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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Jude Wadley

     

    [TRACK 1]

    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…..how 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…..at 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……..like 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…..so 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…..it 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…..like 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…..you 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…..an 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…..it’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

    [laughing]

    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…..art 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

    [laughing]

    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

    [laughing]

    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…..it 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…..you 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…..you 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…..so 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…..you 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…..it 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…..so 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…..now

    [laughing]

    JW: A lot of us who are incomers…..you 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……..so 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

    [laughing]

    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

    [laughing]

    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…..how 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…..you 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…..so 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

    [laughing]

    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…..so who knows?

    TW: Right……well I suppose……I wanna ask you now…..is 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

    [laughing]

    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!

    [laughing]

    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…..you 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…..you 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…..so 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.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Martin McGarrigle

     

     

    Part two of Martin's video

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 28th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Martin. And can you tell me your full name is and where and when you were born?

    MARTIN MCGARRIGLE: Yeah it’s Martin Anthony Lawrence McGarrigle…and I was born in Ballyshannon……in Shiel Hospital in 1960…..in Donegal, in the north west of Ireland.

    TW: Right….yeah…….so were you raised there?

    MM: No, I grew up in Bradford, but I was….I was there until….I was a baby basically and me ma and da, they were living over here, and then me mum went back to have me over there until they got a place sorted.

    TW: Right. So you don’t remember much of that.

    MM: No, but you know, I have got…..baby memories or, you know, because it was on the beach….it was on the beach….where, by Rossnowlagh, where me mum’s family come from and then further up the coast, only a number of miles, about five, is where me dad’s family come from.

    TW: Right. So you feel a real connection with that part of the world then?

    MM: Oh yeah, yeah, I go back every year pretty much.

    TW: Right, okay. And so you were really brought up in Bradford then?

    MM: Bradford.

    TW: As a child.

    MM: Yeah.

    TW: What was Bradford like in the sixties then?

    MM: Well that was……I mean cobbled streets, you know, and it was…..it was Manningham, in the middle of Bradford, which was an immigrant area…..and we grew up on a street called Salt Street, after Titus Salt…..you know, the Shipley guy

    TW: Yeah.

    MM: And there was mills round there which were part of his empire as well…..and….it was…..what was it like….I mean as a little kid, we lived on a corner as well, half way down the street, and so there was like snickets; there was like a little side street to a snicket that way and a side street to a snicket that way, but that one was blocked off, and then diagonally opposite our house was the Manningham Ward Labour Club…. bit like The Trades Club here but in them days it was a proper Labour Club, you know, and that was a big place; two storeys……about the size of The Trades Club, both were, there was like a dance hall downstairs and then upstairs was the club as it were, you know, and……I have memories of that, because we lived there until I was seven, then we moved, but my memories of that are…..my earliest memories are sitting out on the street corner as a tiny child, in good weather, playing with the…..the gas tar that used to bubble up in between the cobbles, and that was our…..that was our plasticine, so we’d make things out of that, and you’d just end up getting covered, completely covered in gas tar shite, right, which you can’t get off; it stains you brown like, you know, so….but one of the only things that used to get it off was butter…..funnily enough.

    TW: Is that right?

    MM: Yeah, butter, and vinegar I think is what they used…..you used to have to really get….you know, my mum would go ballistic and so would everybody other’s mum like, you know; it was the advert, you know, where the kid comes in covered in shite and the…..the….the mother turns round and goes ‘oh good….good job I got a giant packet of Omo’ and then starts beating the children around the room with the big packet, you know [laughing] it’s that sort of thing, you know, that sort of scenario, you know…..yeah, gas tar…..and….and so…..and also, all the cars……all the fifties and sixties cars you see I can remember, cos they were all….they’d all be parked…..and we used to let the tyres down with matchsticks you know, because there was a few of us just sat there on the pavement, just letting the tyres down you know, and the people got mental, of course they would like, you know, and…..you know, yeah, really, and……..but we never got done for it or owt, you know…..and also the cars in them days, some of the older ones, they used to have….they used to have indicators like little rods that used to flip out at the side like that, half way along, and of course they’d all get broken off and stuff like that you know, terrible really, and…..all the kids in that area were cajoled into gangs, yeah….I didn’t join any but, even like at five, six….four, five six, just big massive groups of kids you know….

    TW: Were they all kind of…..were they all Irish or were they all this kind of group or

    MM: They were all Yorkshire tykes mainly, and Ukraines and….Poles and Italians and Irish and…….and everything like that, you know…..and…..a few West Indian kids…..and the Asian kids were just moving in at that time, and we weren’t allowed to mix; there was a sort of separation then you know. The Asians were really looked down on…..everybody was….was what you’d call now institutionally racist; they just were culturally racist, everybody was, I mean we didn’t learn racism until…..I was in my….mid-teens you know…..didn’t really know what it meant……and…..so the sort of crack that the tiny kids would get up to was….the next street along was a tarred street…. Carlisle Place, and that…..that was down the back street, and that, and that was…..that had that sixties kind of gravel….you know, reddy kind of pinky surface, you know, greeny pinky surface of like….gravel, set into the tar, you know, so it was a smooth surface; it was like somewhere in the south of England or summat, you know, and so what happened was, it was really good for bikes, so all the kids would play this….this game called British Bulldogs and no matter what age you were, you were cajoled into it, you were forced into it you know, so basically all the kids would assemble, and you could have up to a hundred kids maybe, in two teams, one at the top of the street, one at the bottom of the street, and then on bikes, all the kids on bikes would be at the front and all the little ones like me would be at the back so it was like two armies, and it was this game of British Bulldogs right, and then they’d just charge each other, and then there was a kid, I think the way it worked was there was a kid in the middle with a mallet….right, a wooden mallet, and he actually chucked the mallet and whoever it hit…..then they were out…..something like that, can’t remember how it worked, something like that…..anyway, but I was terrified of this game. Jesus, cos even like at, you know, like four, five, like ‘I don’t wanna get hit by this’…you know, scared like…..you know what I mean [laughing] so you know, that was a big form game…..and then there was…..the other thing I remember of it….oh and catapults…..the really…..you know the ones that are illegal now; catapults were big in the early 60s, and zip guns, and pellet guns, but I didn’t come across zip guns or pellet guns until I was older, but all the…..a lot of the older kids had them, but everybody had a catapult; it was just……you know, the….the toy of choice in the 60s, you know, and there was a lot of like, you know Dennis the Menace sort of implements like…..you know, fire at the…..the copper’s helmet, and, you know, because they had the big copper’s helmet, and it was very like that you know, all that sort of thing you know, and…..and what I remember…a memory that I’ve got from that time of being very young was…..it snowing and playing out obviously, making snowmen and snowball fights on that street, on that street, on Carlisle Place or Carlisle Terrace whichever it was, and……deep snow and wellies, and what would happen is you know, your feet would get really cold in the wellies and then what would happen is me mam….I’d go back and me mam, she’d get some coal from the fire and she’d put coal, a piece of coal, in the welly, just for a moment or two; it would heat the welly up and then tip it back in you know,

    TW: Oh right

    MM: right, and then plastic bags on the feet and then the socks you know, so a pair of socks, a plastic bag, a pair of socks and then into the wellies you know, and warm wellies…..so I remember that. The other one I remember from that time was……me mam was between…..she worked as an industrial nurse for Grattan catalogue; she worked there for thirty years, but she had a break when she had kids - she had two breaks – so she had a break obviously when she had me and then she had a break when…..my sister…..my sister’s three years younger than me so that was like ’60 and then ’63, so basically…..when she stopped working at Grattan after me sister, she then did other cleaning jobs and stuff like this you know, and….we used to walk…..down to….Lumb Lane which was nearby, which was a sort of a….a red light area, prostitute area, and all the pubs on there…..and a woman who became an aunty, an adopted aunty, we called her Aunty Imeda, ran this pub called The Flying Dutchman which later in years, in the 70s, turned into The Pink Pub and they painted it pink, and Aunty Imeda, she had two children the same age as me and me sister, you know, there was a few months between us but the same age, so…..Alex was six months older than me and Ann, she was…..six months older than me sister sort of thing you know, so…but the four of us would muck around together you know, but we were confined to the beer garden; there’s a beer garden there walled off high, and that was it and the pub you know, and me man cleaned and sometimes we’d help her, and Aunty Imeda, if you know what….Amy Winehouse looks like, right, that style, yeah, very Italian looking, and then the big black bouffant hair, beehive, that’s what Aunty Imeda looked like, and……she ran this pub on her own, well first of all she had….one husband had died, then she had this fella in……and….basically, I don’t know what happened, he f’d off but she got married again and he died, but she’d wear ‘em out you know, she was tough as nails, and……she was incredibly…..incredibly brutal and violent….right, and she used to beat her children every day with the brush; she’d lose her temper over something and she’d go ballistic, and Alex or Ann, whoever was in the firing line, would get it, and it would be with the brush, with the stick, and whack ‘em around the place; they’d have to run about, and we were just terrified, me and me sister….you know……and…..Aunty Imeda…..she lived on and on and she died some time I think in the early 90s……but during her reign as…..as a landlord……a pub owner…..she….later on in years she got a pub on the way from….Shipley to Bingley, on the canal side, a big Victorian pub about four or five storey pub, squashed between two mills, in a very sort of little industrial dark bit if that area, you know; a place where there would have been communities but not any more, so she was pretty much there on her own, and during the early 80s there used to be…..these murderers going about in Bradford - the Yorkshire Ripper and the Black Panther. Now…..almost simultaneously, I can’t remember which one came first, but they were round the same time, so anyway this dude, the Black Panther……right…..broke into her house….into her pub knowing she was a woman on her own……and…in the middle of the night, came into her bedroom with an axe, right, this is a famous story, so she’s….she’s an old….well she’s a middle-aged older woman in her sixties or whatever, and she’s in this pub, a big massive Victorian hornet place on its own, and this guy comes in with an axe. She noticed him, the story goes she notices him, and waits until he gets towards the bed and as soon as he got towards the bed with the axe, she jumps out of the bed, got the fucking axe and hit him with the axe, and out he went, out through the fucking window, however many storeys that was…..serious, or legged it, and then, but you know there was blood and this that and the other and, you know, and she’d have died or broke or whatever, but anyway he fucked off; he got away….yeah yeah, but that was…..that was ‘woman fights off……the Panther’ you know, famous story you know…..so….it served her well, her ferociousness you know

    TW: Yes, yeah, so you were till seven?

    MM: Yeah I was there in Manningham till seven, yeah.

    TW: And then where did you go?

    MM: Then we moved to….Bolton Road, about the same latitude across….the same sort of distance, about half a mile out of the…..out of the city centre, but on the other side of the valley; Bradford’s a kind of valley and there’s a valley running…..which is valley road and there’s…..there’s the football ground there, Bradford City, and then the other hill, so we moved there, to a bigger house; we were in a back-to-back, a corner back-to-back, and also, I forgot to mention, all the relatives came to live with us till they got sorted or went back to Ireland, you know. My dad was a ganger on the buildings, so we had a lot of people staying and calling all the time, and at that time Irish weren’t allowed in the Working Men’s Club…or Blacks……no Blacks or Irish were allowed, and it said ‘no Blacks or Irish’ you know……so….and also there was a thing in them days……unions, a lot of unions wouldn’t take black people or Irish people; you really had to be British…..born here you know, so that was the same crack on the Working Men’s Clubs you know so, yeah…….but what happens is….so my dad was a ganger on the buildings and all the relatives are calling of course, and then they’re all wanting, so they do…..some of them get put up, get flats or this and the other, but they all get a start you see because there was loads of work obviously, loads of building, and demolition, and so……so that’s…..so our house was like a Working Men’s Club every night, it was full of people and there was dominoes and darts and….cards going all the time and I was….in a room about this size and I was….you know, I was the entertainment on the scooter, you know…….so yeah, I grew up very sociably you know, but yeah so then when I was seven we moved…..things had changed by then; them days had passed so this was like 1966; I was six, sorry yeah, so it would have been 1966 or summat like that……and…yeah so we moved across the valley, and we moved into a…..you know, a through terrace house like this you know, which seemed absolutely massive, you know, on a main road, on Bolton Road….again only about half a mile out of the city centre you know…..and…..yeah, I lived there until I was…..eighteen.

    TW: Oh right. So when you moved out, what did you do? When you moved out at eighteen where did you go, what did you do?

    MM: Well I went travelling – I went all over – well I worked, and I used to go away; I sued to work, go away, come back, save money, and then go….off again you know….

    TW: Right

    MM: But you know I kind of officially retired from work at twenty-one…..

    TW: Right

    MM: Because I’d been working since eleven……in markets

    TW: Oh in markets?

    MM: Yeah, in John Street Market in Bradford.

    TW: Selling what?

    MM: Chickens.

    TW: Selling chickens?

    MM: Yeah, poultry; chopping chickens.

    TW: Oh right.

    MM: Yeah……twelve…..eleven….twelve, I started……

    TW: So where did you used to travel to?

    MM: What?

    TW: When you started travelling you said.

    MM: Oh…..well…….I mean France, Morocco, Scotland…..teaching around Scotland you know, just….yeah….and made friends and stayed places

    TW: Did you hitch everywhere then or did you have a van? How did you

    MM: No no no; hitched….I was…..I was….from the age of about….fifteen, sixteen….. which was unusual for them days; I was completely opposed to the motor car….

    TW: Right

    MM: [laughing]….I didn’t mind vans, lorries or buses, because I could see the point of them, but cars I hated; absolutely hated with a vengeance you know, and then, in 1978 when The Buzzcocks brought out their first LP and other music in a different kitchen, they had a song on there ‘Fast Cars, I Hate Fast Cars’…..like ‘these are the boys for me’ you know [laughing]…..as I did; I hate them.

    TW: Right

    MM: You know, because you know I was…..yeah, anyway I just…..yeah, cos I grew up on a main road and I thought ‘this is fucking mental’.

    TW: Yeah…..yeah, so……you say you used to go away, work, save money, come back, do all that sort of thing. What kind of work did you do when you went away then?

    MM: I worked…..I worked when I was here.

    TW: Oh right…….and then you travelled?

    MM: Yeah yeah…..so I worked a long stint; I worked…..I mean I worked from like….what….seventeen I left art college; I went to art college for a year and a bit; two years course you know, and…..and I got accepted for the Fine Art Degree and all this cos I was a self-declared artist.....and I was good, apparently, you know, a good line drawer, I could do a bit, and…..and also I could use cameras and all that because of another story what happened in that place you know….and then basically……I earned my living as an illustrator….I went to work in a printer’s first of all, in a big label makers up Leeds Road, down the back, and I used to cycle to work every day of course, a couple of mile, and…….in this printer’s they made labels; they were label makers, over prints, and basically I used to do all the art work for them

    TW: Right.

    MM: and….then they got a….block making facility built in the corner, and when it went for the demonstration, there was about six of us; the managers da da da….. and there we are, and then at the end of it, it was like…..the guys go away and they showed us how to use it all, and it’s like……there was only….I was the only one who knew how to do it, and it was like…..fucking great you know, ‘well who else is gonna do it?’ so I’ve not only got to do all my other full-on duties, because sometimes you’re working till nine at night to get orders out you know, it’s one of them things you know; not that you’d get any compensation or whatever, but I used to hassle them for time and a half and all this, but if you didn’t hassle them you wouldn’t get it, you know, it’s just like you know, a normal sweat shop factory like any factory, you know, they’ll get away with what they can, so this was my kind of….my first….well it wasn’t my first introduction to industrial relations but it was one of my first you know….I had had one before that; a tribunal and won…..I got compensation you know, when I worked, because I ended up working at Morrison’s part-time….you know, when I was going through college, and…..long story short, they got…..they cleared out the warehouse, when I was working at Morrison’s they cleared out the warehouse one time and they got all us casuals to then dismantle everything, take everything out, dismantle all the things, take all…..take some shelving down, and then…..and then get it shipped out, and then the floor….we were employed then to scrape the floor so you had like a concrete based floor and then it had like…..up to six inches of shit over the years, of grime and sort of tar, and the only way you could get this off was…..so they had us scraping the floor for ages, about a week, and…..this….so the only thing you could use was this really heavy industrial effluent stuff, you know, chemical shit yeah; they gave us no protective clothing, they gave us no breathing masks, no nothing; it would be completely illegal nowadays, but you see in them days like…..like now, kids will wear whatever their best clothes are, or near it, you know, they won’t wear scruffy clothes to do this or that; they’ll wear the item, whatever it is, so all the kids had their best jeans and their shoes and all this sort of stuff and I was no exception you know, and I was a little soul kid so I had my good shoes on, and okay jean trousers you know; not the best, but basically what happened was…this stuff got all over my fucking shoes and all over my jeans, so everybody’s clothes fell apart – everybody’s who did it, you know - our shoes were shagged. Now in them days, exponentially, shoes were much more expensive than they are nowadays; there was a point in the 80s when shoes came right down didn’t they, but shoes were an item man; you know, they were summat your mam saved up for for ages, and, or on the catalogue, and you know, you know, shoes were an item you know, they really were; it was like exponentially more expensive than anything they were, boots and shoes were.

    TW: Yeah

    MM: As far as I remember anyway, you know, I mean twenty quid was a lot of money then; a lot; it was nearly a week’s wages for most people in 1970….1975, 74, 75, 76, it was a lot of money….so anyway all the fucking, so then basically, so I’m saying to all the kids, you know, I’m not a radical or anything, I’m just like…. ‘oh fucking hell they’ve got to pay for it…..they’ve got to pay for it’ so….and we had a lovely….what do you call them…..what did you call them then….Liaison Officers….

    TW: Not a Shop Steward?

    MM: Not a Shop Steward no, but you know, they….they sorted all the problems out you know, in whatever you know, a woman, and she was lovely; she was great, really nice, and you could always get on with her so, you know, I went up and I made a thing like of saying ‘look, the kids want….we want compensation for all the gear because we’re only on a fiver a day, so we want compensation for all the gear that you know, has been trashed’ you know, so bit by bit, right, over the ensuing weeks afterwards, you know and months, not months, but weeks and weeks yeah; we got called into the…the…Personnel Officer, so we got called in….so we got called in, and it was like….. ‘oh well….blah blah blah blah’…..sweet-talked into not getting the thing; sweet-talked into not getting the….the money for the shoes and for the jeans, and I said ‘no’….I says ‘no way’…. I says ‘the shoes were four weeks’ money working here; the jeans were more….you know, you know what I mean, and I’m not having it’ you know, da da da….. ‘no, I’m not doing it’ you know….charming, you know…..and every single kid dropped out, so these are all kids you know, in the mid 70s, who are going into the sixth form, then going on to university, then going on to, you know, Local Government reasonable top jobs or whatever eventually, career boys, yeah, right; they’ll go on and get their A Levels and them A Levels are gonna turn into university qualifications, and qualifications are gonna get them jobs, and there was then, late 70s early 80s, if you had that….if you were going in that strata, you will get summat, you will get a decent wage; there was a lot more going on, right, than there is now, and so them people, all of them, dropped out, fucking, to the man, right, apart from me, and I ended up getting my compensation, forty-five quid of fity quid, sixty quid or whatever it was then, you know, so I got the money for the shoes and I got the money for the jeans, you know, and then, one of the….managers upstairs, cos we…..we worked in the warehouse…..was completely on my case all the time from that point onwards, absolutely, you know, and that’s how they train them; that’s how corporatism works, and that was my fist….and that was a low level Morrison’s supermarket, so they were training young guys in their late teens, early twenties, to be assholes – ‘oh he’s a trouble causer, you need to get rid of him; that’s gonna be good for you our kid’ do you know what I mean, blah blah, so already the corporate shit was there. Now this was my introduction to it you know, so anyway I won, and then, about a month and a half later I was out on me arse….and my parents were disgusted….me dad was like [Irish accent] ‘Jesus Christ I never lost a job in my life’ you know ‘I’ve only ever left on my own accord’ and all this you know, and he was completely disgusted you know, and I explained it to them but you know, anyway….I was at art college you know and I was having a good time.

    TW: So why didn’t you finish art school then?

    MM: I did.

    TW: Oh you did?

    MM: I did yeah. It was a two year course, but I couldn’t, you know, I didn’t get a grant and….and by the time I was finishing, I was only eighteen - I wasn’t even eighteen – I was one of the youngest in the year you see, and then basically you couldn’t get a grant of any sort then until you were nineteen, so….what was I gonna fucking do? It was like me dad….and I was living at home with me mum and dad and they were basically saying that, you know, ‘there’s no way…..there’s not way we’re gonna keep you for another year; you can forget it; you need to go out and work’….my dad was fucking livid, you know, so……so that was it, yeah, you know, so that….so that was me, and also, the college itself had come to me and said ‘you should apply for St Martin’s in the Field down in…London’ and this that and the other and all that, ‘because you are the genuine article’….and….and I was like ‘yes, but’….oh and they said ‘oh we’ll take you on…..on the….degree course for the next year’ I says ‘well’ I says ‘can I get a grant?’ and they said ‘no’ they said ‘not until you’re nineteen’ no they said ‘yeah I’m sure we could arrange summat’ and I said ‘but it’s said that you can’t get it until you’re nineteen’…. ‘oh how old are you?’… ‘oh right okay yeah….well not until you’re nineteen but you can start the course; come and do it, it’s no problem’ but I couldn’t do it….because you know, that was it; that was the bottom line.

    TW: Yeah

    MM: So basically….I went and got a job then…what I did then was, I went and I did Volunteer Community Arts cos I was used to that sort of stuff, down in a building opposite the art college, and did screen printing and all that sort of stuff, which I could do anyway, so I was teaching kids at eighteen, but then I got a job pretty quickly, in a few weeks, at this place, Overprints, and then I started working there

    TW: How long were you there?

    MM: Eighteen months…..every day.

    TW: Yeah. Did you not think about then going back to art school? Or had you kind of like....got off the thread of that?

    MM: It didn’t…..it didn’t occur me….it didn’t occur me….by that time I was twenty and summat you know, and of course these were….these were heavy times for me because basically you’re that young and everything’s going on, but also it was punk rock time, you know, and so loads of things were happening musically, and gigs and everything like this, you know, and okay, I used to get forty-two quid a week but that was a lot of money then….to me it was a lot of money and I used to give my mum a tenner of that, you know, and so….and provide most of my own food…most of it……so there were no complaints, and……and basically I worked there then, and then I left…..again, there was another scenario going on there, similar to that other one….I ended up at an industrial tribunal when I left….because when I left they said they’d sacked me, and I said ‘no we came to an agreement’ right, because I’d got fed up with it, you know, and…my health had suffered; my eyes had gone worse than they’d ever been; I’ve always worn glasses since I was six – stigmatism – and I was in a dark room, you know, eight, nine hours a day, cycling and in there eight or nine hours a day or whatever you know, in…..in a dark room…..and it was labels and everything was nought point fucking type, so I……I really seriously……strained, trashed my eyes even worse than they were…….mercury lights exposure is a classic in developing you know, so……..and…….also my health…..in an environment where it’s all chemicals……and…..you know, industrial thinners, you know, in concentrated forms and paint thinners and all this stuff and the inks, all the ink stuff you see……and a bit of a crappy place as well, but you know, whatever, but all that on your lungs every day, cycling in the freezing fog behind fucking big lorries, you know, in traffic every morning…..and I was fucked….fucking burnt myself out man; I was completely…..fucked. I used to…..I used to go out with two friends, three friends on a Friday night and we’d meet in the……..we’d meet in The Ring O’ Bells at the bottom of the road, which was a…..a plinky-plonk piano pub you know, and it was great crack you know, and we’d be the three…..odd punk rocker types you know; the Asian, the Lithuanian and the Irish you know [laughing]….oh and there were a gay lad, the other Steve, and so we’d be there you know, with our eye liner on and fucking you know, spiky hair and what not and…you know, no-one gave a toss, Teddy boys drank in there….everybody drank in there and no bother, it was a bit like the Working Men’s Club you know, ‘roll out the barrel’ and there was a woman who was under five foot; she was like Pauline at The White Swan, and she used to dress in black lace all the time, lesbian woman, and she used to sit on the stool and her legs didn’t touch the floor, and she was like in her sixties, seventies, and she’d just bash it out like….honky-tonk style you know, any tune, whatever it was you know, and it were just round t’corner from the theatre so you’d get all the theatre people coming in as well, you know, it was a great crack in there you know, and this was like you know, ’77 ’78 you know, ’79 and…..I can remember many’s the time going in there and getting a couple of pints in, and then we’d….we’d meet up and we’d be sat there, and I’d just take a fucking few drinks; I’d have…..I….I’d probably have a pint and then get up to go and get some more, then I’d pass out; I used to get blackouts all the time

    TW: That’s cos of the chemicals and all the rest of it?

    MM: Yeah….yeah, totally.

    TW: Right.

    MM: Or I’d have to go into t’bogs and just throw everything….throw up….all me dinner, everything like this, and then….you know, and then after a while I’d feel alright, so it was pretty intense you know…..but it was an intense time as well and I lived in an intense household you know….you know, and like I say you know, and…….you know, I’d be there and they wanted me out you know, really, you know, it was like ‘fuck it this is insane’ [laughing]….

    TW: So….so how did

    MM: You raise children and you kick ‘em out, that’s the deal then. You don’t look after them for the rest of your life…you know, that’s a modern phenomenon.

    TW: Yeah….so what happened then? How did you get out?

