Andy Carter

Andy Carter

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Okay it’s Tony Wright, it’s the 9th of May 2011 and I’m interviewing Andy Carter in his home in Heptonstall. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

ANDY CARTER: My full name is Andrew Nigel Carter. I was born at RAF Ely Hospital in Ely, Cambridgeshire, and that was on the 23rd of February 1964.


Right. What’s it like there, around Ely?

AC: No idea really. It was because my dad was in the Air Force at the time and he just happened to be posted down there when I arrived, so to speak, so....I have been back once and it’s quite flat. The cathedral’s nice. The actual address on my birth certificate is The Manor at Haddenham which is quite sort of.....but they had a flat there, a ground floor flat sort of round the back somewhere


That’s very similar to my upbringing actually. Where did you go after Ely then?

AC: My parents were both from the North East. My dad’s from Jarrow which is just north of the Tyne....I think, no just south of the Tyne – he’d kill me for that – I think it’s just south – and my mother’s from South Shields which is nearer the coast.


Right. And did you grow up there then?

AC: Yeah, they went there for a little while, staying with me mam’s parents in South Shields then me dad got a job in Newton Aycliffe which is just north of Darlington in County Durham itself, and it had a big industrial estate there which kind of started up doing ammunition stuff during the war, then the new town sprang up around that, and he had a job in a factory there.


So he was out of the Air Force or the military shall we say?

AC: Yes, yeah by then, yeah.


What did he do?


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He was a various-design engineer, a quality engineer. Corborough Engineering was where he started but very soon after that he moved to Black and Decker at Spennymoor and he designed electric drills, lawn mowers and hedge trimmers, that sort of thing.


Have you inherited those design talents?

AC: I think I have. More than anything I’ve inherited a sort of confidence to take something to fix it or see how it works, you know. My daughter used to, when she was little, she always used to say ‘Dad can fix anything’, and it was generally true until she brought a dead gerbil home one day and I said ‘I can fix a lot of things but I can’t fix that’ [laughing].


Right, so how did you actually come to be in this area, around Hebden Bridge?

AC: Well after going to college; I went to Durham University, not because it was local, just because it was pretty good and I managed to get in, then I spent a couple of years in Rugby which was like the first job I got after college, and I wanted to move back up north. I met my wife to be at college and during that time we were on a day trip. We went to Whitby and she ended up doing articles there in Whitby, to be a solicitor, and then around the time she was finishing that, that was when we decided to get married. We got married and the furthest north you can get was a was Philips Business Systems based at Seacroft which was kind of on the A64 which was two roads away from Whitby. If you looked at it like that, it was. They were very long roads obviously, it was like saying the M62 is just the other end of Hull. So then that company at Seacroft.....we did computers for the Halifax Building Society as it was then, so they wanted to move nearer their big customer, because it was quite important for them. So they said ‘if you could buy a house in Yorkshire, make sure you buy it in the Halifax area’. I looked around at various places; I ended up buying a tiny little cottage up in Old Town just next to Old Town Hall – that’s Old Town - Hall, not Old - Town Hall. We got married; Helen moved over.....and then we kind’s through bell ringing; Helen did bell ringing at Whitby and I kind of started to learn and then when we moved here, I thought it was a good way into the sort of local community to do bell ringing up at the church in Heptonstall here, and then from there we met a guy who lives just down the road here, Mick Helliwell, and he said ‘we do this annual village show – would you like to be involved?’ we thought ‘well it sounds a bit scary but we’ll give it a go’ and it was really via that that the.....every time there was a rehearsal in the Sunday School here we had to sort of drive down from Old Town, along the valley, round the turning circle and back up to Heptonstall. We just thought it would be so brilliant just to be able to walk out of your house and go to the rehearsal, so we got a house here, not actually realising that putting two and two together that every other day that we go to work, then we would go down the hill, round the turning circle and back up towards Halifax, so there was a bit of that, but it’s a great place, it’s a great place.


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Right. So do you work with computers then? Is that what you do?

AC: That’s right, yeah, I work at the Lloyds Banking Group as this week it’s called, I don’t know what it will be called next week......yeah, I started....I was interested in computers at school....did one of the first early sort of computer studies courses, this was before PCs as well – I owned a ZX80 and ZX81; I built the ZX81, I soldered it together, it was brilliant, and there’s a connection there with someone I know now but I’ll tell you about him later....then from there I did computers at college and then from there I got a job in computers at GEC in Rugby, and then as they kind of used the same operating system as the cash machines that the Halifax used then I managed to get a job via Philips at Halifax.


So all this – I know you’re a did you get into music? Was it because it was something that wasn’t to do with computers and all that technical side of things?

