James Taylor

James Taylor

Interviewed on 07.02.2007

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[TRACK 1]

Well the first question is the first question I ask everybody, is your full name and where and when you were born?

My name’s James Michael Taylor, I was born in Manchester in 1987 on the twentieth of January in Hope Hospital.

Whereabouts in Manchester did you live – when you were little?

In the Eccles area, which is quite close to Salford – in fact it’s pretty much next door to it, so I didn’t actually grow up very far from my mum.

When did you move to Hebden Bridge?

About ten years ago now – about nine or ten years ago, I have to say it’s actually probably one of the best things that’s happened to me in a very long time is moving to Hebden Bridge.

Why’s that?

Well when I first was gonna move I was so unsure about moving to a new environment. I remember saying in fact ‘what am I gonna do? I’m gonna be so bored – there isn’t even a bowling or a laser quest to go to’ and it’s just completely changed my perspective about the world that we live in I suppose, and it’s really changed me as a person.

Has that been a positive change?

Oh yeh definitely, I automatically think of a positive change.

Can you tell me a little bit then – first about Eccles and what it was like there?

I’m trying to think back…my dad lives near Eccles at the moment, so whenever we drive through there I do have a bit of a think back and my family still live round there. It’s been renovated and made a lot nicer since I moved. Back in that day it was the sort of place where you didn’t go anywhere alone I suppose…it was the sort of place where if you like, if you were a kid you went with an adult but you never went by yourself because there’d always be another group of kids waiting around just to pick on you because you’re on your own, especially if you’re younger – you’re more vulnerable, so we always went round in groups of at least four of us. It was very much a working man’s area, very much a working man’s area, a huge pub culture going on. Every Sunday the thing you did was have a pub meal or in our case, my aunty used to cook a Sunday roast and we always used to go and stay as a family and eat together; that was kind of our big social event.

When you moved up here, did that continue or did it change?

Well my parents divorced when I was younger and moving up here was when I moved with my mum, so my dad stayed down there, so I used to see my dad on some Wednesdays and at the weekends, which was pretty regular for a couple of years and then it changed, but when it was still very regular we always used to go and do the meal every Sunday and we always used to go and see our family when we could, but yes I suppose in that respect it didn’t really change but anything else, sort of like seeing my cousins or any other members of my family, obviously I didn’t get to see them as much as I what used to, but at the same time I kind of think that was probably for the best because of the kind of people that they were I suppose.

What kind of people were they?

It’s fair to say that my uncle’s…he’s got a drinking problem; I’m not sure if he knows that, but everybody else knows he has. My other uncle, we hardly ever see him; he’s basically – he’s one of these people you could say has fallen through the cracks of society, but he’s only had himself to blame I suppose, but he’s very angry at everybody else. I haven’t seen him in a couple of years but my dad still sees him because he’s his brother. I suppose the word for it is that it’s a very big chav culture I suppose is the word for it, and I remember growing up in that kind of culture and that’s another reason why I’m glad I moved because I’ve got more experience and I got to see more about the world, and I’m not that person any more.

Were you a bit like that yourself then when you were living there?

I was more…I was – I suppose I was, yeh. I was getting there from like the people around me and the social groups you end up making, they kind of shape you into the person you’re going to become, so I was going down that kind of line, but I kind of just got out of that kind of culture when I, kind of like a key point, and I did, and I kind of met new friends here.

So was it a lot like fitting in, so you kind of went along with it because you fitted in?

Oh you kind of had to because if you didn’t fit in, you didn’t have anybody – you didn’t have anybody to talk to, you didn’t have any friends if you didn’t fit in with the social groups that were there, and all the social groups were people who were just trying to look the hardest or looking after their own and not getting beaten up by everybody else.

So you’re glad to be out of it.

Oh yeh, definitely!

You came up here when you were what – like ten or eleven?

Yeh, when I was about ten because it was towards the end of my last year in primary school but I never finished it and went to Riverside just the other side of Hebden for the last term, so that would make me about ten, and I was eleven when I started Calder High I think.

How did you find Hebden then when you moved here?

Cold! And also the hills, so I wasn’t used to the exercise going up and walking everywhere, but that grew on me really really quickly – I mean at the first off I hated going up hills and stuff like that, like I was begging for a bus or something to turn up which we now have but I never use…but yeh, I don’t know – I was a bit reluctant at first, obviously it was a quieter environment, there was better air which was automatically noticeable. Every time somebody comes up from Manchester or that kind of area they always comment on how nice the air is – one person even said, one of my little cousins said that she couldn’t breathe in the air because it was too clean or something like that – it felt, I don’t know – it was just something about it that she found weird but either way – so yeh I did have a bit of a hard time with Justin, but after a couple of months she just seemed to slide into it.

Did you make a lot of friends here?

Not intentionally, and not originally. I was quite a quiet kid I suppose, in fact I was a quiet kid – another reason why I fell into these social groups was because of I didn’t really have a choice, so I either did or I became like the social outcast, so I made one or two friends – again they were very much like me, kind of like, they were kind of like the quiet…they weren’t with like the other gangs of people all collected together; it was kind of like a bunch of misfits I suppose, but yeh – they were pretty awesome guys and I still know quite a few of them. A lot of us have all gone our separate ways and stuff now.

