Jude Wadley

Jude Wadley

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TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 17th of October 2012 and I’m talking to Jude Wadley. So, can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

JUDE WADLEY: My name’s Jude Wadley. I was born in November 1966 in South East London, and when I was four we moved to North West London, and then in 1992 I moved to Hebden Bridge.

TW: Right……….so you lived in London all your life before you moved to Hebden?

JW: Till I was twenty.

TW: Yeah. And what was it like in London in those days?

JW: Well I grew up on the edge of London, so technically it was London but there was fields at the end of the garden with cows in

TW: So you were in Surrey or Middlesex?

JW: Middlesex.

TW: Yeah

JW: Yeah.

TW: Right, okay. Did you study Art there, or study Art at school?

JW: Yeah. When I was thirteen I found out from my Art teacher there was such a place called art college where you did Art and nothing but Art all day long, so from the age of thirteen I knew that was where I was gonna go

TW: Right

JW: And thankfully my mum and dad supported me in that. I remember saying at the Sunday lunch table ‘I’m going to Art College’ cos I was quite defiant…. ‘I’m gonna do this’ and my dad said ‘okay; let’s go to The Tate this afternoon’ so that was the advantage of growing up in London; we got in the car and he drove me up to The Tate and we had lots of arguments about modern art versus nice ladies in bonnets by rivers which was what my dad liked.

TW: [laughing] Right….so where did you go to art school?

JW: Brighton. I did an Art Foundation at Harrow.

TW: Right

JW: You stay living at home don’t you for a Foundation, so I did a year’s Foundation at Harrow, and then I thought I wanted to do….I’d gone into it thinking I wanted to do Fashion, and there was a Fashion degree at Harrow and I saw what the fashion world was like, and it was ‘no…..don’t wanna do Fashion’….so then I switched to Theatre Design but I didn’t get on any of the courses. They looked at my folio and they were all saying ‘well no, it’s like you wanna to be on the other side, on the stage’ so I had a year out, and then I went to Brighton and did Art and Dance [incomp] Performing Arts degree.

TW: Oh right. So did you feel that way yourself, that you wanted to be a dancer as well?

JW: No, I’d always been physical and I’d liked dancing, but I’d always done other things; I’d never really pursued dance. I guess I’d never realised I had the talent for it

TW: Right

JW: And my parents never pushed anything, so then in the year out I went and did lots of Contemporary Dance classes, and the Dance on my degree wasn’t highly technical; it was contemporary based but…it wasn’t at a very high level. There was lots of people that didn’t have Dance training.

TW: Right, right…….okay…..and so it was……so it was Theatre Design did you say?

JW: I applied for Theatre Design at Nottingham and didn’t get on

TW: Right

JW: Because they realised it wouldn’t be the right course for me.

TW: Right. Okay, so when you finished, were you there three years then?

JW: Yeah.

TW: And you finished; what did you do with it when you left?

JW: Straightaway after leaving I did care work; I squatted and did care work and I saved up to go travelling, and I wanted…..I’d really got into my photography and I wanted to develop myself as a photography, so I had some money from the Prince’s Youth Business Trust to buy some camera equipment and go travelling, so the focus of travelling was taking lots of photos….but then it all got stolen….on the bus journey….coming out of Nepal back into India, and lots of my films went as well…..and before I’d had interviews with slide libraries and shown them my work, and one particular one said ‘oh we really like your work. When you come back with more images come back to us and we’ll put you on’ but I’d lost most of my work, so…

TW: That must have been really upsetting.

JW: It was but I’d just come out of a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery so I saw it all as karma [laughing]…..I was literally leaving the monastery on the bus journey back to India, so I saw it very much as karma and part of what my journey was

TW: How did you get into a monastery?......How….did they let you in?

JW: They ran courses for Westerners to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism, so I was on a two week course with other Westerners from all over the world.

TW: Right. So you just took photographs while you were there then?

JW: I did, and then I obviously lost all those photos.

TW: Yeah. So did that……that time there….did that affect you in a spiritual way? Have you carried that sort of thing through in your life?

JW: I’m not Buddhist but a lot of the teachings that I received there have….yeah, they’ve been important to me and they’ve helped shape the way I think about things.

TW: Right okay. So you came back without any……without any work. What did you do?

JW: That was when I moved to Hebden.

TW: Right.

JW: And I moved to Hebden and I carried on my photography, and I also got studios and did my art work - I kind of was an artist – it was a time in my life when I was making work a lot of the time; selling some of it, exhibiting it.

TW: Right. That in ‘92 did you say?

JW: Yeah……yeah

TW: What studios were you in?

JW: I had a studio in a friend’s empty building; I used to cut……mounts; he sold antique maps and prints so I used to cut up mounts for him in return for free studio space in his building

TW: Oh right

JW: Which was a good arrangement

TW: Yeah

JW: And later on I had a studio at Northlight when it was at Melbourne Street

TW: Yeah…..right, okay. Did you not move with Northlight when they went down to the new place then?

JW: I’d already left by then.

TW: Right. Why did you leave?

JW: Because I’d started teaching and it was just taking up too much time, and I was also making the transition to being self-employed as a community artist

TW: Right

JW: So I was never in the studio; I couldn’t warrant paying for it and not being there.

TW: Right. So did you do it like a Teaching degree as well then to be able to do the…..go into schools?