AC: I think it’s really much longer ago than that. I’ve wondered myself whether it’s a genetic thing. My uncle used to play guitar and he used to sing.....sort of singing in Working Men’s Club type of thing; but it wasn’t doing the clubs, it was getting up to do a turn – he had a really beautiful voice. My dad was the younger brother and he didn’t do as much singing, but I remember at one stage he did sort of teach himself the guitar and I think he had two or three songs under his belt before he just got bored of it, he sort of moves around does my dad, and I know my mam used to play the piano because my grandpa had one and I remember the day they chopped that up – it seemed a very strange thing to do, but I think that’s what you did to pianos in those days when they got old, you just sort of chopped them up and put them on the fire, so I think it might be a little bit genetic, but.....from an early age I liked singing at school I seem to remember, and I got to play the triangle once and it was – I only played it the once but it was a very important once, it was right at the end, just as the notes died away there was a ‘ting’ and I felt that was really good, that. So yeah, at junior school I started learning the violin, but they did....I don’t know how they do it these days, but they did sort of these aural tests but it was a-u-r-a-l so it was aural hearing rather than oral speaking, like audio, and it was different tones and ‘how many tones can you hear?’ and you know, how many notes – ‘play these notes for a piano’ – you couldn’t see the fingering, whether it was a three fingered chord or a five fingered chord, and I went through all this and they said ‘well you seem to be an ideal candidate to learn to play – would you like to do a violin or a cello’ I think, and I chose a violin because it was portable, well more portable than a cello, so I did.....I ended up doing an exam on the violin but I didn’t really like it as much as.....around the same time my dad was in the Newton Aycliffe Town Band, the silver band, and I started learning....what was it was called a flugel horn which is basically the same as a cornet but it looks much simpler; it’s just a single loop like that with keys, like a bugle with keys.....and I spent some time with the Junior Town Band learning that; at the same time I got into senior school and I joined the school band, and that was much more interesting to play because they played a sort of ‘The Beatles’ medley, and sort of Country and Western hits, whereas the violin was was much more academic.....and I kept saying to the violin teacher ‘look, I’ve discovered this new

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band - it’s ‘The Electric Light Orchestra’ and they’ve got a violin in it – they play rock and roll and all sorts’ and he said ‘well I think we’ll stick to our little studies and scales for the time being’ [laughing], and I remember thinking at the time....this idea of playing something which didn’t....the instrument wasn’t designed for, kind of attracted me somehow but I didn’t realise you were allowed to play something that wasn’t written down; it seems....I was thinking about this, it was only about three or four years ago, and I suddenly realised that that was what went wrong, that I didn’t – I never sort of improvised or tried to work tunes out and I was thrilled that one year the violin teacher gave me the score of ‘Jingle Bells’ – just the note line – and you had to go home and you could play something that someone had actually heard of, it was brilliant [laughing], but it just never occurred to me to pick it up and do something because I.....I didn’t really associate it with other......certainly other musicians out of school or anything, I mean you see kids now and they’ll turn up for the early part of a session and you think ‘yeah, good on yer’....I mean I can go through all that entire musical history here if you like, or if you want to ask other questions then interrupt.


Right. Well, a little bit of both. I’m wondering if the reason you didn’t go into a career in music, because you obviously were a natural, and really interested in it. Was it because you couldn’t improvise or maybe you know, sort of do your own thing so to speak, it was so programmed, or did you just think it was not a good move?

AC: It didn’t really occur to me; there was quite a huge family focus on sort of, the career progression of you know, doing school, doing your O Levels, doing your A Levels, going to university, getting your degree, getting a proper job.....but the other thing that happened, around the same time as university, I did a computer course at university and I was also a computer hobbyist at the time, and it was disappointing that it happened that way, no, happened in the way I’m about to describe it, is that because I’d been doing computers all day and doing what other people wanted me to do with computers at college, I lost that hobby interest and [cockatiel screeching] sorry that’s a cockatiel – I’m also an animal person as well – and it was....I thought, sort of music, and I’d do a bit of acting as well and people say ‘would you want to do it professionally’ and I’d love to do something during the day that I really enjoyed and really got into, but I wouldn’t like to have to play music I didn’t want to play I think, and presumably if you’re a jobbing musician like a jobbing actor, then you’ve got to do toothpaste adverts and things which isn’t as challenging as something like Shakespeare, but if you’re an amateur actor or amateur musician you can play exactly the music you want to play, when you want to play it, and don’t have to worry about ‘is it good enough to buy me some food at the end of the day’. So I think, I think I enjoy really as part of me, I think I’m just glad I can earn my money some other way, just in case.


Right. So did you join bands or did you always play on your own?

AC: Until college – well I was in the school brass band and I was in a......there was some sort of orchestra [phone ringing] wasn’t the county orchestra, it wasn’t as big as that, it was like the town orchestra but that I always found quite hierarchical and it

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was a was an uncomfortable experience I think, I didn’t really like that. There was good when we did a concert because then everyone kind of knitted together, but I think the different years and the different skills levels were really ratty with each other I seem to remember. It wasn’t until college and I was sort of amongst like-minded people who perhaps had done something through school and they were all sort of free to do what they wanted to do type of thing, that I did join a band with some very good musicians, but the guy who was the main driving force behind that was in the year above me, so in my final year he’d kind of left.....and then I kind of dabbled. When I got my first job I met a guy there with a guitar in Rugby and we kind of dabbled a little bit, but I was never really settled in Rugby; it was a first job and I decided after two years I’d look at the market and see what was around, so I didn’t really put my heart and soul into that as much....but what I did the age of sixteen, I got a tape recorder, and old reel to reel thing, but it was a sound on sound system which meant that you could....because it was a stereo recorder, you could record, say the left channel and then it had this function where you could listen to the left channel but it would also at the same time record the right channel, and that way it would record what you were doing on the right channel as well as the left channel, so you’ve recorded your left track and then, you record your left track and you’re doing something else on top of it on the right track, and then you can do that a number of times before eventually the poor quality gives way to the hiss and you just lose it in the mush, and that was.....I suppose I didn’t have a great, a great sort of, I wasn’t terribly gregarious when I was at school. I suppose I’m not really terribly out there, you know, partying every night or whatever, never have been, but it was a way of sort of building up something like a band without having to actually rely on anybody else – it sounds rather selfish, but it was....I mean I had control of everything and I could....I could decide whether it was good enough or not good enough, but I have been in bands and apart from if someone is driving it slightly harder than I want to be driven, then I do enjoy that social aspect of it nowadays.