Whereabouts in Hebden Bridge did you live?

Guildford Street which is up Fairfield – there’s a church, or there was a church round the back of my house which has now been converted into apartments, half of them looking straight into what was my bedroom window so I was a bit annoyed about that, but what the heck – I’m not there any more I suppose.

That house on Guildford Street – what was it like?

Well it was smaller than the house we had before, I’m not sure now how much smaller it actually was – it seemed a lot smaller then because I was so used to the house that we were in, in Stockport in Manchester. I remember it was an awful lot colder because it was obviously up a hill and we didn’t have as much…we didn’t have the heating sorted out, the pipes were all on the blink and stuff at the time, because we’d just moved from I suppose a middle-class house but we couldn’t afford to live there any more because my parents had divorced; that was the only reason why were able to stay there, so my dad went back to his sort of working class kind of roots and my mum kind of went back to hers, and we weren’t even meant to move to Hebden Bridge intentionally – it was one of my mum’s partners suggested it would be a good idea, so we moved up and then they split up and he decided to go somewhere else and we just kept with the house, but so yeh – my first memories of it, I can remember thinking it was small but it had slidey floors, it was very polished and I liked that. I can remember when we first got here and like running from the kitchen and like running in my socks and sliding across it, and thinking I was awesome, then falling over and doing it again – it was great!

What was the Fairfield area like there – I mean you said that when you moved here, you made these certain friends because you all seemed a bit outcast but there were still gangs of kids in Hebden – was it like that up Fairfield?

Oh yeh, there was probably more gangs up Fairfield because of the estate, because of my experience in Manchester I was a bit more intimidated of the estate than probably what I should have been, but either way I knew people down there who didn’t get on with me and I didn’t get on with them, so I didn’t go down that way. But the other side where you’ve still got like rows of houses, I got to know a few people there – there was one lass called Steph who used to go to my school – I haven’t seen her in a couple of years now but she lived right at the top of the street, so we got to know each other quite well; she was a nice lass, and after a while there was another guy called Jamie who was a couple of years younger than me who went to Calder High; when I was like half way through my term there he just went in, so he was a couple of years younger than me but he was a cool kid. I haven’t seen him in a while, but apart from that up Fairfield I didn’t really have that many friends up that side. I had two friends who were over the other side of the valley – one of them was called Curtis and the other was Sam, and Curtis and Sam were actually my two best friends at the time. I had another one who lived half way between Mytholmroyd and Hebden called Matthew but I don’t know what’s happened to him, I think he’s moved away – gone to university and done whatever he’s done. So yeh, there wasn’t many friends that I had up Fairfield or the other side really. I don’t know – I suppose not having that many friends with like you say being occupied with, knew who lived there, I knew that I didn’t get on with it was quite intimidating just…just to live there for a while.

Did that last a long time then?

For a couple of years. It only really got sorted because there was an absolutely fantastic teacher at my school who basically he caught on to the fact that I was being bullied and I told my mum about it finally. She was really upset when I told her, so for someone who like never said anything it brought a lot of stuff up – it was quite a lot for me just to finally break out of that, but when I told her she went and she took me to this teacher and he just sat me down for about ten minutes and went through everything that’s been going on for me in private, and he basically got this kid, took him to his office and half an hour later this kid came out crying, and I never had any problems with him ever again.

Who was the teacher?

It was a guy called Mr Leicester. He left Calder High with about three years ago, maybe a few more, I can’t remember where he went after that but he was definitely the best teacher we’ve ever had by far, he was absolutely amazing.

Was he your Head of Year?

He was my Head of Year for the first year and then we got different Heads of Year after that, and I think he moved out after about two years or something – I would say about four years to go.

Did he teach you a subject as well then?

I’m sure he did – he did a lot of cover subjects, so he covered for a lot of other people but I’m sure he must have done something. I can’t remember any more to be honest! That’s weird – it seems like ages ago now.

Well, I mean if you’re twenty and you’re talking about like when you were twelve, it’s nearly half your life ago isn’t it – so it is a really long time really.

But I remember thinking when I was about eight or twelve or something, that I’d never reach the age of twenty-one; I was talking to my dad about it the other day and it was really freaky – oh it’s so strange; I tell people I’m people I’m not twenty, I’m twenteen, and my friends are very adamant that they’re twenteen as well – we’re not twenty or twenty-one.

Is that because you…you don’t want to grow up, or you just don’t feel like it?

Bit of both I suppose – I mean, I suppose – when you’re younger you wanna grow up, you wanna have like all the privileges and the respect and the knowledge that everybody else has that are older than you, but as soon as you get there you realise it’s not really that great, and – I don’t know, after like doing all this growing up and stuff and realising that it was actually better being a kid, always wanting to put things on – everybody always wants to like put it on hold for a little bit, so I don’t know, I would say I suppose it’s a mixture of both – about wanting to still be nineteen and stuff but at the same time, kind of being glad I’m twenty, as well.

What kind of things did you do then when you were a bit younger, like games and toys and that sort of thing – what kind of things did you get into?