JW: Yeah…..yeah, I got fed up of being broke and having no money

TW: Yeah. Was it primary or secondary?

JW: Secondary.

TW: Right.

JW: And the reason I did it was because I’d been travelling in Africa and just fallen in love with being in Africa and thought ‘I want to come back and be here for a long time and have a role and be part of the community’

TW: Oh right. What was Africa like then?

JW: Well I went to Botswana cos I didn’t want to teach in an international school; I wanted to work with normal kids

TW: Yeah

JW: Well all kids are normal aren’t they? I wanted to work with kids that weren’t the children of diplomats and presidents and....

TW: Yeah

JW: So the only African government that was looking for Art teachers was Botswana, and they did a massive recruitment; they used the British Council and they used an Irish organisation; they had teachers from Cuba, there was teachers from all over Africa, there was teachers from India, so there was a massive expat workforce in Botswana at that time.

TW: Right

JW: So that was great, you know, I had friends from all over the world as well as friends from Botswana.

TW: And how long were you there doing that?

JW: Three and a half years.

TW: And whereabouts…..I mean were you in a big city or out in the countryside? Where were you?

JW: I started off in the capital city but I love the country; that’s why I live in Hebden so I asked for a transfer and I got transferred to a village that was about fifty miles outside the capital and it was a beautiful village; still very rural, very traditional…..and I had a horse there that lived in my yard, so I’d finish my teaching day and go riding on my horse

TW: That’s very nice isn’t it? [laughing]

JW: Yeah it was a nice life [laughing]….I worked very hard; we started teaching at quarter to seven in the morning and I’d finish work at four, and then I’d go riding.

TW: Right……how many… many students did you have in a class?

JW: In a class you’d have forty, but when it was options, and Art was one of the options, I could have anything between nine and twenty.

TW: Right.

JW: Obviously nine is very nice.

TW: So what……….I find this interesting that…..what kind of art did you teach them? Did you look into their sort of…….you know, that natural kind of art from that…..from that area and then go from that and expand that or did you try to introduce a Western kind of style of art?

JW: There was both; their Art curriculum was written by a British teacher

TW: Oh right

JW: So there was a lot of British influence there; they also taught Art Theory to children who had entered an English Medium School, so you had to explain art concepts that even some of us didn’t understand. We went on a training workshop and there was an American teacher that….she was retired - she’d taught all her life - she was the only one that knew some of these art concepts

TW: Right

JW: On a workshop of international teachers

TW: Right

JW: So it was quite high level Art Theory that you had to teach the kids.

TW: How old were the kids?

JW: They’d vary between twelve and twenty, depending on when they came to school.

TW: Were there like mixed groups of them then? They were not like all twelve year olds; there were like different age groups all together?

JW: Yeah. Kids would access education as and when the family could release them from farming duties

TW: Right

JW: So you’d have a mixture of kids in every year group.

TW: right

JW: So you’d bring in……Western art forms; I tried to bring in as many different African art forms as I could, but Botswana doesn’t have a strong visual arts tradition

TW: Is that right?

JW: It really doesn’t, so there was very little to draw on. They have traditional crafts like basket weaving, making jewellery with ostrich egg shells……stuff like that…..leather craft to make……you know, what would have been clothing….so it was very limited, the local resources

TW: Did they…..did they have a tradition of dancing then?

TW: Oh yeah….yeah

TW: Well you see that would have been up your street I would have thought, kind of comparing dancing and then using art to…..making art…..or costumes shall we say, maybe for the dance side of it. Did you do any of that sort of thing?

JW: We never made costumes, but I did run a dance club, and every school had a traditional dance which was very traditional; every school would have that, and I helped out with that. At the first school I learnt some of the dances and taught some Nigerian dances I knew to the kids

TW: Right

JW: And then the second school, the Traditional Dance teacher didn’t want any help…..they probably thought ‘what can this white woman possibly know about our dances?’ so I set up a…..we had to call it Modern Dance Club, so I had all the naughty kids, the rebellious ones that the headmaster didn’t like, that were into Kwaito music which is from South Africa, and associated with badness and not traditional values, so we had a bit of a battle with the headmaster but I had a really great group of kids and we used to go and perform places

TW: Oh really?

JW: And they actually earned some money for performing, which was great, and they were just such fantastic dancers, and I’d mix in a few contemporary moves

TW: Did you get any photographs of them then?

JW: Very few, because there was nowhere good quality to get photography done in Botswana, so I stopped my photography and went back to my artwork while I was there.

TW: So did you do your own artwork as well?

JW: Yeah a lot, cos…..didn’t have a telephone, didn’t have a TV……I had friends in the village that I’d ride my horse to go and see, but people go to bed early there. There isn’t a lot to do; you have to entertain yourself, so I had a lot of time to do artwork…..and I had a big exhibition when I left… the [incomp] and then I brought that body of work back to Britain, and I toured it a bit around Britain as well, and sold quite a lot of them.

TW: Right

JW: And that was very influenced by everything I found in Botswana…… I used to collect seed pods and fantastic shaped leaves and…..soon I had this massive collection, so I just started to make artwork with it, and I combined techniques; I’d been doing my degree with textiles and sewing, and I was learning traditional African textile techniques there on staff training workshops and I’d go on weekend workshops that I’d found and……so I was kind of combining all those things to make artworks about how I felt about that landscape in Botswana, about the natural environment there.