Right. So what kind of music did you play in those bands?

AC: The band we were in, in college.....a guy studied Russian I think and there was some Russian author – he wrote a book called ‘Heroes of our Time’ – you can probably look that up somewhere, but he decided the band was gonna be called ‘Heroes of our Time’ because we were only there for about a year and we kind of accelerated and tried to get gigs all over the college; that was kind of seventies cover stuff, a little bit of creativity as in we got somebody in to play the keyboard, to play the opening to ‘Tocata’ – G minor or whatever [singing] and then we were going to do some rock thing or other, I think he was into mid-seventies progressive rock type stuff. We were all allowed to choose a song for the band to do, and I think I chose ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, because I like the sort of main organ part of that; I kept trying to synthesize when I played in the band – I played synthesizers – I had one that had sort of buttons you could turn. I only ever learnt to play a keyboard with the right hand because the left hand was always tuning the effects and making twiddly noises and that sort of thing, so I never quite got the left hand of a piano......and then there was that....there was a bit of a hiatus until I ended up at Rugby and then the guy....there was always someone else putting the band together I think in my history, the guy there, he was doing sort of Christian music and he used to write a lot of his own stuff, so that was

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alright – again I played keyboards, but by then I’d swapped the sound on sound tape recorder with my brother because he had a saxophone and I realised the sound of the saxophone – I’d always wanted to play a saxophone in a rock and roll band, I’ve never quite got there yet, but.....still got the saxophone, so I played saxophone solos over a few of their ... stuff and again, having left there in a couple of years time I ended up here and it went quiet for a while again.


So are you doing any music at the moment?

AC: Yeah, this year, my New Year’s resolution this year was to be in a band and around March I thought I’d cracked it a few times. There was......about three years ago, for the previous three years to that, I was in an Irish band, a ballad band, not the sort of dance tunes and things – I can’t play that fast, and they do like to go very fast [laughing], but I like the songs that tell stories of the sort of sea and things, and that started off with....I sat next to a chap who said ‘you’ll never guess what I was doing last night – I was playing banjo in an Irish band’ and it turned out to be just a guitarist and him, it wasn’t really a band, and I said ‘oh I’ve played penny whistle for a while - I went to Ireland with college friends just when college finished and I got a penny whistle on the way back – I’ll come along and give it a go’ and he said ‘oh that’s fine then’ and after a while he said ‘we could really do with a mandolin player – do you know any mandolin players?’ and I’m saying ‘well it’s not too difficult – shall I get one and have a go?’ I got one off eBay and it was awful, if really cut my fingers up, it was really high action, then I got a better one a little bit later on because I found I could play it, and he said ‘do you know any fiddle players, just occasionally...’ and I was saying ‘well as it happens in the attic I think I’ve still got my student violin’ and it became you know, a chap that played the banjo, a chap who played the guitar and a chap who played everything else, and that was me. I never really sort of played it terribly well I think, but I played it for the particular song it was there for, and then the band went away and I was looking round for you know, the next big thing and there was something on at Hebden Bridge – it was the Macmillans.....something to do with the was a Barnsley poet and he had a folk band to accompany him. He said the poetry, spoke the poetry, but they kind of sort of did the backing to that, and when they played at the Arts Festival here there was a girl there, she played a strange instrument, an even stranger instrument, and the strange one was a hurdy- gurdy, and the even stranger one was a nyckelharpa which is a traditional Scandinavian, Swedish I think, instrument, and it has a lot of strings.....looks a bit like a cross between a guitar and a fiddle; it has a shorter bow than a fiddle and you bow the strings rather than pluck them, but then instead of using your left hand to press the strings against frets you use your left hand to press keys underneath which then use pegs to stop the strings, and I was chatting to her about that and she said ‘oh you can only get them from Sweden really because that’s the only place they’re made’ or was then, ‘and they’ll be about four thousand pounds’ so I thought ‘well forget that’ and I was saying ‘well what about this thing’ – I did know it was a hurdy-gurdy, I don’t know why, I can’t remember where I’d seen one before, but she said ‘yeah around two thousand pounds you can get them, but they aren’t made in this country’ and I thought ‘yeah interesting’. It was probably about nine months later I had some money off my parents for my birthday and I thought ‘yeah, I’m going for that’ so I

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think at the moment my instrument of choice is the hurdy-gurdy because it’s such a strange, beautiful sound I think – some people just think it’s a strange sound.


There’s a lot of drone in that isn’t there, as well as melody. Do you again have to have a complement of musicians to do a lead part or harmonise with it, or can you just do it by yourself?