Like I say I wasn’t very social, I was a bit quiet and instead of getting a football or being taught to do football, I remember one Christmas just after my parents had divorced, I got a Sega Megadrive 2 and it was awesome – it was brilliant! I remember the first thing I did with me and my brother was to have a two-player one, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – that was basically what I did for the next two years of my life [laughing] so yeh, that sparked off a really big computer games sort of hobby of mine. It’s an awesome thing which…I’ve grown – I suppose I’ve not really grown out of it, but I’ve started to distance myself from it as of learnt more about life and I’ve actually become more sociable now, I’m not having to rely on it as much, but it was absolutely fantastic – it was better than any football I ever had because … I thought I know what it’s for… and I suppose I still do, give me the games and console any day.

Was there anything else besides computer games?

…at the time I wasn’t into it as much as I am now, but I did do writing on occasion, like I’ve written little stories and that’s something which I’ve now taken on now, which I want to do professionally, that’s grown in quite a big way but I also used to do a bit of drawing…hung around with my step-brother; he was sort of a step-brother. He was my dad’s girlfriend’s but they’d been together for so many years that he was just… we treated him like family anyway, so I always saw him as a step-brother as opposed to like the son of my dad’s girlfriend, or we’d just spend time with my brother or my cousins.

What did you do with them when you used to hang out with them, what did you do?

Whenever I did hang out with my cousin it was always at his house, so it would always be during a Saturday or a Sunday, and we played games like hide-and-seek and stuff, what was the name of that game…I can’t remember, but it was a game where you hid and then somebody went out to go and get you and you had to make your way back to a base which was a safe place, and if you could get back then you were out of the game. You didn’t have to let the person know who was out wandering round looking for you that you were back at the base, so you could just be wandering for as long as you wanted to, so that was – that was fun. Pretty much stayed at home because there wasn’t a lot to do in the local area, so we stuck with home for a good couple of years. I remember my dad also took us bike riding as well; that was quite fun. I can’t remember why we stopped that, which was a shame really because I really enjoyed doing that kind of thing. As far as with my mum…actually I do remember now which I hadn’t quite remembered in quite a long time, is that just before we moved up here I got to know some other people in my class – I suppose actually I got to be kind of posh or middle class because I was just a sorted kid. So it would be me, a guy called Chris…a guy called Gavin I think he turned up and another guy called Tom, and we had a sort of brook that ran down about half a mile away from where I lived and we had a little rope swing and went over there and stuff and just hung out there for a while; we spent most of the summer doing that which was…fun. There wasn’t a lot really to do in Manchester and Stockport round about that time, at least I never really found anything which was probably why I got so connected with computer games because it was just like entertainment that was there…

So you went to Calder High – apart from the initial bullying and then that got sorted out, what was that like at Calder High afterwards, when it got better – what was it like?

I always hated Calder High to be honest – to be absolutely frank I hated the place, and it never really got that much better. After the bullying stopped, I became more….more confident in myself and my own abilities, because I wasn’t ways being put down for just being there any more, so I was able to start exploring and be my own person. Got to know quite a few more people who I got introduced to, like a really good friend of mine called Josh who in more ways than one really helped me out round about that point in my life, because I’d moved from being a quiet person and then because of all the bullying, I’d got really, really depressed, where I actually thought about killing myself a lot – I never went through with it because I promised myself that if I did, it would be like them winning, so it was kind of like me sort of – my silent protest against them was my still being there and still getting on with my life, but after that stopped I got to know quite a few people – a lot of them were a lot of lasses and we used to hang around the steps near the front entrance, and that was kind of like our little area, we used to kind of claim that as our own domain and we got known as I don’t know – it wasn’t really like a cool kids’ kind of group, it was people who thought they were better than everybody else but they were only better to them – nobody else really thought of them that way. After a while because we’d lust like claimed these stairs and stuff, and we were just such happy people at the time, we just got like quite a forming of people and a lot more people started to join us in this area, and then a lot more people, and then by the time I came to leave I basically knew half my year group on a friendly basis. But yeh – a lot of the people who I got to know during that time period when I started hanging around on the steps with these people did an awful lot for me than what I think they realised they did, because like I said I never really spoke but they started talking to me which gave me a reason to start talking back to somebody, and so I may not have said much but it was better than nothing, and I’m a lot happier person now.

Was that the steps of the cinema?

Oh no sorry – this is the steps outside the entrance to the actual school itself that led up to the main office.

I know where you mean.

There’s like the front drive and then we’d just kind of collect on the steps there. I mean there’s lots of different gangs and like lots of different areas and stuff, but I was definitely, I was in, it was a nice place.

Was there anything at school that you did like – any subjects at all?