    MM: Well…..yes I did that job then and that…..that was the printers wasn’t it? No sorry I had a break then, so how old would I be?......Nineteen or summat, and then I started and I….worked at an advertising agency in Leeds, as an illustrator; now I was cycling down the station every day and commuting then cycling…..Leeds but it was the city centre; it was Woodhouse so it wasn’t far from the train station really, about t’same distance you know, so I’d do that every day and….that was a bit more interesting you know, and a small go-ahead advertising agency that used to get all…..in the middle of all the other advertising agencies, and then they got to be more successful and then they moved on to Guiseley….Menston, Guiseley way, which was a right ball-ache to get to, so I managed to sort of hang on in there for a bit longer and then I fucked off and…..and then I’d saved up fourteen hundred quid by then, which was a fucking lot of money in them days, 1980 it was….1981, and……yeah I was twenty, and……my mate Dalvinda …..who’d been in India when he was sixteen, was then……me and him had planned a trip to go to India…..right, and he’d saved up as well, fourteen hundred quid; he worked in a tyre place, and basically what happened was he used to see….this French woman; she was a lecturer at the university, and you know, he….he was tall, thin, looked a bit like Jimi Hendrix, but wore a suit most of the time, you know, a punk rocker with a suit looks funny [laughing] but yeah, so you know, this French woman fell in love with him and…..she was a lesbian as well - that’s another twist to the tale – so he went to visit her one day and….knocked on the door; she didn’t hear him so he went round…..it was kind of flats, knocked on the window, looked in and there she was in bed with another woman! [laughing] So he was devastated; well he wasn’t, he kind of wasn’t as well, but anyway they had it out, anyway they split up, and then he met….I think it was Yvonne……and him and Yvonne got it together, and eventually got married and had kids together and whatever and I think they’re still together you know, years later, thirty odd years later, but….so happens is….during this period when he’d just…..met Yvonne……basically what happened, his brother found Dalvinda’s stash of personal knick-knacks; they were a Sheikh family right, and lived in Manningham… Highfield Road, found underneath the floorboards, found his box with his personal photos in which was photos of us being punk rockers and all this sort of stuff, and his girlfriend, you know, he had a girlfriend and then he had this French woman, Maurice or whatever her name was, and then…..and then what’s her name….Yvonne…and basically what happened was…….the brother finds it; the brother was…a you know….60’s Asian, hung out with….he was a Teddy boy Asian, cos you know, they were tough were Asians, you know, so he then went on the hunt with a fucking hacksaw or a shot gun or something, looking for Dalvinda. Some taxi driver warned him so we got him into hiding; eventually we got him…..a house to rent…..under her name or somebody else’s name from this….African landlord….who was an accountant for all the….clubs and pubs and West Indian things in Bradford, and a lot of Asian stuff so he was a major accountant; he had big scars…little bloke, and he had three big scars on his cheek like that - tribal markings – and he was the main accountant, anyway so we got him a….got him a house with him down in Frizinghall, and that was cool but they were in hiding; he couldn’t go to work , couldn’t do fuck all you know, so it was all a bit difficult for him you know, and the brother was out for the blood; he was gonna fucking chop him up….why, we didn’t know…so he’d gone and stayed at his sister’s who lived up Leeds Road, before we got him this place, and the brother….they’d got wind that the brother was away. Dalvinda hid somewhere in the attic and the brother came and fucking started axing down the door… ‘I know he’s in here blah blah blah’ right, so…..this was round the corner from where my mate Steve lived like, so fucking hell, we missed it…he’d fucked off by then, but basically we went round there and you know, t’police had come and then he’d fucked off like, but basically what happened is first of all they took all….cos they was supposed to give the money to the parents; took all the money, the fourteen hundred quid to go to India with, right, and…. ‘who is this?’ you know, and then gave pictures off her and him to all t’taxi drivers in Bradford… ‘if you see him ring me’ you know ‘ring our family’ you know blah blah blah big honour sort of shit……so fucking hell man you know, that….that passed, but anyway they got the money; they got the fourteen hundred quid so he couldn’t go to India, but then we got him somewhere to live, so then I was there like and I got an option then to go with a bunch of guys taking transit vans over, you know, and they were teaching me how to drive and I used to take them down through Afghanistan, down through t’Kyber Pass and some of ‘em were…..Pashtun and all this sort of stuff, so that….you know, so anyway….I think in my better judgment, I dropped out of that; there was a whole bunch of old hippies you know, they were all kind of druggies you know, and these guys you know, these Asian guys, who were mates….. Naz and all and that lot; brilliant, but they all did it, and then all came back, but then all ended up in Dutch jails [laughing]….for smuggling coming back you know

    TW: I see

    MM: so that was the kind of deal you know; you got….you got transit vans down there, you go the whole trip, you got paid, you spent your money on dope, and then you brought it back, but then if you got caught you ended up, luckily, in a Dutch jail, you know, so that’s….quite a few of them ended up doing a couple of years in Dutch jails like you know [laughing]……so kind of like my better judgment…..and I felt a bit like the cabin boy….you know when I got to know ‘em all for quite a while and you know, hung out with ‘em a bit smoking dope and that, I felt a bit like the cabin boy and I felt….you know, I felt a bit…at a risk really [laughing]……yeah, but yeah fucking……Dalvinda …yeah, so anyway that were that bit in between…..

    TW: Okay……so….

    MM: Then I went travelling

    TW: Then you went travelling

    MM: Then I went travelling

    TW: Where?

    MM: All over, just, you know, first stop France then down to….nipped over then to see….stayed with some friends in France….we moved to Brittany, back again; I was there over a whole….like a month, Christmas time, January and all that, and then I was back and then….then I decided to take a trip round Britain you know, and just hitched around Europe; went to Stonehenge that year for the first time, Stonehenge Free Festival, that was a…that was a life-changing opportunity you know….

    TW: Why?

    MM: Eh?

    TW: Why? Why was that so….such a big thing?

    MM: Well I’d….I’d walked into…….[knocking at door]….

    TW: Next door neighbour…………….

    Now that we’ve done our good turn and helped my neighbour move her car, you wanted to backtrack a bit you said.

    MM: Yeah….first of all backtrack a bit to….mid ‘70s…….like I was saying I was…..I was working…..in….John Street Market chopping up chickens at weekends…..and….and then….these were part-time jobs, and then…and then Morrison’s in the warehouse so I’ve explained a bit about that, but what was really going on, cos where I lived, most of the kids were growing up, teenagers with David Bowie and all this sort of stuff, and I’d discovered Northern Soul as a thing you know, right, soul music, and I got that through me mam’s radiogram, right, and I used to listen to American stations and….get really badly….bad reception funk tunes you know, and then record them with a little hand recorder in front of the speaker ….you know, but I liked these tunes you know, cos you never heard them like you know, and I liked these, and…..so I started buying and selling and dealing records really young cos I was in the market anyway, so I’d get….I’d kind of…I’d be hitting the stalls first thing in the morning or at the lunch break, I’d have half an hour lunch, and hit the stalls and I’d just be trawling and trawling and digging they call it you know, mining and digging yeah, so I’d be doing that for….for rare tunes and I….I did pretty good at it you know, and I started from the age of fourteen, I started going to Wigan Casino all-nighter, and to…..Manchester Ritz all dayer on a Sunday, and to the Cat’s Whiskers in Leeds all dayers on other Sundays you know, and so on at various places like this throughout the north of England you know, and my parents were okay with that

    TW: Was that for…to go dancing or

    MM: Yeah dancing, all night dancing

    TW: Right

    MM: And then all day, followed by all day dancing [laughing] so I mean…..you know…..Saturday night I’d trot off with me bag and all this you know

    TW: Well Brian who lives on….a few streets down there, he’s a few years older than me - he’s in his early sixties – he still does that now

    MM: Yeah, wow

    TW: Anyway, carry on.

    MM: Anyway, so….so that was quite a major influence you know, and has shaped my world….and then the other thing that really shaped my world at that time was…on the end of my street there used to be a big Victorian ex……church; let’s call it a big massive church hall which had been converted by a sea cadets’ organisation into a big hall like a ship, and basically, through a process of…whatever, they left in 1970…..beginning of ’74 and hippies came and squatted in it and took it over, like freaks from all over like, which was fantastic, but community arts freaks - they were all committed to community arts – there was a sort of movement at that time….for people generally from the south of England but not all from the south of England, cos this was happening big in London and Manchester and places like that, to come and help….bring art to the…to the masses, the kids basically, and I was one of them who they brought it to, and what they did was they took over the building and they started showing some films, and…..inviting us to sit in circles and…and discuss what did we want to do with this place that we were gonna turn into an art centre you know, into a….into a community hall like you know, which they did for a good number of years, and through that I made lifelong contacts you know, people who were older than me you know, so that transition of like moving out of your…..the area you grew up in and your friends and everything like that, like I was invited to all their sort of student type parties and hippy type parties you know, so I was kind of like….you know I felt quite sophisticated about that you know, and that was quite nice you know……so did all the kids you know, so from that we….we started a Thursday night….disco, a Northern Soul disco and then the….the…..kind of normal pop disco was on the Friday night, but ours was so popular that we ended up getting the Friday night, and then kids used to come…pre-all-nighter, going to all-nighters on a Friday night…..and…..meet there and exchange records….and drugs…cos the Northern Soul scene introduced me to a lot of dodgy people, but a lot of drugs, so by the time I was like fourteen fifteen and so were all the other kids, not only could you memorise all these artists, labels, you know, songs, you know, everything to do with the whole record collecting thing, you know, but also, drugs….everybody had a MIMS, and MIMS is a booklet you get and they come out periodically; they used to come out very regular, I don’t know how often, but it’s got all the drugs in, and it gives you a description of what the drugs are and what their effects are and what the side effects are, so all the kids would be chatting away, memorising all these you know, and then…and then older kids would be robbing the chemists….and then everybody would meet up down in….in a hotel, in the….in the city centre near the train station, and all these would get exchanged, you know, so you’d have your record box on there and somebody would come and they’d just put a…a brown envelope in the back of your records as well as flicking through, you know, blah blah blah, for free….well of course it was you know, all these things were the stuff they chuck away, they was all for free, so it was primarily… barbiturates and a few uppers…..most of the uppers weren’t there, but it was mainly barbiturates and tranquilisers you know…….yeah, and so…….I always used to have loads of these, but I was….me mum, like I say, she was an industrial nurse so under the stairs at our……our house was a pharmacy [laughing]…..you know…..at school we had Benzedrine inhalers, Benzedrine inhalers; they were like a sort of….a little jelly sort of…..thick blob like that, and it’s full of liquid, and it was like a highly menthol type of liquid inside, yeah, if you put it on your tongue it would go numb for instance you know, so….you’d break….the idea was you’d break these into a…..into a hankie, and then you’d just, like glue sniffing, and you’d just do a load of that, and you’d be totally wired and you wouldn’t be able to sleep, which was really handy for…..dancing all night, because I was…..even though…even though I was in that I environment I was still very very very cautious about what I put in my body, because even at that age, there was people injecting….right, and using needles, you know, not through some….like it’s portrayed nowadays you know, some….you know, smack culture or something like this, although I’m sure it….it had that, but it was…it was because…generally drugs weren’t, you know….you know, most of t’population didn’t take drugs, not like now where most of t’population does, in them days they didn’t, and so these were the free hits; these were what….so all the people, you know, teenagers and upwards, were….you know, who were involved in all that sort of scene, you know, the bike scene or the soul scene, or whatever, were….were interested in getting free drugs, you know, so robbing chemists was a big thing in the ‘70s, and then they would get filtered down like that for free…..you know….I met a few dodgy characters and that but generally it was fairly benign you know, but I was really cautious about what I put in my body; I was really cautious about it, you know, because I was a cyclist, so I was kind of….and I’d you know, like I said I used to get health problems, because fucking….you know, where I worked and all that so I was used to chemicals….chemicals you know…..

    TW: You were talking earlier about the…..pre-citizens advice

    MM: Oh yeah…….what happened then was, like say….so that was that; that had a big influence you know, that was…..Vicky Hall that was called and there was a place based across in Manningham and this was Bolton Road, so there was Vicky Hall; we used to have fantastic gang shows and all that at Christmas and on high days and holidays you know, really hilarious, you know….so then….later on then, after I’d left the…..advertising world at…..twenty, going on twenty-one, or twenty, I decided I was….what I did then was I started volunteering for the….Claimants Union. Now the Claimants Union was a….nationwide alternative organisation which was pre-CAB…a lot of people who worked in the Claimants Union then went on to form CABs and became big in the…..Citizens Advice Movement, you know, which was still part of the kind of overall ethos of Civil Rights you know, which I was aware of course because being Irish and then Belfast…..and the whole thing, and knowing about the….the….you know, the struggle of black people in America, even as a young kid, that was, you know, Mohammed Ali was our God because my dad was really into boxing cos he had been a boxer, and it was like you know, Mohammed Ali was….and also…..because….because we were Irish we always supported the underdog [laughing]……but Mohammed Ali, he was the dude like you know; whenever he were fighting we’d do that, you know, or…or Joe Frazier even; it was a shame when they fought each other but there you go…..Smokey Joe Frazier……..first round knock-out or summat; he had a single in the ‘60s….a sort of stomper which was a Northern Soul classic, Smokey Joe Frazier; his world ended then; I’ve seen him since, but anyway….yeah, so….the CAB formed out of the Claimants Union, you know, the Claimants Union were going for ages so I used to volunteer there, and of course it was punk rock time, and……so we started putting on benefits…..to raise money for the…..for the Claimants Union, and raise money for…..political prisoners, for the Anarchist Black Cross….so we started and we did….we did a series of benefits in and around the college area of Bradford, cos that’s where the office was, and…..and basically…..from that, cos there was nowhere for punk bands to play, so from that, and poets and all that sort of thing, the alternative poets, so I was an inner city kid so I was kind of entrenched in that then, and basically what happened was…….from that then we decided to have meetings and form a club….where we would form a club without a building, without even any premises, and we would score premises, you know, and so that’s what we did, and we would then….the first place we got was the……the upstairs room of The Black Swan, on the corner of Thornton Road, in Bradford……and….that was the first punk rock gig place in Bradford, and basically we had a lease, not a lease, but…you know, for however long, six months, a year there, and we formed a club, and it was 30p in and that was your membership as well, so within two months we had over two thousand members, which was pretty good for them days you know, but we ended up with….after a while with the biggest membership of any club, organisation pretty much in Bradford, within, you know, within The….The Working Men’s Club thing you know, and…….and then we got moved from there because of, you know, punks and all this, but of course you see, meeting in the pub had got used to this Thursday night hit….bigger takings than probably a lot of the other nights and so his…..his business was successful so as soon as it was successful, he booted us out you know, saying the punks were doing this and doing that, but there was never any trouble, that’s the thing; all the punks were upstairs, all the….. ‘hey up lads’ were downstairs, you know, with the…..in them days all the straight guys used to look like Rod Stewart with kind of blonde hair, the pigeon hair style, and the medallion you know….rings and all that, and so yeah….so anyway….we ran that then and……we ran that for years and years and years, and eventually we managed to score some money, but by that time we were an institution because we had a festival every year with this and that, da da da…..and of course some bands had become famous like New Model Army for instance, like….Sudden Death Cult which came on to be The Cult….like Poets, like Seething Wells; Seething Wells, Steven Wells, a mate of mine I grew up with, he became a skinhead poet and he was…even by like ’79 I think it was, ’79 ’80 he was on…..’81 ’82 he was on The Old Grey Whistle Test, but as one of the presenters, you know, he’d do these….he’d do these poems in between stuff you know……lots of things came out of that obviously, because you know, it was a flowering time like, and….so yeah……..that club that we started in April 1981 is still going

    TW: Really

    MM: with its own building, four storey mill in Bradford, and still a huge, massive international membership……for instance….and of course with it being….and we based our….we based the whole ethos of the 1 in 12 Club on the Anarchist Unions of Civil War Spain, pre-Civil War Spain. We based it on the CNT…..an Anarchist Union, big Anarchist Union. Barcelona for instance was the capital of the CNT….

    TW: What does CNT mean?

    MM: Oh….it’s in Spanish; I just can’t remember now

    TW: Okay never mind, okay.

    MM: Yeah yeah….trabajar; it’s work or summat at the end….nationale or whatever…. but…and liberty, equality and solidarity was our thing and we had membership cards with it on and everything like this, and….you know, so we had a huge….and it was great crack, and of course…it was quite political in its outlook in terms of like…..you know, that we gain some power over….over our own situation for making music and rehearsal and….you know all this sort of stuff…equipment shares and all the rest of it you know, collectivism you know, and we ran the club as a collective and it still is run as a collective; there is no boss, nobody in charge; it’s…..the collective run it, you know, so I learnt a lot about Circle Politics….about collectivism you know, which is….stands you in great stead if you ever wanna do anything in the world, you know, like in…..in Holland, Austria, and a few other European countries, that’s what they learn when they go to youth clubs; that’s what they learn; they learn Circle work; they learn everybody gets a say, and you know, and so on and so on; that’s how you do it; you make your own world you know…….and of course the powers that be, meaning the police and the Freemasonry crowd didn’t like it at all, or the politicians you know in the Council, they didn’t like it…..they were threatened by it; they were threatened by a bunch of kids, right, and young adults…..for getting a hold on their own situation you know, I mean, it was insane really, you know, but they was, you know, they were threatened by it, you know, and of course we were extremely anti-fascist, so any time fascism would be coming into Bradford we set up the telephone tree with all the Asians and everything like this, and all the gay….lesbian movements and everything like this, and you know, so within…fifteen minutes we could have like hundreds of people down in the city centre you know, not we, but you know, that’s how the telephone tree worked; you rang three people; you went to t’phone and just rang three people, then every person out of them three people rang three more people, so within a short period of time, you know….pre…..net….pre anything, you know…. networking…so basically then…….that’s what that was all about and….and of course the Rock Against Racism was just before that and I was part of that as well like you know, and…..yeah, so…..so then…..they were still going basically…..I’ve forgotten what I was gonna say about it but yeah…..

    TW: Well they do arts….they do a lot of art stuff up there now as well don’t they I believe?

    MM: Art stuff…oh they do drama, you know, you name it, yeah, all sorts of stuff, yeah, yeah….yeah.

    TW: Yeah

    MM: It’s still pretty grungy, but I’ll tell you a little…anecdote. This year, 2012, right at the beginning of the year……the….powers that be decided to change the….Fire Regulations, and so they made it so that the fire escape had to be….oh and the roof….had to be altered, something like this, right, so it wasn’t meeting some Regs that they’d just changed of course, so that’s like thirty grand man….a lot of money…not fucking tattle or tittle or anything you know, so a few of the people who…who had been involved over a lot of years since I dropped out, in an age, people have been at it for years, who are now kind of at the end of their phase on it, like people who have moved over here for instance like punk Martin, and stuff like that….they all went back and they….they put the word out, and within……I think it was….two or three weeks, not only did they have all the volunteer labour, I mean a huge amount of people to actually do the work, but, they’d raised more money sent to ‘em by donations from places like San Francisco, from places like fucking Sweden, Norway, Denmark….all the European countries, you know, Germany, anywhere there’s a hardcore thrash punk metal scene, political….they all sent ‘em summat….fucking amazing; that’s the power of the net; that’s great….

    TW: Yeah yeah

    MM: You know, so they….they had the money to do it….another crisis averted, you know….cos they’ll do owt you know; the powers that be’ll do owt. One of the things we did in the ‘80s was…….we did an expose on….on corruption in Local Government. Now….the one thing nowadays; the juxtaposition between us doing that then and the so-called purges into….expenses and all that sort of stuff that is now the whitewash of nowadays, is they don’t look into the real corruption. Real corruption isn’t about fiddling a few expenses; real corruption is about decisions that are made undemocratically, and all decisions…..all decisions are made undemocratically, because everywhere, not just in Britain, but everywhere…the people who are in them positions of power, even lowly positions of power, have to join a secret organisation, and that secret organisation is the Freemasons

    TW: You think so?

    MM: Absolutely, and also….I fucking know so. We did an expose into it into the ‘80s and nothing has changed; in fact, it’s got worse; it’s got more entrenched, and they’re more bolshy now. The European Union…eight years ago, abolished….the…the thing where you had to say that you were involved in any….any other organisations, so they…..they said if you were involved in this club, that club, a union, this that and….you know, interests, but they…..they made away with it so you don’t have to say that if you’re a Freemason or not; they’re all fucking Freemasons….the whole lot. Now what happens is, all them….three years’ decision down the line is being made now, and so we did an expose on them to do with, linked in with Paulson and that whole…nonsense, that whole corruption, you know , linked in with all that, and then some contemporary stuff and….cites here and there that were hand-shaked and stuff like that; it was all pretty low fire stuff really, but we went into who they are, what they are, what nonsense they have to garble to be in that club, and what deity do they worship? What is it they’re actually worshipping? And what are their secret words and everything like this. Now we had people on the inside….they gave us all the dirt, they gave us books on it, they gave us everything. They all went, you know, I mean they were only around for a very short period of time, but it was enough time to get all the information, you know what I mean…….and so…..you know, that……world that….my father’s generation grew up in the Northern Ireland of the Orange bully boys and all decisions being made by them, and no political thing for…..you know, Catholics, was evidently still going on, and it’s still going on now; it’s not sectarian or anything, it’s….you’re either in or you’re out, and that’s it, that’s how they work it…..everybody in t’police, everybody in ….most Civil Service jobs….any….you know, the army of course, you know, Civil Service, the whole lot…they all….architects…you can’t be an architect if you are….not a Freemason, right, but you can….because there are women architects now, right, but in that time, when we…..when we scored…..I won’t tell you how we scored the money for…..to buy our building

    TW: Yeah

    MM: but it is quite an interesting one, but….

    TW: Never mind carry on

    MM: We sent our own guy basically to Brussels, and got him to get our money and pay it, you know, to us, then the Council tried to stop us….that was in 1985 ’86 or summat ’87 yeah, cos we had started building by ’87, so it was before that; also there was all these…there was a publishing collective, there was lots and lots of different collectives, and one of them was the building collective cos….and that took about five years…of meetings every few weeks, every month, whatever, committed people, and eventually it come off, but how it came off was through a series of fate and a bit of jamminess; we sent our own guy to Brussels, he scored us…..he scored us the money for our own unemployed organisation. They paid it…..we then had to get it paid through an….an officially recognised Council organisation; the Council put that stipulation on so we got it paid through the……… Centre Against Unemployment……and then they handed the cheque back over to us and then we got the building; we bought the building off….off a guy who owed the Council…..a sweat shop owner who owned the Council fuck loads of rent, so we paid his rates, gave him a little bit of money and ended up with half the money to do the building up, and it was cool; everybody was happy. The Council weren’t…..they were really pissed off because what they’d done is….about quarter of the way through the year when we’d been awarded this money and they found out that we’d been awarded this money, oh, and we put out the thing in a fanzine; ‘Knee Deep in Shit’ was the name of the fanzine, the 1 in 12 fanzine came out periodically - a punk thing, political punk thing – we did a ….we did a pull out expose on the history of Freemasons in Bradford…..and the Council got…we only printed a thousand copies but the Council got hold of a few copies and then printed twenty times more [laughing[ you know, for internal distribution; they were all fucking plopping themselves [laughing]….yeah, course they fucking were

    TW: Right

    MM: you know…….because really if you look at it, like it’s just…you know without my story or whatever, just if you look at it, if you live in a democratic country, why is it allowed that everybody has to belong to a secret organisation that’s all linked to make the decisions? Fuck that, that’s not democracy; that’s dictatorship through secret societies, you know, and sure you’re always gonna get a bit of that, but it’s completely and utterly….utterly to the core corrupt, and then not only that, they have to….they have to implement plans from on high locally, you know….you know, and it’s all about militarism and military structures, and when I was a peace activist I learnt a lot more about that side of things but this was all around the same time you know, in my twenties, you know, peace camps and stuff like that, you know, I went on a peace camp one time and the first one I ever went on….Easingwold…nuclear…secret nuclear training college…..right, so people in Civil Service, in police, in military and this that and the other…..even in, you know….I don’t know, organisations like supermarkets and stuff like that, managers and stuff like that, they won’t get paid to go on these week courses or weekend courses to…what to do in the event of a nuclear…..leak or whatever you know, a nuclear accident, you know, this was big in the ‘80s…so while everybody else was like….this is a nuclear…you know all us on the left were all……this is a…. ‘Sheffield and everywhere, this is a nuclear free zone’ you know, ‘we’re declaring Sheffield a nuclear free zone’ or ‘so-and-so declared a nuclear free zone’…. ‘so-and-so declared a nuclear free zone’…………

    [END OF TRACK 1]

     

    [TRACK TWO]

    TW: Okay, Martin McGarrigle take two……right, where were we?

    MM We’re still…..still in the 1 in 12 days

    TW: Oh right

    MM: the early days of the 1 in 12 club yeah, during this period of course the miners’ strike happened…..and we obviously were very highly involved in…..raising money for the miners, so that got all over the country and all sorts of stuff you know, but mainly in Bradford you know, and local collieries like Kellingley and Fitzwilliam and all the rest of it you know and different places, which was a very….you know, an amazing time – pretty heavy – picket lines were very heavy you know, police were crap you know, and they were also…at that time I became aware of a phenomena called ‘agents provocateurs’ so you’d have……you’d have guys dressed up as punks and then they’d go down and start scrapping with t’coppers so it was coppers trying to kick us head in you know, so that….that was an odd one you know, and there was a lot….there was a lot of anomalies with the miners’ strike but one of….one of the interesting things that came out of that…..our involvement with it, the 1 in 12 involvement, my involvement, was the publishing collective….publishing collective put out a book….two books during the miners’ strike; one by a miner’s wife called Jean Gittins….and that was…..that was poems about the miners’ strike; very very good, and then there was another book that got put out by Sky and Trees; which was The Chumbawumbas…..publishing collective….by….I can’t remember his name now… Dave summat…..and he was a miner, and he put a book called ‘Tell Us Lies About The Miners’ and basically what that was, was taking all the news….news reports and then putting the news reports of what was supposed to have happened on the day, and then of course, what actually happened, but with all the interviews of the people you know, so that was…that was anarchy stuff, that was really interesting, but….. because it was so like…….my…..my religion at that time was pretty much Revolution, you know, and that meant Social Revolution you know, it didn’t mean violent revolution or anything but I was you know, a community activist, you know, I wanted things to get better for people you know what I mean; I wanted low cost housing and all the rest of it; all the social things that needed to happen you know, still need to happen, even worse now……but, during this time, [laughing] I remember it, something like January 3rd or something when I was, where I lived, there was…there was a paper that came out…. The Star, like a local free paper; not an alternative paper, you know, the local Star…and on the front page was….a story about a West Indian lass from Checkpoint which was the West Indian organisation community place, who’d won a free trip to Cuba…..right, sponsored, so basically what happened then was, I rang up this number and they then sent me the forms; filled in the forms, sent them back…..this was right at the height of the miners’ strike of course, 1984…..and….sent them back and I was one of the three or four, five people who were….you know, chosen for the interview, so during a really busy period…at that point we were running three gigs a week, right, three benefits a week – a week – right, and there’d be three bands on at each benefit, and they weren’t all in the same venue, but we used to store our stuff….above….in the storage place in the top of like The Kirkgate Centre in Bradford, which was….there was a pub there, and we used….that was our pub at the time which we were…..had a lease on to do the 1 in 12 Club; Market Tavern it was called, and so concrete back stairs and everything like this, and right at the top was a storage place and that’s where we stored our PA and equipment, so every….so we’d go there, like five o’clock, take all the equipment down and load it in…..load it into a truck or a van, take it off to the gig, do the gig….put it all back in, bring it back and then at whatever time, dick o’clock in the morning, we’d put it all back in; three times a week…..so we were pretty run ragged really you know, but I mean I was twenty-three so I was full of it like you know, and then basically….so I was kind of…..full on revolution, so basically I got…I got short-listed for this interview, so I went and it was in a downstairs bar in…..Bradford University….tea-time, that’s six o’clock, around that time…..summer, early summer, or something like that, in spring or whatever, and….so these people, older people, you know, types at that time in their thirties and forties interviewed us, but basically sat with us; chatted, and then they split into….two of them stayed with us and then they went to the other side of the room and they bought us all Guinness and everything you know, and then they sat at the other side of the room, and there was….I think there was three of us being interviewed…..one woman, she’d….we were all similar ages you know in our early twenties; one woman, she’d grown up completely in an Irish Labour Party full-on left wing teachers and the whole lot…family, you know, so she was very ensconced with it all you know; the other fella, he was….I can’t remember what….he was in a union from whatever…..some job or summat, steel or something like that, I can’t remember, and…..and me, who was like a 1 in 12 you know, and….you know, self-styled community activist you know, and so what happen anyway, is….we do the interview, and they get interviewed da da da……and I was the second I think, or the third, last; maybe I was last, let’s say I was last, so I went over, sat down and I’d been reading the English translations of the….it’s called Granma cos it sounds like grandma….Granma….that’s the paper - Cuban newspaper you know – so I were looking at copies of that, the English version… ‘oh yeah yeah’ this that and the other you know, blah blah blah, the odd mention of a little strike and stuff but not much you know, but of course…..anyway, I’d already got loads of dirt on Cuba by this time because you know, I was involved with the Anarchist Press, well basically like as soon as I mentioned to any friends ‘oh Cuba’ they’re all going ‘yeah but did you hear what they did to them sugar can workers’ and fucking blah blah blah la la la, so I got…..my head was just full of dirt on Cuba; not the good thing about it, but all the…..all the….state oppression you know, state oppression…….so anyway then…..so I was doing all this; I’m at the interview, I’m there at the interview, and…they’re basically saying to us… ‘well look, if you don’t’ you know ‘if you don’t support Communism’ you know ‘why…..why are’…..you know… ‘state Socialism…..why are you here?’ you know ‘what’s the story?’ and I says ‘well it’s obvious isn’t it? It’s a free holiday in the sun’ [laughing]…..well they did as well; we all bust out laughing, and then I qualified as well and went ‘yeah but also’ I said ‘they’re that side of revolution, and right at the moment, with all the strikes and everything that’s going on, it feels like we’re this side of it, so summat’s gonna….summat’s gonna change’ you know ‘even if the miners lose it’s still…..something major’s gonna change’ you know……fucking hell man, so anyway what happens is right, they rang me up the next day and said ‘right you’re going’

    TW: Oh right

    MM: you’ve won but you have to go for induction weekends down in London; there was about three inductions at different times during that summer - induction weekends – yeah……so I went on the induction weekends down to…and we were staying….. I was staying at a friend’s in squats in Brixton….very nice, very together you know….loved it; summer of ’84 in Brixton, collecting for t’miners while I were down there you know, on t’front line I’d go to all….cos I grew up in that sort of area in Bradford, I’d go to all t’rastas and all t’coke dealers on t’street you know, down Brixton and in Coldharbour Lane…

    TW: I lived there then.