TW: So has that stayed with you as well? Cos I mean three and a half years in a country like that, you must have like very vivid memories that you kind of keep with you.

JW: Oh yeah……definitely….no it’s still in the heart and I’ve still got a really good friend there

TW: Right

JW: And it’s influenced a lot of what I do; I’ve learnt a lot of textile techniques that I now use in my work with groups

TW: Right, right

JW: So it gave me a lot of skills.

TW: Yes, okay, so…..when you came back…..from there, that’s when you came to Hebden was it?

JW: I’d lived in Hebden before I went

TW: Yeah

JW: I went to Botswana, I came back, I went back and lived at my dad’s for a bit then I went back to Brighton where I’d done my degree…..and it was just too expensive down south. Studio spaces were loads, there was very little work…I did some supply teaching in some hideous schools, and then a friend offered me a free place to live in her house in Hebden - that was when I got my space at Northlight – there was a studio space going, so it’s like all the doors were opening in Hebden for me

TW: Right

JW: And so I came back to Hebden.

TW: Right, right. So…..the art…..when you came back, the artwork…..I know you said you were touring Europe, the stuff that you’d done in Africa, but you must have started carrying on doing new work.

JW: Yeah, it was still on that theme; I still had…I brought loads of seed pods back

TW: So the landscape around Hebden Bridge and…..and this area, did that influence any of your new work or were you just still doing the African thing when you came back?

JW: Yeah I was still kind of working with those materials; the first time I moved to Hebden, I’d photographed the landscape throughout a year and I’d exhibited that body of work and it was called Earth Changes, and it was kind of Hebden through the seasons, and I still go to people’s offices and they’ve got photos they’ve bought on the wall from me, and that’s really nice! And………………

TW: We were talking about your……photographic exhibition I think……Hebden through the seasons

JW: Yeah…….so yeah I did all those photographs and that was very much a response to the land in Hebden; it’s so powerful, the land here and the environment, and the impact it has on you.

TW: Well when you came back from Botswana you still had all the seed pods and all that sort of thing and the ideas of that, and you carried on doing that kind of work here……how did you feel about that, without having the actual environment there to kind of inspire you? Was it just all going on in your head then?

JW: Yeah, it was still all inside me, and I had a lot of photos and… I carried on making new work like that, and then that was when I was making that transition into being self-employed and when you’re setting up a business you just work so hard, so that was when my artwork tailed off and I let the studio go, and I’d been starting to use English materials in the work……English wood and…..collecting English seed pods and I had lots of ideas for making similar work using British trees, but that work never happened……cos earning a living took over and setting up a business as a community artist took over.

TW: Yeah. This……the idea of using like natural materials then in your work…..what does that mean to you?

JW: Well the environment has always been a theme; when I was travelling as a photographer…..I was photographing the environment and environmental issues were important and all the slide libraries had been to environmental libraries, so that had always been there, and then it came out in the Earth Changes exhibition it was about the beauty of nature… was kind of getting away from the political into how visual nature is, so there’s always been that thread of environment….going through, and wanting to use very natural materials and trying to avoid chemical processes which in photography is impossible; in a lot of artwork it’s also very difficult…..and a lot of the work I do now as a community artist is with recycling, so that theme of the environment is still there.

TW: Right

JW: Workshops with kids about plastic recycling and paper making using found objects in artwork.

TW: Right….right. So when you set up your business and you gave up your studio, what kind of business was it that you were self-employed as?

JW: As a community artist I was freelancing, mostly working for arts organisations….. delivering arts projects for them…..other times I’d work directly with groups, facilitating arts projects.

TW: Right…….so, when you say you worked with arts organisations… what, you know?

JW: I do a lot of work for Action Factory in Blackburn, so all of that work was across in East Lancashire; Blackburn and Burnley…..

TW: But were you the odd aspect of a kind of a theatre…….were they a theatre group or

JW: No, they’re predominantly visual arts; they’re still going

TW: Right

JW: And they were a very big company then, you know, they had a lot of funding, they were well resourced with staff and they had a great big building; they were a very dynamic company and they worked with a lot of artists; there’s a lot of artists in Hebden that have worked for them

TW: Right

JW: I started working for them through other friends in Hebden that worked there

TW: I see, right

JW: So lots of us were driving a fifty mile round trip [laughing] to work in East Lancashire.

TW: Right, so…….so how long were you self-employed? Has that carried on and on?

JW: Yeah I’m still self-employed; it’s been eleven years now

TW: Right

JW: And I’ve mixed it with other work; I’ve got into project management through Action Factory

TW: Right

JW: And then…..after I had my daughter I didn’t want to be doing that travelling; I wanted my work to be based in Calderdale and as locally as possible

TW: Right

JW: So then I got the job working for HEADS

TW: What’s HEADS?

JW: HEADS was a community arts organisation in Hebden; very small, set up by John Lyons and Jean Reece, and they had the Hourglass Gallery, and then they developed the community arm of what John did really as a community artist, then they got some Arts Council funding and pulled out, and put paid staff in, so that’s the time that I came to work there, so HEADS was making the transition between being a volunteer-led organisation that was very much the vision of two individuals, into becoming a professional arts organisation, albeit a very small one.

TW: Right

JW: So there were lots of policies to write and……and that’s the best way you learn, when you’re thrown in at the deep end, and you have to make it up as you’re going along, so yeah, a steep learning curve

TW: So was this community arts or was it in education as well?