Any subjects – there was plenty of subjects; P.E. for one felt like torture, I mean my friend Sam, he wasn’t the fittest guy in the world, but I wasn’t like really athletic, but I could do a lot of stuff, it’s just that I didn’t want to, so I always felt like this resistance to why I should put my most into anything. We used to stuff like – what they used to call the ‘fun run’ which was about as fun as a sack of dead cats – you just used to run from..what’s it called now – the fields, like a football field in Mytholmroyd but they’re basically near – well they’re marshy now because they’ve been flooded White Lee do you mean – below the school? Yeh – what’s it called…Brearley fields? Oh Brearley fields, yes. Yeh, so we’d start the fun run there every year and we’d have to go on like this marathon run, like around there and then this big loop back to Hebden and near my house which I always wanted to just find a way to kind of scamper off and hide so I didn’t have to do the rest of the run, and then turn round and go back. So we could actually do that as opposed to – they made us do running like during the winter and stuff like that when it was cold, which I could never see the point of – if you were gonna get kids to run and enjoy it and actually turn up, you might as well do it when it’s warm. Again, to do sports inside when it’s bloody cold and…I would have appreciated them a lot more if they’d actually done that but no, for some reason they decided to make us suffer! So yeh, whenever we were doing stuff like that I always stayed with Sam at the back and made sure that he actually pulled through other than being like the athletic kind of guy and shooting off and trying to prove myself ahead of everybody else.

Was there anything that you did like?

….I did really enjoy doing football or…I was good at running but I didn’t really enjoy it; one thing I do remember enjoying doing was that we got a choice one day between actually doing football or aerobics, so all the guys went off and did football, and then all the guys who were sort of – like thought they had to go and do football, they kind of – they went off and did that whether they enjoyed it or not, and I said ‘right I’m gonna go an do aerobics’ and they all kind of said ‘you’re a pussy’ and all the rest of it, and then I turned around and said ‘yeh okay – well whilst you’re running with a load of sweaty men for the next hour and a half, I’ll be going and flexing with the girls in the next room, and just watched their jaws drop! I smiled to myself and wandered off, so that was a good lesson. It was more of a good lesson for the fact that I actually got a reaction off people. I wasn’t, and I’m still not that interested in women; I’m actually gay to be honest.

How has that gone down in Hebden Bridge then?

In Hebden Bridge it’s been fine. Outside of Hebden Bridge in Manchester would be where I’ve got the problems; I mean Hebden Bridge was the gay and lesbian capital of Britain for a while, now it’s was just the lesbian capital, I hear Brighton’s the gay capital now or something!

It always was high on the list I think.

Okay, well either way it was like the lesbians kind of pushed the gays out or something – I don’t know. [laughing] But either way, it’s been fine. My mum was really supportive, in fact she knew way before I did, or so I’ve learnt from the talks that we’ve had since then, and my dad was – he’s fine with it, he was a bit shocked at first but no, it’s fine, but as he’s given a warning to me, I’m not gonna tell any family on my dad’s side, I’m not gonna tell my mum’s middle class to what they think are upper class sort of, because they wouldn’t have it really either, and there’s been enough troubles with my mum and they don’t want to have any more, besides the fact that I don’t really think that determines who I am as a person.

So your identity, the way you see yourself, is that based on your sexuality, or is it just part of you?

It’s just part of me – I’m not…it’s like I’m not a queen or anything, not when these people all go round flashing off who I am, like wearing tight shirts or anything, I’m just myself – it’s just another part of me, and I suppose it actually shocks a lot of people when I tell them because they really don’t expect it, and it also helps break a lot of stereotypes as well, so I’ve been told.

So when you say that, do you mean like if…friends that you have that are gay and you say that to them, are those that kind of people as well?

I don’t have any gay friends actually. I do know one gay friend, he’s a couple of years younger than me and I’ve like been there to support him and stuff, and I’ve – he’s the last friend of mine who’s come out to me as being bisexual recently, which it’s quite nice to have, like you know, people sort of looking to me and come out to me and stuff like that, and I actually feel like I want to support them and be there for them, which I will, but when I first came out to my friends…I remember I was – we were having like a house party at one of these friends that I was sitting on these steps with and having a great time with, and we were just talking and I fell quiet for a while because it was something I’d been waiting to say for a long time, and then somebody picked on the fact that I’d fallen really quiet again so he tried to get me in the conversation, so I just stopped him and said ‘I’ve got something to tell everybody’ – everybody actually took an interest in it which was quite a big thing, so I was a bit taken aback by it, but – and then I just told them I was gay and then there was a bit more of a silence…and then I think the first person just congratulated me on it, and they said ‘well done for being really brave and telling us’ and it was really liberating, and none of my friends have had a problem with it, otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends. I suppose that’s another great thing about moving to Hebden, because if I’d in Manchester I wouldn’t have had that; I wouldn’t have had the support from my friends, I wouldn’t have been able to have come out when I did, I would have been more messed up I suppose within myself…it’s the whole attitude and I suppose the whole lifestyle of Hebden Bridge is just – it’s more liberating, there’s a lot less boundaries and restrictions, or social boundaries and restrictions to what there are in Manchester that I have to uphold to, and that kind of passed on to them, and it was just awesome basically.

Sounds good.

Yeh, I’ve been lucky – I’ve been quite lucky.

In the sort of ten years that you’ve lived in Hebden Bridge then, has it changed?