    MM: and all them. Yeah it was amazing you know, I mean that Brixton dole was really funny man, it was like a fucking….bedlam wasn’t it? And like…..but, you know and I’d go to…. ‘what do you want?....[rasta accent] ‘Them miners, they got more money than me, man,’ and I went ‘oh alright go on then’ [laughing]…..you know, right, and….but yeah, and…… ‘you’ll only keep the money’…. ‘no I won’t mate, I won’t’ you know, so I had a good time there like you know and that was great, and then these induction weekends you know so, we’d go each day and we’d spend all day in the….in these beautiful attics you know, because they’d done the houses up lovely in London you know, with lovely gardens and everything and nice vegetarian food and all the lot you know; sunny as well, it was a really hot year ’84 wasn’t it?.....And….and I was there…and one of them…them dates, on one of the induction weekends, I think the middle one, was June 9th 1984, and June 9th 1984 was when Ronald Reagan came to London…..and there was a fucking huge protest, I mean massive, you know, like as big as the CND protests you know at the time, and…and lots and lots of chaos, and….my girlfriend at the time, Rachel, Rachel Benson, she was there in amongst it all, and of course, I….any break we got I was listening to the radio you know, about what was going on and I’m….I’m in like left wing heaven, you know, Camberwell Darling or whatever you know, and you know, lefty London – brilliant – loved it, but at the same time I was like, I was really distressed because…you know ‘the police have just charged all these anarchists at Trafalgar Square’ and I’m like ‘oh Rachel what’s happening’ you know…..[laughing] she were alright in the end, but….you know, so all my friends were down doing that as well like you know…….so….yeah…..anyway so basically did the induction thing and….they sponsored me to go and I….I ended up going that September so it was siz weeks I think….September to October during the monsoon season and we went and….went to Cuba, and that was a life-changing….that was a life-changing…..experience, because…..yeah, going to a…so-called third world country which it is, you know, or a developing country, no but actually it’s quite static because of all the embargo and you know, la la la and you know, state control and all this sort of stuff, but fantastic lively, absolutely lively country you know, like Ireland in terms of it like…piss poor but music is king, you know, so everybody knows songs and poems and so the history of the whole people is really really really really strong; the history of all the religions, the history of everything is really strong there you know, so I learnt a lot there you know. I was particularly interested in…….. how religion survived in Cuba, you know, because everywhere there was derelict churches; every village you went to there was derelict churches you know….which had either been done up, turned into sort of like a….a community centre, but quite a lot of them were just taboo - people wouldn’t touch them – there was always that, so there was a lot of…there was a lot of superstition in Cuba; people, instead of…what they….what they had was they had a…..everybody had a little shrine in their house, okay….not many people had crosses but they a little shrine and what they were was……black Madonnas, so they were like….everybody has them in Ireland, but there they have the Sacred Heart on the wall you know, with a glow…..light on it; well they had similar things in Cuba but….but it had little…..little…..a little altar somewhere; everybody had it, and on it would be……you know, Our Lady but made out of wood, just brown wood…..and not painted you know, I mean in some places they were painted but mostly it was just brown carved wood of Our Lady you know, and then you’d have other little statuettes and stuff like this, and then little flowers and beads and money put on and a bit of food and stuff like that; that survived and that was called….I think that was called Shangai (Santeria) and that was voodoo basically, or…..a kind of mixture of the Caribbean religions you know, which was quite interesting you know….and you know, then you’d see……I mean particularly in Havana you’d see different people….I remember seeing….black tattooed people for the first time, cos I never saw tattoos on black people in Britain; that became popular when hip-hop became big, but before that you’d never see black people with tattoos, well I didn’t, even though, you know, I worked in t’markets and everything; there was always the…..there was always the….Ukrainian sailors, the old boys, you know, the battleship Potemkin boys, who’d be covered in tattoos you know; they’d even have a watch on you know, tattooed like you know, all this, but….but anyway going back to that…… they…..they….so people who, you know, so you’d have like……witch doctors as it were you know; they’d have a little drum, they carried a little drum; lots of bells and stuff like this, lots of bones, teeth….necklaces made out of bones, and completely head to foot, completely covered in tattoos. Now these guys were sailors; they were Caribbean sailors basically, that’s what they were you know……yeah, you know, and you’d see quite a few of them; and Cuba was…..Havana was just sort of changing a little bit at that point……..some of it was starting to get done up, but most of it was pretty run down and I think it’s sort of fairly similar to that today, you know, twenty-five, thirty years later or whatever, you know; it’s not changed that much either you know……..we stayed 12 clicks, 12k out, in a camp in an army barracks outside of, you know, in an army barrack type place, and what it was was…….it was an international brigade and we were the European International Brigade, so every other European country was there, represented with twenty to thirty people in each brigade, so there was a huge amount of people, plus all the Cuban translators, so every group, every brigade was designated up to ten, five, ten fifteen translators yeah, young Cubans working with you who want to learn….European language, mostly English but, you know, others as well you know, for international work, you know; learnt a lot about Cuba – fantastic – in schools they do…….half their lessons outdoors…well it’s a hot climate, but….you know, and every school grows a crop or two of something….so they learn their biology and science literally in the field, and it’s a really…..so….and so the general standard of education, up to pre-university level in a third piss poor country like Cuba, oh and also the National Health Service there was par equal to Britain at the time, but the education was better; there was less dumb downed people, you know, much…..people were educated. When you finished school at whatever age it was there you know, sixteen or seventeen, you then had to do two years’ compulsory……like state service….overseas service sort of thing, so that’s how come…and then people would get a crash course in medics, so everybody was at least basic bottom line paramedic trained – everyone – so you know, and they knew biology and they knew science and they knew basic medicine, and they knew numeracy, you know, these are not….middle class or whatever you know…….so that….the basic bottom things were there; people ate, they were fed….the housing was pretty crap because of overcrowding and you know, waiting lists you know; your kids had grown up by the time you got your flat or whatever, you know; when we were there we were in brigades and we were….we were doing two things; we worked doing fruit picking, which was avocados and the big orange/grapefruit crosses, you know, do you know the one, the sweet grapefruits; they were the first to kind of grow them really, so we were picking them and then the other thing we were doing was building site work, but en masse everything was over-manned there, and we were building three storey…..blocks of flats….you know, and there, what happens is……the flats get built……and all the fixtures and fittings and everything like that, if it’s your flat, say you’ve been designated that flat, you…you go there every weekend and you do it up – you do it – you finish it off; you put the lights in how you want it, da da da, you plaster it even in some cases - not always - but you know, do you know what I mean….you finish it, so it’s yours, cos it’s not gonna get taken off you, you know, it’s yours for life, a council house type of thing you know, so we were building council houses for Cubans yeah, and picking fruit…..and we had a fleet of…..about eighteen buses which were all British Leyland 1960’s big, square, beautiful buses you know….and drivers….and….so the camp operated on that all the brigades….we like….cos it was a European/International brigade, we set our own programme, even of course we were liaising with the Cuban authorities and all our people, our liaison people, so we….we visited prisons .....hospitals, schools, mental hospitals………local CDRs….CRD, Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, Self Policing; they were just bringing in….introducing the thing at that time in the ‘80s of Community Policing right, which was….yeah, okay, let’s not go there about that, but, in Cuba, how it worked was…you see like you’ve got a block of streets like this, like this one here; this block of streets would have one house which would be….set over for….it would be like a tiny community centre for the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. From that house you would organise all your dustbin collections, your refuse, this that and the other of whatever happens, and in the back of that house there would be a strong room built; breezeblocks, iron door, serious locks on it, and in there is white boiler suits of all different sizes and shapes [laughing]….helmets and automatic weapons, okay…..right and kalashnikov’s but automatic weapons right, and so…..everybody over the age of eighteen, over the age of eighteen, is on a rota system, and you have to do guard duty in your area; that’s how they did….it was called Poda Popolare , Self Policing; it was one of…it was one of Che Guevara’s main things; Che Guevara’s two main things were obviously health care cos he were a doctor….get rid of money [laughing] which they didn’t, and Poda Popolare, they were his main things you know, him and……..Cienfuegos….Camilo Cienfuegos….cos there were three of them; there was Fidel Castro…..Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos; they were…..they were the three boyos, you know…….and…..of course them other two are dead……and basically…so one of the sights you would see normally…oh and Cuba was very gestural; there’s a lot of debate….it was like Czech Republic people years later in the ‘90s when I was there were like that, and Ireland; full of gab, and they’re asking you ‘what do you think about stuff?’ and then having a big argument or a….or a big discussion about it. Cuba was like that… ‘oh what do you think about blah blah blah’ and then off you go….arms would be gesturing and all that, and the rum would be flowing and…Jesus the parties were great man you know [laughing] do you know what I mean, absolutely fantastic, but…and music you know of course all the time you know…..so…..one of the things you’d see when we did get the odd time to go out in Havana you know, we’d get taken on buses ‘right we’ll pick you up at midnight’ blah blah blah and that’d be it you see, you know…..so…..you’d basically go there and you’d change your ten dollars if you had it; I didn’t have any money – I had no money with me – nothing, you know, but you’d change your ten dollars and that’d become a hundred dollars on the….black market, so then you’d use them….a hundred Cuban dollars that is, so you’d use them like and there was all sorts of dodgy things with money, but you know….we didn’t want to risk it because we were official you know because anyway….but on the last night when we were all there we had a huge party in Havana, it were amazing, but anyway…..anyway what happens is…..so we’re there, and one of the things what you see when you’re wandering round anywhere, even in big housing estates, cos when we were there it was…it was the…it was twenty-five years of the Revolution, right, exactly, like it’s just been fifty-two years ago in two ten, two nine, well it was…..it was….it was twenty-five years cos it was…1959 so it was 1984, so that was twenty-five years…twenty-five years of Self Policing, so that…the Poda Popolare, so everywhere, there was street parties everywhere so we got taken to these huge big housing schemes, right, you know, with flats and everything like this, here there and everywhere, different places where everyone would be, and there was massive street parties and fucking, you know, it was amazing; it was like…..carnival all the time when we were there, and I’m sure it’s not like that all the time but you know, it was amazing, and….so what you see is….you’ll be going along like, and there’ll be like….say, a couple arguing, or four people….two couples arguing like fuck on the street….you’d have whoever’s doing the guard duty, you know, Doris down the road, and Bruce up the road, you know, the….boiler suit’s too tight for him and it’s too big for her cos she’s only five foot do you know what I mean? And the kalash… and the fucking automatic weapons would be there just propped against the wall, and they’d be there like intervening you know, mediating, and they’d be saying [Martin makes up an improvised argument in Spanish]……do you know what I mean? That was really common…..fucking hilarious [laughing]….you know, it were really hilarious……

    TW: How long were you there for?

    MM: It was…..I think it was…by the time I came back it was nearly six weeks. Tell you a funny story about….I’ll stop now on that one. When we came back, we flew into Britain and of course we landed in Heathrow…..and you know, you’re on a downer by this stage you know, cos you’ve been in the sun and everything like this and you’re a bit knackered and all that, and I was starting to feel on a bit of a downer, and I was also feeling a bit sad like you get…..sort of when you do travelling and stuff; I was feeling a bit emotional because everybody else had people coming to meet ‘em, but I didn’t cos I live in the north of England you know, but a lot of people had London connections and stuff and people could meet them or whatever…….and I didn’t and I thought ‘this fucking bus, all the way up’….it’s that Easy bus all the way up to Leeds you know…. fuck’s sake…..anyway, so……no worries…..so basically…..I’m there and we get off the plane…….and…..we got all delayed before we went through customs and I thought ‘well we’re all gonna get turned over completely’ because we’d been in, you know, a Communist country or whatever you know, but anyway we went through customs no problem; they didn’t go over the top, it was alright; we walked into the fucking terminus and there was no people….only police, in couples…..it was like…. ‘what the fuck’s happened here? Has Britain turned into a fucking police set and everyone’s got to wear a fucking police uniform now?’ there was no people; there was only police…right, but hundreds, even thousands of ‘em…it was like…and we were all there like….completely in shock….. ‘what the…..frig has happened here?’….you know….it was the day….it was the morning after….the Brighton bombing, and they didn’t know whether the Cabinet had been killed or not, at this point….so everything just went…..so we’re there….you know, the paranoia just went….I just….I just…..I was completely and utterly paranoid; I don’t know why but I was, you know; I was in shock and I was paranoid……and…..the whole place is full of police, and then….and then people came over then to meet…..Alison, my friend, who, you know, from Bradford, and da da da but she was staying in….about another week in London, so….and Joe who I knew from Bradford, they came over with…you know, a bunch of ‘em… ‘oh hiya, hiya’….. ‘what the fuck’s happened man? What’s happening?’ and they’re going ‘oh didn’t you hear?....The Tory Party Conference last night, the hotel got blown up and it looks like….they’ve all been killed’….and we all went [laughing]… ‘what?.....what?’….you know…..but as it happened only Tebbit’s wife got killed didn’t she? I don’t think anybody else got killed which was a shame, but you know…….but……yeah, so….anyway…..yeah, so that was…..that was….you know, it was like….fucking hell, it was like the Revolution had started you know, it were like…..you know, but anyway it hadn’t [laughing]…..and once I came back I had an incredible come down and depression after that, you know, it was quite….you know, back on the dole in Bradford and…..da da da you know, took right off, but yeah, you know…..I was alright…you know…….so that was Cuba; that was in the middle of the miners’ strike…yeah, right in the middle of it, you know, and of course I’d been to Stonehenge that year and there was a lot of…there was a lot of that….that year, you know, a lot of….clashing….one of the things that was good about them years was….Stop The Cities demonstrations. They were what became the Anti-globalist Movement….Stop The Cities were…..where we would go to London on the two days of the year where they have to physically take paper bonds out of every bank, top up what they’ve got in reserves – assets and everything like this – and bring it to selective clearing banks, they’re called clearing banks you know…like I used to remember the names of them all but I can’t remember anymore…..and take a….take these….so we used to…..the first few months we had in ’83 and then ’84, like that were in ’84….did it; they actually….they ground it to a halt you know; there was…it was a bit like the Poll Tax Riots, except without as much…as much smashing; there was just more like grinding the place to a halt so that would delay the thing and that would make a massive….influence on the Stock Exchange you know, and it did, and it got the point across, you know, to all the inner city London workers you know. Ninety-nine per cent of them were going ‘look we support you’….you know…. ‘we know’ …..because they worked for all these big banks, stuff like that, and they knew it was all a con you know, funding wars and the whole lot…you know, and worse you know, funding major polluters you know…so none of that’s changed actually, so all that…what we were protesting about then…..is now actually…. you know, it’s completely at its head, all this money collapse and everything like that is…. you know, it’s a con; it’s a script that they’ve been working on for a lot of years, and they’re bringing it in now; that’s where they are at the moment you know.

    TW: Right……well it’s interesting you say that cos……if you’re talking about…..all that sort of thing was going on in the ‘80s…..and you….you relate that to kind of like what’s been going on here for the last few years

    BB: Yeah

    TW: and you see that as a kind of master plan of

    MM: Oh yeah definitely, yeah

    TW: Of how we’re controlled really. Well if you believe that then, how do you view your life then of…..you know, you being a real activist then [phone ringing]….hang on

    MM: Yeah just put it on pause

    TW: Oh it’s stopped, okay. You’ve been a big activist [phone ringing]….oh let me stop…………

    Right, I’ll start again. You did all that activist work back in the ‘80s and then you see it like, really like nothing’s changed really. So how do you feel about that? I mean the stuff that you do now shall we say, cos you’re still…..quite active in doing things aren’t you?

    MM: Yeah yeah.

    TW: So are you still fighting that same battle or do you see it in a different kind of way?

    MM: Oh I see it in a much different way yeah yeah

    TW: Yeah. Well how….

    MM: Yeah. In your twenties you…..whatever you do…..it’s part of your persona; it’s part of your armour. You become that……that becomes your…..your whole…who you are; that’s who you see yourself as, but then there comes a point where that becomes very insignificant, you know, for instance when children come along and stuff like this you know…..but….I mean the basic thing is the same you know…….and I don’t….I just see it all in a kind of long long long term historical context, I mean……..power….. you know……is periodically……in the hands of the masses, but mostly it’s in the hands of the leaders, who oppress the masses. That’s political speak but… you know, society is…. you know, whatever way you look at it is the government, one way or another, you know, by oppression, you know, cohersion and slavery, you know, so you know, you kind of find your place in all that don’t you really, so….and I always thought that even in the ‘80s, you know, even with all the nuclear threat when that was the big…..overarching thing that people were quite concerned about, it’s only like….the end of the world and God is gonna smite you, you know, it’s the same thing, I mean you know like they say you can walk out and get knocked over by a bus or whatever, it’s the same thing; you’re only gonna live as long as you live, you know, so the….the fear….is particularly a Western thing you know because we don’t believe in reincarnation, the fear of death…..is paramount you know, in the psyche of the Western mind, you know…..and I don’t have that, I mean I’ve got a bit of it obviously cos I survive, you know, but……. you know basically it’s like your live until you die, and that’s it, you know, and……what you can do in your life is, you know, you can….you can do good work and I even had it then, cos I ….you know I studied Herbalism and the history of witchcraft and homosexuality, you know, throughout the ages, so basically it’s always been the same…….absolutely always been the same…. you know…..the only difference now is that there’s a lot more power concentrated in a lot fewer hands….globally, I mean there are regional, factional differences but they’re all global super powers, and they are competing and…..they don’t like each other, and the global elites who run all that, they’re the same, these various big……organisations, you know, families, you know, the names of them all….Rothschilds and this that and the other, the fucking Bilderberg and all the rest of them, they…..they’re not all happy with each other either; they’re all vying for their own fucking strategic interests as well, you know, controlling media all over the world and all the rest of it you know….the only difference is that……..the consciousness of the mass of people on the planet is much greater than it was then…..in terms of like how everybody’s been shafted, conned, lied to….killed, you know, and….and have to swallow this, but people don’t people know, you know what I mean; people know what’s going on but whether they choose to accept it or not; a lot of people don’t accept it because it’s too scary for them, but it’s still true, you know, the all benign king is actually killing them people… ‘oh wasn’t that terrible, you know, that whole village got wiped out man, you know, the whole town; they’ve put them all to the fucking sword’ you know, this is the Middle Ages like you know, , ‘oh God Save The King’ that’s your king mate, you know, you know what I mean, it’s your cousin what’s gonna do it and all your fucking brothers died doing it as well, you know, it’s the same bollocks now, so that’s all I think you know, I just put it in a long term historical context; I don’t see it as winners or losers; it’s the kind of vying like that you know, you know what I mean, species…. you know, working for different….resources you know.

    TW: Now when I met you a few years back now, you were……..into kind of land management or you had land

    MM: Yeah……yeah.

    TW: and that sort of thing. How did you get into all that then?

    MM: …..pretty much by…..when I went to Ireland, to live in Ireland, in 1980……we were in Ireland then we came back, and then me and my partner split up, and then I could….I was so paranoid here; I mean I was seriously with mental health problems, you know…..so I went back to live in Ireland cos it was….it was safe and it was…..there weren’t hardly any people….and just nature

    TW: Yeah

    MM: and I….I had a vehicle that I could live in; by then I’d learnt to drive, and I had somewhere to stay as well….so you know….from that then I….went on the road from Donegal, went on the road, I mean I brought some people over with us you know, in various trucks so we travelled around a bit together and explored Ireland….in 1988, and then, very quickly, met up with some people and formed a circus. The circus went all round Ireland….sixteen act circus….street circus…okay, The Ozone Art Street Circus, and we took that around and that was pretty amazing a lot of the time and pretty…..crap some of the time you know…..but….we did it, and….and it was great for a lot of rural Ireland cos they were right pleased to see us and they accommodated us amazingly. From that then…….I settled in Galway for that winter……or was that the year later….no I can’t remember, anyway basically yeah I settled in Galway or summat like that….and then….for a year on the edge of Lough Corrib, and then….of course illness has played a part in my life quite a lot, you know, different severe illnesses, anyway so, I had a recurrence of a kind of bronchial thing which turned into a kind of rheumatic fever and I managed to scrape through it, you know, living in damp conditions and also that was my first year away from my daughter who was…..my heart was broken……but I was too paranoid to live in England……… you know, scratching….bureaucracy, dole, fuck all, you know, the interviews, you know…..anyway, so there it was much simpler you know, anyway so then….and I managed to get healthy again you know, and basically I did this job where I took a teepee down; I used to do….I had a lorry by that time, you know, the van and then a lorry, and so the first year I took the circus round Ireland and then basically……ended up settling then in Galway for a year, and then in West Cork on land with other travellers you know, settled kind of travellers, and then…..basically started working with a…..a crowd called Future Forests in Bantry…..which was a saw mill and a garden centre, and winding down the saw mill at the start of it, part of it, and building with all the materials, and……you know, big turf roof, Saxon barn da da da da… you know, you name it, and so I did….I started contracting with Mike Pollard and Louise of….of Future Forests

    TW: Right.

    MM: and…..I did that for years; twelve years, thirteen years. I still have contact with them you know, so I learnt forestry basically; all about trees and the planting side of things, and a bit of…..and woodland management, but I was never a chainsaw freak; I never got in there doing chainsaw – I did a bit of it but that’s not my main thing – my main thing was planting for farmers, creating hedgerows and wildlife corridors…that sort of thing you know, fencing and creating wildlife corridors….raking the big fuck off fields up that were flooding all the time, after they’d done the whole ‘80s grants and…..fucking it up, making fields too big in inappropriate places, and reinstating a lot of…..a lot of smaller fields

    TW: Was all that in Ireland or was that over here as well?

    MM: Ireland, but that was…..that was in West Cork, primarily in the south west, it … you know and a bit in Kerry and a bit over….maybe a bit of East Cork but that was it you know, learnt thatching, learnt everything you know…. everything to do with you know, materials….woodland materials and all that, and right as we speak my friends run a whole summer school camp there at the moment, but they’re running it in Clare at the moment; they have a woodland contract there, open to the public, all people can come on courses, yurt making da da da, staying in yurts, teepees, all this sort of thing, and it goes on all summer; it will go right through into the….right into the autumn, and then there’ll be courses in the autumn then as well, with an organisation we formed a lot of years ago called Celt East Clare Coppice Association, basically it’s in Irish you know, so it’s East Clare Coppice Association…..one of the things that we did….so that’s how I got into all that, right, and one of the things that we did there during them years in the ‘90s was…… formed the Irish Rainbow Network after the Rainbow people came in, The National Rainbow people came to make a Rainbow gallery in Ireland, stuck around West Cork, didn’t get it together and then did the following year, but in the meantime we formed the Irish Rainbow…..like network alliance type of thing you know……and started to have gatherings, regional gatherings…..every…..on key points, key power points, key fire points, on tops of mountains, specific places by…. you know, ancient, you know, ancient

    TW: So there was a spirituality aspect of this?

    MM: Yeah…..yeah, kind of pagan spirituality you know; I’ve always had that though, you know…..and so that….that was pretty successful you know, the Irish Rainbow Network you know, so for two years we did a double spiral around Ireland, creating this double spiral ending up at Uisneach on a certain date…..and the day it got to the mountain on the border was….and it was just coincidence, it was the day, I mean it was in the ‘90s and it was the day that the first cease fire happened.

