art-rock from the balcony of a grade II listed building.


This juxtaposition between sound and setting was amplified in Drahla’s flawlessly unsettling and disjointed, bass-heavy style. Punchy and potent, coupling experimental percussion with warped guitars – the band held complete authority over their guests.


Opus Kink


Onto my personal festival highlight: Opus Kink. Despite taking on a late afternoon slot in a sweaty Venue23 (one of the festival’s more conventional venues, a converted nightclub complete with adverts shot deals and 90s-themed club nights). The Brighton boys launched into a feverish, carnivalesque set that rattled the crowd toward oblivion.


Tearing through single ‘1 : 18’, their gritty experiment, somewhere between jazz and punk, came to life. Swaggering stage presence, arresting riffs and an indulgent rabble that feels distinctly anti-genre, Opus Kink put a necessary, new spin on our current wave of post-punk in a true testament to live music.



Hang Linton


Furiously blending synths into a unique dance-punk style, self-proclaimed ‘breakbeat guvnor’ Hang Linton transformed the tempo in Unity Hall Minor once again. From curating and maintaining seismic audience energy, to meticulously placing vital lyrics over genre-illusive beats, the avant-garde artist is an absolute tour de force on stage and beyond.


An exciting newcomer, Linton is also one of the first artists to release under the new partnership between Leeds label Come Play With Me and EMI North. Back to the moment, though: Linton was proving to be a master of their craft. At one point pulling out a hand puppet lizard and still somehow pulling it off, their eclectic output thus far is a sign of exciting things to come.


Van Houten


Leeds favourites Van Houten sailed through a hazy run down of love, loss and insecurity, all expertly hidden within their sunny soundscapes. The laidback, reverb-drenched tracks they’ve become known for in the local circuit were a perfect match for the 27-degree heat. Ever spacious and sweet, the band managed to create a set that felt like a small oasis in what had, otherwise, become quite a frantic day. It was no small feat, but Van Houten were more than up to the challenge.


Loose Articles


Riot grrrl meets ladette meets indie sleaze, Manchester gals Loose Articles are a force to be reckoned with. Describing themselves as ‘feminine and threatening’ with merch that parodies the infamous Stella Artois logo, they’re ferocious without taking themselves too seriously. High energy met low restraint as they tore through the set, never underestimating the importance of having a laugh. A loud whistle sounds before they rip into ‘Kick Like a Girl’, a single condemning misogyny in football. They think it’s all over? It’s only just begun.



Image credit: Andrew Benge




Trailblazers in the shoegaze renaissance, Hull lads bdrmm are a firm Yorkshire favourite that have gained traction nationwide. Akin to the likes of Mazzy Star and my bloody valentine, they remain nostalgic yet incessantly forward thinking. Performing live, this style translated seamlessly. Fuzzy and gnarled, whilst still boasting warmth, the crowd seemed gripped tightly in every pulsing note.

Winning audiences over since before their lockdown masterpiece “Bedroom” (recieving a mega five stars from NME), bdrmm are a force to be reckoned with. Their new album coming June 30th is shaping up to be one of the best British rock albums of the year. Thought shoegaze died in 1994? Think again.



The Orielles 


Joining a band in your early teens lays the groundwork for inevitable transformation. Nearly a decade on from their formation, local heroes The Orielles have settled into a more mature sound. Their set charted this journey, showcasing tracks from their ambitious fourth album Tableau, whilst celebrating the rich and diverse back-catalogue that got them there.


As guitarist Henry makes a point to thank and bid goodbye to the band’s tour manager after five years, he also notes a manic schedule that has thrown the band into ‘that perfect state of delirium’. Rather than a hindrance, this blissful daze allowed them to move seamlessly between effervescent avant-disco and indie-pop to deep dreamscape melancholia. Throughout, they remained sharp, jangling and, vitally, assured.


Image credit: Andrew Benge


 Arab Strap


Where other acts thrived in venues that functioned as the antithesis to their sound, Scottish rockers Arab Strap’s stripped-back set was made for the theatre. Despite being self-proclaimed ‘miserablists’, they remained tender, charming and charismatic through a gut-wrenching performance. It’s at this point that reality begins to truly set in for perhaps the first time that day as they take the time to thank everybody involved with LD’s 12-year tenure. There’s light in the dark, though. Vocalist Aidan Moffat reminds us that even one of their saddest sounding songs is actually about ‘the worst hangover they’ve ever had’ and guitarist Malcolm Middleton getting caught checking the footy scores mid-set. This intimate and playful approach to melancholy makes for a truly fitting end, a true feeling of camaraderie and a celebration of what Long Division has achieved.


Long Division: Thank You and Goodnight


As the curtain closed on the final Long Division and the crowds spilled out onto Wakefield’s streets, it was a fond farewell to everything they had come to achieve. Over the last decade (and more!). Long Division nurtured a community and sense of cultural identity that any city would be proud of. A true force for good in an increasingly concerning national landscape, it’s created countless memories that can never be erased and a legacy that will live on, far beyond its final chapter.

We really hope to see Long Division again in the future but for now, goodbye – thank you for having us.