AC: With the gurdy – I explained about not being able to play chords on the keyboard – ... with the gurdy it really is a band in a box because you do have the drones. If you think of how an oboe sounds and how bagpipes sound, it’s kind of one and many; if you think of how a violin sounds and then kind of do the same maths with your head, you end up with a hurdy-gurdy; it’s many strings. You’ve got the drone strings which you can hear on the bagpipes, the pipe notes, and then where you play the tune on the bagpipe, you’ve got two strings on the gurdy and you press these keys, so you play the tune, you’ve got the accompaniment, you’ve got the bass section with the drone strings and there’s a couple of higher strings which are also droned and not played, and I think that is the accompaniment, but one of those drone strings also runs over a loose bridge instead of a fixed bridge and when you cause the string to sound with the wheel, you just get a bit of acceleration and it actually flicks the string, and it in turn flicks the bridge which then rattles against the sound board of the hurdy-gurdy and that creates a buzz, and depending on when you actually accelerate the wheel – I can probably do it about twice in a rotation, some people can do it much more times than that, but then because if you turn the wheel in time with the music, then you’ve got a rhythm section so it really is a band in a box – you’ve got rhythm, accompaniment and bass.


So you don’t use a bow – you turn something?

AC: Yeah, there’s a handle connected to a wheel. If you think of it as a violin where the strings would attach on a violin at the bottom end of the violin, there’s a handle which goes into a shaft then it has a wheel which.....I use the word scrape because it’s most descriptive but obviously on a violin people don’t scrape the strings, they stroke the strings – it strokes the strings from underneath whereas a violin bow would stroke the strings on top. On a violin bow you’ve got the fibres – horse hair – and on the gurdy you’ve got.....the wheel itself is made of plywood, you resin the plywood and that has the same effect on fibres of cotton which are wrapped round the string, so you’ve got the string, you’ve got the cotton, you’ve got the resin and you’ve got the motion which is pretty much the same as a violin, but with a violin you’ve got a bow; obviously it’s a straight line, it’s a stick, you can only use it for so long; you get to the end, you’ve got to turn round and come back again, whereas with a wheel it’s a continuous sound and even on the – if you think of the open string of the.....tune part, if I lift all my fingers off and don’t do anything then it drops down to the.....I don’t know what you call it really – it drops down to a D, there’s drones in D and G, so it still keeps on going.

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right. And what kind of music is it? Sort of medieval music or is it more modern – what kind of music do you try to play?

AC: I try to play all sorts of music; I’m successful sometimes [laughing]. I like....I’ve kind of got into the early sort of medieval music because.....because it’s that sort of sound and the....I nearly called it a machine there – the instrument does......with the drones, it reminds me of sort of choral singing really, so I like the early stuff. It’s kind of most popular in this country for French dance music.....which to some people can sound a little bit Arabic because there’s lot of like B flats and E flats a lot of the time; minor keys rather than major keys. I like major keys cos they’re sort of happy, but I do acknowledge that the minor keys are more interesting, but again the rebellious side of me wants to play.....rock and roll on it [laughing]. It was a gurdy that I got made specially; it’s blue and the maker had never done a blue gurdy before, and people sort of call it my rock gurdy. It was only.....I think it was a few months ago I managed to work out how to play ‘Smoke on the Water’ with it – I think it comes out alright really [laughing].


So going back to the music, if it’s a Scandinavian instrument, is a lot of the music Scandinavian music originally, or has it developed over many centuries?

AC: It’s the nyckelharpa which is the traditional Scandinavian – I think the gurdy, I mean when you ask people about it they all say ‘oh it’s North African’ – all instruments come from North Africa – bagpipes come from North Africa which I think there’s actually evidence for, but I’m not sure about how the gurdy developed. There’s certainly evidence of it being a tenth, eleventh century....what do you call it.....the ecclesiastical monks used to play them; it was one of the first instruments that accompanied plain song before church organs were invented, so that’s again where it does sound good against medieval music. It went through various phases of development from a simple what looks like an elongated shoe box to the big lute shaped ones that were probably originally recycled lutes, and they found obviously that the sound echoed around it a lot more, whereas in this country with the....I’m not entirely sure about this, but at some level there was the troubadours and the minstrels, and the troubadours were the sort of richer people, the title people who did it for art’s sake and the minstrels were the wandering people who did it for pieces of bread and that sort of thing, and it kind of waxed and waned in this country and it ended up being – I think it fell out of favour with the aristocracy when they got things like harpsichords which the poor could never afford, so these instruments found their way onto the second hand market, and then you’ve got the traditional figure of the blind beggar playing the hurdy-gurdy, I think there’s quite a few old paintings which you know, feature that sort of thing, whereas in France it seemed to stay with the aristocracy and people like, I mean I was listening to someone playing at the weekend; Bach and Strauss have written pieces specifically for the hurdy-gurdy and you know, French composers and things, it’ll be sort of you know, three-part hurdy- gurdy music but that’s a kind of European thing rather than a British thing, I think that’s why there’s an awful lot of French stuff which just goes well on it as well.

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Oh I see, right, that’s interesting, yeah. So are you gonna try and continue with that and sort of perfect your craftsmanship as it were?