    TW: Oh really

    MM: Fucking amazing, so we had like eight people up there with a bit of paraffin and some sticks and windy weather and fog and rain, and they got the fire together and lit a fire and did the thing, you know, and that was the day that they announced the first ever cease fire you know, but they were great days in Ireland because………Mo Mowlam was the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland…..and……she became President…….Mary Robinson…..Mary Robinson the lawyer, she became President of Ireland, so we had two women in key positions, and that actually, in the psyche of the people, gave enough power to……the women of Ireland shall we say, to put enough pressure to say ‘well fuck this, you can’t be playing these ‘60s ‘70s games of like…..bad mouthing the…..the single mum in the village’…..all that changed, you know; one week it was ‘she’s a whore’ the next week ‘she’s a saint’ literally overnight; I’m not joking, in a two week period, and that all coincided around the cease fire cos you see, the fucking war was a lie, and even people who supported it in principle….the sentiment of it, you know, civil rights and all the rest of it, never supported the war, because it was a big Mafia game; it suited the fucking Mafiosis, you know, d’you know what I mean?.....That’s all they did, you know, it was big farms, big gold rings, big four wheel drives, big fuck off….by the way, you know, on both sides; that’s the thing what people…you never hear; it’s like when the…Balkan Conflict kicked off; you never heard about the massive peace protests….you never heard…..massive….no no, we’re just gonna bomb ‘em….it’s all….it’s all choreographed…..Tony, you know, when you live in Ireland, when you…when you’ve got an Irish psyche, you don’t believe….you don’t believe the hype. When a bomb goes off and they say it’s so and so you don’t believe it; all you’ve got to look at is whose interest right now does that serve?.....You know, like all the ones like Warrington and Omar and all this sort of shit that happened…. The Real IRA, the Old IRA, it’s all bollocks; who does it suit?.....Okay….Who does it fucking suit and I’ll tell you one thing that happened during the ‘90s when all these bombs went off in Britain and elsewhere, was when the fucking intrangient…..intransigent …..crowd – Paisley’s mob – wouldn’t play ball; they were playing….what’s his name….. Shaftio or whatever his name was, the General, the fella who came in and he was saying this you know, right, Oh, I’m saying this ‘oh it’s not enough, oh it’s not enough’…. ‘no, you do summat now….you make some leeway….you are the ones who benefitted from this when there was no vote for anyone….so now, you move an inch or two and we’ll see what happens’ you know….. you know…..now they don’t mind because….the warring hand did its job for the British state you know; it kept armed in this fucking…… you know, disharmonic…. you know……..state…..for years, so the north gets resources….military resources, military infrastructure, surveillance infrastructure, as a nice little twenty, thirty year experiment for the rest of England - everybody knows that – all the kind of…..bridges of civil liberties that….that….that were brought in; emergency powers, this that and the other; did they go away?....Did they fuck…. you know, so internment now is your basic law isn’t it? You’ve got a basic law saying… oh anybody can be accused of anything and detained for what….oh it’s so many days or whatever; no, not if they say you’re a terrorist…. you know, that blanket fucking cover all, you see what I mean, all that stuff, so….I’m interested in civil rights and I am….still….so, if I’m fighting owt, I’m still fighting for civil rights; social justice, civil rights, environmentalism….environmentalism, not carbon counting; I’m not into head tax for the world, you know, at all; completely opposed to it, you know, I’m into people like organisations in the world that are the mass polluters…..getting called to….called to book as crimes against humanity…..you know; can’t see that happening in my lifetime, not with the current state of things, you know, but sooner or later, you know, history will….will show, no matter how they write it, it will still show the truth of it you know….when a terrorist act happens, going back to my original point about what you learn, what happened during that period in the ‘90s where it was…you know, you had two women in power, you know, suddenly, it was like ‘yeah’ and then suddenly everybody was going ‘yeah, oh fucking rah this, rah that’ you know, ‘fuck ‘em’ like you know, ‘they never did any favours for us’ you know, ‘they just extracted money and they did this and they were a Mafia organisation’ you know, similar on the Protestant side you know, what did the fucking UDF do anything for us apart from being, you know, bully boy teaching all the young guys to hit…. you know, so….and of course with the ecstasy boom at the time as well, that also fluffed it as well, so that kind of helped… you know…..but going back to….going back to that, when you see an act of terrorism, you don’t go… ‘oh an act of terrorism’ you go, you know, whoever’s supposed to have done it, you know, whoever the media tells you has done it, but you go ‘who does it suit?’ so when nine eleven happened, right, everybody was going ‘fucking they’ve done it to themselves; CIA bastards have done it to themselves; they’re killing their own people’….why? Because they wanted to launch the war on terror…the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on fucking anything….that’s what they do, and the war on…..means destructuralisation it’s part of the script; the destructuralisation of society, right, so they can impose their….new world order, a different set of paradigms, never mind Human Rights Act, never mind civil rights, never mind any of that….this fucking blanket kind of…..what they had in Germany, the Nazis, what they created, same kind of thing; it’s tyranny; it’s oppression and you know and it’s state…..tyranny, and it’s…it’s corporate….corporate state tyranny, you know; we’re split between corporate and governments. All governments now are glove puppets…..for bigger organisations, okay, they always have been, but now they really are…..they’re all in turns, they’ve all been programmed, they’re all that’s it – bang - even if they’ve worked their way up from the Council, you know, and got in a position of power…. you know, because…..they’re working for a bigger….bigger agenda now, you know, and they’re working together for that, you know, and everything they touch they destroy, and that’s the whole point of it; the more successful they get at destroying something like the NHS or whatever, the…..the bigger the bonus; the better they’ve done; that’s how they work it. Why would they be wanting to do that?......Because…..in the world……they’re, sad to say, this is what politics does to you; you learn far too much which is not really particularly good to know. They have what’s called a world depopulation programme…..okay. Now you can argue the pros and cons of all that, but basically they set this programme way before the end of the Second World War but the Second World War was when they instituted it with…..with the UN……I read it…..and they want to stabilise the world population……world population growth, so they fuck about with the figures making it seem like there’s far more people than there is; there’s a lot of people but the planet can support far more people than this, but if you want a world of feudalist elites……the more people there are, the more potential there is for fucking overthrowing them elites, so they have to keep it down always to certain levels; that’s what wars are about. They’re not about resources anymore; they’re not even about anything…same with…climate change; climate change is a real thing; climate chaos is even realer…..okay…..meaning that….with the toxification of the planet through….mass industrial pollution processes…..this is having and has had affected quite a long time, since about…..18th Century onwards when the chimneys started really pumping the shit, you know, so yes, it’s….it’s created climatic effects….and toxic effects with water and everything like this; now….they’re doing it on purpose……because there’s more….if you’re a big corporation there’s more kudos, there’s more money, there’s more power in the fuck up than there is in the actual production…..like oil for instance…. you know……. money…..nowadays, the money….the money is in disaster capitalism….okay, disaster capitalism is where the books are; that’s what they do. War, restructuring, da da da…..problem, create the problem….off with the…..off with the solution….and come in with the fucking…..create the problem, get a reaction, and then come in with the solution; problem reaction solution, that’s what….that’s what’s going on at the moment. Dark times; dark times for the world; dark times for the people of the world; dark times for the species, all sentient beings on the world; dark times for the planet because the power in concentrated into very very few massive corporate….corporate hands; that’s the problem….that needs to change; but it will…….it will; there’s a lot….there’s a lot of stuff you know, that’ll change. The….the power bases and compliance that that….that you need for that to enable you can only achieve through mass…..oppression; mass oppression creates many many many many many many small reactions all the time everywhere….you can’t keep all the people down all the time everywhere [laughing]….so that’s how I….I….find my way through that sort of mess.

    TW: ……well one last thing really……how did you end up here then?

    MM: How did I end up here?

    TW: In Hebden Bridge.

    MM: My girlfriend was pregnant and I always said I won’t….if I have kids I don’t want them to grow up in the inner city…..that’s just….that was one of my things so we….we looked for anywhere outside of Bradford that was rural or semi-rural and we tried to get a place to rent and do all that so we did…..1986….and then my daughter was born here in….1987 in June, 1987…..in….number one Unity Street.

    TW: Oh……number one?

    MM: Number one…….yeah. We were renting it.

    TW: I know who lives in that house now.

    MM: Yeah, Penny.

    TW: Penny and Jerome

    MM: Yeah yeah, I know.

    TW: Oh right. Is that right? I didn’t know.

    MM: She was away travelling the world; she was on her world travels.

    TW: Yes yes, I knew Penny back then yeah….oh right I didn’t know her from there yeah……so are you gonna stay here do you think?

    MM: Yeah yeah yeah

    TW: Yeah, okay

    MM: Yeah definitely; it’s a great base…..I mean….it’s…..its’ as equal to go anywhere in t’British Isles, so it’s…. you know, it’s handy like that you know, and…..and I wouldn’t live….if I hadn’t lived in Hebden Bridge I wouldn’t…or anywhere like it, sort of, but in the north of England…. you know, with the…..industrial bit, the rural….lots of different diverse people…..working class…..down to earth….then no matter what people make up about Hebden Bridge it’s still very down to earth…..and this whole area…….I…..I couldn’t live in England if I didn’t live here….I’d find it impossible, because it’s just….it’s like Ireland…..

    TW: Yeah

    MM: people……people communicate and they’re not all…..they’re not all bitter…. you know; you got to a lot of places and people are really bitter and they have a bitter way of talking…..and a bitter outlook on life, and they believe whatever’s on that fecking screen - that’s the problem – that is a problem; brainwashing is a major massive problem….certain places, certain pockets, people don’t have that massive brainwashing. They just don’t switch the fecking telly on; they don’t bother, you know, so….. you know, and…..and generally……but no matter where you go people are sound; it doesn’t matter; you know, and no matter where you go……..if you’re useful…. you know, if you’re handy and you do stuff with people and you help out, you know, cos like I say, I worked in markets when I was quite young; that was a great training….obviously numeracy, maths, sociability, the whole lot, you know what I mean…….it was a really good training…. you know, so you learn how to be useful….you learn…don’t fucking sit there….do it… you know, the cup needs moving, you know, so whenever I…..I was always….when I was young and I had shared houses, you know, rent the house and get all my mates in type of thing you know, I was the one who’d do it; I was the one who’d the agent or landlord, get the house, get the drums and all the recording stuff down in the cellar, fucking make sure everybody paid the rent, you know, try and keep the phone going as long as we could until somebody fucked up on the bill you know, and so on and so on you know; I was the one….I was the one who did all that.

    TW: Do you think you’ll ever move back to Ireland?

    MM: …..yeah…..yeah I can see it….but how and what I don’t know…..I mean because……when I….when you say move back to Ireland, when I…..what I equate Ireland is…..is I equate it with living on the land you know, in a big caravan….. you know, with a…..with a greenhouse stuck on it or whatever you know, that….that’s what I….if I was to….you know, when I’m old…..if I was to retire….if I had any money to live on……or I could get money to live on, then I would go back to that life, because, you know…….I used to be very scared of the anonymity of populated places…..especially when people get old….but if you’re anonymous and you’re in t’middle of nowhere, and you’re just with nature, and you’re going out there and you’re just doing your shit pit and your fire pit and your fire’s lit and you might be doing some……doing the washing up outside or something like that, you know, and you’ve had your porridge and whatever, and you sit down and it’s a beautiful morning and then you have the stroke…..I don’t mind

    TW: Right

    [laughing]

    MM: You know…..

    TW: Okay

    MM: Do you know what I mean?

    TW: Yeah yeah

    MM: It’s like…. you know, that one’s okay; I can handle that one, but you’re in some shit flat stuck in the middle of…..like you see, cos you know, I mean…cos my dad being on t’building and all that….you see most of my dad’s….all his friends were like….most of t’Irish had fucked off you know; they were either dead, only in their fifties you know, they were either dead….so all his mates were like Italian, Ukrainian, they….they only ever went to Ukrainian clubs; they never went to Irish clubs; my dad wouldn’t associate with Irish, because……he was a ganger… you know, and he hired and fired…..so he would have made a lot of friends but he would have made a lot of enemies as well, you know, people would hold grudges for years so we never….we didn’t associate with the Irish community…..at all, so when the Birmingham bombings happened in 1974, my grandma in Ireland, my dad’s mum, was dying at the time, and we were ringing Donegal…..my aunty in Belfast and….my aunty in……in Walsall in the Midlands all the time; we had a phone, so we were ringing them all the time, so from then our phone got tapped, and then we had…..fucking….two guys, for like three years, sat outside in a fucking Escort cars; three years man….from 1974 to 1976…..but you know you’d talk to other people when you’d be on holiday about the click whirr and all the rest of it, or they could hear you and you couldn’t hear them….or you could hear them but they couldn’t hear you…it’s cos whatever the…. you know, the sophisticated technology there was at the time didn’t work right well so everybody knew, and they used to sometimes….cos one of the things they used to have as well was….. you know, cos when I grew up and I met more Irish people, you know, at universities and all this type of thing and different camps and all that, you know, we’d talk about these things and we’d go ‘oh yeah sure that’s just bypass’…..they used to flick people on bypass just for the crack…. you know, so one of you could hear each other, but it would be like ‘hello hello’ you know and they couldn’t hear you, or they’d…..they’d fuck about with it you know…yeah, bypass they used to call it, so you’d only get so long to speak because whatever their programmes were at the time and their unsophisticated…..computers, they could only record so much at a time so they’d have to… you know, so what you’d do is you’d put the phone down and start again….yeah, so there was all that you know…..so, when they say…..when they say infrastructure with Cameron, you know, local….when the local…..when the……when the…….current crop of glove puppets….Cameron, the whole lot of them, they’re all the same, the glove puppets, right, when they turn round and say ‘infrastructure, infrastructure’ what they mean is mass surveillance infrastructure and a complete and utter disregard for anything to do with privacy – absolutely – complete and utter surveillance all the time and monitoring. That sounds like too far fetched; it’s not. That technology was available by the mid ‘90s….right, and a guy who’s one of the major military developers of it wrote a whole book and a whole load of stuff about it, and then he got himself put in jail on purpose because he was being attempted to be assassinated; I read the whole fucking thing, you know. That was developed then; it was called remote viewing in them days. Nowadays remote viewing is Wi-Fi….okay, and I’ve explained loads of times to you about….about the whole cable business and all that…..and….and it’s true, because one of the stated aims of glove puppet Cameron is…they don’t like the privacy area over the Human Rights Act, oh and another thing that they’ve done with the Human Rights Act is you’ve got various organisations that process your Human Rights Act, you know, so if you’ve got a human rights case, so what they did…..they diminished that down to how many staff, right, to deal with it, and so you’ve got a fucking years backload now….that was one way of doing it….. you know, one of the things they did in America today, in the last month, is…..in certain areas, in certain states where the Republicans are…..more powerful shall we say, more…..more local power….they introduced….. ‘let’s stop fraud in the electoral process’ so everybody’s got to get their original birth certificates with the particular kind of seal and stamp on it and watermark, and of course in Pittsburgh and places like this, and these have been coming back, it was on t’radio today, coming back to black and Hispanic areas which will be Obamah….supporters……so they can’t vote because…it’s….it’s not gonna come back; they’re gonna have to send it back in time; the guy laughed when he was telling him about it; when he was being interviewed, some little…. you know, [incomp], right, he turned round and he said….they said to him…..they said to him ‘well don’t you think that this is blatant….interfering in the political process?’ and he said [American accent] ‘well if people can get down to the welfare office then surely they can get down to the equivalent of the DVLA to get their blah blah blah’ and he’s laughing while he’s saying it…. you know, some young twat, guy in his thirties….I mean that’s where you’re at; that’s what I mean about there’s so……..like that Republican who went the other day, last week, when he said something about…..you know, rape….same sort of thing; they’re so entrenched in…..Freemasonry, their corporate Freemasonry, that they don’t realise that…. you know, we’ll get ‘em [laughing]……….

    TW: Okay….well I think….I think we’ll end it there then.

    MM: Yeah yeah that’s fine, yeah.

    TW: Well thanks very much Martin.

    MM: Okay, thanks very much Tony, yeah….cheers

    [END OF TRACK TWO]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Nicola Wheeler

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 21ST of August 2012 and I’m interviewing Nicola Wheeler. So the first question would be, what’s your full name and where and when you were born?

    NICOLA WHEELER: My full name now is Nicola Elizabeth Wheeler and I was born in Worthing in Sussex.

    TW: Right……….and when?

    NW: When? 1954.

    TW: Right. What was Sussex like in the fifties…..sixties then?

    NW: …….in the fifties and sixties………what was it like…….well in the fifties obviously I was just a child; I went to…..a little, very old-fashioned school, Victorian school……quite similar to the school that’s just been…..renovated up here……..knew everyone at the school………..and it was quite a kind of villagey atmosphere, although obviously being on the south coast……it was quite built up, but we had the seaside and we had the countryside and it was a good life really……..and…….yeah, that was all……okay……..and….sixties obviously it was the swinging sixties; probably a lot more swinging, possibly, than other parts of the country being that it was quite near London…….and…….yeah, that you know, kind of evolved into……..being a teenager and so I was probably in a good place to be a teenager; went to art college in Worthing……and did a Foundation and……then tried to get into college in London unsuccessfully……stayed on at West Sussex College of Art and did a year’s Theatre course which was what I’d decided I was interested in……..joined the National Youth Theatre…..for a season, thinking I wanted to be a Theatre Designer……..and ended up in the Wardrobe department because I could sew, that’s what I’d done at school [laughing]….. and my family….my grandfather who I’d lived with as a child because my mum died when I was very young, was a ladies’ tailor, so……there was that heritage and apparently, I’ve just discovered that my nan who obviously was living there too, also helped him in the……workshops in Bentalls……and so I had that kind of background and…….yeah, so I ended up in the…….Wardrobe department…..very luckily, and I don’t know quite how I had the nounce to say it, but I said to the lady, just before I left, ‘if you ever need an assistant, let me know’ and she came to me…..well wrote to me when….just when I wanted to get out of art college……and said would I like to go and work for her, and so I did which was the second season of The Bankside Globe in London…..and so I worked there and that’s how I kind of started working in theatre really.

    TW: Right. So did….did you have aspirations to be an actress and that

    NW: No I never ever ever wanted to be an actress; always wanted to be backstage and basically came through an arts background; my father would have….well, he’s a watercolourist, he would have loved to have…..well did go to the same art college as I did, and started doing Graphics when he came out of the army but unfortunately he couldn’t carry on doing that…….and my sister of course did Fine Art eventually and Graphics, and I have a long line of art in the family, basically on both sides of the family. My mother was Dutch and there’s a long line of Dutch artists and that……..so no, never ever wanted to act and……..although I’ve got a daughter now that does love acting; always looked at her when she on stage as a young girl and thought ‘what is this? What is this love of being [laughing] in the limelight’ [laughing] but……

    TW: Right. So was this the National Youth Theatre?

    NW: Yes, the National Youth Theatre…..I was in the London National Youth Theatre

    TW: Right. And so The Globe Theatre, that’s the Shakespearian one?

    NW: Yes, yeah……which is now being….yeah, it was……well……the brainchild of Sam Wanamaker, and there was an American who had apparently come over here to act…….and obviously kind of had the nounce to kind of think ‘God they’ve got this amazing person called Shakespeare in their heritage in England that no-one’s ever [laughing] thought of reincarnating his theatre’ so actually did it, but I was as I say there in the second season and in those days it was just a tent on the bankside…….and a great season with Vanessa Redgrave and various other famous people…….heart of the season…….and recently I’ve been to the now proper theatre and discovered that the season I was there supposedly was flooded out, although I don’t remember it actually been flooded out, although there was a lot of water!

    [laughing]

    But it was a great….it was brilliant…..a bit too good really because Sam Wanamaker was very generous; we had amazing…….first night parties and end of…… performance parties and we were given flowers and treated as if we were actors and actresses…….but it’s never happened again

    [laughing]

    I’m afraid…..but the….the lady that was Wardrobe Mistress…..was an American too and she was brilliant and we kind of worked together. In fact she left….she went off to America for the last month of the season, and left me in charge which was a little bit scary but I survived, being that it was my first ever job and….yeah, it was great.

    TW: Was that the same woman who wrote to you then and asked you to come back?

    NW: She…..yeah, well she didn’t…..she didn’t ask me to come back; she was…..she’d…..obviously worked with the National Youth Theatre and then it was a year…….or was it the next summer…..no….yes it may have been the next summer or the year after that that she was then working for The Globe

    TW: That was your second season, yeah.

    NW: Yeah.

    TW: Yeah, okay.

    NW: And….yes, that was a proper job though; that wasn’t the Youth Theatre, that was

    TW: But that’s a good thing to put on your CV to get new work isn’t it?

    NW: Yes, yeah, oh yes, yeah, yeah…..so

    TW: So how did you progress after that?

    NW: Well I went from there and……now this is a bit….cos I seemed to do so many things in such a short time and I’m not ever quite sure exactly how, and I haven’t looked it up I’m afraid…….but I worked……..I went up to Manchester first, that’s what I did, which was the connection with the north of England of course…..and I worked at Watt’s Costumiers in Manchester which was……which has now gone….on Princess Street…..and…….so worked there for a while; it was a three day week and the wages weren’t very brilliant; it was okay but a good learning experience but very bad wages, and I used to work in the evenings as a dresser, so I worked at the Opera House and Glyndebourne came and toured actually while I was there, as did various ballet companies etcetera, but I had to do that to be able to make enough money to live on, and…….when the three day week came along I realised that I was actually getting more dole money [laughing] for the two days I wasn’t working than I was…..so…..anyway so I was basically kind of looking for another job maybe, if I was lucky enough, and I got an interview for Glyndebourne Opera Company and was successful with that, so then I went back down south and worked for a season at Glyndebourne…….which was amazing, and the best place that I’ve ever worked for from the point of view of the quality of the work etcetera……and…..then….as with most theatre jobs of course, they’re seasonal; they don’t go on for ever, and so when the end of the season came from that I came back up to Manchester and I……eventually got a job at the….what’s it called….Contact Theatre Company in Manchester

    TW: Was it The Library was it then?

    NW: No it’s a different theatre…..there’s still….The Library Theatre and it’s actually The University Theatre now

    TW: Oh right

    NW: So I worked there for a bit and this is the bit I’m not quite sure exactly how it worked out; I worked for them but then I…..then got a job at Crewe Theatre……and went down there; there were people that were connected with both basically and so we kind of interchanged……The Contact Theatre is….an all-round through-the-year ….company; Crewe Theatre was seasonal again, so I went there, obviously lived there while I was working there…..did a season there…..and met my husband there; my husband-to-be….who was also working there as Stage Manager……and then came back again to Manchester and carried on working at the……well The Contact Theatre had……..a kind of studio theatre called The Brickhouse, and worked for that too…..and…….carried on there for some time…..she did a…..which wasn’t paid….an Arts Council film called The Chartists for someone called John something or other, from Granada……but my now husband and I both worked on that and did all the wardrobe; he did the props and was the Stage Manager, and……..then…….. then…..we…….well because I’d met Duncan we were…..I’ve been told that what actually happened….the reason I’ve ended up where I am now, in Heptonstall, [laughing]….I’ve been told that you could buy property very cheaply round…..in this area in those days and I basically lived in a bedsit of course, and theatre wages weren’t good……and so I’d started looking in this area for a property, but when I went to the bank they wouldn’t lend me any money, you know, to buy a property; I found one that was like a thousand pounds or……in the Todmorden area, and…..but my husband, who had an overdraft at the time, went to his bank, because he’d been with the bank for quite a while and he was a man

    [laughing]

    I think which had clout in those days…..said ‘oh yes’ you know ‘we’ll lend you the money’ so we ended up buying a house in Sowerby Bridge, which was £2750 I think, or thereabouts, and……so that was back in 1976 I think………so we came to live there and….I started working..…I’ve worked at Yorkshire Television, so we were……Duncan had been living in Leeds so I was living in Manchester, he was living in Leeds and it was kind of in between the two really….Sowerby Bridge was in between the two, and so then I worked for Yorkshire Television. Some of the time I did some work for the BBC in Manchester……and I…..because of working at Yorkshire Television, and because I’d always……loved antique clothing as well as….you know, making clothes, I had some original 1920’s dresses and someone was going to a 1920’s ball and I hired some 1920’s outfits to them, madly, because they were fragile….and that was the start of me having a costume hiring fancy dress business which……so I started from art and…..a house in Sowerby Bridge and then I got premises in Sowerby Bridge and we eventually ended up in Halifax, and that was North Props Costume Hire…..which I had for about ten years and….by then….by the time….so we moved from our original house down to what is now the Health Centre which was the old Police Station in Sowerby Bridge, and then to Halifax and all of that I had the business……and……by then we had a son who was about four years old and was coming up to school age, and so we were kind of looking to…..cos I had this idea that I would like him to go to a village school like I had gone to…….and so we started kind of looking for something very very cheap again to live in because we obviously had the property in Halifax…..and we actually bought a house in Northowram and sold it because we couldn’t afford to do it up, but we ended up….by then my sister and her husband had moved to Heptonstall and we found a house in Heptonstall that fitted the bill and so we bought that, and hence that’s how we ended up ion Heptonstall…….and…..we’ve been her ever since really…..and because by then I had a son and was soon to have a daughter, I was not able to go and work somewhere because my husband as I say was originally a Stage Manager and then became a Property Buyer so was working in film and television, so he….when he was working he was having to go wherever he was working, and I basically made the decision that we couldn’t both be doing that cos it was too unsettling for the family, so I decided I was gonna work from home…..and…..again really, by……fluke almost I……started up my business which is working for museums making costumes, just basically by leaving cards wherever I went……..and…….have done that ever since then really, and I belong to The Museums Association which is another way of getting work really, so I’ve always made costumes for museums, for the last twenty-odd years….and obviously that’s for museums wherever they are all over the country…..and…….because of obviously having links with the school I also work as a support in schools etcetera, but that’s not the kind of arty side of things…….and…….so…..and then, because I had never finished my arts course, I eventually started doing an Open College of the Arts course in my spare time [laughing] and so that’s where I……and I also joined a weaving group so, which……originally was……you know, a group that we went to, run by Sue Lawty, but when Sue Lawty stopped doing the course then we all decided that we were going to carry on, meeting in each other’s houses and we did that for ten…….twelve years or whatever, so……so I have weavings and I have textiles because I did Textiles and Fine Art for the Open College course…….and through doing that and the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival I started having an open studio……..and I did…..I also did a bit of photography, so I’ve sold various things from the open studio and then in the last couple of years I thought……well I made a wedding dress for a musician that lives in the village……and I made the wedding dress because she wanted something that was in the style of Jane Austen………clothing and I had to be kind of cajoled into doing it really because I thought ‘well no’……you know, wedding dresses are a scary thing to do, most people say ‘oh no no no’ but she was a lovely lady so it was a great….it was really nice making it, and I realised that I could combine the kind of historical aspect of the clothes that I made and……you know and kind of make for people that wanted something different to the normal wedding dresses that you buy in most large…..wedding dress….outfitters and there’s a vogue for vintage at the moment so that’s what I’ve started doing, so that’s what I’m doing at the moment and I gave up my school job [laughing] a few months ago and I’m busily working towards…..they’ve got a….in the new Town Hall in Hebden Bridge they’ve got a wedding dress…..not a wedding dress, but a wedding fair in October so I’m working towards that at the moment, and I’ve got various commissions for people that want something different.

    TW: Right…..right……in a way I’d like to jump back to like the…..your earlier days, sort of Youth Theatre and early Manchester and Glyndebourne and all like that, when you were kind of like in Wardrobe, and ask a little bit about what do you…..what do you actually do when you’re in that kind of a job?