JW: The mission statement that we inherited was to use arts to educate

TW: Right

JW: So we carried that on but we took it out into the community more; we diversified the type of groups we were working with

TW: Right

JW: And age ranges; we did lots of work in Halifax as well, and the focus of the project came about bringing different groups of the community of Calderdale together, so we’d have visual arts projects, dance projects, music projects, and they’d all come together in a big showcase at Square Chapel

TW: Right

JW: And we did three of them. We worked through the seasons; we’d inherited a seasonal……..the seasons…….the elements……the first project had been drawing on the earth, so we followed through and we did drawing on water and drawing in the air

TW: Right

JW: And then, before we started drawing with fire, we just couldn’t get any more funding; that’s when the cuts had come in and……loads of art organisations were losing funding and….it was easier just to……shut down the organisation than….keep staggering on with no funding

TW: Right

JW: But before….after we finished with the elements, I think fire never happened because then we got drawn into the Parade

TW: Right

JW: And working with Thingumajig Theatre, so we partnered Thingumajig to help with

TW: This was the Hand

JW: The Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade

TW: Right

JW: So HEADS was their partner and Thingumajig; the idea came from Andrew Kim; I’d always wanted to…..revitalise the carnival in Hebden, so when Andrew came with that idea…. ‘yeah, come on, let’s do it’…so that was how the Parade was born….out of Thingumajig and HEADS.

TW: Well you changed it really because that Parade happened every year and it had done for many many years, but not the Handheld aspect of it, and you transformed it all really didn’t you?

JW: And that’s Andrew’s vision, that’s

TW: Yeah

JW: You know, handmade art with no logos, no publicity, it’s not a vehicle for commercial sponsorship; it’s about art made by people

TW: Yeah

JW: Which is very much how HEADS was working, so the two philosophies fitted well together, and now the Handmade Parade has gone from strength to strength in its own right.

TW: Well they have; I videoed it, all of it, about two years ago, so….but I have a better version of it which hopefully will go onto YouTube. Will you…..have you been working on the recent ones?

JW: Yeah, I had a couple of years when my freelance work had taken over; I was working for Creative Partnerships a lot

TW: Right

JW: And, just the timeframe of the year clashed and I wasn’t involved with the Parade very much

TW: Right

JW: But now I’m back involved with them again; I’m running the Outreach again, which was the project that I’d set up; that was what HEADS had brought to it

TW: Yeah

JW: The Outreach project had been very much a HEADS contribution

TW: So when you say Outreach, what do you mean by that?

JW: That’s still working with the community groups

TW: Yeah, what

JW: All of the workshops that happened at the Handmade Parade workshop were open to everyone

TW: Yeah

JW: But that means they’re accessible to many people, whether it’s mobility issues or different access issues, so that’s always been what I love doing; giving art opportunities to people that otherwise wouldn’t have opportunities to be creative and make art

TW: Right

JW: So that’s where my passion is

TW: So you go out to the people so to speak

JW: Yeah.

TW: Where do you do that around here then?

JW: We work with the elderly; we work at Mytholm Meadows, we work at…….the day centre….Hebden Vale Day Centre and we work with Calderdale Young Carers, we go into the schools, in the past we’ve worked with the Brownies…various different groups

TW: So all sorts of groups

JW: Yeah, and trying to span that age group… know in the first Parade we had babies, and we had a lady of ninety-six that walked most of the Parade route; that was great, having that span of people taking part in a community event together, that was great

TW: It is an amazing event I must say

JW: Yeah

TW: What…..what I do find….interesting as well is…there’s always a theme, and overall… overriding theme……now who decides what that theme is? Is it a kind of consultation between various people or is it just Thingumajig says ‘we think this is a good idea, let’s see how it….how it fits’ sort of thing?

JW: ……It’s always been a public consultation. After the first year, there’s always been a well-publicised public meeting. There’s boxes in the library and the Co-op and leading up to that meeting people can put their ideas in, what they’d like to see

TW: Right


JW: Then all the ideas will be collected at that meeting – drawings, sketches, verbal suggestions, notes that have been put in the boxes, and then the Parade committee will sit down and write ‘how can we make a coherent theme out of all these ideas?’

TW: Right

JW: So the final say is with the Parade committee, but the ideas come from the community.

TW: Right, right, okay, that’s…..pretty good that! [laughing]

JW: Yeah, well it’s…’s trying to be as democratic as it can; it is, you know, a truly community event.

TW: Right. So, apart from the Handmade Parade, what other artwork are you doing at the minute then?

JW: Well I don’t do my own artwork at all

TW: Right

JW: Having a child, trying to earn a living….there’s just not time

TW: Right

JW: But ….I went round Open Studios a couple of Christmases ago and thought ‘why is there so many women in there, late fifties and sixties?’ They just so represented as a group, and then I reflected on it and I thought ‘it’s cos their kids have gone. They’ve done their mothering and their work life, and now they’ve got time to devote to their own artwork.’

TW: Right

JW: So I’m kind of reassured by that; that one day, when my daughter’s gone and, you know, doesn’t need me as much any more

TW: Yeah

JW: Then I’ll be able to have a studio again and get back into my own work.

TW: Right….right, that’s good.