AC: I think so. Partly because what kept me going when I first got it, I used to play it, you know, almost rigidly an hour a day. Now I do have days off, you know if I come home from work feeling a bit knackered, I’ll sit around the house for a bit instead, but it’s kind’s the most expensive instrument I’ve bought, so there’s like a financial commitment there and I think to get my money’s worth I need to make sure that it doesn’t end up in the attic like the violin did really. I’ve just got involved recently with a band who played one gig when they started in Bradford and there’s a piper in that, a sort of border piper, and a didgeridoo player and a bongo – he probably doesn’t call them bongos, it’s probably the rhythm section or drums, or something like that, but to me they’re bongos, but that’s all tied together with a sort of modern computer generated, computer driven niddy keyboard and backing track which provides a lot of the sort of bass and rhythm section, and it’s really quite an unusual sound and it’s difficult to categorise them, I think that’s why they don’t get many gigs, but just recently we did play at....The Jewel of Yorkshire which was an Arabic/World dancing festival in Saltaire, now to me that’s belly dancing but I don’t know anything about it [laughing]’s kind of that sort of thing. If the average person in the street imagined the belly dancing, that’s the sort of thing they do – there’s probably all sorts of nuances and sort of you know, techniques around it, but the rhythms and the music that we played seemed to fit in well with the sort of dances they did, especially with this again, the sort of minor key idea, and if you think in slightly different terms, there’s probably some link with – I mean France was quite popular....North Africa was quite popular with France, you know, Morocco speaks French and that sort of thing, so there must have been some cross-over there with tunes as well, so it does go well with that sort of thing. I’ve just got involved with them and I hope to take them on a bit further.


Oh that’s interesting, yeah. The other thing I wanted to talk to you about was your participation in the Pace Egg Play. How did that come about in the beginning?

AC: Well again that’s kind of linked in a bit from what I’ve already said and how we ended up in Heptonstall, and through this village show I got to know other people who were also interested in sort of amateur – I hate the word amateur dramatics because it sounds so village hally, but anyway I started in a village hall [laughing] – it was people who just wanted to put on a show by the village for the village type of thing, and through that I met a few of the people that were involved with the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, and through that the village festival which isn’t the Pace Egg Play, it’s held at a different time of year, usually in a month of sunny days it’ll be the day it rains, and what they used to do, I think they still do but I don’t think the Pace Eggers are involved any more, the Pace Eggers used to put on an alternative version of the Pace Egg and there are certain people in the Pace Egg that no longer live in the area, so they wouldn’t come back for the alternative one, they’d come back for the real one, but not the alternative one, and it would take on current issues like.....I don’t know, it seemed for a few years they’d be forever digging up the road between up

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here and Halifax, and one year there was a huge water shortage and things; there was complaints about young folk using the bus stop in the village for things other than waiting for a bus and you know, when there used to be an old peoples home there and we used to build in all those characters, I mean the chap from the Water Board for example was Stan Pipe – stand pipe – that was just an example – he made several appearances over the years I think because you know there’s been an ongoing water thing, so having been in the village show then consequently the village pantomime which was pretty much the same people, and they wanted one year someone to be in the alternative Pace Egg; I think I played someone who had broken into cars in the car park – that again was a topical issue – I was, instead of Bold Slasher I was Tyre Slasher [laughing] – they were quite clever people – and from doing that for a few years, and eventually writing.....probably about five years with the alternative Pace Egg so I got onto that, but after a few years in that the chap who I ultimately replaced...I always tell folks he ran off to join a rock and roll band; what it was is that there was another village band and they played a few gigs around the place, I think they were actually formed to raise money for the church because they called themselves ‘The Crypt’ but he was in that and it clashed on a Good Friday for the real Pace Egg, and Frank was the previous Black Prince but he was also the bass player in this band, and he decided on that Good Friday that his priority was making sure he had a good voice and was in a.....he had to sufficiently focus on what he was doing that evening to be good in a band, and he said ‘are you interested in the role of the Black Prince?’ and I was in the Pace Egg.


So you’re the Black Prince?

AC: I am yes, the Black Prince of Paradise, the Black Moroccan King.


Right. How long have you been doing that?

AC: .....people ask me that question. I really ought to work it out somehow. It’s going to be more than fifteen, sixteen years I think. I think the last time I tried to work it out was a few years ago and it was about sixteen years then....that would make it around the time my son was born, which I think is about right; he’s eighteen this year.


So, what do you actually think of the Pace Egg then? What are your views on its focus shall we say?

AC: Its focus is......I don’t really buy into sort’s an expression, well it is an expression of Paganism but it’s not why I’m there, I’m not there to express Paganism, I’m not there to kind of buy into it and say ‘this is who I am’ – it’s’s a daft little play that’s the same every year, it has recurring jokes, people come back to see exactly the same plot each year, you know, people say ‘who are you playing this time?’..... ‘well I’m playing the same’.... ‘what’s the story this time?’...... ‘well it’s the same as it was last year of course’.....but what it is, what’s special for this village

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is that everybody who’s ever passed through the village and I think it’s the sort of place that people do pass through; there are people who’ve been here a very long time, but there are a lot of people who pass through, you know, crazy people who.....are part of the film industry and then you know, Tyne Tees will shut down, sorry, Yorkshire Television will shut down and they’ll go over there, or they’ll have to go to London or they’ll start filming around the world somewhere so they’ll give up the house here, but on Good Friday everyone else will be here, anyone who’s ever been here, even the dead people I think.....there is, there’s a sense of that, that the village fills up, it sort of swells ten-fold really, and you see people year on year, and I think that is the focus of the Pace Egg and that’s what I like about it. It’s good that it’s the same lines every year because it means I know I won’t have to learn them, I just sort of know them, and there are if you look closely, the press release always mentions things about re-birth and that sort of thing, and it is at the right time of year, because it’s sort of you know, mid to late spring type of thing, so people who want to take it seriously can get out of it what they want to get out of it I think, but they’d better come to one of the early ones because it goes a bit creative later on in the day.