    NW: Right…..well it depends where you’re working really, very much, I mean……at…..at The Globe it was pretty much hands on, obviously an assistant most of the time to…..the Wardrobe Mistress and we mainly hired in most of the costumes which obviously was one way of doing things……..there…..each production was very varied and some were in modern dress and some were in period dress, and so we hired from whichever………company, you know, was appropriate to that type of clothing……so it was……maintenance…..repairs, and making sure everything was where it should be, helping dress whoever was in the production etcetera……we did make…..trying to think, it’s such a long time ago, we did make some of the costumes because I remember there being two trainees that I suppose came on termship from Central School because they had a Theatre course there, that came and did some sewing with us so we must have done some sewing [laughing] and…..yeah, so that’s kind of how that one worked, but Glyndebourne was all making; it was a totally different kettle of fish….there were…..there was a different department for each area, and so I was in the Wardrobe department but they had separate people that just cut the costume, separate people that made – did the hand sewing, basting etcetera…….even people that did the embroidery, and they were…..the costumes were beautifully made and literally kind of couture style costumes

    TW: Kind of specialism

    NW: Very much specialised, I mean the….obviously the lead opera singers had the best costume and then as you went down the ranks [laughing][ they weren’t quite so good……but…..and I remember doing…..one of the performances was Idomeneo, which was Greek, and so there was a lot of kind of drapery involved, so…..doing a lot of drapery on the stands for that……and then there’s La Calisto which was also a very ancient opera…….but there was a separate wig making department there and a separate laundry, so we didn’t have to do any of the upkeep of the costumes; we were literally just making costumes in the Wardrobe department, whereas when I went to……when I was working at Crewe, we did everything obviously and there was the maintenance and the……..

    TW: All hands to the deck so to speak

    NW: Yes, very small Wardrobe department [laughing], about a third of the size of this room

    [laughing]

    and everything had to be done, so……so yes it depends, and at Crewe we did do a bit of touring too so you were also kind of……moving costumes from place to place etcetera.

    TW: Yeah….okay…..so now onto like the museum work. If you’re making costumes for museums, do you make them from scratch or do they give you, you know, part of them and do you have to research at all? How does that work?

    NW: Yeah…..generally….well it depends exactly what type of costume you’re making. On the whole I tend to make costumes for children to actually wear when they go to the museums and if they’re kind of…….you know, to get them into the spirit of whatever they’re learning about…….but I have also made costumes to be displayed and sometimes the costumes are replicas so that you know, to replace originals that the museum have got but can’t put out because they’re too delicate and sometimes…….they’re replicas to show what something would have been like originally, and then they might show the original one that’s kind of……now no longer in a

    TW: Moth eaten

    NW: State, yes

    [laughing]

    I mean I made some for the Grace Darling Museum and they were……..you know, they’d got little bits of the original clothing that she wore so they sent me photographs in those days……you know, a piece of the fabric of her dress, a piece of the fabric of the shawl, you know, so basically what I ask for…if it’s a replica costume like that then I ask for any information that the museum has got, that they can kind of give to me to give me an idea of what…..what they want……and then I do designs generally; put everything together and create a design and send it back to them, and then they okay it and obviously, you know, there’s finance involved, especially with museums…..and…..then go ahead and get the fabrics. Sometimes with the Grace Darling dress I had to……striped…..blue and yellow striped dress…..so you’re not very likely to be able to find a fabric that is exactly like the one that they want, so I actually got blue and white striped fabric in the end and then dyed it to kind of make as close as I could get to the fabric, as the original. I actually had some….for her shawl I actually had some…..fabric woven in Scotland; I found……a weaver that’s still there making Scottish plaid……..that could actually weave you know, kind of an appropriate type of thing……but obviously that very much depends on what their budget is etcetera as to how much they can afford to…..to pay and you know, whether there is the skilled craftsperson there to be able to create……..so yeah, so I mean, and some other costumes that I’ve made in other places…..sometimes they say need a knitted pullover and I’ll outsource that, so I’ll get all the wools and so on and then find a knitter to knit it for me it…..that’s necessary……but yes generally, basically, it’s getting the information then I research if, you know, if I haven’t got all the information from the museum then I’ll research. I’ve got thousands of costume books and obviously nowadays you’ve got the internet to research, and then do the designs, I mean I made one set of costumes for The Wordsworth Museum and…..found, much to, because everybody says ‘oh don’t you just look on the internet?’……and it’s not always there

    [laughing]

    so…..yes you have to go a bit more deeply into research to it because I made some…….nightdresses, you know, they wanted various pieces of clothing that might have been worn….they were actually for display rather than for wearing, but it looked as if, you know, Wordsworth was still there etcetera……and…..yes, then research, obviously……sometimes I’m researching different techniques; I made some costumes for Shibden Hall in Halifax and what the museum wanted for those was…….they wanted very detailed costumes that children could try on, but they were trying them on as part of the…..almost like a performance that they put on and…..what it was was the museum actually….had like a little play that they told the children about the people that had actually lived in the house through the generations because it’s a very old house, so obviously there were different generations, and then they……had various pieces of clothing that they asked someone, one of the children, to come and try on, and then……you know, asked the children what they thought about the clothing; how it was different to the clothing that people wear nowadays and how they felt and whether they would have liked to have worn that type of clothing, you know, etcetera, so for that I did quite a lot of research into different types of fabrics because obviously, you know, in times past the fabrics would have been different, and I also generally have to research obviously local fabrics to the area……and….the…..as these costumes were Tudor costumes I also kind of researched how…..because it had a kind of hooped…..underskirt, so I actually got reeds, well reeds to use in the…..it had a corset and I used reeds for the boning in the corset, and I used willow….because I researched and discovered that apparently obviously they’d use anything that they could do locally, and so one area of the country wouldn’t necessarily use what another area of the country would use for a similar garment, so I used willow because there seem to be a lot of willow trees in the area, for the…..for the farthingale, so….yeah, so those are quite complicated costumes but then I also make kind of much simpler costumes, say you know, there’s a lot of costumes that might be like a…..mill worker’s costume so….and if all the children in the group are gonna try on costumes, then I’d make like twenty smocks and mop caps for the little girls, and waistcoats and caps for the boys etcetera, and mufflers so

    TW: So you did do different time periods, so you did Tudor stuff and

    NW: Oh yeah, oh from……from…..I think probably the oldest…..Roman; I’ve made Roman costumes for the City of London Museum and for Manchester Museum up to 1970’s and 80’s I think [laughing]…..made hippie costumes for Rochdale

    [laughing]

    Oh and no actually, Marks and Spencer’s, last year I made some for their new archives in Leeds; they were even later; 1980’s

    TW: So you reproduce some Marks and Spencer’s from

    NW: Yes, yes

    TW: From a few decades ago really

    NW: Yeah, yeah, which was a different type of challenge because it’s quite difficult to make something that would have been mass produced in the first place [laughing]

    TW: That’s amazing that

    [laughing]

    NW: But it’s now vintage! [laughing]

    TW: So when you had your business, your hire business in……Halifax and then…….did you just go out and buy a load of costumes or did you make things?

    NW: Well again a mixture really; I didn’t get to make as many as I would have like to and in fact that’s one of the reasons why I gave up in the end, because I was obviously always running the business rather than making anything……but we bought the……. Berman’s’s and Nathan’s in London, closed down, not Berman’s and Nathan’s, sorry, ……a costumier in London, closed down, and we went and bought some of….they had various sales obviously over the…..months that they were closing down, and we…but we were lucky enough to buy some of the costumes and then we actually finally cleared the last……..costumes that they had, so that was part of our stock…..we also bought a whole batch of costumes from an old private school that had a drama department down south that was selling up the costumes that they had – all sorts of amazing costumes – quite a lot of which were actually original…….oriental costumes and so on that they’d been donated over the generations basically……some of the costumes, because obviously I mean an awful lot of it was used for fancy dress rather than theatre costume, and were things that I adapted so I would buy dresses that looked a bit like 1920’s dresses and then made them into…..you know, added trimmings and things like that…..put them together, and some of them were made, and so…..yes, just basically wherever I went I was looking out for anything that might be usable, and I made…..what I did make, I made an awful lot of gorilla costumes and panda outfits and pantomime horses and things like that!

    [laughing]

    TW: You said you did some work for television…..I was just thinking that if you made costumes for TV, because of the camera being so close up, you know, if you’re in a theatre you’re some yards away from the people on the stage and you don’t get to see the detail, but on film it would be very close up. Did you….was that a problem? Did you have to kind of like be especially careful with things you made for television?

    NW: ……..well I remember one tale the other way round I’m afraid…..from….because it’s a special technique really to make for theatre, and you have to be aware of the fact that it’s……not worth doing something in huge detail because you’re not going to see that, but you also have to be aware of the fact that you’ve got to basically make everything bigger and more amazing you know, so that you can see it on stage, and there was a lady at Glyndebourne who had done some beautiful embroidery, absolutely beautiful embroidery on a costume, but then the Director said ‘oh but we can’t see it’ when it was the dress rehearsal, so someone there actually went round it with a pen and [laughing] which must have been the most awful thing possible for the poor lady that had done it, and wasn’t in Glyndebourne’s normal standard of doing things, but……yes I suppose you know, things obviously are made in a different way and certainly…….yes you can kind of look at things and think ‘well okay that wouldn’t show up on stage but that would work close up in a film’ but……I suppose basically the….the costume that I was making at Yorkshire Television was more, you know, kind of modern and not period costume whereas the costume I was making at Glyndebourne was on the whole period and the costume that I was making for The Globe was on the whole contemporary…

    TW: Did you ever work with Freda? Do you know Freda Kelsall?

    NW: No I didn’t…..I do know her [laughing] and I do know all the people that did work for them but…..I know Bill Cawton who worked as a designer…..but no

    TW: No I just thought there might be a link there.

    NW: Yeah, no, no.

    TW: Okay…….now you’re doing the wedding dress sort of aspect of things and it’s fairly new, it’s just a few years going I think it sounds like….can you see that carrying on or have you got another little

    NW: Project [laughing]

    TW: Something in the background?

    NW: No I hope that will carry on……I mean it’s got a lot of potential design wise which is good because……you know I always intended to be as creative as I possibly could, and the only thing in the way with making museum costumes is you’re basically making a certain period of costumes, so you’ve got to more or less, you know, kind of stick to the

    TW: There’s a pattern and you have to do it

    NW: Yes, to the brief. I mean this costume over here actually in the corner was one that I made for my Open College of the Arts course, and that is the type of, you know, more creative thing that I enjoy making

    TW: That seems very oriental in inspiration

    NW: It kind of is but it’s actually the idea of it was that it was…..there’s an amazing painting of Queen Elizabeth the First with a beautiful dress, with lots of different exotic animals on it, and obviously the idea behind the costume for her was that it was showing the she……basically wanted to rule the world, and that all these exotic animals were animals that she knew about and because it was all part of the……..her Empire, and that dress is really a kind of modern day take on that, and it’s about the fragility of the world and the……how we need to look after all the different…….you know, kind of animals and it’s made with recycled fabrics on the whole, so…..so you know, it’s to do with the fact that we now need to….you know, protect our universe rather than exploit it [laughing]

    TW: A sort of environmental message within your creativity.

    NW: Yes, yeah, it’s got ‘costing the earth’ round the top of it and it’s……made with recycled plastics and the bodices are made with recycled plastic, and the sleeves are made with……sweet papers which was quite a nice recycled thing to use, and it can be worn and it has been worn but it is quite fragile, but I wanted that to be part of it because….

    TW: It’s part of the message, how fragile it is

    NW: Yes, yeah

    TW: Oh right, yes.

    NW: So…..so I enjoy doing that type of thing and you know, I would like to do more of that really, but

    TW: Well I was gonna ask you what….I mean you’ve done all sorts of work really. I was just gonna say what was your favourite thing that you did really?

    NW: ……..well everything has its own…….interest…..but I do like designing I suppose and putting things together, researching and designing and putting lots of ideas together to create something, and then experimenting with those really with……and obviously I like fabrics and textiles and……..different media, you know, using different media

    TW: So would you take it out of the…….I don’t know…..theatre, museum, wardrobe box and turn it into the art box?

    NW: Yes, yeah

    TW: So you’d like to go more in that direction?

    NW: Yeah, well I mean I…..you know, I have done…..as I say, because I……the Open College course as quite late on in life and that was as, you know, they say, it’s you know, ‘something you’ve always to do’ – that allowed me to…….think about textiles in a creative way which before that, I’d only ever obviously fulfilled the brief of whoever I was working for rather than just thinking about it…..for myself….. and….yes, you know, it would be nice obviously to have more freedom to do, you know, what I, you know, like to do but……I mean one of the…..one of the things that came up as a possibility was making a story-telling tent for….a group of people but at the time unfortunately I couldn’t do it because I was working elsewhere and it didn’t fit in with the timetable, but something like that where you could kind of use other people’s ideas but also put it together yourself and use your…..expertise, so yeah, anything that’s

    TW: There is….his name’s gone out of my head, a story-teller, he’s the actual story-teller Laureate of the country; he lives in Staveley up in the Lake District and his name’s just gone out of my head…….when he does his story-telling he has a big chair, it’s all carved, but he also has this coat which has…..animals and scenes and all sorts of things, and he will have about….you know, four or five stories about each of those images, so his coat isn’t…..it’s a remarkable coat of many colours but it’s also a coat of many stories, so this idea of turning it into story-telling as well could be quite fascinating I think.

    NW: Yeah, yeah…..yeah, yes I mean there are so many, and in fact my daughter’s kind of doing that with her….she’s kind of continuing the textile theme into her Performance Art because she…..her company is called The Little White Dress, a theatre company, but it’s…..and it’s kind of….instead of the little black dress it’s….because of it being white, you get marks all over it and it tells a tale and it’s [laughing]….and it’s wearing which is quite interesting, so yes, and there is…..there’s a lot of…….Fine Arts textile, you know, more arts based work going on, especially I suppose with females that are……..because of the heritage of women always…….you know, making clothes for their children or you know, for the family…….and then they do a Fine Arts course and then they’re interested in telling the tale of textiles, because there is a huge tale of textiles, a huge heritage. I do really like traditional dress too and the different you know, kind of……traditional costume from different countries, so at one point I thought it would be fantastic to have a kind of museum of different……traditional dress but…..but sadly in England there isn’t really a traditional dress because we became civilised I think far too quickly [laughing]……everybody wore what was the fashion of the day rather than their traditional dress.

    TW: It’s a funny way of thinking cos……I mean various countries have like traditional dress, and it’s proudly shown off as such, but quite often it’s a period frozen in time that we’ve picked it and said that’s it, in a way, and I mean what the English haven’t done is that they haven’t done that

    NW: No, no

    TW: I mean the Welsh have and the Scottish

    NW: Yes the Scottish have, although you know, it didn’t really, as you say it was….well, in Wales it was reincarnated apparently….you know, in Victorian times which it often is, and of course…….to the benefit of the tourist industry now [laughing], which I mean it was then wasn’t it

    TW: I think it probably was really yeah

    NW: But I think it’s gone a bit too far……towards…..well, the Industrial Revolution, although of course it’s very much part of this area and of course another reason why I came to this area was that I was fascinated with the whole textile industry when I learnt about it at school because I did history at school, so I learnt about the mills and…..everything and then came up here and went ‘oh!’ [laughing] ‘here they are!’….it’s all still happening here

    TW: Yes, yes

    NW: And because I live in the area of course I do try and source local fabrics and so you know, the woollen industry and the cotton industry etcetera.

    TW: Is there a young textile industry? I mean not just the old mills that most have closed down now, but is there a newer version of creative people doing textiles in this area now?

    NW: ……….

    TW: I don’t know

    NW: Yeah

    TW: I thought you might because

    NW: Well…..no, I mean I think one of the sad things in a way is that people as a whole don’t make their own clothes…..because…..you know you can buy things so cheaply now, so you know, I mean the…..the fashion obviously is to adapt and change and….customise - that’s the word – customise clothes isn’t it? But…….whether there’s any more of that going on; there’s certainly a vintage…….theme running through everybody’s lives now, and that’s obviously sourcing old clothes and reusing them etcetera…….but I don’t know that there’s any more of that, I mean obviously Hebden Bridge is very creative so there’s more going on there from the creative point of view than there is in other parts of the country, but I don’t know whether there is any more going on in the north than the south nowadays, and in fact it’s probably no easier to find fabrics…….around here on the whole although I do have, you know, some sources…..but……than it would be in any other part of the country now, sadly, because as I say most of the mills have gone, although there is Denholme Velvets and Whaleys Fabrics and……..I go to Bombay Stores in Bradford which is brilliant…… and…..so I have different sources for different types of fabrics.

    TW: Right…..I suppose really I’m gonna ask you, is there anything that I haven’t asked about that you would perhaps like to talk about or mention?

    NW: …….no we’ve probably covered most things [laughing]….I can’t really think of anything

    TW: Right, okay, well in that case, cos it’s getting very near…..near to an hour now….I’ll just say thank you very much for letting me talk to you

    NW: Okay, that’s alright.

    TW: and we’ll stop.

    NW: I hope it’s useful [laughing]

    TW: Well it’s…..it’s…..you’re the first real person I’ve talked to about textiles in this area

    NW: Oh right

    TW: and I mean I’ve talked to people who have worked in the mills who did cutting or did sewing or did weaving, and it was very much factory orientated

    NW: Yeah….yeah

    TW: and it was also quite a long time ago

    NW: Yeah….yeah

    TW: but there is that side of it, but somebody who…..like yourself who’s been creative and in lots of different….

    NW: Yeah, areas, yeah….yeah so I suppose……as I say you know, what has happened was that I, you know, I was interested in the connection with the north, and I happened to come up here……..because of a costumier which wasn’t a traditional as such mill, but it did have traditional elements to it because we had to clock in and out and it was very much run as a factory……..and so I did, you know, and a lot of the women that worked there; it was mainly women although there was a male pattern cutter……were people that probably would have otherwise worked in a traditional mill……but….so I had that experience but I also kind of came up through….as I say my family heritage of….being, you know, kind of involved in tailoring etcetera……and people go where the work is, which is [laughing] which is what happened to my family because in fact I’ve recently, I mean I suppose in a way that’s quite interesting; I’ve recently been researching my family history, part of which was from Wales, and I’ve discovered that they were woollen manufacturers in Wales [laughing], which I never knew, you know, as a young…..girl, and so there’s a total link actually to….and in fact, from Wales in Llangollen and……some of the people in this area literally went to Llangollen to try and keep the woollen mills going in the era when my relatives were there, so it kind of….what goes around comes around .

    [laughing]

    They went from…..from Llangollen to Oxford…..when of course the woollen trade wasn’t, you know, kind of doing very well in the area that they had lived, and then my grandfather was born in Oxford and as I say he eventually went to London and then to Worthing, in the tailoring trade, and then I came up here, so [laughing]

    TW: It’s almost full circle

    NW: Yes, yeah

    TW: That’s really interesting.

    NW: Yeah, yeah, but I know….you know, it’s interesting history and the interesting tailoring that’s combined I suppose in this creative….

    TW: Right then………

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Joe O\'Reilly

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 28th of November 2012 and I’m talking to Joe O’Reilly. So can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    JOE O’REILLY: Okay Tony, right, my name is Joseph O’Reilly; I was born in 1957 in the village Slaithwaite in the outskirts of Huddersfield.

    TW: Right. What was it like over there at that time?

    JO: I think it would have been pretty similar to how Hebden Bridge would have been at the same sort of time; it was a small hamlet where I was born…..on the hillside…..a very small population, quite rural, and most of the industry and activities were in the bottoms of the valleys, very similar to Hebden Bridge; mainly textiles…..that was how the place sort of functioned.

    TW: Did you live on the bottoms or on the tops?

    JO: On the tops, that’s where I was born…..and then later on my parents……found it pretty hard going living on the outskirts and moved down into the bottom of the valley, so we were closer to facilities, schools……public transport, those sort of things.

    TW: Were they farmers then?

    JO: No, no, my parents were from Southern Ireland and they came to Britain Second World War time…..and I think when they first moved to England they’d lived in……quite urban places and found it quite…..quite stressful in some ways, and so the opportunity came to live in this……village, and it kind of fitted their requirements at the time. It was inexpensive to live there, and…….yeah, I think that’s how it came about.

    TW: Right……..the way you pronounce it, don’t they call it Slouwaite?

    JO: Yeah, some people call it Slouwaite, or Slaithwaite….it’s interchangeable really, interchangeable.

    TW: Right, okay……..so how long did you live there for?

    JO: I was…..I probably lived there until I was about eighteen years old…….so I’d been to school, I’d been at school, I’d done O Levels and A Levels, and I went to a local art college to do a Foundation course which was a one year course preparing you to do a degree……and I did that locally at a college in Batley; Batley and Dewsbury Art College as it was known at the time, so I did a one year Foundation course there Tony, and then I did a three year Fine Art degree in Sheffield, at Sheffield Polytechnic as it was called at the time……so that took me up to 1980 when I graduated.

    TW: Right. Did you go on after that to study anywhere else?

    JO: No, I…..I did make attempts to do Post Graduate work but it was quite complicated at the time, to get finance for it, and…….and there were very few colleges actually that did…….Post Graduate work in Fine Art, so I……carried on painting as soon as I left college, and…….I moved away from Sheffield and lived in a place called Holmfirth, again on the outskirts of Huddersfield, so I lived there from 1980 to about ’82…….at which time I’d graduated and I’d got a body of work which I started to exhibit, so I started to exhibit in local colleges…….the local…..the local art gallery, and so I showed in places like Huddersfield Art Gallery, I had a show at the Piece Hall in Halifax and that would have been around about ‘81ish, ’82…….so I was quite active showing my work.

    TW: Right……so did you make a living out of selling it then, or how did you get by?

    JO: No it took…..I was living on the dole; I was living on income support so I was doing that for about six or seven years; I did pick up a tiny bit of…….teaching at art colleges, just on a very…….casual basis, so I did a little bit of that, but basically I was just living on…..on income support basically, but I was very active; I kind of thought of it as like ‘well, this is the same as having a grant really, so it allows you to spend all your time pursuing one thing’ so that’s what I did Tony.

    TW: Yeah

    JO: And I did have, you know, quite a bit of……..you know, positive responses to my work so that was encouraging…….so I was showing work, like I said, at….regional art galleries and museums; a number of those institutions bought work for their collections which was a great boost…….it’s kind of like….it’s great to have some money but it’s also the validation that your work’s taken seriously by art professionals and put into context….so that was…..you know, so that was really encouraging…….I did have……I was given some money by a local……Chamber of Commerce in Huddersfield to go to Amsterdam to have a look at the paintings because I was interested in seventeenth century Dutch painters – Vermeer, Dou - people like that, so I was given a small amount of money to go there and…..just visit the galleries, which was…..great. While I was there I was introduced to….a curator at the…..Amsterdam University…..who was very nice and introduced me to various dealings with people in Amsterdam, took me to some of the exhibitions, and then on my return to Britain…..kept in touch and he invited me to show in the British Council Exhibition which they were having, which was probably a couple of months after the actual visit that I’d made, so that was really encouraging and that was with David Hockney, and that was kind of interesting because…..what I realised was people who are really well known in Britain are not well known in other countries, and you’re actually treated as the same…..sort of calibre, so that……that was really encouraging for a young artist

    TW: So you were like the same level as Hockney?

    JO: Yeah, because people would say ‘now who is this David Hockney?’ [foreign accent] because they hadn’t read all the publicity or the books and everything, which were all in English and primarily aimed at Britain and the American…….audience I suppose, so those were really encouraging to do that, and a piece of work was bought and that kind of…..covered my initial costs of travelling and doing things like that, so that was a great sort of……really encouraging experience.

    TW: Yeah. Do you think if you hadn’t have got that sort of encouragement, you would have carried on painting anyway?

    JO: Oh sure yeah, yeah, I was determined to carry on.

    TW: Right.

    JO: Yeah, yeah, whatever…..and….and during my last sort of years at art college, just prior to graduation, my work had been……exhibited quite a bit in……new artist, new graduate exhibitions and there was a big exhibition at the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts in…..Norwich, and my work was put in a mixed exhibition there about British art, and new artists, and also at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester; Northern Young Contemporaries it was called at the time, which was again showcasing young artists who were graduating from the regions.

    TW: I find that……..so you’re talking in the ‘80s then really

    JO: Yeah this is kind of like……the graduate….the art college sort of thing were kind of like 1979……to ’80…..graduated in 1980 and then started having shows in like Huddersfield Art Gallery; that would have been about 1981ish, and then the Piece Hall, and I also showed in the Mappin Art Gallery in Sheffield……and places like that.

    TW: Yeah. It was a kind of….I mean if you were interested in……Vermeer and Dutch artists

    JO: Yeah

    TW: It was a little bit out of the ordinary back then wasn’t it?

    JO: Yeah it was very fashionable for a young…..artist to be interested in a figurative work, an historical work……so yeah, that was a bit out of kilter with things…..on that sort of front, but….

    TW: But it doesn’t seem to have hindered your progress by getting these……I mean the British Council and the Chamber of Commerce and these bigger galleries

    JO: Yeah…..yeah, people seem to respond to the work which was, you know, great…..

    TW: Yeah

    JO: you know, without any…..

    TW: So did you always have this interest then in……in Dutch paintings shall we say, or did you graduate to that?

    JO: I think I only really became aware of that probably when I was about sixteenish, that sort of age, seventeen when I started reading a little bit more about the history of art and….discovering a little bit more, but I’d always been quite a precocious child and been very visually…..hungry for things.

    TW: Right. So why was it…..I mean….cos you do Still Lives don’t you?

    JO: Yeah…..yeah

    TW: Why did you not…..like there’s a Spanish school of Still Life

    JO: Yeah….yeah

    TW: Why did you just…..pick the Dutch over the Spanish for example?

    JO: ….it’s hard to say really, I mean…..I was very unaware of Spanish painting; only Cotan and….like Velazquez and Goya, those sort of painters, so I hadn’t really much depth of knowledge about Spanish painting…..and I think that you know, I’ve got sort of an impulse towards the domestic as opposed to……..I don’t want to be too sweeping about this, but I…..quite a lot of Spanish paintings seem to be based around religious subject matter and using the…..Still Life painting as a metaphor for theological…….arguments and……I’m just as naturally drawn towards the more….prosaic world that was…..you know, that was…..the subject matter of Dutch painting.

    TW: Vermeer had lots of…..people in his paintings…….so did you not…..were you not drawn to that side of it as well?

    JO: Yeah…..yeah I enjoyed that aspect of it and I think some of my earlier work really was……you know, just graduated….and did use the figure more and……and I did have a period when I was….I did…..a Fellowship which was organised by….by the Arts Council through Yorkshire Arts, and that would have been about ’83…..’84……..and for that I was given a placement for two months to work at a department store

    TW: Oh yes

    JO: which was kind of interesting, so the brief was you were given this period of time…..at various locations, and produce some work about that experience, which would be then exhibited and toured…..and I worked that way…..so while I was working at this store, it was a John Lewis store in…..in the centre of Sheffield, the city centre, and I spent two months painting and drawing people so it was all about the figure, in the environment, so I…..I kind of enjoyed that; I enjoyed doing that, and it wasn’t something which was, for me, but it was something that I wanted to explore a bit more.

    TW: Right.

    JO: I also at that time was doing a little bit of teaching at art college which was mainly life drawing, objective drawing and painting, so….I was kind of like in a way interested in depicting the human form.