JW: But I

TW: It’s nice to have a dream


JW: Yeah, it’s held up there for the future…….cos I make examples to show groups in workshops you know ‘this is what we’re going to be doing’ but apart from that, I’m very rarely

TW: So what kind of workshops are you doing then?

JW: Just recently I’ve worked more with schools

TW: Right

JW: With the funding cuts, community arts is……is an industry under threat, it really is. Everyone I know that earns a living as a community artist has got very little work at the moment….you know, it relies on public sector funding, or investment funding from charitable trusts; it’s…..there’s very little money there; it’s not a priority. Healthcare is always gonna come before creativity sadly

TW: Yeah

JW: Even though I think you can prevent a lot of health issues by using creativity, particularly Arts for Health which does seem to be keeping its funding more than any other area, which is reassuring, but people do realise that… will keep you healthy, so that’s good, so most of my work in the last year has been with schools because they can cobble together bits of money and nothing’s as well paid as it was before. I do a lot of work for free……you know, a couple of days might be paid and in order to a good project I’ll do three or four extra days unpaid

TW: Yeah…right

JW: Because it’s about keeping your reputation going, and a lot of schools don’t have much money so it’s good I do recycling projects


JW: I’ve just done a playground project in Halifax; I think I spent forty pounds on materials, and we worked with three classes

TW: That’s fantastic

JW: Yeah, they were pleased


JW: And we used old bike wheels that the parents brought in, and the kids all collected bottle tops and plastic waste, and we did weaving, and we strung up different things and made kind of mandalas.

TW: Oh right

JW: Onto the bike wheels

TW: Very nice

JW: And then we displayed them on the…..the fence of the school playground……..yes I’ve been doing lots of projects with schools that we’re using recycled materials to keep the budget down

TW: Yes

JW: And I like that as well - I like the fact that we’re recycling – that that stuff isn’t going into landfill

TW: So do you pass on….is there a kind of like message as well as creativity?

JW: Oh very much so

TW: Yeah

JW: There’s a political message, you know, kids now….this is their planet they’re inheriting; they need to look after it. The oil is gonna run out, and plastic has to be recycled, or one day there’ll be no more plastic and it’s a really useful material; it’s so versatile, so we need to keep it. Once we’ve finished with it we can’t chuck it to landfill; we need to use it again, cos plastic can be recycled and that’s what we need to be doing and……you know, lots of kids, they’re growing up in a disposable culture; it’s really important they get the message that life isn’t disposable - our resources aren’t disposable - we need to reuse as much as we can, so that message is always…..even if the children are three, that message is built in in a gentle way, and teachers have supported it by reading story books about recycling and the environment with classes while I’ve worked with them and….

TW: Have you done any work with the Alternative Technology Centre?

JW: I have; I used to do a lot of their workshops, their SUS workshops – Sustainable Schools Workshops – and we developed paper making; they had the eco…..plastics recycling going, and I worked alongside them with that; we’d go out into schools, we’d have schools come in… was great, but obviously there’s less money about so there’s less work out there as well. But no, at one time there was thriving workshops there.

TW: Right. So are you doing anything else besides the schools workshops then?

JW: I’ve gone back to retrain; I’m retraining as a counsellor

TW: Right

JW: And I want to bring together counselling skills and my art skills, cos I found when I worked with the community groups, the work I really loved the most was with the most challenging groups, with the participants that are vulnerable……that need that support, and art has become a vehicle for getting a human contact with people, for engaging people, and then helping them develop self-esteem and skills and self-belief and self-worth, so that people can participate more fully in… know, ‘bigger society’ and be less marginalised.

TW: Well you were saying earlier how you thought art could keep you healthy and….that aspect of the NHS, maybe there is some funding there, so actually doing art is therapeutic, but as a counsellor, would you see yourself having a double role there really, not just as a therapist but also as….the step, you know, you go to an art class…..that helps you in some kind of way, then you leave the art class, then you are also the counsellor and you could help them further in a different kind of way; can you see those two joining?

JW: Very much so but I see them happening simultaneously

TW: Oh right, okay

JW: They’d happen in the same environment

TW: Right

JW: The art would be the vehicle for……you know, connecting; when you make art….I’ve worked with totally off the wall teenagers; they’ll come in stoned or who knows what, and painting particularly, the room can be silent……..people become so engaged, so focused, it’s… get a connection……so that kind of calm part of you inside that often…..if someone’s got a chaotic life, it’s very hard for them to find that….connection to that calm inside them; it’s not easily available to them but art is a very quick way…..of getting to that part of people, and if someone has a very destructive life, all the things that happen around them, the impact on them is destructive, art’s creative; art can lift… that’s what I love….that’s what I love about it; it’s that power to connect both inside yourself as an artist; that’s me and my work, that’s the people I work with, and then what’s produced, the actual product, then that can connect…..outside itself.

TW: That sounds great. It doesn’t just happen though. How do you……engage them into…..once they’re engaged, I think that is….people focus and calm down and get into it and do it; how do you initially engage them do you think? How do you go about doing that?

JW: It’s about relationships; it’s… know, all my work with people, communities, it’s about relationships - it’s about the power of your personality - it’s about getting that connection with people; you have to get the human connection as well as getting the creative connection, and I find when I work with groups, the most successful project is when the group has a very charismatic leader, a kind of a pied piper person that people are drawn to, and that they’ll attend the group because they’ve got an investment in that person, cos that person has invested in them in terms of showing interest in them and, so they’ll come to an art session because they know

TW: Do you see yourself….do you see yourself as that sort of a person?