Well physically it’s changed, and the physicality of Hebden Bridge has changed – how people act towards it as well. There’s more of a youth yob/chav culture now that what there used to be, because we moved there because…like I said my mum’s partner, she’d – my mum wasn’t lesbian at the time, she’s now seeing a guy, so…yeh, she told us that it was the kind of place where you could still keep your doors open, at the time and everybody was really friendly, and that’s another reason why we wanted to move – my mum wanted me to grown up in an environment that was like that. So we did, and…it has changed a lot since that kind of time. You can’t keep your doors unlocked any more for one thing, that’s a noticeable thing, I mean a couple of years back, I was downstairs in my living room, we had the curtains on and the door and the walls and windows and stuff, and I was just watching TV quietly one night and somebody was outside checking the door handle, so if we’d left the…you just can’t do that kind of thing any more. Also there was…I suppose it was less – there was always like people hanging around, and there was always like the same sort of places where people hang out and like in groups and stuff like that, that you might get a bit of trouble by, but there’s an awful lot more of a binge drinking culture now in Hebden, especially when that Greenwood’s place opened next to the Spar because I used to work in the Spar when that place opened, and I got the Friday night shift – it wasn’t pleasant – it wasn’t fun at all, just getting a load of abusive drunks coming in, and a lot of them were…they were either..like eighteen, just gone eighteen or they were under – they were under eighteen and unlikely to get served I suppose, but they always came in and like tried to get alcohol and stuff, and there wasn’t that kind of culture when I first moved in. I think there’s about five…five pubs within a mile radius or something in Hebden, or in the Hebden Bridge area…so I imagine there would be like this drinking culture, but I don’t know why it’s suddenly grown in the last couple of years.

So when you said physicality had changed, what do you mean about that?

Well there was – we’ve [pause] when we first moved, there was quite a lot of…older buildings I suppose you would say, older buildings that were built in Hebden Bridge during the time that the mills were still up and running, and there were places like…I heard whenever I went to, there was actually a swimming pool in Hebden which I was really surprised about when I found out, but that’s been closed down now; apparently that’s being turned into houses, and nowadays there’s an awful lot of new development going on, and I remember when I first moved to Hebden it was quite – there was a lot less traffic, you got to know an awful lot more people because there was less people always going around everywhere, but since the housing property boom, there’s been like a bigger call to build more houses; they’ve kind of chosen this area as like – I don’t know – this kind of key area to maximise on their profits, so they’ve started building more houses and…the traffic’s increased and there’s an awful lot more people who don’t even want to know you, whereas if you didn’t know somebody, usually if you were like in queue behind somebody and you were waiting, you would just chat to them. I was in a queue talking to my friend who was working on the till and she was working away perfectly and we were just having a chat because I’d not seen her in a long time, and the guy in front of me, he just turned round to me and he just said ‘excuse me – do you mind, I’m trying to get served here’ – in a real sort of middle class, real sort of business suit kind of way, and he just turned round with his nose held high as if he was better than me, I just thought ‘right, fine, okay, whatever’

Do you think the new houses and the development has brought that sort of person into Hebden Bridge?

Yeh I do actually. A lot of it was to do with…they’ve been creating new jobs at the BBC in Manchester, and obviously there wasn’t like a lot of property in Manchester, so Hebden Bridge was – well it is a nice place and property at the time was quite cheap in comparison to a lot of other areas and that’s obviously why they were building more houses, so when housing became available everybody wanted to move there, so they did; it was round about the same time I also noticed that there’s an awful lot more Mercedes driving round Hebden Bridge than usual, an awful lot of people complaining that there’s too many hills because their low-riding car couldn’t get up them which I thought was quite amusing – sorry, you shouldn’t be living in a place with hills if you’re gonna have a car that’s not suited for it.

I just wanna ask you – I’m gonna hand over to Saffron in a minute. I know that you’re interested in theatre and performance and that type of thing – was that from school – did you originally get involved from school?

Before school, when I was still in Manchester and Stockport, I joined very briefly a theatre school and I only went down for one…one actual kind of session, but they wanted me to come back after that and I – my actual claim to fame I suppose in retrospect is the fact that I got to make friends with the guy who now plays Andy in Emmerdale!

I’ll tell you what – I’ll let Saffron come and sit here and she’s got some questions for you to do with that side of it.

SAFFRON:

I’d like to start with – what is your incentive to do drama?

My incentive?…Well for the acting side of things, it’s always to put on a good show and enjoy myself at the same time. Acting for me when I first started out, was a great way of expressing myself and it’s helped develop myself as a person, it gave me an awful lot more confidence because I had to speak more, so I became more confident with speaking…and from that when it comes to like writing, directing all the other aspects of drama, I see it as a great…what’s the word for it – kind of way of reforming somebody if you can understand that. It can change a person because you can go from somebody is not, might not be self-confident to suddenly working with a group of people who are like really supportive to work towards this project, and you’re gonna put on a show, and it’s a really great feeling when you’re actually up there, so the things about theatre would be…about changing people’s minds when they come to see a show, changing people’s perceptions when they’re actually working on the show, and just having a great time really.

Do you have any like idols – you know, people who you look up to?