Right. I mean you obviously based it on the Midgley Pace Egg, the text of that, but you’ve changed it, or somebody has changed it over the years. Is there a kind of group dynamic ‘oh let’s change that bit’ or do things just happen organically?

AC: Yes and yes I think really. Each person is kind of in charge of their character....but it’s very rarely does someone just come out with a change and say ‘I’m going to do this this year’......for example there’s a.....there’s a bit in the play where Saint George does a certain set of lines and we were practising the night before - that’s when we practise – there’s no rehearsal or anything, there’s just a bit of a run through of the lines, and it’s kind of said in a certain rhythm and I can’t remember who it was now, I don’t think it was me; someone else said ‘oh you could put a rap to that’ and we did this sort of jiggy dance, and now that’s in the play. There’s thing I that somebody said one year that they didn’t really understand what I was saying and it could have been in a foreign language for all they knew, and I thought ‘well yeah, if instead of me just going in and challenging Saint George, doing my bit then falling down dead, it will get me a bit more air time if you like, if I kind of went round the crowd and said these unintelligible words and amaze people for a while’ and occasionally I’ll get someone to sort of sponsor me and I’ll say ‘tell me a word and I’ll put it in just for you if you pay double what you are going to pay for the play’ and they’ll say something daft like, thinking I was going to sort of weave it into the narrative, and I don’t know, they’ll say sarcophagus.....and what I can do, going round the circle there, [nonsense words] sarcophagus [nonsense words] and that sort of thing, so I certainly hold them to it because I got it into the play, but that sort of thing, it’s......there’s no surprises really. I think the only real surprise happened for the first time last year, and that’s kind of when the Midgley version and the Heptonstall version momentarily overlapped.


How did that come about?


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That came about because my son is now at Calder High and last year for the first time he was in the Pace Egg Play, and I don’t know whether he engineered it that way but he happened to be the same character in the play, and I was the same character in the play, and he was quite pleased about telling me this, and I was quite pleased to hear it as well, it was like father like son, it’s really true, and I was saying ‘oh wouldn’t it be really funny if....cos the Calder High one is always around half threeish then we do a final one at four o’clock, so they come up at half three – ‘wouldn’t it be really funny if I stepped out when he says ‘I’m the Black Prince of Paradise’ if I stepped out of the crowd and said ‘no I’m the Black Prince of Paradise’ and we had a fight about it’ [laughing]. And he thought ‘yeah that would be very funny’ and apparently he didn’t tell his guys about it, and I didn’t think to mention it to our guys because I knew at that time of the day when everyone is sort of loosening up a bit and being a bit more free with lines and things, it just wouldn’t phase them – it didn’t phase them at all, but yeah, we sort of rehearsed this little sword fight which involved jumping, well he jumped about a lot, I sort of hopped a bit, and it was actually....I did mention it to David who kind of runs....he was the main contact for our Pace Egg, and he did a poster around it. I sort of mentioned ‘well we’re both in the Pace Eggs now so you could have two Black Princes on a poster’ so that was used last year. This year with Rowan being the oldest in the Pace Egg, or the oldest, highest in the school or something, he traditionally should have taken on the mantle of Saint George, but had so much fun last year with this sort was a nice little interleaving, and the two worlds kind of ignore each other, we talk just sort of talk and time things, but the two forms have always been really separate, but just that sort of cross over, it’s like on telly when you get, I don’t know, when ‘Neighbours’ meets ‘Coronation Street’ or something like that, and it’s just a sort of acknowledgement of each other’s existence, it was really nice. I don’t think it’s ever happened before and given the ages of the people in the Pace Egg now, I suppose our Bold Slasher’s going to have to have a son and wait for the son to grow up before it might happen again, I don’t know, so kind of a new couple of years.


Right. Do you know anything about the formation of it? When it was first done up her at Midgley, sorry, up here at Heptonstall? Was it Dave Burnop who began it?

AC: It was......I mean I think Dave Burnop revived it, well the last revival was Dave Burnop. It used to be done by the boys of the village based at Heptonstall School and I know when Dave went to the school his teacher revived it; I think the gap would have been.....this would be late fifties, I don’t know how old he is, I daren’t say really, but there’d been a gap, I think probably over the war years and somebody could remember it happening in the late thirties or twenties or something, and it might have been continuous before that, so this teacher revived it there but I think he wasn’t there long enough to make it a proper Heptonstall tradition again, and Dave went to Calder High and I think......he was involved with the Calder High version. I don’t know where that comes from, I don’t know how long the history is with Calder High, whether it was sort of Midgley and then it just came down the road really, but then when he left Calder High.....he decided to....he enjoyed it so much he wanted to keep it going and decided, because he lived in Heptonstall at the time, just to have the Heptonstall one, not go on tour, not step on anyone else’s toes. Apparently in the early days there was a touch of friction belonged to the teacher at Calder

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High perhaps that’s why the variations were put in to begin with. It was David but there was somebody else, both of them got it going again in Heptonstall about 1977 I believe, but it’s certainly been continuous in Heptonstall since then.