    TW: Yeah……so……I have a few questions really. One is……did that lead on to you painting other…..you know, sort of larger pictures shall we say…..the human form and… yeah, let’s stay with that one…

    JO: Yeah……yeah, no it worked the other way actually Tony; I made more and more smaller paintings, quite intimate paintings, and…..paintings of…….the objects that I lived with that I felt some sort of resonance with, so they could be objects that I’d had for a long time, or I’d got some sort of…….personal association with them, so things like painting shoes, pieces of clothing, which….the kind of the imprint of your body in them; I was kind of interested in…….in you know……in depicting……not the human form but the presence of people; it’s very difficult to explain but….it kind of….it made sense actually for me to work that way, and I was going on instinct rather than……you know, an intellectual straight line.

    TW: Right, so there was…..I mean when you talked about Spanish being, you know, metaphor paintings…..did you not try to include that into your own kind of work, that idea of having metaphors

    JO: Yeah, I kind of let it happen in a more…..natural sort of way, so…..to be honest I wouldn’t be too clear about what the subjects were that I was painting, you know…..I might be painting a piece of clothing and not really……..set out to make a painting about…….the frailty of the human body or something like that, and that would come perhaps with the making of the painting and……analysing it afterwards, so my sort of approach is to….be quite instinctive about the subject and…..approach to making a painting, and make sense of it afterwards, and when I’ve looked at a lot of my work over a period of maybe twenty-five, thirty years, I can see really consistent things which run through it.

    TW: And what are they?

    JO: Yeah, things about light……..certain formal things about composition…….and….I think a kind of……..using objects as metaphors for……the…..human presence in some way……in some way….but you know, I wouldn’t pin it down to….too much; hopefully people can make sense and bring their own associations to the paintings that I make, so…..they’re not titled in a very descriptive way.

    TW: So do you use…..like The Golden Mean as part of your composition or devices?

    JO: Yeah that happens but…..but again through an instinctive feel for things……if I have…….harmony and balance, and equilibrium, those sort of emotional…..weights, and if you go for those things you find that those formulae things do happen.

    TW: Right

    JO: That’s what I’ve discovered anyway through looking at my own work and talking to people, kind of things……

    TW: So you weren’t really inspired by the landscape then at all?

    JO: I do like landscape and….I love looking at other people’s paintings of landscape, but it hasn’t become a……a central part of my work, but I wouldn’t say it will not become part of my work in the future

    TW: Right

    JO: and I don’t want to close myself down to anything

    [laughing]

    TW: Well I’ve noticed that you have……like a great collection of……..like ceramic objects

    JO: Yeah that’s right

    TW: and also……patterned surfaces like cloths and carpets and things like that…so have you….do you collect those because……because of what they are for themselves or are they specifically for the type of work that you do?

    JO: I bit of both I think really Tony. I’m naturally…..sort of drawn to…….surface patterns and textures…….and through living with those things…….becoming familiar with them, they present themselves as subjects, so sometimes I might have an object for quite a long time before I actually get round to making a painting with it……but the other side of all that is I might be out and I’ll just buy something spontaneously that just happens to be…..say the fruit and veg shop, I go in and there’s a beautiful plant, or some flowers which are really appealing, and I’ll just buy them for pleasure of it, or with the thought of….a component in something.

    TW: Cos you do paint a lot of flowers don’t you?

    JO: I do, I do

    TW: Do you grow them as well then?

    JO: Not very successfully [laughing] some things survive and some things don’t….yeah.

    TW: Well when you decide to pick a particular piece of ceramic…..a certain group of flowers, and then put it on a table or a chair of what have you, how do you go about putting those few objects together then…..is that just a spontaneous thing as well?

    JO: I think it is really; I think it is really, yeah…..yeah…..it takes some time to do it; I do……consciously look at the object and look at the light and shadow from the way these…..components come together, and produce a two-dimensional composition or design…….it varies, I mean my approach can be…..to have these objects and arrange them spontaneously, and sometimes I might have made some sketches without having the objects in front of me, so almost like rather clumsy doodles, but they’ll give me an idea about….marrying objects together.

    TW: ……right……well I’d like to talk about scale then, because…….the work that I’ve seen of yours is quite small scale really

    JO: That’s right, yeah….that’s right, yeah

    TW: and I mean it’s incredibly detailed your work, so is it the small scale because if you had to do that much detail in a larger one it would take forever, or is it just because you…..you just like that sort of small size? What is it about, that scale?

    JO: Yeah I think it’s…..something about the physicality of…..of scale….you know, an object which you can actually hold in your hands, and examine really closely. What I discovered, you know, when I was quite young and I was looking at paintings in galleries and museums, when I went to big museums and I was looking at paintings that were bigger than my body, I moved away from them…..to get into a field of vision; when I was looking at a manuscript, or……a small medieval painting, I was drawn really very very close to the…..to the object…..and as you get closer and closer to an object, you become more aware of the surface and the pattern of the brush marks and textures, and your world becomes……somehow infused with that object, through the physical intimacy of it…..and I thought ‘well this is kind of interesting this; this human impulse to do this’….it’s not a very modern…or a twentieth century sensibility…..but the objects that I was interested in were quite timeless objects….and paintings, you know, so I was getting more interested in early Netherlandish paintings and the paintings of Van Eych and……….yeah, that….that sort of period in painting…..so it’s a combination of things I think Tony, yeah…..but very much about the physicality of things.

    TW: I wondered if you….is it Morandi?

    JO: Yeah

    TW: Are you interested in his work because he has

    JO: I do like some

    TW: cos he has all white paintings, with just subtle variations in…..gradations of pale grey

    JO: Yeah…..yeah

    TW: and you have……there’s a quality of that in some of your work. I just wondered whether he was an influence.

    JO: Yeah, I think he would have been……mixed up with lots of other things, but I’ve never consciously tried to….follow that direct path, but yeah I do like that sort of paired down……and quite restricted pallet in that there’s not a great flourish of lots of flashy colours but…again quite sort of muted and……quiet paintings which still you down and make you quite centred.

    TW: Sometimes you have a white cloth over a table

    JO: Yeah that’s right

    TW: with a….like a white bowl on it, then you have a background of this multi-coloured pattern…..kind of like hanging behind it and the contrast of that is quite remarkable really. Is again that something that has just….you instinctively do, or is there a kind of…..a plan of why you contrast those two sort of opposite things?

    JO: Yeah, I think it’s a lack of a formal thing, of enjoying contrasts and having a……like you say, quite a sort of patterned or busy…..background against something which is very refined and……very…pure in a way, and I enjoy those sort of contrasts, but it’s something which is…….being in the work and getting more refined and developed over a couple of decades really, over the last twenty-five, thirty years I suppose, so elements remain……through my work over a long period of time; hopefully they get mutated and………develop their own sort of life, hopefully.

    TW: Right……you talked about being at Holmfirth in the like early ‘80s

    JO: Yeah yeah

    TW: ………how long did you……did you move…..when did you move out of that?

    JO: I moved…..well I lived there for….in Holmfirth for about…..maybe two years or so, and….it was kind of quite primitive, but it was an interesting place to live at the time, but the actual……place I was living in, the actual house, was quite sort of primitive in that it didn’t have a bathroom or any internal sanitation, which is okay, but I had the opportunity then of moving to somewhere a little bit more salubrious….indoor plumbing, things like that, so you know, I got…..I went along with it

    TW: Yeah [laughing]

    JO: And that……that came about…..you know, through personal contacts and things, so….after living at Holmfirth I moved again to the Colne Valley, through necessity and opportunity, so I managed to find somewhere again where I could carry on working and…..and living.

    TW: How did you come to move to Hebden Bridge then?

    JO: Okay right, well I moved to Hebden Bridge in about…I think it would be 1994…..so up to that point I’d been living around…..the other side of West Yorkshire, and I was starting to feel like….. ‘yeah I’d like to live somewhere….different’….interesting bit about living in Huddersfield and Holmfirth was……it was culturally such a backwater and such a dull place, there was no distraction from painting; there was nothing more interesting…..which was great, because that’s all I wanted to do, but after a…you know, a while, I started thinking ‘actually I’d rather live somewhere where it’s a bit more switched on and turned on, and part of…..part of…..the general community……and….like many people I came to Hebden Bridge for a day out, to visit Hardcastle Crags….and started coming to The Trades Club to see music……and….I kind of liked the cultural…..buzz of the place really, and I’d met one or two people who I had contacts with here who were artists, but….so all these things were sort of coming into play…..and….ready to move somewhere, and as an artist, the kind of artist I am, I can live basically anywhere really; I don’t require a lot of…………material, or a lot of…….particular….I can live anywhere and basically get on with painting; then the more I thought about Hebden Bridge, the more it stacked up in favour, in that…..a beautiful environment……..and a really interesting cultural mix of people…….so a year on I decided to move here; it took a little while to get it together, so…….you know, a couple of months or so.

    TW: Right. Was that partly because you were more financially independent?

    JO: Yeah, sure. By that time I’d already…….I’d bought a house and had lived in it for six years, and renovated it……so that enabled me to sell that property and buy a property in Hebden Bridge……and the…..the economics of it were pretty much the same really; there wasn’t a great disparity between….property prices in Hebden Bridge as opposed to any other part of West Yorkshire basically, at that time; that was in….

    TW: In the nineties

    JO: In the nineties, yeah…..yeah, so that enabled me to buy this property where I live now, and…….carry on with my work.

    TW: Right. So have you….enjoyed being here then?

    JO: Yeah sure; yeah I wouldn’t stay anywhere if it wasn’t fulfilling, so…..yeah, and it’s continued to be an interesting place. What I’ve discovered Tony is…..that it has an interesting throughput of people…….you know, it isn’t a stagnant place; there always seems to be…..people moving into the area, people moving out…..so it’s got an interesting dynamic to it….but, you know, it still seems to attract people who are interested in creativity

    TW: Yeah

    JO: which I still find really fantastic; you know, I’ll go to the Post Office or the Co-op or…..and have interesting conversations about art and culture and what’s going on in the world and……other people’s creativity; people who make films or photographers or writers, and that’s just part of the daily…..interaction that we have here…..it’s actually quite unique really.

    TW: Yeah, so……are you part of any kind of artist groups or is this just through individual people that you meet?

    JO: Yeah….yeah just people I meet, and there are quite a number of….organised groups of people based around studio spaces….exhibition groups, but I’m not actually part of anything formally like that, but there’s a feeling of solidarity I think…..or I feel that anyway.

    TW: Yeah…so you’ve been here getting on twenty years then

    JO: Yeah

    TW: And have you….noticed changes happening over that period? Not just physical changes, but also……kind of creative attitudes shall we say.

    JO: …..it’s hard to pin down exactly…..like I said, there always seemed to be a lot of people doing creative work; I think what I’ve noticed over the last…perhaps fifteen years or so is……that people’s ability to…..work together and organise themselves into proactive groups…..i.e. opening community studios, and there’ve been a number of those which have opened over the years, and they’ve been self-sustaining……which again is really encouraging, so it’s not as if there’s a certain quota of creative people and once they have been satisfied that’s it; I think there’s….you know, it’s continually evolving.

    TW: Right.

    JO: I don’t know how the economics that we’re living through at the moment are gonna affect that, because you know, in past times there’ve been lots of unloved, unwanted industrial buildings…..but over the last fifteen years those buildings have now become desirable…..in brackets – executive flats, houses – sort of thing which is great, but it kind of redirects people to….perhaps find workspace or studios out of the centre of Hebden Bridge, and colonising areas of Todmorden and Walsden, which probably have got a similar sort of feel to them, as Hebden might have had thirty years ago.

    TW: Right….right…..that’s an interesting one actually.

    JO: Yeah, I think…..I think….that’s my sort of feeling, yeah, that there’s still opportunities for people to come in and have creative lives without having a lot of financial backing…..

    TW: Well do you think that’s……more younger artists or people who are unestablished as it were?

    JO: I think it’s both really Tony; I think it’s….yeah, people who are young, people who might have left college or……just embarking creatively….people who might have worked in conventional jobs – those jobs have come to an end or they’ve retired – and it’s enable people to have more time to pursue those sort of…..those sort of activities, so it’s a combination of….of people involved in creativity - it’s not just the youngsters - there’s all sorts of people, and the calibre of work is really interesting…..what people do.

    TW: You…….I mean you obviously exhibit a fair amount….now. How does that work for you? Where do you exhibit then?

    JO: Okay right, I basically just work with one gallery called The Portal Gallery…….who are based in London. I’ve shown with them for about ten years……..so they’ve shown my work in mixed exhibitions with other artists…….[dealing with equipment]……

    TW: You were talking about The Portal Gallery.

    JO: Yeah, that’s the gallery showing my work at the moment, so they’re very involved in……showing at mainly the London Art Fairs, which are…..they’re kind of like trade fairs for the Art world; they tend to be short….short-lived things, perhaps four or five days, whereby……perhaps forty, fifty galleries will show their work together in one space, and so it’s great for clients in that if you’re interested in painting or interested in contemporary art, you go to an event like that and you see a whole range of work, and it’s great for the galleries and the artists because they all have conversations with….with each other, alliances are made, works talked about, sometimes bought, sold between dealers, and…..so that’s quite an important part of the London Art scene at the moment.

    TW: Right.

    JO: Those have been….those sort of Art Fairs have probably been going since the late 1980’s but have developed a lot…..have become a lot more developed over the last number of years. There are a number of Art Fairs in other parts of Britain, but not as successful as the London ones, but the Glasgow and Edinburgh Art Fairs are still quite important. For some reason the ones in Manchester and the midlands have not really taken off as well, for whatever reason I don’t know.

    TW: So do you…..do you exhibit with…..on your own or with anybody else, or are you kind of exclusive to that gallery?

    JO: I….I’m not exclusive to that gallery, but I don’t produce a great deal of work; I’m quite a slow worker, so I don’t have the pressing need to……to….show…..to look for opportunities to show lots of work because….you know, I only produce a small number of pieces of work throughout the year. Each piece of work can take a number of weeks or months to work on and I work on just one piece at a time, so…..yeah, that’s just the nature of what I do, that way of working.

    TW: So there’s no pressure on you from this gallery to……do any other kind of work?

    JO: I’m quite resistant….to pressure, and they’re happy to go along with that.

    TW: Right, okay……..you were showing me some work upstairs which was…..there are finished paintings and then the one that you’re actually working on now

    JO: That’s right, yeah.

    TW: and what I noticed was that on the one you’re working on now, you’re actually painting the…..the actual still life, the flowers and vase and what have you

    JO: Yeah

    TW: first and then like the background like comes later; I don’t know if you do that every time; I’m curious about how you actually go about it.

    JO: Yeah, yeah….I think that kind of comes about through the nature of using……living objects…..and so the flowers that I’m painting are continually changing and…….in front of my eyes, so there’s a sense of urgency to try and capture that….you know, so I do want the objects to have a sense of life and dynamism about them, so……I will make some small, very quickly made sketches using water colours, which I do very very rapidly, and it makes me simplify the…..complex objects in front of me, because I have to get it down really quickly, and use a……a material which stops me getting too…….hung upon detail on the surface, so I enjoy…..find it useful to have very rapidly make sketches…..with me while I’m working on a more…..what I feel of a more resolved painting, which…..you know, the painters which make use of panels and things, so I enjoy and find it necessary to have these sketches and……of an object, of things around it while I’m making a final painting.

    TW: Right. So did you use…..I know you paint in acrylics now. Did you used to paint in oils or have you always painted in acrylic?

    JO: No, I started using oil paints probably when I was about eleven or twelve, and then….I don’t think I’d started using acrylic paints until I was perhaps about seventeen….sixteen or seventeen, and I think we were encouraged to use acrylic paints for one of the projects I was doing on the Foundation course, and it fitted in with the……you know, the regime of working in an art college situation, in that acrylic paints dry very very quickly, so you can complete things within…..you know, a short session of time.

    TW: Yeah. Like traditionally, with water colour it’s always light to dark and with oils it’s…in theory dark to light isn’t it

    JO: Yes can do yes

    TW: whereas with acrylic you can do both really can’t you?

    JO: That’s right and that’s what I enjoy, Tony…

    TW: It’s kind of more adaptable in that…..in that way

    JO: It is, yeah, so it’s got lots of affinities with water colours in that you can use it very very lightly, very sketchily, and use…….the transparency of the paint itself to allow….to create feelings of….of light and tonal contrasts.

    TW: Yeah…..yeah…..right…….do you just go out…..like sketching with a pencil?

    JO: A little bit……..I’ve got a camera as well which I like using; I’ve got a little digital camera.

    TW: Oh right

    JO: Not a very sophisticated one, but, you know, good enough to just capture things, so that’s…..that’s been really useful.

    TW: So is that for like flowers and……things like that?

    JO: Yeah, and for things where there’s a transit to the ……arrangement of shadows and light, which is very fleeting, and cameras are great for capturing something like that, or…..getting the essence of things.

    TW: Yeah, and do you use those when doing your paintings then?

    JO: I will do yeah, I mean…..especially for things like plants and flowers…..cos quite often, you know, I might be painting say…..a bouquet of flowers, which actually……opening and becoming their most…..you know, their most beautiful at different points during the painting, so……the actual final painting is……not exactly a true representation or a snapshot of the actual bouquet, but an accumulation of my experience of being with that….group of….of flowers and blooms. Over a length of time then I’ll construct this…..almost like a fantasy I suppose, but based on observation.

    TW: Right. That’s an interesting point

    JO: So it’s……it’s a combination, you know, of the real and me just going off on one [laughing] or drifting into whatever, but, you know, I wanna make paintings which have…….a feeling of…..solidity about them.

    TW: Have you ever tried tempera?

    JO: Yeah I did do a very very long time ago; that would have been in the late seventies when I was at art college, and it’s kind of interesting…….yeah, I enjoyed trying it but I enjoyed the…..the liberation of using the acrylic paints in that you can work so quickly with them, and…..and they’re very forgiving; you can kick ‘em about quite a bit [laughing]…..really…..really, so they’ve got a robustness to them which I…..which I enjoy as well, but also you know, an ability to be……..very precise and….very controlled, so I enjoy…..all those aspects Tony.

    TW: Yeah…….you were talking earlier about…..in your compositions, and having things balanced and looking for light and that sort of thing, and…..now you were just talking about effects of shadows and what have you

    JO: Yes

    TW: which makes me think of mood

    JO: That’s right

    TW: so is that a component you try to put into some of your pictures, this aspect of mood, sort of thing?

    JO: Yeah, but the……less you try the more successful you are I think.

    TW: Oh right

    JO: So it is an important thing but I don’t sit down and go ‘okay I’m gonna go for this emotional tone’, and let it sort of evolve and I have enough confidence in my sensibilities to just go along with that, and……hopefully make sense of the painting at the end when I think I’ve finished it, so it might end up looking a little bit gloomy or a little bit morose, but it might not have started out that way [laughing]

    TW: So it’s not like a film maker who would actually frame up a whole series of pictures or images that belong together to create a particular…..kind of atmospheric…..whether it’s scary or…..mysterious or what have you; yours just kind of develops as you carry on, sort of thing?

    JO: I think so, I think so, I think so, but, you know, it’s really hard to be objective about these things Tony.

    TW: Yeah

    JO: That’s what I think I’m doing….I could be doing something quite different [laughing] …. or it might appear quite different……

    TW: Are there any sort of……..new influences over the past say…..three or four, five years or something, rather than this Dutch side of things? Is there anything new that you’ve tried to introduce into your work?

    JO: ………

    TW: Or are you just trying to perfect or improve what you’ve been doing?

    JO: ………I suppose it’s….I suppose there is a degree of……of wanting to go a little bit further with each painting……and to, you know, make things a little bit more resolved or perhaps pursue one area that becomes…..you know, fascinating to me……I’m quite instinctive Tony about that……so

    TW: You won’t do a lot…..like a series of two or three pictures about a particular subject?

    JO: Well maybe more, maybe more. I mean in some of the objects that I’ve….subjects that I’ve used like say, a particular chair, I might have been painting that…..that particular chair for the last…..thirty-two years or so, yet each time I do it, it appears fresh to me

    TW: Right

    JO: and if it doesn’t appear fresh to me, I won’t do it.

    TW: Right

    JO: You know, if it isn’t exciting for me, so even though my subject matter might be terrible narrow, it’s thrilling to me.

    TW: Yeah……

    JO: And if it isn’t interesting or thrilling to me, I haven’t got the interest in it, and I don’t see why anybody else should be interested if I’m not interested, so you know, why make things that aren’t interesting to yourself? So that’s my kind of approach to things, you know, so it’s quite…..like I think instinctive……things which excite me.

    TW: Yeah……..is there something…..I don’t know…..say music or…..poems or things like that that you kind of…..also…..in a sublime sort of way, kind of influence how you go about things?

    JO: I think so, yeah, I mean I enjoy music and I do listen to music when I’m actually painting…….but it’s a kind of subliminal thing I think sometimes because I have music and I might play the same piece of music for…..six or seven hours…….so I’m not really listening to it I don’t think

    TW: Yeah

    JO: otherwise it would be a bit repetitive, but it…..it somehow……chews into the feeling I have at that time, you know…….

    TW: Right

    JO: so…….yeah I do enjoy music a lot; I do enjoy music.

    TW: Right……..I’m coming back to the idea of living in Hebden Bridge ….

    JO: Yeah……yeah

    TW: ……..I find it really interesting that you were saying that……like say twenty years ago or more, there was this little cluster of creative activities going on in Hebden and now that’s kind of like built and it’s spreading further down the valley in various directions

    JO: Yeah

    TW: …….it’s true I’m sure; I’m sure it’s true and I just…..I wonder, can you kind of like……work out why that is? Is it just this overflow of Hebden or is it something else do you think?

    JO: It’s economics I think Tony, it’s economics……in that….Hebden Bridge is a very attractive place to live, and it’s become, because of that, a lot more expensive, so…if you move just a few miles out of the centre of Hebden Bridge, you find that property prices are a lot less, and…..like I say there’s still a lot of empty industrial buildings which haven’t had anything done to them

    TW: Right…right

    JO: which you know…..are just begging to be used, and……..there isn’t the economic pressure that there is in the centre of Hebden because of the economics in other areas, and I just accept that as part of….okay yes, it’s got more gentrified; so what? Just find new areas and colonise those, and it seems to be something which…….artists do all over the place. Look at the way that cities get regenerated……..

    TW: Right

    JO: you know in Britain or in America or…..in Northern Europe anyway, you find that creative people live in economically cheap places, so they colonise those areas which are not very appealing to a lot of people and create a vibrant life there, and then that……attracts other things to it, so you know, maybe thirty years ago…….South London was like - don’t go there – you know, but you know, I’d lots of friends who lived in Brixton and had studios and things like that, and then you know, the general environment gets improved and….people will live there and open shops, open restaurants and live there, so I can see that as a way that artists and creative people colonise areas and regenerate them and bring life and vibrance into them.

    TW: So any predictions about what’s gonna happen to Hebden in the next ten years?

    JO: Well……it’s difficult to say but I…..I don’t see why it would change a great deal. I think people still gravitate towards this place who are interested in creativity…..and an alternative way of living, and it still offers those things.

    TW: Right

    JO: So yeah……. I’m not disillusioned with the place; I find it interesting to see how it’s developing.

    TW: Yes, that’s interesting, yeah.

    JO: Yeah……yeah……yeah….and it will be interesting to see how the outskirts develop; Todmorden and Mytholmroyd and Walsden and……you know, those sort of areas.

    TW: It’s…..well people do say that Holmfirth where you used to live is a kind of an equivalent to Hebden Bridge but…..that’s over in Kirklees side

    JO: It kind of took a different turn I think Tony.

    TW: I mean how did it, because I don’t really know it that well.

    JO: Okay, well right, well that was in 1980……from the late seventies to like the mid-eighties, again it was an abandoned…..post-industrial Pennine town, so there was lots of inexpensive housing……and…..that created lots of opportunities, so people moved there from different parts of the country because it was inexpensive to live there, and so there was a bit more of a vibrant sort of alternative community to it, and it was actually quite an interesting place at that time, so the actual town itself was on a similar scale to Hebden, perhaps a bit smaller, and it was full of book shops…..bric-a-brac shops……wholefood shops…..it was quite an interesting place. It became more……gentrified and one of the things which did happen which hasn’t happened here, yet, is it became featured in a television programme, so people all over the country who knew the place had never been there.

    TW: Right.

    JO: And……

    TW: Last of the Summer Wine

    JO: Yeah, which…..which had been filmed when I’d been there and I just ignored it basically, but it had an impact on the place, and….and brought, you know, quite a bit of wealth to it, but that kind of pushed out the…..the creative people and the……the more alternative side of things, so it’s an incredibly……well-heeled affluent part of West Yorkshire…….but not as interesting as living here, and not as interesting as it had been in the past. Somehow that sort of affluence elbowed out the……. the…..room for people to have inexpensive, creative lives.

    TW: Right……interesting!

    JO: Yeah, it’s just…..it kind of took a slightly different turn.

    TW: Right.

    JO: And maybe Hebden has actually got a bit more of an alternative identity going before a lot of other places actually. I think people have got switched on to living here perhaps in, you know, the 1970’s.

    TW: Yeah…..yeah…..right…..there’s just one question. Which part of Ireland were your family from?

    JO: Oh my parents…..they came from….well I suppose it was the outskirts of…..of Dublin…….the town of Celbridge which is on the River Liffey, south of Dublin.

    TW: Right.

    JO: So they moved to Britain in…..Second World War time….and that was quite a rural place at the time I think where they came from, and I…..I’m not sure but I think like the suburbs of Dublin were sort of growing out to that area and it’s become……less rural.

    TW: Well I’m just wondering whether there’s anything I haven’t asked you about that you might wanna talk about.

    JO: About Hebden?

    TW: Hebden, or your art.

    JO: ………no I think you’ve covered a lot of things actually; you’ve covered a lot of ground there Tony.

    TW: Yeah, okay, so we’ll call it a day on that one.

    JO: Yep that’s fine by me.

    TW: Okay well thank you very much.

    JO: That’s okay!

    TW: I’ll turn that off now

    JO: Okay Tony.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Mike Horne

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 20th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Mike Horne. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    MIKE HORNE: Right, full name Michael Horne, born in Keighley, in the hospital, first year brought up in Denholme, and then the rest of my childhood……Bradford.

    TW: Right. Bradford. And how long did you live in Bradford for?

    MH: ……seventeen years.

    T: Right. Presumably you went away to university when you left there?

    MH: No, no I just……I got out as fast as I could and I went on….a course where I came out as a qualified what was then called a subnormality nurse and a qualified teacher of special needs.

    TW: Right, okay.

    MH: The first year of which was working in a hospital and I did six months.

    TW: Why did you want to get out of Bradford?

    MH: To get away from home……and Bradford…..there was a world out there to have a look at; I only got as far as Southport to begin with, but it was still a bit more exciting than Bradford.

    TW: Okay. So after that…..you went to Southport

    MH: Yeah just outside, that’s where the hospital was.

    TW: Six months you say…….and then what happened after that?

    MH: Six months I realised how barbaric it all was; horribly barbaric and I refused to do some of the things I was asked to do in the end, so I thought ‘there’s no way I’m going to survive the whole course’ so then I left, went back to……went back home to my parents’ house for a month or two, then ended up working for MENCAP in North Wales…..and I stayed with MENCAP for two years.