I didn’t for a long time, but I do now. I now kind of look up to Ian McKellen in a lot of ways because he’s – well he’s a British actor, he’s a gay actor, and he’s done an awful lot of films which I thought he did great roles in. Who else…also you get people like Johnny Depp who’s also natural in every way, again it was an awful lot to do with this sort of…gay side of myself that I hadn’t really confronted, so Stephen Fry was another one because he was also witty and funny at the same time, he wasn’t just this stereotype and same for Ian McKellen – they’re not stereotypes, helped really break out of that. But apart from that, I don’t have that many role models as far as life or theatre goes apart from myself I suppose, I like to be my own best role model.

Do you come from a dramatic family?

No – no, not at all. I suppose if – I suppose when I was younger, if I’d come up to my dad’s side of the family and said I was going into acting, they would have said I was too soft, or something like that. My mum’s side of the family would have been fine with it, but they would have pushed – they would have really pushed me to go for it, just because it would have been some kind of token thing they can talk about, so no – I didn’t really come from a very theatrical family, but I’m glad I still got into it.

When you first started out in drama, did you know that’s what you wanted to head to in a career, or was it just something to help you build your confidence, or just for fun?

Originally it wasn’t to build confidence or anything, I suppose I never really went to change myself, it was just something that was a product of doing theatre. I originally went because I had friends who went, and I did theatre at school and for me that was an absolutely huge break because I didn’t have to be myself any more – I could be somebody else, and by being somebody else it gave me a chance to you know, have a rest from all the crap that was going on in my life, so having more time to actually go out and do that was – it was more like a relief thing I suppose, but at the same time I also wanted to have fun, and I wanted to put on a play – I wanted to do the stuff I was going to do in school but I wanted to pursue it a bit further as well. I suppose then I didn’t really know where I wanted to take it, but now I know that it’s definitely something I’m going to continue pursuing.

Do you ever like go to see shows?

I don’t so much at the moment because I’m absolutely broke, but whenever I got the opportunity at college or with my theatre school I would always go to see something. I’m about to take one of my friends actually to go – he’s never been to the theatre before; I’m going to take him to see a show some time, I’m waiting for a good one to come up.

What kind of shows are you into – are you into the musicals or the dramas?

Well I thought that I would actually be more picky than what I actually am. I have to admit I usually go into a theatre with like this kind of pre-judgement, this idea of what it will end up being, based on what I’ve heard about it. For example, there’s a company called ‘Boy Blue’ I think it is – it’s a dance/rap company and they’re absolutely fantastic, and I had a lot of concerns that I really wouldn’t enjoy it because it’s not my music, it’s not what I like musically and it’s not the kind of thing I enjoy doing, but after watching that kind of thing, it really inspires you to go and just explore it a bit more, so there isn’t really anything that I like or dislike more than anything else; if anything I want to try everything because I haven’t tried musicals yet, and I haven’t really done a big political play which I want to do. I suppose it’s really too early to say, but there’s nothing that I really don’t like.

Is this what you wanted to do as a career?

Intentionally when I started going to theatre school, yes it was – I wasn’t sure how I was going to get into it, but I persisted with it all the same, I did it at GCSE level; I got told that I wouldn’t get anywhere, that was the same with everybody else who went and tried to do GCSE Drama – we got told as a profession we wouldn’t get anywhere but we could go ahead and do it anyway. The joke’s on them because I’m now part of the National Arts Council.

What part of it – do you want to TV, West End, back stage – what part of it?

I prefer being on stage because it’s always a challenge. Every time I go on a stage I always push myself because as I said earlier I was really quiet and I still – when I’m going on stage or when I’m talking to someone I still get a bit locked up and I get a bit nervous, so every time I do it’s always – it’s kind of like me breaking through something and when I do, I always feel really great about myself because I’m no longer me being nervous – I’m now a character. Sorry – I’ve kind of lost what the question was – could you repeat it again please? [laughing]

**I can’t remember it! I’ll just ask a different one –

Is there any other art base subjects that you’re into, like art, music…**

Yeh I tried dabbling my hand in music but I’m always busy doing other things; I get distracted very easily, so music which is something which I had to sit down and concentrate on and really practice with like constantly, I couldn’t really get into, but I still enjoy it now and again. I was in a band for a while but I’m not sure how that’s working out. I love doing art; I constantly draw…it’s something that I really stuck with as a kid and I’ve only got better since. I did art at – just before – when you go to school, you do like a set of lessons before then you choose your GCSEs. I did art during that, I got all As and I wanted to do a GCSE level but I had a bit of a falling out with one of the teachers who then said that I shouldn’t go on to the course, so I didn’t and then the school didn’t allow me to go on it anyway when I asked. I also do different kinds of art, like there’s stuff on-line which you can do nowadays called A and Vs which are animated music videos so I’ve kind of explored my directorial and editing side. If you take a piece of music and you take like a film or an anima or a manga or something, and whatever you’re inspired to, you choose this piece of music to go with this A & V and you re-arrange the scenes of that A & V to make a different story or to basically like make a music video like you’d see on MTV or something like that, so that’s something else that I enjoy doing.

What’s the theatre like where you do your performing?