Well I mean you’ve been involved for quite a long number of years. How has that changed then from let’s say the first one or two times you did it up to say this year, about the performances and the crowds and the whole attitude towards it – has it changed in any sort of way over those years?

AC: It has. I mean people coming in and out – when I was first in it I was pretty much trying to clone what the previous chap did, and there’d be, I don’t know, five or six people at the first performance at eleven o’clock and the square would get fairly full but not jammed by the final performance at four o’clock.....the play does evolve slightly every year.....I think that is....yeah it is a good thing, it’s a good thing for us because, certainly up until recently the Midgley one was preserved by Calder High. I think the Calder High School themselves seem to have distanced themselves slightly, so now you’ve got boys with ideas and ambitions, and I think theirs is starting to evolve as well. I’m not sure they can sort of stop that happening, but anyway ours, the numbers have certainly grown and grown and grown; it helps in a strange way – it helps if the weather is bad because it kind of keeps people out of the village; the village itself sometimes struggles to cope I think. I know people are definitely encouraged more than once to sort of leave cars either at home or car parks somewhere else, Hebden Bridge or even beyond, come into the area on public transport, get the bus up the hill....but the plus side of that is the local economy, being the two pubs and the bowling club, see you know, huge profits on that day, so it has its pluses and minuses. This year we were particularly strict about reminding people that if they’re in the square to try and keep quiet because when you’ve got three or four layers of people and then you’ve got five or six behind that, then not everyone can hear if there’s a certain amount of hub-bub in the background, even our male voices can’t really carry over the crowd. Having said that, the higher numbers as well as the local economy obviously, we collect for charity each year and the latest, the last few years figures I think have been the highest of the run since ’77.


Right, that’s good.

AC: Despite the economic downturn [laughing].


Well we’ve kind of got up to date with you know, your hurdy-gurdy thing now and the Pace Egg as well. Are there any other creative activities that you get involved in at all?

AC: Again, coming back to the idea of being in that village show for the first time and meeting people in The Little Theatre, I had several years; I think my first play in The Little Theatre was before the actual building was....this current building was built in

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’97. I was in a Terry Pratchett play called ‘Wyrd Sisters’ and ever since then I’ve been in something on and off; I haven’t been in anything this year, but I’m trying to get in a band, as I said, for my New Year’s resolution, and I got to the stage where one year I’d worked out I was in or involved with every play in that particular season. I say involved with – I did the lights on one of them; I was the Lighting Operator, I wasn’t the Lighting Designer. I always say that because the chap who designed the lights is much more clever than I am with lights, but I think with The Little Theatre, I certainly tended to get fed up with seeing the same faces over and over again playing roughly similar characters, it seemed to be at one stage, and I thought ‘well people must get fed up of my face’ but there’s has been a bit of a career there, going from sort of walk-on parts to sort of building up to medium supporting parts, and then kind of the highlights; there was a couple of highlights for me - a couple of years ago I was Max de Winter in Rebecca and that was....I really enjoyed that. There was a page and a half monologue I had to do at one stage; it was basically telling the rest of the story that the film could just show by using pictures, it was kind of ‘this is what happened when I went down on the beach then I put the holes in the boat and I sent my wife’s body out in it, and that sort of thing, and then the year before that I was....I was Healtcliffe in ‘Wuthering Heights’ and that was really special cos it’s like a local....a local thing, it was just fact the week before the curtain went up I took a trip up to Top Withins and again there was probably about a page worth of speech I had to do near the end once Cathy was dead, and I had to sort of bemoan my life and that sort of thing, and I know you’re not supposed to climb on walls, I stood on top of the walls looking over what must have been the main hall of Wuthering Heights and gave a bit of a speech to two walkers and some quite bemused sheep, but just to sort of feel that and think ‘yeah this is the place’ – I’m not usually one for method acting and just going out and experiencing it, but that was a bit special, that gave me a good buzz [laughing] it was really since than I’ve gone back to sort of supporting parts or walk-on parts; I think they’ve got an idea that I’m too busy to take on you know, large parts again, but it’s quite fun; it’s quite relaxing almost if you’ve got....I don’t know, six pages throughout a play, you get the social aspect, you can have a laugh with people, and it means that without....because you get the lines fairly quickly, I find I can play more with the character and be more creative with the character, I can say ‘well I think my vicar’s is going to have a Welsh accent and he’s going to have long hair because I don’t want to get a hair cut. I did that once – I was a wild vicar from the hills from I don’t know where, I don’t know really if Welsh wild people have long hair, but I was like this wild long-haired person because I tend not to get my hair cut on a regular basis; it’s only this length because I did a 1930s farce last year and I got short back and sides. I don’t really mind about the changing of appearance – if I’m on this side of it I tend not to look in the mirror very much, so everyone else has got to put up with it....but it’s important if a part requires a certain physical appearance that you do your best to sort of do that. I do enjoy acting and as I say it’s a very social experience; it’s a very scary experience about fifteen minutes before the curtain opens, but if you think scary and exciting as kind of.....kind of the same thing.......exciting is just scary with a smile on your face – I came up with that myself because I sort of thought about it and it’s all the adrenalin and things, and people say ‘oh your adrenalin – are you really scared?’ and I say ‘no I’m actually excited’ and it is kind of the same feeling, so I don’t know whether I actually....I’m not sure I fancy any of the ones this year, but yeah, I’ll go back and do that because it’s just something different, it’ you’ve got the various techniques of learning lines and putting characters into what’s really just been