JW: …..once people can get to know me

TW: Yeah

JW: Yeah, you know as an artist it’s very rare that you’ll go and set up a group; you need to find an established group that has that leader that’s holding everything together, but once groups get to know you, then I’ve found that within groups I’m taking on a similar role to the other facilitators in, you know, helping to care for the group and manage issues within the group and……

TW: This kind of…..charismatic personality, sort of aspect of things, from your personal point of view, do you think like being in that…..the Buddhist monastery and then being in Africa and having that……kind of countryside…..quiet isolated…..almost spiritual lifestyle; does that all come back to the fore then when you’re working with people?

JW: Completely.

TW: Yeah

JW: Completely, you know when you….when you…..when you’re a creative person your life can be very bitty; you don’t follow a traditional career path, you know, you might be seen as dropping out by mainstream culture and….but I believe you’re just collecting all the tools you need to put in your basket, to do what your work is in your life, so yeah, all of those things, you know, the Buddhism teaches you to be selfless, and to always look at yourself and take responsibility; there’s no good me working with a group and a young person telling me to f’off and me taking my bat and ball home cos I’m offended. Well why is that young person telling me to f’off? They’re having a bad day. Why are they having a bad day? So all of those things feed into being able to put yourself to one side; use yourself to help other people; it’s like being in the service of others, so that’s where the Buddhism comes….through.

TW: Right…………………are you okay? Okay……..I’d like to ask you about now really about other artists in Hebden Bridge and around this area because there seems to be lots of people and I would have thought you would……..would know a lot of them; I’m not asking for tales behind people’s backs but what do you think of the creative scene around here then?

JW: I think it’s fantastic; it’s what drew me to Hebden, that is was such a creative town, and I know it continues to draw people, and…….I love the fact there’s so many creative people in this town; it’s….it’s a great support system for the creative people that are here, to be with like-minded others and it also….you know, pulls in….other stuff to the town that helps the town economically.

TW: Right. So are you attracted to like the art side or is it the music or the dance or…..a combination of it all….how do you view it?

JW: Well it is everything; I’ve had a few incarnations in Hebden, and different people that have known me through different times have known me as different people; like when I first lived here I was very into African dance; there was a class at The Trades Club…..with a Nigerian teacher that lots of people went to, and a lot of people knew me as a dancer; we did a lot of community dance performances, and then when I came back I was doing more visual art and the Parade and visual arts workshops….less of the dance, so……I’ve kind of gone across a lot communities, and I love the way that everything comes together, especially something like the Parade. You’re bringing together the musicians… would be great to get more performers involved, you know, I’ve always wanted more dancers in the Parade, and you’re bringing together visual elements of it as well.

TW: Yeah

JW: And I think a lot of people come to live in Hebden because they love the arts; they might not feel that they’re a practitioner themselves, but something like the Parade or Access to Arts workshops means that people get that chance to express themselves and… I……yeah I love the Parade cos it brings both sections of the community together; it brings the professional arts workers and makers, and people that love art….even if they’re just watching it, they love the spectacle of it.

TW: Yeah. Do you think it’s changed then over the years you’ve been here? Has it…..has the creative….the art scene, whatever you want to call it, has that…..has it gotten bigger or has it gone in different directions or expanded? Has it changed at all do you think?

JW: Yeah I think everything has changed everywhere and of course everything has changed in Hebden, you know, Hebden used to be quite a cheap place to live

TW: Yeah

JW: Yeah, house prices now are making it quite exclusive, you know, I couldn’t afford to live here…


JW: A lot of us who are incomers… know, people who were born here can’t afford to stay here which saddens me a lot; I live on Dodnaze so there’s a lot of people on…..who are my neighbours that are born and bred in Hebden and I’m very aware of how incomers like myself have pushed up the house prices

TW: Yeah

JW: And that’s what has happened to me in London; I had to leave London and I can’t live near my family because I can’t afford to

TW: Yeah

JW: And I see that happening in Hebden because of displacement of people, so that now my neighbours’ kids might not afford houses in Hebden; they get pushed to Halifax and Burnley or…… I’m always aware of that edge in Hebden, of the impact that the creative community has had on the indigenous community.

TW: Yeah

JW: It’s changed Hebden a lot.

TW: Well part of that change, back in the sort of sixties, seventies, early eighties sort of period…..Hebden was a dying town, and those people who came in revitalised it

JW: Oh very much so

TW: And then there’s been successive waves of other people coming in which like you say pushed all the…..the house prices in particular, but the living costs as well, up……and the shops as well….there’s….if you need a practical shop you almost have to go somewhere else cos in Hebden you won’t find them [laughing]

JW: I know; I told the owners of Bonsalls only the other day – the day you close down I’m leaving Hebden


JW: And everyone in the shop laughed, cos everybody knew what I was saying.

TW: Yeah

JW: Yeah…..middle class landfill I call it.

TW: Middle class landfill?

JW: Yeah

TW: Okay I kind of….yeah…..but do you think it might change again, I mean, in another say ten years could it all change again do you think?