Well I don’t do a lot of performing at the moment because I’ve just left Calderdale Theatre School but when we were there, we worked at the Square Chapel in Halifax. We didn’t actually have a school – in fact we didn’t have a school, we had a room I suppose which we went to for about three to four hours every Saturday so that was our ‘school’ but we performed at Square Chapel once or twice every year and that’s come on in leaps and bounds – they’ve obviously got more funding and it’s been done up, and that’s always a great experience – just being on the stage anywhere really is always a great experience but having like a lot of local people coming to see you and seeing like a row of seats or the whole house full is always – it’s always great. I’m not sure what else to say really.

How long have you been doing it for – how long have you known that you were interested in this?

Ever since I started doing Drama in Year Seven of high school, and it’s just kind of grown from there. I did Drama beforehand at a theatre school but I only went for one event and then that was it; I kind of dropped out from that, I just decided that it was not the kind of thing I wanted to do and probably felt too pressurised or something, but just doing it on a more casual basis I got more into it and as I went into Year Seven and then Eight and then Nine, I decided I wanted to do a GCSE level and then by that time you got more freedom to do what it is you wanted to do, and it was round about that point that I decided that it was definitely something that I wanted to pursue later, so yeh, it definitely all started when I actually got to Calder High – one of the few things it’s actually done for me I suppose.

What are your other interests as well outside drama and art?

All the stuff I actually do is based around drama and art; I’m a very creative person. I spend a lot of my time – I spend a lot of time on the internet doing short stories. I was on a ‘Yahoo’ groups thing which is where you make a user name and you log into this like forum and the aim of this forum is to write stories, and this one went round a specific theme so I’ve written there for about five to seven years and I’ve made quite a few friends through that who I’ve got to meet and they’re brilliant people, and I hope to actually work on a book on them at some point, but outside of that – outside of doing something creative there wasn’t really much I actually did. Producing stuff and making things has just been a part of my life.

I think finally from me – what performances have you taken part in?

Taken part in…obviously there’s like all the nativity plays and stuff we did as primary school kids and…you just kind of stand around not really knowing why you’ve got a tea towel on your head and carrying a lamb under one arm, so I wouldn’t really classify that as much as a performance as exploitation, but the stuff I count as performances are the stuff that I did at GCSE level – we made our own piece which was called ‘Case 48’ and that was – that was meant to be a murder mystery I suppose, and apparently the teacher actually still talked about that till the point where she left because it was good. Calderdale Theatre School, the first thing I did was ‘The Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Part Two’ because we split into the younger years and the upper years – three hours each which is a bit of a trek; I’m really glad I did that. I played the part of Lord Frederick Verysoft, a big role for my first year but that was really cool, then two years after that we did sort of newer pieces, or pieces that weren’t as famous I suppose. One of them was freshly written which we gave the name to ourselves, which was called ‘Life Is A Four Letter Word’ which I absolutely `despised – I thought it was abysmal but that’s just my opinion and then after that we did ‘Taking Your Time’ which I think is a play written by Red Ladder, which is about the Chartist Movement of what was it…seventeenth or eighteenth century – I can’t remember, but it was about getting workers’ rights and giving workers the right to vote and basically a huge civil revolt across Britain and it was absolutely great, because it was good to do something political, which hopefully actually inspired people on some level to actually get back up and yeh, make their voices heard again. I also did the Bradford Arts Festival a couple of years back with a company called ‘Mischief Or Bast, which do kind of like a dark kind of twist on things, and for this particular event it was like a carnie kind of environment, so there was like a – it was like a giant wicker man which we burned at the end and I was this Roman centurion who had to go and pull arrows out of and off the ground of this person who was tied to a tree – I can’t remember who she was but she was a famous historical figure. That’s like all the theatre stuff that I’ve done and I got an extra part in a film, ‘Mischief Nights’ when I was in a club and I had to dance to the same repetitive song for about three hours, and thirty quid all of a sudden didn’t seem quite worth it, [laughing] but you know, it was still fun to do so I’m glad I’ve done it and I got thirty quid in my pocket.

It’s an experience isn’t it?

Yeh, it was definitely an experience, definitely and experience!

TONY WRIGHT:

I’ll just finish off then.

By the way, there’s gonna be a talk on Friday about Chartism in the Upper Calder Valley and all the history of that, if you’re around at the time – it’s at the Methodist church in Mytholmroyd at half past seven on Friday. If you’re around it might be worth a view. Just thought I’d throw that in!

Thanks very much for that.

Just one question really – it’s about the sort of values that you hold. Do you think that the values you hold are the same or different than the ones your parents or your grandparents had?

Well different from what my grandparents held definitely – they were both quite conservative in their own view rights. On my mum’s side they were conservative from the middle to sort of upper class kind of background and political viewpoint, also from my dad’s side very conservative from a working class kind of side. It was all very much a case of they stuck very much to where their class station had been – they really didn’t work outside of that, and I suppose they never really envisioned a life outside of that either, which is something which I have done; I don’t see life as being stuck to one particular thing. The way I see life – you’ve only got one shot at it so you might as well do as many different things as you want to do, and something else which I hold differently to what my grandparents did especially is how people view you, especially like I say with the kind of conservative eyes – everything had to, they had to hold up their morals and their values, whereas I’m always willing to change my opinion. I’m always willing to give people a chance before I put them down about anything, no matter who that person might be; I believe there’s good in everybody and everybody’s got a chance to contribute something. I’m not racist and I’m not homophobic which is a lot of stuff which my grandparents are. I wouldn’t say I’m that much – I’m obviously not…directly with my parents’ views but I’ve a lot of stuff which they now uphold as being passed on to me, which I’m very thankful for.