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written down. It’ll be a shame to leave that behind just because I can do it now; I think you’ve got to keep your hand in with this sort of thing I really enjoy that.


Just a sort of general question about this area and the creativity that happens in the Upper Valley. What’s your take on the different things that happen around here?

AC: The things that do happen now or how it’s evolved do you mean?


Well a bit of both really, yeah.

AC: I can see....I mean I know the story about how the whole area fell into economic decline because everything was cheap – it was the sixties, people were doing strange things, you know, the hippies moved in; I think I’ve met a hippy since I’ve been here but I don’t know; he was driving a shiny car at the time, so he probably was once, but it’s.....even now if you look along the valley from....well from Halifax to Todmorden, Halifax as you know, an amateur theatre, Mytholmroyd’s got an amateur theatre, Hebden Bridge has got several amateur groups going on you know, the Light Opera Society and that sort of thing, Todmorden has its amateur theatre, the Amateur Operatic Society there; its just.....I find it very strange that these things happen within that size of population because I mean I come from a new town – Newton Aycliffe – and the population wouldn’t equal Halifax I guess if you take in all the outlying areas but the rest of the valley, it probably far outstrips that and I knew of one village hall type organisation and it was a scratty village hall that they used as well that did that; I didn’t know of anything else like that.....I don’t know....I do wonder whether it’s to do with the people who live in the valley; they must get not as much daylight or something, you know, the sun is only up for a shorter amount of time, so there’ think the olden days when there wasn’t television and everything was dark, it was always darker in the olden days and people making their own entertainment like playing the piano and you know, years ago like they’d have a harpsichord and sing choral songs and that sort of thing; whether it’s something to do with that....I think it’s got to be to do with the shape of the land as well. If you’re all pushed together in a valley then you do make your own entertainment, and if you’re out on the top you can make your own entertainment but you can’t tell anyone else cos the wind’s so hard you can’t hear anybody, you can’t do anything else, so I think it’s to do with the land somehow, and the way it has been an industrial area. Obviously if you find a little sharp valley somewhere, say in the middle of Scotland where there is only sheep and stags and things, you wouldn’t find all those theatres, but it’s to do with the number of population and the way, the way we’re sort of squashed together a bit in the valley.


That’s very interesting, yeah that’s true. Well a final question really. Is there anything you’d like to say that I haven’t asked about? Anything about, you know, your music or Pace Egg or creativity, or the landscape – is there anything else you’d like to finish off with?

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AC: I think it all just ties together. I think.....I find....I mean this weekend for example, I went to the National hurdy-gurdy Festival and we did this sort of social thing to begin with that I’ve not done before – I think they were looking for something different to do. There were between twenty five and fifty people over the weekend all playing these hurdy-gurdys from all over the country and few from all over the globe. They went round saying you know, ‘how did you get into the hurdy-gurdy and do you play any other instruments?’ and I think apart from one person in that circle at the time, there was about twenty of us in the circle, everyone else played a variety of instruments and so I think there’s a difference between a hurdy-gurdy player or a violinist or a pianist and a musician......there’ll be specific, you know, exceptions but I think a musician is someone who not only plays music, probably plays more than one instrument, but needs to play music, there s a sort of need there and once you get into that sort of idea of sort of playing music, that people are going to observe it and hopefully enjoy it, then there is a kind of sort of overlap into drama, it’s kind of music of the voice I think – I don’t mean singing, just sort’s to do with expression and....trying to sort your insides out really. If I feel I want to make music it is a need and I need to do it fairly quickly, so I always carry a folding whistle in my pocket just for emergencies, I laugh, but it really is – wherever I am I can quickly get a tune out of my system, and I think it must be....there’s other forms of art obviously other than just the performing arts in the valley but it’s going to be along those lines when people just need to do something and the creativity that comes out of it, I don’t know it’s.... It’ll be interesting to find out what it really is about the place, you know, everyone having an opinion but if someone actually sort of found it, it’s probably a nugget or something glowing like three miles underground which is sort of radiating talent, I don’t know! [laughing] A challenge for this project in a hundred and fifty years time – find that little nugget, it’s somewhere down there!


Well I have this belief that....people give the place its identity but the environment and the landscape can also form the people, so it’s a back and forth situation, and so creativity just...if it takes root, it just grows and grows somehow.

AC: And it attracts others of a similar ilk as well, and I think that’s what’s happened here.


Right. Well I think that’s the end then, and thank you very much.

AC: Thank you.


About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
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