JW: Yeah very much so cos I feel that a lot of it’s…in Hebden we are reliant on public sector funding for our work. We’re creative, we work with people, you know, there’s lots of counsellors, therapists, social workers….teaching still seems safe at the moment but a lot of us earn our living through money that comes through the government and because of cuts, I feel the impact on Hebden is happening

TW: Right

JW: And who knows what the long-term impact will be when more and more of us are losing our livelihoods and our incomes are being reduced

TW: Right

JW: That’s obviously gonna impact on our economy here, so yeah, who knows what Hebden’s next incarnation is, or maybe it will stay buoyant; maybe there’s enough people that work in the private sector now that live here, enough visitors, it will keep Hebden buoyant; it’s hard to know.

TW: No it’s just….it’s just…….

ANOTHER PERSON: You’re mid interview

TW: Yes I’m mid interview so it’s just……………..right, so….Hebden’s economy; I can’t remember exactly where we were….

JW: Yes how it’s changed

TW: Oh that’s right

JW: I’ve been here twenty years now; I had my Twenty Years in Hebden anniversary a couple of weekends ago

TW: Right

JW: And it’s changed a lot, it really has. Like you say the shops kind of reflect the biggest change; that they’re all shops for incomers on a day trip now, whereas like you say you have to go to Tod if you wanna get some practical stuff.

TW: Well it was part of the plan really, to turn Hebden into a tourist town by the….the local….authorities cos they thought that was the way to kind of revitalise it and it’s worked terribly well, but in the meantime it’s lost something

JW: Very much so

TW: Which is kind of…….it’s….it’s a funny thing that’s happened really and you don’t know how to take it cos for example, you have a daughter who’s…..I’m not sure how old she is

JW: She’s nine

TW: Nine…..well, in ten years’ time when she’s eighteen will she want to leave this place….and…..and travel, you know, like you did, or…..or would she realise that it’s such a good place to actually live; would she wanna try and stay? It’s difficult to know.

JW: It’s really difficult

TW: Yeah

JW: And you know, I hope she’ll go and travel and see the world and experience other places

TW: Yeah

JW: Cos you know, there’s not a lot of diversity in Hebden

TW: That’s true

JW: We’re a very wide community - my daughter’s mixed race - she needs to go and be where there’s a more diverse community at some point in her life, and I hope she does that, and I miss that in Hebden as well, you know, because of the rural nature of it, it mean we’re a predominantly white community; we don’t have what cities have, and everybody jokes you can’t but fresh coriander lest it’s market day, whereas if you lived in a city you’d get it at your corner shop and…

TW: That’s very true, yes.

JW: And, you know, if I could change one thing about Hebden I would want it to be more diverse but of course that would change it completely, then it wouldn’t be what it is at the moment.

TW: That doesn’t mean it would be bad though.

JW: No, not at all

TW: It just means it would be different.

JW: Yeah, and change always happens and some of us like the change and some of us don’t….it depends on how they impact on us.

TW: So can you see yourself moving away then?

JW: I probably will

TW: Yeah

JW: I think it’s somewhere that I’ll come back to though; I tried to leave and I came back again


JW: It’s like a magnet; there’s such a great community here

TW: Yeah

JW: Particularly if you are a creative person and….you know, I feel quite normal in Hebden, but out there in mainstream culture….I’m not normal

TW: Do you actually feel that then?

JW: Yeah….yeah, I call Hebden the green bubble

TW: Right

JW: Cos we live in this little green bubble where a lot of us have similar political viewpoints….similar ideals about community and how we want to live, about the environment, and that comes together really successfully….in Hebden which is great for all of us here, and that’s also a magnet that draws people, but it means when you leave that green bubble you’re confronted with mainstream culture……and it’s different

TW: Well…..when you say mainstream culture, do you mean like the political power or is it…other….is it attitudes?

JW: It’s attitudes; it’s like all of our….kids in Hebden, regardless of their family set up, they’re all very familiar with blended families, with gay lesbian parents, with separated parents; they’re familiar with lots of combinations of family set ups in Hebden, and it’s just familiar to them; they take it in their stride, yet outside Hebden that all could be quite unusual for a child

TW: Right

JW: So there’s lots of things that we’re…quite extreme in some ways compared to mainstream culture in the way we live here that suits most of us; that’s why we’re here.

TW: It sounds like……for you, there’s a bit of a dilemma in the fact that you….you like the little green bubble, but you miss the diversity….and so maybe you could… can you combine both then?.....How do you do that? How can you….

JW: Well I guess it’s through work; you leave the valley for work and there’s very little work in the valley; that’s stayed… know, I do work in the valley with schools and stuff

TW: Right

JW: You know, if you really wanna earn a living you have to leave the valley so through your work you can go and work in all the cities around, and you know there’s lots, if only half an hour on a train, so I mean at the moment one of my daughters….needing to be at home and steady and stable; that’s the solution, to travel out to work and….

TW: Well it occurs to me that….you did study in Brighton, and it also has a reputation similar to Hebden in a sense that there are a lot of gay people, but they also….they have a Green MP, the first Green MP, and it’s also by the seaside and there’s countryside behind it…….do you go back there…do you still know people and go back there….do you compare the two in any way?

JW: In some way they’re very similar; there’s a massive creative community…yeah, there’s the gay and lesbian communities there, but there are a lot of similarities; there’s a lot of….like you say, the environmental attitudes; there’s probably more vegetarians in Hebden and Brighton than other towns in Britain, but they’re towns that I feel comfortable living in, where I find like-minded people who are like me, so I’m comfortable there.