Like what?

I suppose…my mum’s liberalism towards a lot of things – the fact that she let me go out and she let me explore life and what it has to offer, and my dad at the same time when I did see him, for teaching me that it’s great to go out and explore things but it’s also good to go out and actually put things – actually knuckle down and put things into practice at the same time. You can go out and you can look for stuff and you can wait for things to come along and experiences, but if you don’t actually go out and find things, you’re just waiting. I’m not really sure; it’s quite strange talking about it because I’ve not had to think about it before.

Just to carry on a little bit more – do you think your peer group, people around your own age, do you think the values that you’ve just talked about – do you think they hold those kind of values?

I’d hope so. There is a lot of times when….especially in a lot of youth culture today, there’s a lot of homophobia going around, which…isn’t there with like my mum and my dad and their friends and stuff. I know there is with my immediate of friends, but it’s something that I keep pointing out as…’you wouldn’t say that’s so black or that’s so Chink so why do you say that’s so gay?’ – stuff like that, but I suppose coming from like my parents’ sort of cultural background, a lot of people have come from the same backgrounds and especially with like the people that I know, they’ve passed on similar sorts of morals and viewpoints of life onto their kids and that’s obviously why I’ve connected with these people, but it all depends on where you are really, like in Manchester, completely different culture, completely different view on morality than what there is round here.

So you think like the urbanisation of the cities has a different kind of ethos than rural places? Do you think that they’re quite opposed – you don’t think you get the same kind of people in both places?

There’s definitely something different about people who come from like the city or people who come from like a rural area – there’s definitely something different about that they view and act towards things, and I suppose I can say because I’ve had both in quite equal amounts. Like in a lot of rural areas, when I first moved up everybody was a lot more laid back, a lot more friendly. In the city it was a lot more closed off; it tends to be a lot more – I don’t know, it feels a lot more tense, you don’t get really as many friendly faces, but as far as morals and stuff like that go, it all depends on your cultural upbringing.

So you prefer the sort of countryside attitude?

I do now, yeh.

Do you think – I know you live in Manchester at the minute for a particular reason, but do you think you’d like to stay in Hebden Bridge, or if you went off to college and got a job or toured or whatever, would you like to have a base here to always come back to as the kind of place you’d want to make your home?

I suppose I would do – it’s always nice to come back home and Hebden Bridge does feel like home, but at the same time I don’t like staying in one place, like I said, I like to explore my options, I like to see different places, so I’d definitely like to keep somewhere in Yorkshire definitely. I don’t think I’ll be living in a city any time soon as like a permanent resident, but…especially since moving it’s really changed my viewpoint.

I’m just gonna ask you – how do you feel about what we’ve just done – me asking you; I’m a total stranger to you and I’ve asked you a lot of personal questions. How do you feel about all of this?

…with it being on camera, it’s quite strange. Like I said before, I felt like a little bit close and intense – I don’t feel as much now, but it’s still like – there’s a camera there, but I suppose with the upbringing that I’ve had and the fact that I’ve been allowed to go and explore lots of stuff, I don’t feel…when people ask me stuff I don’t feel that bad about talking about it, in fact I’m quite happy when people do ask me personal stuff because it means I get to talk about my life a little bit – I get stuff off my chest, or it just means that somebody’s taking an interest and if they want to know things, then I don’t see why not.

Do you think it’s – the idea I said to you earlier about creating an archive for future generations – do you think that’s an important idea?

I’m not sure how important the idea is, but I think it’s a great idea, as with any idea I can’t obviously say how important and idea is, because as time changes what society needs does wind up changing anyway; I’ve never experienced this side of…a historical recording before, but I do thing it’s really great because obviously there’ll be like changing attitudes in at least ten or twenty years’ time; I mean just looking back on this kind of stuff…it’s good. [laughing]

That’s a fine word!

Okay, well it’s getting on about an hour now which is all I want to do. The last question is – is there anything you’d like to say that we haven’t asked you about? Is there something that you’d like to talk about?

…I supposed there’s something I could say – this is quite a personal thing for me, but I learnt this myself when I was feeling really, really depressed, but I’ve learnt that life is… I’m an atheist, so I believe that we’re only going to be here once which is why I believe that we should live our lives to the fullest and if you ever are feeling shit or you just want to be reminded of that, you should always go outside and you should have a look at the sky, like especially during the evening or in the morning because you’ll never see a sky like that ever again – there’ll never be the same skyline and even if it’s just you going out, that perhaps makes it even more personal.

That’s a fine thought – that’s excellent, I really like that, but only because I do it all the time myself.

Awesome.

Okay, well we’ll finish there if that’s alright with you, and thanks very much for taking part.

Thanks for asking me on.

[END OF TRACK 1]

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
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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