    TW: So did you do a lot of that sort of work in your……through your twenties and thirties?

    MH: It was all that sort of work; it was all social work based……..right up till…..till 1981 when I went to university.

    TW: Right. And what did you study at university?

    MH: I studied Philosophy basically. It was called Disciplinary Human Studies… it was an American style and you majored in one of the main areas like Psychology or Sociology……what was the other…..English Literature I think and Philosophy, and I sort of majored in Philosophy, particularly Philosophy of Social Sciences.

    TW: Oh right, okay. And once you’d finished that degree, what did you do?

    MH: Then I went to do Post Graduate Research; that was at the University of East Anglia, and that was in Social Work Ethics…how they work in practice, or don’t work in practice as the case may be

    TW: Was your interest in that based on the fact that you’d done that first job that you didn’t really agree with?

    MH: Partly I think…..partly and……I needed to…….I wanted to stay in social work because that’s what I knew and I knew I could get a career there, and the family was growing by then and all that sort of thing, and I wanted to research and I’d been really interested in the philosophy of what I’d been doing; ways of thinking through things and what have you, and critiquing what’s going on in the world, and my experiences as a social worker told me that according to the Social Work Code of Ethics, the professional Code of Ethics, what’s written down doesn’t necessarily, if hardly at all, sometimes translate into practice and your relationship with the people that you’re working with, and I wanted to explore that, because nobody had done it before properly; there’d been a tiny little thin book on it but nobody had actually gone out to talk to social workers and asked, based on particular cases in depth, of why did you make this decision and that decision, and what was going on with regard to social work notions of respect for persons and clients’ self-determination, certainly from my own experience they’re sometimes nonsensical because you’re not just representing the client, you’re also representing the State, and the interests of both might not be running parallel; they might be in conflict, so that was what all that was about.

    TW: So the bits that were written down on paper presumably were these…..not just practice, you know, good practice notes, were they actual legislation and government policies that people were supposed to stick with?

    MH: I wouldn’t…..it never went quite as far as legislation, but it lacked a professional Code of Conduct. This was before the Social Care Council so I think it might be a little bit stronger now, although how you would put legislative teeth on it I’m not quite sure, otherwise….other than in cases of gross misconduct…….so it’s like all professions, all have to have some kind of Code of Ethics…..Code of Conduct

    TW: It seems like that Code of Ethics doesn’t bear any real relationship to the actual work itself……would that be overstating it?

    MH: It’s……maybe…..it really depends because if you work for the State as a social worker and most social workers…..well they still do even though we’ve had various parts privatised, most social workers work for the State and so you’re representing the State and that comes through with bits of legislation – mental health, child care legislation, child protection, that sort of thing……but you’re also representing the individual and you’re working with the individual, for example in a child abuse situation, child protection situation, so quite often you’re having to marry up two conflicting demands; the State demands the protection of our children, but in a sense the state of the culture that we live in also demands that people should have their privacy and rights respected, and you’re balancing the two all the time – with child protection, working with elderly people who may be deemed at risk – anybody who’s at risk really, and so it’s quite difficult to actually do that and still……..it’s quite difficult to do that and still maintain that you’re working by this….this ultimate Code of Conduct that you should respect the rights and the self-determination of the individual, because the individual exists within the context of society and you’re on both sides at the same time sometimes.

    TW: So where did that research take you? Did that take you down a different career path?

    MH: It did; I thought….well I had to get some money, I had to earn money and so I applied for other social work jobs; I applied for two jobs in Calderdale and told I was over qualified, because by now I’d done the Masters Research so I ended up on a one year contract at Bradford College teaching Social Work, and then that led on to another contract at Huddersfield Poly, as then was, then that led on to working at the Hester Adrian Research Centre for a number of years; that’s a centre for research into learning difficulties, and then back to Bradford College on the Campus as a senior lecturer in Sociology and Social Work, and then the University of York.

    TW: So…..I know that you gave that up didn’t you?

    MH: Yeah.

    TW: What were the reasons for that?

    MH: I didn’t so much give it up as they gave up on me. I was suffering from…….I had severe chronic back problems at the time; I split up from my wife……my daughters had grown up and basically I just gave up; I had a mental breakdown……suffered from severe depression. The university stuck with me for a while and I stuck with the university – I kept coming back to work because I didn’t want to give it up – but in the end they gave up on me and decided to pension me off.

    TW: Right. And so what did you do after that?

    MH: Nothing. Until I got my head round……I wasn’t in a state to do anything because I was really quite ill for……for quite a time…..and then I began to think of……as my mind came back a little bit, a bit of energy returned, and I went on this…….like a night school once a week art course at Tod.

    TW: Right. Was that Mary’s?

    MH: No this was…….this was pre Mary; the lady who did the course introduced me to Mary, and then Mary………took me on, I can’t remember what the name of the course was now…….some sort of introductory…..induction sort of art course and then I did the HND with her.

    TW: So do you consider yourself an artist then?

    MH: Don’t know really………in short hand terms, when people ask me what I do, I say I’m an artist because it’s easier than not saying I’m an artist, and I’m not……I don’t feel retired either, so that’s the easiest answer……so I suppose I am. I don’t object to being an artist or being called an artist or thinking of myself as an artist, but……it’s not something you are; it’s not like having a title and you are that title; it’s something you do all the time, so as long as I’m painting and drawing I suppose I am, but it’s not like a fixed thing so in that sense I’m a little bit uneasy with titles such as artist.

    TW: Okay…..okay well we won’t call you an artist then, but we’ll ask about your drawing and painting, because that seems to be the thing that you do. What sort of inspired you in the beginning then? What kind of……was it particular images or a particular attitude; what was it that made you want to do more of it?

    MH: I think it came from childhood really. I was always good at art at school……I actually wanted to go and study art but two things worked against; one was Part O Level, which was two years of drawing with a 2B pencil, drawing dead vegetables basically, in three shades maximum; never saw paint….paintbrush or any paints or anything, so that sort of put me off and I wasn’t allowed to do at A Level where you could actually use paint…….my parents didn’t really want me to do A Levels anyway, because they thought I should go out and get a job, so I was restricted in what I could do and it fell aside really, apart from basically decorating the tops of my daughters’ birthday cakes once a year, so it was always there and I’d always gone round galleries and museums and things all my life, so I’ve always had that sort of liking of art, and liked looking at art, but it wasn’t until I sort of started waking up after the depression that I realised that perhaps I could do something and just have a go at it and see what happens…..and so I’m still doing it and see what happens, so it comes…..it comes from childhood really.

    TW: Well, what particular aspects of childhood because when I was very young, I must have been….you know, pre first year in school, three or four, I still have vivid memories of doing finger painting and splashing about with things - was it that sort of thing - can you go back to things that you did when you were little or is it just the……the kind of freedom about it?

    MH: I remember two paintings I did as a kid - one I think I must have been about seven or eight - I painted a rose………and I had a blackboard and I put it up like an easel, like I was playing at being an artist kind of thing, and I remember that and I remember doing a painting at school of a scrapyard with the…..with mountains in the background; I think I was in junior high school so I would have been about eleven then, eleven or twelve, something like that, and….oh yes and I started drawing cartoons as well when I was a lad……..but that’s it really.

    TW: So when you started doing it again…..were you trying to emulate those kind of images?

    MH: No not at all.

    TW: Well what did you start to do?

    MH: I started doing what I was told to do…..paint this, draw this, do this, do that…..that was in the night school class - well not quite as dictatorial as that but you know what I mean - you’re guided by the tutor to do this and this is how you do that kind of thing, and it wasn’t until….and then I realised I was really enjoying it………and….and then I was introduced to Mary and I walked into….this was before…..this was in ’75, sorry 2005, before the… you know when it wasn’t, Todmorden College, when it was all ramshackled and higgledy piggledy, and I walked into that place with so many different images and colours and the smells of paint and stuff, and it looked wonderful, and everybody sort of doing things and so I signed up immediately and Mary invited me in….and then I began to see what other people were doing, and then on the HND you begin to, because we were at…..some seminars where we learnt about the context of art; different artists through history and the context in which they did their work, and I began to sort of…….to see the possibilities really, so it started off with painting, and that painting there is one of the first I did

    TW: Right. Well landscape I’d call that.

    MH: It is; that’s about number….I think that’s number four…..that I did….so originally I was landscape based because in terms of artists I’ve looked at ever since I was eighteen, Turner has always my favourite artist……..and so I was into landscapes and I liked the way he sort of…..through painting light and diffusions of light, I think the form within the light took second place; he was basically painting light and there was form there but it was secondary, and he didn’t just paint light as a space between one object and another, well I didn’t realise this at eighteen when I was looking, but since that he was actually looking at layers of light by looking through light, like looking through the ground, through layers of rock or something, and so that’s when I started out; I thought ‘well I like landscapes and I like abstracting landscapes’ and I did a piece of work that was actually photograph based, where I took a photograph and the image that came out was almost like an abstract; it was a play of light, winter light coming through a window with lots of moisture on the inside, and then I decided to do something with that and then…..then I sort of twigged that painting and art isn’t about representing what you see and try to replicate what you see; I knew this intellectually anyway because it ties in with questioning the social sciences about what is truth and what is reality, that kind of thing, and then I made the…..the link between that social science philosophical way of looking at things, questioning things, with art, and that’s why I haven’t done another of those…….and then……. I got onto drawing; we had a session on mark making, and I thought I couldn’t really get my head round this, I just didn’t……mark making……just sort of squiggles and shapes and I couldn’t really see what it was all about until one of the tutors lent me a book on contemporary drawing, and there were some drawings in there by various people but one of them was Agnes Martin, the American artist, where she just did lines, just simple lines, and then I had a go and that was it, and I’ve been doing lines ever since; it’s like it all twigged, and it sort of tied in with sort of my interest in Buddhism and meditation because when you’re just sat there for hours on end, just scraping little lines with a bit of ink on the end of a nib, or something, and you can feel the paper, and you can hear yourself breathe, you can feel the paper scraping and hear it, and so it’s a meditative process, and so that’s how I got into that, and that was it really. I’ve started using colour again now, but still based on the drawing.

    TW: So did you title these works?

    MH: Some of them…..I’ve titled them but just obvious like a lot of lines on a piece of paper, that kind of title

    TW: So you didn’t…..do metaphors for landscape or for light effects, like mist under the sun or whatever?

    MH: I did…..I did one picture which was quite a big one, it must have been two…..oh it must have been two and a half foot…..what was it….it was about the width of that, what’s that - about two and a half - just under three foot

    TW: It would….what, that painting?

    MH: Three foot, yeah

    TW: That’s a good three foot I’d say, yeah

    MH: Well it was three foot by just under three foot on a piece of card, and I did it with a biro, just a ball point pen, and it started off……I was bored at college……when I’d done the HND I signed up for the degree course but it was boring so I gave it up, so….but while I was there, I just started doing some lines……and it ended up as a cloudscape……….I sold it as well…..in the end

    TW: Very good. Have you seen Constable’s cloudscapes?

    MH: Not recently no, not to look at. TW: You know what I’m on about? They’re in the…..are they in the Ashmolean or the Fitzwilliam, one of those; there’s quite a few of them that he has there and they’re just these ephemeral brush marks really, that’s all they are. You can tell they’re clouds but then when you actually just look at them they are just marks really.

    MH: That’s the bit that fascinates me….we had to do an artist’s statement for the final show in HND and I wrote something to the….most people wrote about themselves and I didn’t want to have anything to do with that, so I just said ‘every picture starts with a line, it’s like the first line of a story, the first note in a musical score’ or something like that ‘then line on line it adds and adds till you see the picture but you forget the lines, you see the picture but at the beginning of it, at the root of it, it’s just lots of little lines’ hence the consequence of the titles and I looked…..there’s an American artist whose name I can’t remember…….Crotty…..Russell Crotty……

    TW: I’m not sure about that

    MH: He’s an astronomer as well, and he does…..night skies just with biro…..beautiful, so that sort of tied in with Agnes Martin and the lines and stuff that…..that you don’t need a lot of paint; you don’t need fancy this that and t’other, you can do it with just a biro and a piece of paper which appealed to me, and still does.

    TW: Yeah, sure……..I know you…..I’ve seen some of your exhibitions and…..some of them are very large scale. How……how did you come to…..decide to go big I suppose is one way of saying it

    MH: Well it’s partly Mary Loney’s fault

    TW: Oh yeah

    MH: Because she kept telling me to go bigger, do bigger, and it’s partly through looking at drawings and drawings tend to be on the whole rather small, and they tend to be rather fixed………and so I thought ‘well they don’t have to be’ and so I decided to go bigger and see what the accumulative effect is, both of me, the person doing the drawing and just going like that for hours on end on a piece of paper that’s never ending, and what the total effect would be if you have say like tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of small marks on a big piece of paper, how different that is……for the doing and the looking at compared with just a lot of marks on a small piece of paper, and I’ve found some of the effects were……I liked them so I carried on, and I’ve just, well I’ve nearly finished now, four pieces of work which are five foot by just under four foot, and some of the marks are very small detail, very fine, but there are sort of trenches of colour in it as well, but the basis of the four pieces is very minute, small scale marks.

    TW: Right. Five foot by four foot……what kind of marks are they?.......Are they pen and ink

    MH: Pen and ink

    TW: With some colour

    MH: Pen and ink and I’ve used ink as well for washes in places………which I’ve just about finished now so I need to…….I’m sort of looking for somewhere…..well when I get off my boat, I’m looking for somewhere to exhibit because as well as those four big ones I’ve got ten smaller A1 size…..five A1 and about eight……what’s half of A1?

    TW: A2

    MH: Is that how it goes? A2…..and those are for an exhibition which is gonna be called Searching for the Breath of God……which comes from……oh what’s his name….American author………The Road……

    TW: Not ‘On The Road’?

    MH: No it’s called The Road……Cormac McCarthy….it’s…….it’s a quote in the end of one of his books The Road which is post-apocalyptic vision of the world, did you see….there was a film as well?

    TW: I’ve seen a few films like that but I don’t know if one of them was based on his writing.

    MH: Basically what I was saying was that the breath of God and goodness and humanity is within us all, bit like the idea of brotherhood’s within us all, that kind of thing, and I started drawing and……then it tied in with other stuff……of having over the last few years seen a lot of Islamic art, and a lot of Buddhist art, and a lot of Christian art…..specifically going to look at these things in sort of places of worship and…..stuff, and these four pieces are based on…..sort of impressions or expressions of some of the stuff I’ve seen as well as…….things from my own childhood, my relationship with sort of…..going to church and having to believe in this, believe in that and then choosing to believe in some things and other things aren’t right, all coming together…..kind of thing.

    TW: So do you think…..it sounds like you’re on a spiritual journey and art is just part of that

    MH: Part of it I think.

    TW: Yeah. You used to…..include music as well, as part of your work

    MH: I did for the………blueprint for A Benevolent Universe when we had the great big hangings…….which….yes I’m doing a music and a soundscape for this as well, although that’s lagging behind the drawing at the moment but I’m getting there; by the time…..well, hopefully somebody will want to exhibit it; by the time that comes off I should have the soundscape done to go with it.

    TW: Right. So how do you compose?

    MH: Same way as I draw really. Start with a line and see what happens. TW: Right. Is this a melody line, not just a note or……

    MH: There’s notes……it’s a bit…….a tendency when I’m composing is to go for a melody, but this is a bit…..which….that was the case with Benevolent Universe…..this is hopefully going to be a bit different because I’m going to incorporate more……sort of natural sounds and I also want to…..rather than just going for…..there’ll be snatches of melody within this, but I want sort of….there’s two notes……and a lot of space between notes, a lot of silence in the notes, bit like lines and then space, line and space, like that, so in some ways I want to…..this is why it’s slow because I’m…..I’m not doing very well at it at the moment, so that in a sense the music is like a….an oral….complementary experience to looking at the artwork…..sounds ambitious but I’m not quite sure whether it’ll work yet; we’ll see, might do.

    TW: Well I’m curious about your…..the viewer shall we say. If you put, you know, whether it’s a small drawing or a massive big drawing, it goes on a wall and people look at it; a piece of music, even if it’s accompanying that, is it…..one long two hour piece, or is it a short piece that has a loop, or is it just

    MH: No, it’s looped……the piece itself, I don’t think should be longer than fifteen to twenty minutes, that’s including all the sounds and different things that I introduce, and then it will be looped, which is what I did for the Benevolent Universe one, because…..it’s got to somehow got to fit in with the experience of the person looking at the art; now nobody’s going to stand there for more than fifteen minutes, so I wanted it to roughly sort of fit……kind of thing.

    TW: Are you bothered about the acoustics of the exhibition space?

    MH: I am, yeah, and I’m clueless as well when it comes to it………it’s just one of the things I’ve got to do; I’ve got to get guidance from somebody who knows what they’re doing…..in terms of speakers and how to do it, and recording it as well.

    TW: What instruments do you use?

    MH: I’m using an electric keyboard……there’s lot of different sounds on it; I can replicate orchestras and organs, guitars, all sorts of stuff, and I can record on it with a…what’s it called…..is it an SD card or something……and then I can put that into the computer, then I can transfer that onto a CD disc, but I don’t know how I get all the other sounds I want onto, above and below the actual sort of music

    TW: Well there’s software for that, so that you can have multi-tracks. When you put it onto your computer you’ll have to catch it through some kind of a software…….and when you look at it you’ll see all like little lines, you know

    MH: That’s what…..the guy I did Benevolent Universe with, he had….I can’t remember what it’s called now……but every single sound you could imagine, he could play it, so I’m gonna have to sort of look into that

    TW: So are you gonna record your own natural sounds?

    MH: Well this is…..if I had equipment to….perhaps I need to talk to you about this

    TW: Well I have equipment you can borrow if you want to.

    MH: Of just…..natural sounds like traffic and people, that kind of thing

    TW: Yeah, well I have a recorder which, funnily enough, somebody borrowed off me just to do just that, and in the end he never did it…..and so I was disappointed really, because he had it for three months and at the end of that three months someone else wanted to borrow it for……some radio shows they were doing and I did let them have it, and so…..the chap I got it back off, it was like ‘oh well I just never got round to it’!

    MH: So if……what does it record on to then? Does it record on to a CD?

    TW: No, no, it records onto a little square disc really, but it doesn’t…..actually it records into the machine and what you do…..you can have…..it’s got a built-in microphone which is pretty decent quality but I have other microphones that you can plug into it that you can pick up on, but then what you do is, you get a wire, a USB wire or a Firewire and stick it into that machine and then you stick it into your computer and push the button, and there it is on your computer…..and you can download…..I can find out for you…..there’s something called Audacity that you can download for free…….and……you can open up your sounds in that Audacity, and like I say, it will show a big long stream and whatever sounds it gets…..you know the visualisation of sound that’s in these waves….well what you can do is, you can do more than one of those…..you can have multi layers, so you have three things on your computer; one your music, one your natural sounds and one….whatever

    MH: So Audacity will…..through that I will be able to blend in the music and the sounds?

    TW: Yeah.

    MH: Oh good…..I’ll look that up…..so that’s what I want to do.

    TW: Right, so that’s…..that’s very interesting really………you see you’ve got my mind going now! [laughing] I’m thinking…..right, I’m visualising light; I’m visualising light and……mist and fog within the landscape with the sounds on the tops and sounds of curlews and that just wafting through, because it’s all hushed and muffled and there’s a little trickle of water somewhere or other and…..I’m thinking….well that’s my image in my head, and I would try to create something kind of like…… recreate that almost really, but it doesn’t sound like that’s how you would go about it at all; you have a different way of……kind of conceptualising what it is you want to do and it’s……..how would you go about putting these things together then?

    MH: ………..at this stage I don’t really know to be honest. When I did notes for A Benevolent Universe……well I actually did some music for an installation I did before this, never seen the light of day yet, but that was just basically a piano piece, but it started…..it ended with children crying……….and I used children’s voices again in Benevolent Universe…..I know there’s a beginning and an end and that’s sound ; it’s not me at all, it’s just what…..it’s sound that I’ve collected…….and I know that I want water in it, a lot of water…..rains, different kinds of rain, and I also want wind, but I also want all the shitty sounds to go with urban life, so we’re in it as well because the music as it is so far, some of it’s very quiet and meditative, focusing on just one or two notes, but…….it’s sort of…..it’s sort of veering between…….very meditative, quiet, so think sort of John Adams or Philip Glass without the talent [laughing]………but then imagine some of the most horrific organ music you’ve heard in churches…..I’m sort of playing around with those two extremes at the moment, which is problematical in itself because if it’s too……if it becomes too….it can be too……could become so invasive that it takes away from the visual images.

    TW: Well in the same way that you’ve done a number of big drawings, you know, these big five by fours and then you’ve got some A1s and some other smaller things, you could do the same with your music; you could do….not just one fifteen minute piece, you could actually do more than one so one might only be two or three minutes long…..and some might be longer, and then you could actually put them all together so that you have kind of an exhibition of sound pieces that then is looped, and then accompanies the different kind of pictures.

    MH: Well that’s…..that’s one of the alternative….one of the ways that I’ve got of proceeding, that I can have lots of sound and then that merges into…..it’s mostly piano that I’m gonna be using, and then that fades back into more sound, and then it goes through……like that, so it sort of represents

    TW: So it’s like sectioned anyway

    MH: Yeah.

    TW: Oh right, okay…..you don’t use words at all then?

    MH: ……I’ve thought about it and I’m still thinking about it……but it’s a matter of finding the right words. I’ve used words in some of my art…..I did a pray for the moors…….which was….I don’t know if you saw that one; it was a sort of an abstract……image of the moors with…..sort of moor type colours

    TW: Quite possibly; I saw a couple of yours over here and then

    MH: There’s about……there’s eight inches worth of very tiny print going all the way round

    TW: Oh yes, yes

    MH: So I’ve used words before and a piece I did last year, just……just a very simple poem that I wrote……poem sounds too grand…..put some words together, and stuck them on to the picture, and so I’m interested in using words more and more, and I’ve got another idea in my head for uses of words as well, for more use of words in another single picture…..but then if you use words, you’ve got to find the right voice……..so it gets more complicated, and…..words seem more fixed than musical notes because…..this is probably nonsense, but it seems to me like the words have got to be more accurate than the musical notes ever need to be, because people fix into them……but I’m still thinking about it

    TW: Have you seen the Turner Monet and Cy Twombly exhibitions?

    MH: I went t’other week; I even bought the book.

    TW: Oh right, okay. I’ve just been this week again…..because it does seem very apropos to the way you’re talking now, because you’ve got this…..three centuries, the beginning of three different centuries really; people……talking about atmosphere and…..and feelings and emotions going from, you know, there’s a light….a mist over the water with the sunset, and it’s a funeral versus….you know, the sunflowers versus the really abstract things with the scrolls of words in them that are so over-painted you can’t really read them hardly

    MH: I thought that was brilliant. The fact that you couldn’t read them, and I kept going up to them and squinting at them, and I still really couldn’t…..most of the time I couldn’t make anything out; I thought that was superb, doing that

    TW: Well, you said people focus on the words; well that’s one way to kind of…..it makes them focus on something but……the word and the meaning that goes with it….it isn’t there; you have to kind of almost……you know, it’s like listening to some sound….is that a bird call or is that a C sharp? Well I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, you know…..you could do that with letters couldn’t you of some kind?

    MH: I thought that was the best curated exhibition I’ve been to for years; I thought it was brilliant. If they’d…..the weaker one of the three I thought was the Monet.

    TW: I would agree; they were the….I’ve seen lots of Monets, and as examples of Monets they……they weren’t the best shall we say that I’ve ever seen, and they didn’t quite…..I know of others that would have fitted better I suppose, within that thematic thing that they were trying to like contrast and compare really.

    MH: Yeah, but I thought Turner and Twombly, I thought it was genius putting them together…….

    TW: Now I know you were, before your back…..started giving you a lot of problems, you were a great walker weren’t you?

    MH: Yeah, I did a lot of walking and a lot of running as well.

    TW: I’m just wondering whether that…..being out in the landscape, up on the moors and everything……whether any of that….that experience that you had doing all that, whether you pull any of that into…..into the artwork that you do.

    MH: I have done…..very directly at times. I did a drawing……..based on….it looks abstract does the drawing, it just looks like little lines, little…..almost like little twigs, sort of interlocking each other, and people who look at it think I’ve sort of done an abstract moor or whatever, but actually it’s really quite a reasonably accurate picture of what I actually saw, which was lots of dry grass just floating about in a little pool on t’top of t’moors, on top of Heptonstall moor……which I like that because it confuses….abstract….what’s abstract and what’s supposed to be figurative….what’s real and what’s not real, and I’ve used…….that approach a few times……taking things out of their context, and so to the person who doesn’t know the original context they look abstract.

    TW: Right…..well when you used to run or walk up on the tops, was that just for kind of like……..for therapeutic health reasons to kind of like, you had a job and so you did that to kind of like relax and get away from it all, or were you…..because you seem to be on a spiritual quest, journey, not so much quest, an on-going journey, and is that just a variation of….kind of looking for that spirituality within nature?

    MH: There is a great deal of spirituality within nature, I mean you can’t avoid it if you climb mountains…..really, but you don’t need to be up mountains; you can just be on top of the moors in a thick fog or in horizontal rain; it’s there as well……but walking’s different from running. If you’re running, you’re moving through the landscape quicker, and it’s a very different experience from if you’re walking; both good……I’ve been told not to run any more because of the arthritis as well as the back, but it’s…..both are really…..the time in my thirties and forties, mid-thirties up until……..till eight years ago in fact I used to do a lot of running; I used to enjoy doing both, and running…..sometimes if, on a really good day, there’s no sort of strict criteria for what makes a good day but sometimes you seem to not float along, but it seems effortless…..and that’s a very nice physical…..mental state to be in……apart from being a slog on other days

    [laughing]

    TW: Did it free up your mind so to speak then?

    MH: Yeah I suppose so.

    TW: Was it the running or was it like……if you were running in a city for example, around…..I don’t know, around Hyde Park say, or that kind of thing, versus running up on the moors, is it the landscape, the environment that affects you rather than….or is it the running or a bit of both?

    MH: I’ve never run in a city or a townscape apart from through Hebden, but that’s on the way to get up. Running’s more self-contained because you’re more focused on the physical side of it and…..breathing perhaps so that you’re moving efficiently. Walking isn’t self-contained because walking you’re…..well I suppose you could do some meditative walking where you’re just focusing on each foot fall, but you have more time to take in your surroundings, and that’s what you tend to do I think, or that’s what I tend to do…..and if you’re running you tend to be running for a certain amount of time to keep a certain amount of speed up or get…….get from A to B, whereas walking you can be meander and wander about a bit and stop, so if you see a pool on the top of the moors with lots of little dried grass stalks in, you can stop……and you can sit down. But both….I think both are sort of…..both are spiritual if you want to allow that sort of perspective in…..then they both are.

    TW: Up on the tops around here, the moors and what have you……well people would call it bleak really wouldn’t they…..I love it myself, but compared to…..you know, rolling countryside…..in forests or in wood…..you know, sort of glades and glens and that sort of thing….I just want to get your take on this sort of landscape compared to the more lush, or what people would call lush, whereas people would call this bleak. What’s your take on the different kinds of landscape?