TW: Is there any connection between the two towns that you know of?

JW: I think in terms of people traffic

TW: Right

JW: I meet a lot of people in Hebden that have previously lived in Brighton

TW: Oh right

JW: So there’s definitely people traffic

TW: Right

JW: And…..I know very direct people traffic. When I was living in Brighton and I wanted to come and move to Hebden, I hitched up from Brighton with a gay friend to come and suss out Hebden, and then when I was hitching back again I hitched out of Leeds and I got a lift with a couple of people……..who I didn’t know; they were just strangers and we got chatting and they were going to London for the weekend, and I was saying ‘I live in Brighton’ and they were saying ‘oh what’s Brighton like?’ so I told them all about Brighton…they ended up moving to Brighton because of that conversation! They stayed in Brighton for a bit, now they’re back in the valley, so we all laugh about that one lift hitch

TW: Really

JW: And me moving up here made them move down to Brighton, and then there was other friends in Brighton - I’d been living in Hebden six months – I’d been starting to take my photographs ….I went back to visit friends and I took some photos with me and I showed them to some friends and they went ‘wow! It’s beautiful! We wanna come to Hebden!’ so they came up to look for somewhere to live, didn’t find anywhere, got back to Brighton Station, bumped into a friend of one of their parents who said ‘I’ve got a house in Hebden that’s empty; go and rent it from me’ so that… they moved to Hebden,….so that Hebden-Brighton connection, I think it’s strong in terms of people traffic.

TW: It’s quite unusual isn’t it that I think

JW: I think like-minded people will find each other. When I travelled in Asia, I was sitting in a tiny café in Darjeeling on my birthday – a tiny café – smaller than the room we’re sitting in; at the table behind me were two people we knew from Brighton

TW: Really JW: Yeah


JW: I was on a tiny ferry coming off a Thai island - on the ferry was someone I knew from Brighton – this was a ferry with twenty-five people on it…….

TW: Synchronicity is it? [laughing]

JW: Yeah, I just think if you’re into certain things, you’re pulled to certain things, and you’ll meet other people that are pulled by the same things

TW: Right

JW: Yeah… who knows?

TW: Right……well I suppose……I wanna ask you now… there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to talk about, or give an opinion on, or….something you said earlier that you wanted to say more about….is there anything else that you would like to say that I haven’t actually asked about?

JW: …….I’m sure when I leave here I’ll think of a hundred things


JW: Right now I can’t think of any of them!

TW: Right

JW: No I can’t think of any of them

TW: Okay…..well I’ll just ask this little flippant question……..when your daughter gets older and goes off on her travels or to university or her own life, whatever it might be, and you become one of these….these women who has time to do your artwork again, what do you think that might be? Are you kind of planning now towards stuff you could then or are you just gonna let it happen?

JW: I think there’ll be lots of ideas that have accumulated, and they’ll be pulling the threads together all the work that I’ve made with women; a lot of my work has been feminist; I’ve not talked about that at all….my work’s always been about nature, the environment …..I think, you know, like my….my work of earning a living as a community artist is about pulling in all my life experiences, gaining new skills, bringing them together; I feel that the artwork will reflect that, so what it will look like I’m not sure yet!


JW: I know I have to do a bit more travelling before I settle down.

TW: Where would you like to travel?

JW: I’ll go back to Africa.

TW: Oh really

JW: Yeah.

TW: Botswana or other places?

JW: I’d go back to Botswana to see friends there - I love West Africa – the….the art is so strong there; the dance, the music, the traditions….there are thriving art scenes there as well.

TW: It’s…..there’s a huge flux of change going on in that part of the world

JW: Yeah

TW: Do you actually keep up with what’s happening?

JW: Not as much as I’d like to. I have been back to Gambia in the last couple of years, just a tourist holiday and… know, kind of experienced how different it was to when I went there eighteen years previously.

TW: Yeah. What was the change then?

JW: Just basic things like water, roads….more street lighting….basic communities like that, but also technology, you know, most people carry a mobile phone, no matter what income bracket they’re from…..people have found access to technologies that weren’t there

TW: Do you think it’s… would think that this is a Western influence then….is that true, and if it is…. is it a good thing or is there a good and bad about it? How….how would you judge that?

JW: …..Yeah, there’s good and bad with everything isn’t it, you know, obviously it’s good…..that the developments in healthcare and education are coming about, but obviously with that industrialisation…..what’s happening with everything that’s happened to Britain is community breaks down

TW: Yeah

JW: And that is happening very obviously

TW: Right… you might have to go back to…..look at the communities that still exist [laughing]…….

JW: But you know people will always create community, and community is in a constant state of flux and change, so it’s….you know, how is that community in that moment…….

TW: Well I should finish now, but the word ‘community’ – have you got a definition for it?

JW: …………..I guess it’s how…….well it’s massive isn’t it, cos it’s not just geographical; a community is the people that live on this street……but a community is a global community, especially now with internet; a community can be made up of people of interests….with shared interests, or it can be because you live next door to someone; it’s massive – it’s just a collection of people isn’t it? That’s what community is.

TW: Okay, that’s fine, right, good……I think we’ll call it a day there. Is that okay?

JW: Yeah.

TW: Well thank you very much for letting me talk to you, and we’ll stop.


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.

Get in touch

Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
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