    MH: ……some landscapes I like more than others, I take to more easily than others….I mean people call it round here bleak and it can be bleak, but I like the bleakness….. but it’s bleak in a positive way; it’s bleak because the weather’s coming straight at you, and usually horizontal in some form or other….so it’s not bleak in a negative ‘this is an emptiness’ because it’s certainly not empty, but I also enjoy contrasting that with walking in woodland; I love thick forests as well, and coastal areas as well; each has…..each deserves having time spent in if you can, if you’re nearby, particularly at different times of the day like early morning, sunset, early evening, that kind of thing, because then you begin to appreciate…….the way the weather changes, the way the light changes, the way that the light completely determines what you can see and what you can’t see…..and when you’ve had a good walk….I’ve always found this….when you’ve had a good walk, like an all day walk, it stays with you for days afterwards, and that’s because it’s all soaked in I think, breathe it in…..you do a lot of walking, you know what I mean don’t you?

    TW: I do yes, yes, but I just wanted to ask how you felt about it….another thing about that then is……it’s a question about colour. You say you started using colour more, and so when I think of colour it’s……when you’re on the moors around here, you can get wonderful colours in the sky with the clouds changing and the sunlight hitting it and that sort of thing. You can get…..in the…..you know, in the spring when all the buds come or in the autumn when the leaves come and all the heather is there, and you get this…..across light and you get all these…..vague colours shall we say that are quite beautiful to behold, but you can get that in a wood through looking up through the leaves and you get all the flickering, and then you get the sound of the different kinds of leaves hitting each other and……again, more in autumn time you get this different kind of……colour awareness because of the time of year I suppose and the way the sun, whether it comes straight down or right across and on the coast you would look…..you would look out to sea, and the colours in the water change, can change quite dramatically depending on the weather. Is that the way you look at colour like that and think ‘right, I’m gonna use some of those colours in a picture that I do’ or is there a different way that you would decide what your colouring’s gonna be?

    MH: All the colours I use are sky colours or earth colours………in fact…..the use of…..the colour I’ve used in pictures have all been added to areas which are sky or earth….like that down there which…

    TW: I can see all that there, yeah.

    MH: It’s a sort of….it’s the colour of the sea or the earth contrasting with the fine lines of the landscape above…..so it’s…….I hadn’t thought about that before….because in these four great big pieces there’s elements of landscape in them, and I don’t….I can’t think where I’ve used colour in the last year or so where it’s not been part of a depiction of sky or land.

    TW: Oh right. The contrast of the two.

    MH: Yeah.

    TW: Oh that’s interesting, yeah…..right.

    MH: Sky land or water…….

    TW: Well the only other element going is fire [laughing]

    MH: Don’t do fires – I’ve never done fires.

    TW: Well the sun’s a fire.

    MH: Well I’ve done suns, yes, I suppose I have then haven’t I yes….I did a picture last year called A Small Pennine Town Falls Through a Hole in the Universe……which basically was a piss take on Hebden Bridge falling through a hole in the universe, but there was a moorland scene underneath, and on one….it was divided into two; on one side there was a sunrise or a sunset, it doesn’t really matter which it was, and on the other side was a dark sky which I’d done with…..just coloured pencils, and then obviously with the ink as well, the black ink, and that was the same thing.

    TW: Right…..well……I suppose I should ask you…..is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you would like to talk about, to do with your creativity?

    MH: ……..not really…..there’s one area which you haven’t covered, which is…….which is always there in what I’m doing, and that’s the relationship between social science understanding reality, how it makes sense of the world, and how that translates into art, but then that’s another subject really.

    TW: Well now that you’ve brought it up, I mean you mentioned it earlier about the fact that…you know, you’d studied philosophy and working out what’s real…..you talked about what’s real and what’s not real, from a social science way of looking at things, and your art has that mix as well in some ways, whether it’s…..an image or abstract and a kind of blend of it, and does that just come from art study or does that actually come from the way you think?

    MH: It comes from the way I think which comes from the philosophy I’ve studied, the social sciences that I’ve studied and taught……of questioning what is real and what isn’t, and questioning who has the power to decide which as well, and questioning where things actually come from…….and questioning what is taken to be the dominant hegemony of the time whatever we’re talking about, whether it’s in terms of…..social science, truths, sociological truths of philosophical arguments or whatever, and I do the same to some extent in my art as well, because I’ve no time for….well sometimes it’s portrayed as a dichotomy between that which is figurative and that which is abstract, and it’s nonsense….in the same way that I think that some sociological, social scientific arguments and some philosophical arguments that are trying to create these dualisms……they’re nonsense as well, or you can argue that they’re nonsense which is another way of looking at things….it’s a bit like sort of…….bit like Plato’s cave, you know when they’re in the cave just looking at the shadows thinking that that was reality, but reality was the things that were creating the shadows, well there’s a lot of that nonsense in art as well, of looking at the wrong thing and clicking onto the wrong thing. I remember having an argument with some of the tutors at Tod College…. when I tried to say that there’s no such thing as abstract, there’s no such thing as figurative, as givens they’re all constructs….we decide what is what and you could take the same object, look at it from different perspectives, and from one perspective it’s abstract, and one……perspective it’s…..it’s figurative. The…..I thought about this when I was in Liverpool looking at the Monets, the cathedral….is it at Rouen?

    TW: Yeah.

    MH: If you go right up close to it that’s abstract; there’s no way there’s a cathedral there in a sence, but as you walk backwards away from it then you see the cathedral; it’s figurative….and I tried to argue this with one of the tutors and he wouldn’t have it at all……..and I didn’t budge, and he didn’t budge [laughing]…..I mean it was a healthy disagreement of non-budging [laughing]……but I just didn’t see it at all…..it depends; I mean I could…..I could….I don’t know, you could draw that computer….. as it is, whole….. ‘oh that looks like a little computer’….you could paint one small part of it and it would be abstract; it depends on how you frame it, so you can draw that, right, that’s a computer screen; you could frame it by……if you just did that bit there…..and that would be….well you’ve got a block of yellow, you’ve got several lines of blue, some paler blue and some white; you wouldn’t relate…..necessarily associate that with a computer screen, so the person looking at it would say ‘oh that’s an interesting abstract, the use of lines and colours and blocks and things……so……and this is the thing with lines, you can draw one line and it’s like the first….the first letter, but thousands and thousands together, and you may end up with like a cloudscape and that cloudscape, several months before it was finished, was just a few little biro scribbles which some people came and walked past and said ‘what’s he wasting his time doing scribbles with a biro for?’….so it comes into evaluative judgments about the worth of what somebody’s doing, and as well as what they produce in the end as well…..so it all fits in a sense…..well it does in my head anyway.

    TW: Yeah…..so where would you like your….the work that you’re just doing at the minute then, you’re looking to exhibit that somewhere or other

    MH: Yeah, I’ve got to sort something out.

    TW: And what……what kind of audience are you looking for? Or does that not matter?

    MH: …………I’m not sure it matters really….be nice to have an audience…..I mean I’ve been asked in the past…..why do you do it? Do you do it for yourself or do you do it for other people? The answer is a bit of both because each…..because I can do a picture and I see what I see in that picture, which might be… in a sense accidental, not having……not quite sure where it’s gonna be when I started off and then it sort of….a form comes. Somebody else might look at it and see something completely different, and I like that, which is why I tend towards the impressionistic expressionistic rather than just sticking with what is like an ordinary landscape that everybody can say ‘oh that’s haystacks or that’s Great Gable’ or something like that, so that people can read into and draw out, read out of, what they want…..and sometimes that’s…..that’s been helpful to me as well because……then that gives me ideas for….what I can do next sometimes, about what somebody sees in what I’ve done before

    TW: So that feedback is important to you isn’t it?

    MH: So the feedback’s important, yeah…..so…….questioning….appreciatively critical, if that’s not too much [laughing] …….if that’s not too much [laughing]………I think it probably is sometimes.

    TW: Well, Twombley called himself a romantic symbolist, just to confuse them

    MH: Which is not bad that

    TW: It’s not bad at all, yes, because when I first said to you ‘are you an artist?’ you were kind of saying ‘well……no, not really, but maybe, yes’

    MH: I suppose it depends on who’s asking the question, and what they think and artist is or should be, so I prefer to avoid ‘that’s your problem not mine’ so if I don’t call myself an artist it remains your problem

    TW: [laughing]….okay……..well I think we’ll call there, because it’s about an hour now

    MH: Right

    TW: And we’ll stop there if you want

    MH: Okay, that’s fine

    TW: And I would just like to say thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with me.

    MH: You’re welcome; it was interesting.

    TW: I’ll just turn this off now.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: A J Creedy

     

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 24th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Creedy, and can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    ANDREW JOHN CREEDY:

    Yes. My full name….here’s one…Andrew John Creedy and I was born in Lincoln in….third of the first 1964.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    AJC:

    So it’s Andrew John Creedy but not many people know that.

     

    TW:

    Well we can delete it if you want us to

     

    [laughing]

     

    AJC:

    Often known as… more commonly known as Creedy.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    AJC:

    I’ll let you off!

     

    TW:

    Alright….so, Lincoln; what was Lincoln like when you were growing up then?

     

    AJC:

    Well Lincoln’s very flat, that’s fair to say apart from the fact that it has got quite big hill in the middle of it. It was….where I lived it was a very…..very friendly street really; a lot of my aunties and uncles lived on the same street as me, in fact we had one next door - in fact we had two – one next door and one next door to that, and a couple more across then road so even though…..even then sorry, there was still….everybody down the street was very friendly; it was very much….a local butcher’s; your knew them, it was all very, everyone knew exactly what you wanted….a barber across the road and…..just all your little shops were down that one street; I think the only supermarket that we had was the Co-op at one time when I was very young and that was…..it was always a treat; it was only down the road but it was always a treat…..we was on a big crossroads which was potentially dangerous; there was always car crashes there because there weren’t as many cars as there are nowadays; there were cars, but…..but not as many, so I don’t think we really expected sometimes to see something coming the other way and there was a lot of collisions, often on a Saturday afternoon; we’d say ‘oh there’s been another one,’ everyone would say ….. ‘oh God not again’ you know, but even so there was enough lack of traffic for all the kids to play together down the street which was really really good, so we were street kids; we was always out on the streets, sort of….pick up lolly sticks and make boomerangs out of them and….playing all the classic sort of games…..we used to play statues and things like that, so and of course then my cousin next door…..and next door to that so we used to play together as well, so that was when I was really young.

     

    TW:

    Right….so how long did you live there?

     

    AJC:

    Oh….I’ve got a terrible memory for how long things….it was quite a long time, so I mean I suppose I was….let’s think now…..I think I moved from that house when I was……about….twelve, thirteen maybe or something like that; it was a place called Ripon Street bang in the middle, well….yeah, quite central to Lincoln; we only moved then because the landlord….he was a lovely old bloke….he died and we knew that as soon as he died hid daughter would want to sell the house or put the rent up ridiculously and she did both; she put the rent up ridiculously and then sold the house, so we had to move on and from there we moved….we moved to a council house out in the….what you call the sticks in Lincoln - it’s not really - there was a lot of estates on the outskirts of the city where we moved there; I was quite looking forward to it though because I fancied having a garden, because I really fancied it with my Action Man with his tanks and stuff like that I remember at the time, but I think I was only twelve and so I was still playing with them but of course as soon as we got there and….I didn’t really want the garden any more because I wasn’t playing with my Action Man tanks; the transition was a bit….was a bit crucial really as far as that was concerned on the developmental level! So yeah, it was when I was about twelve that we moved on from there really - I was quite sad to leave it - it was a big house and it used to have…..I used to have two bedrooms because my brother left when I was about sixteen, so I had my little bedroom and I had his big bedroom as well, and on occasion I’d just swap, just for the fun of it, but I had l had loads and loads of rooms and an attic upstairs which was quite good and there was a big brick wash house at the bottom of the garden, well it wasn’t in the garden…it was in the yard as such, and I used to….I used to play in there quite a lot and come up with stuff and friends used to come round and we used to….we used to have some great fun in there; we used to make fireworks in there actually

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, I was quite into the sciences at school and….strangely, I can’t believe that this actually happened, but in those days you could actually go into the chemist’s and buy a box of saltpetre, a box of sulphur and a carbon block; now anybody with any basic chemical knowledge knows if you stick those three together you’ve got gunpowder, so…..yeah, so this little….little kid would go in there, ten year old, and go and buy all these ingredients [laughing] and grind ‘em up and make fireworks! I can’t believe that they never expected us to do that, and because it was a brick shed as well it was a bit safer, but we used to have….we used to have…we used to have experiments; we was always trying to get things to explode properly and we occasionally got it once, where we actually put it in some cling film…foil…not cling film…tin foil, and compressed it with a vice and then put it over a burner, and it shot off and took a little bit of my eyebrow off as it disappeared past my head [laughing] and that’s the closest we got - I did manage to make flares - my uncle used to help me quite a lot. He used to come along with these big tubes that he’d got from the engineering works that he worked at and I thought ‘oh they’re really thick walled things’ and we used to stuff them in there and stuff and we used to make hand flares like you know, sea flares and stuff; we got those made as well, but yeah we did quite a lot of that really [laughing]….bit odd, but there you go

     

    TW:

    So you really liked science at school?

     

    AJC:

    I did yeah, but maths was the thing that sort of….destroyed it a little bit for me really because a lot of the…a lot of the problems that I had with science; I mean I passed all my sciences…because you had Physics, Chemistry and Biology…I was quite good at them, I understood the principles behind all of them but you had to prove it in a mathematical way and that was the difficult bit; I wasn’t very good at Maths. I’m still numerically a little bit dyslexic as far as I can tell; not terribly but I can see what happened, plus the ….the guys…and gals…..like Jimmy Saville….they….they were pretty severe Maths teachers; for some reason Maths teachers were almost as severe as sports teachers, so…yeah, it…force for me was never the way forward; I just became belligerent.

     

    TW:

    Okay….so, when did you leave Lincoln then? Did you actually leave Lincoln to do anything or did you just carry on living

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, after I’d finished at school I went to…I went to art college in Lincoln for a year doing a Foundation course which should have been….it should have been a two year course but I did it in a year, so it was really really intense, but I’d always been good at drawing and always been good at art, in fact when I was at school doing my A Levels I…I used to end up….they didn’t teach me; they left me to teach the rest of the class which was great, but…not really because I never got any tuition at all and I don’t know whether it was because…I never did work it out really. I did see some of the teachers’ drawings and I thought ‘well I think I’m better than them’ [laughing] and I’m not really that egotistical, so I must have been vaguely on the ball there really I think, but anyway yeah, so I went to do the….the Foundation course in Lincoln and the only place at the end of that that I could see to get into, because there was a couple of teachers that didn’t like me again, and I’m an innocent little soul really; I don’t do anything to…..and even then I wasn’t really pushy or anything like that, but again, the guy who really didn’t like me, I looked at some of his work as well and I just didn’t understand it; it was just….it was crap [laughing] and I can remember it to this day, looking at it, it was….I think it was a brown background with multi-coloured Lancaster Bombers on it, because the Lancaster Bomber in Lincoln…..the Lancaster Bomber, and it was just like so obvious and not very good, and he was trying to push me in that direction whereas I was very detailed in what I did so he’d make…..make me do bigger and bigger things in less and less time but I’d still come back with every detail….I beat him at pool once; that was a good day….and anyway yes, so I went to Croydon, the only place I could get in was Croydon College; Croydon College of Art, which I believe was also where Bowie and….Marc Bolan went for some reason; I think they were the only famous people there, but….it was an odd place was Croydon really; I mean I wasn’t a big fan of London but it was the first time I’d really properly been away from home, and I ended up staying in….there weren’t any halls of residence for the artists so I stayed in a bed and breakfast; I went down there on a day trip and managed to get this bed and breakfast place, and what I was actually looking for, I mean Eastenders was at a peak at the time; I did watch television and so I did pick up a little bit on that and I thought ‘I wonder if the East End’s like that?’ and Croydon was a little bit like that, but I wanted a typical Cockney landlady and landlord and they were perfect; it was…..he was called Del and she was called Dor…Del and Dor,,,,it was great [laughing] and he called me ‘Endrew’ [Cockney accent][laughing]….it was fantastic! Loved his boxing; he used to say ‘bit of boxing on tonight Endrew….fancy a fag’ [laughing]……and we’d….and I loved that, I thought ‘this is great’ and not far from where the college was there was….there was a market that was just like the market on Eastenders and again, I loved it down there as well. Typical East End sort of pubs and things like that, but…..but the college itself was an annex separate from the rest of the college and the university so it was….I think it was deliberate to keep the artists away from normality…whether it just distracts them or not I don’ t know, but it was a bit isolated so I was with…..with….with all the artists and I got really fed up with art students to be quite honest; I mean a lot of people would say ‘oh bloody art students’ but I also said the same thing and I was one of them, and I always felt embarrassed for the fact I was an artist because some of them were bizarre for no real reason and….and again because…and the college itself tried to push you once again in a more of an abstract direction and I really wasn’t ready for it and I really did not understand abstract art; never got into it

     

    TW:

    So in what….this is early eighties?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah this is the early eighties, yeah

     

    TW:

    And they were trying to….they were pushing abstract art really.

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, this is….Croydon College was more known for that than anything else, and again all my tutors were trying to push towards that, even….there was an old guy called Gerald – lovely bloke - very posh, but he used to come round and again, he’d see me do my stuff and he used to give me quite a lot of grief about it sort of being….maybe I should have….I mean on the day I went to…..college in Lincoln I had to do either Fine Art or Graphics and I didn’t really know what Graphics was; I didn’t really know what Fine Art was either, I just knew that I could draw, so I threw a coin and I ended up doing Fine Art…..and I often look back and think ‘oh I think I should have done Graphics’ because I think I’m more of an illustrator sometimes - well that’s not really true - I’ve expanded my artistic sort of….pallet in many different ways but I think I probably would have benefited more from Graphics in many ways, but who knows? I could have ended up on some terrible magazine or something like that and had my soul sucked out by capitalism, through advertising and marketing and if you’re in advertising and marketing I agree with Bill Hicks – kill yourself – so I really wouldn’t want to go in that direction, so…..so yeah, in Croydon Art College there’s this Gerald there; he’s giving me grief like the guy who did in….in Lincoln, and again I went and saw his art; it was just quite nice but the big surprising thing was, they always encouraged you to do things in A1and big sort of canvasses, and this fellla’s stuff was like this big, it was the size of a bloody postage stamp; it was a very nice life drawing, but crikey I could have done that in that size, it was like tiny, so again I was always disappointed by my tutors, and after a year I’d had enough, I’d had enough; I’d…….I’d spent all my money; I got a grant but I’d spent far…..quite a bit beyond that….tiniest bit overdrawn and my parents got worried and I got worried, and I left Croydon; I think it was right at the end of the first year and I didn’t want to go back; I left everything there and never did go back there and pick anything up, I just didn’t wanna go back. There was a few people there that I did like but a lot of them were so pretentious.

     

    TW:

    So what did you do?

     

    AJC:

    Well I went back to Lincoln again, so back to Lincoln from Croydon having not enjoyed it. Stayed with my parents again; I had a lot of friends there that I still to this day know very well, and though we don’t keep in touch very often, every time we see each other it’s like we’ve never been apart, so I started at a place called The Community Enterprise Agency; I worked there which was basically a big place designed for…..unemployed people at the time but to give them some like training potential so I thought….and I worked in the……effectively in the graphics department there and we did lots of weird stuff; we’d do sign writing so I was taught how to sign write……we’d often get…..and so the signs for buildings were done by us and they sort of put these signs out to other people so we’d be commissioned to do certain signs, and other things; I think downstairs in the woodwork department they made Wendy houses which was very nice and we painted them, so me being quite creative, we used to like put little pigeons and sort of like backgrounds and stuff on the side of these and they loved that, and I’d end up sort of like……just one of those things that the guy who was running us, who was our boss effectively for our department, would….would often sort of like ask me to represent…..well he instantly assumed that I would represent everybody else because I think I did, so if something went wrong they all got a bit shy about it and I wouldn’t; I’d say ‘right, into your office’ so I’d take him into his own office and give him a telling off [laughing]…..they said ‘how dare you treat him like that – do you know what problems he’s got in his life at the moment? You don’t understand do you?’…. ‘look we’ll try and sort it out mate, you know, I know you’re having a hard’…..and I’d end up having a chat with him and he’d…..he’d pour his heart out to me, and I knew he was going through a divorce and that and I knew his life intimately, so if anything went wrong and somebody was in trouble, I’d take him into his office and we’d talk about it and I’d sort it out for him, so it was….it was a bit strange really, as I say, maybe not that sort of controllable type of person really, but….he did enjoy that fact that he could be completely open with me and I was completely open with him. Everybody thought he was severe but he never was with me, so I ended up doing that and we made a lot of model buildings for this big village that they were wanting to…it was some sort of project that they were doing that required us to make these things and we all did that as well, but it was great fun and a great melting pot of different people, I mean I think I started to listen to a lot of different music then. There was things like Throbbing Gristle and……oh God lots of David Silvian and….stuff like that and lots of weirder stuff that I’d never heard before that I really got into; people bringing their own sort of cassettes I think in those days and stick ‘em on the machine, and I got to listen to a lot of still and while I was working we always had music on, which was very interesting, and….I think I left…..I can’t remember how long I was there but at first you started and you only did a couple of days I think, then that went to three days and eventually you’d go full time, so while I was doing part-time I had to make up the money so I went out on the streets of Lincoln; there’s a big precinct in Lincoln that’s all paved and there was a lot of pavement artists down there, and I thought ‘well this is ideal for me’ so I’d go up there and say about nine in the morning or nine-thirty, I never have been a morning person, I’d go and buy all my chalks and pastels from the art shop and I’d go down with my little box, down to the…..find a little spot, sort of patch, checking all the people on the way, and I’d start drawing, and within about an hour I could usually sort of like fill an area…..six by six, maybe sometimes a little bit bigger

     

    TW:

    What kind of pictures did you do?

     

    AJC:

    Well I used to do….there was a thing that I used to like a lot; I used to love 2000 AD comic, and it wasn’t necessarily for the stories but I used to love the drawings in there which was why I think I would have been better at doing illustrations, and there’s one….it was a big sort of dragon like sea monster pounding out of the sea and when I did….I think it was A Levels or O Levels I copied this thing in inks and….. it was quite heavy, but I always liked the picture, so I actually copied that onto the pavement – huge things – and that was one of the popular ones I did; it was often sort of…..and the other one I did, of course being in Lincoln it’s got an amazing cathedral which you can see from where I am on the precinct, so I used to….I used to draw the cathedral quite a lot and what I’d do, because a lot of these people were…..I mean, I think it was my mum and dad say, ‘you can see them copying, I said I know, this is wrong, so I’m gonna sort of half copy, so what I used to do, I’d have a picture and I’d…in that first hour I would frantically swipe, because I was trained in fine art and drawing really big pictures and so I could do things really quickly, especially with chalk because there’s no resistance, so I’d knock these things out really quickly, so there’s the cathedral there and once I’d got the basic structure of it which didn’t take very long at all, maybe twenty minutes, I’d start to…..I’d start to colour it in because it didn’t matter, I’d decide which way the light’s coming in and so in an hour or so I’d done, and could see the other pavement drawers, and they might be doing something like the Mona Lisa and they’d got as far as the eye, I mean there were some very nice eyes, but it’s like ‘come on!’ they wouldn’t be finished by the end of the day, and of course I’m done and people are wandering by and all I’m doing then because there’s a bit of a breeze blowing across - it blows all the chalk off – I’m heightening the colours as the day goes on, and sometimes I’m moving the sun and changing the actual sky and the shadow as it goes across the cathedral, so that it actually lives as they’re actually passing by, so they can see the changes as they’re going by. I made quite a lot of money out of this and after that I actually teamed up with somebody and we both, together, did enormous pieces and we based it for some reason on…..was it…..Art Nouveau mermaids; it was quite specific [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Right. Why did you pick that?

     

    AJC:

    No idea, so there was all these sea things……I’m saying mermaids, they were all sea scenes but there was a few with mermaids; I’ve no idea….I think we just had a book and we really liked the illustrations

     

    TW:

    Did you think it was a good….like money spinner then?

     

    AJC:

    Well we thought so yeah, in fact what we decided to do was….we decided that the local St Bernard’s Hospice, we had a chat with them and said ‘look, can we give you a donation if we can use your name to go out on the streets and say all profits to St Bernard’s Hospice and we’ll give you….we’ll give you a percentage’ and they said ‘absolutely brilliant; we’ll obviously accept whatever’ and we said ‘well obviously we’ll advertise you as well and we’ll give you some money’ so we did do all profits to St Bernard’s Hospice; of course ‘all profits’ is how much you decide really; we thought……at the time I think it was about twelve per cent so we ended up giving them about twenty per cent, because we thought ‘no, we’ll be far more generous than most people are’ so we thought twenty per cent off whatever we earned, and we could earn like about……getting on for a hundred quid back in that time, just for doing these pavement drawings between the two of us…..I can’t remember the guy’s name….for some reason we used to call him Penny, and to this day I can’t remember why we called him Penny, but we used to have all nicknames and he was Penny and I was Creedy, as I’ve never been called by my first or second name very often; the response is usually, if somebody calls me Andrew, it’s like ‘yes Mum’ so I tell people this and they don’t want to call it me anymore, especially blokes, so…..yeah we did these things. One day we’d done a massive one, and I said these were all water things, and the clouds opened, and it was like the rains we’ve been having in Hebden Bridge this year in 2012, and they literally opened up and poured down, and we could watch and actually saw the chalk illustration lift up off the pavement, float down the street and go down the drain. It was absolutely out of this world; never seen anything like it, because it’s chalk of course, and we’d just about finished this enormous piece; it was probably about…..twelve foot by twelve foot probably, maybe even a bit bigger; it filled the entire area, you couldn’t walk past it without noticing it, so it was gonna be a real extravaganza. We’d pulled out all the plugs for this one, it was just like ‘come on’ and then it rained, lifted off the pavement, went down the drain and it was like ‘what can we do?’ so we drew a big long line and people started following this line, and when they got of the line and this arrow’s pointing in the direction, it pointed to a bench, and me and Penny were just sort of there looking miserable deliberately [laughing] and eventually the press turned up and interviewed us, and we sort of like told them about this, and we got back on board once the rain had gone because it was this huge shower and we started drawing again; we did the whole thing again and we got loads of money and we got the press that came in, the police even came in and started to give us money because they were that impressed that we hadn’t given up [laughing]….we used to take in terms so we’d carry on drawing while the other one went to the pub and had a few pints and came back…..so yeah, pavement drawing was a way that we filled in for…..for cash, and that was it; I was back in Lincoln, but I moved on from there you see.

     

    TW:

    To where?

     

    AJC:

    Well I had a girlfriend in Lincoln that I….it was my first girlfriend ever; I didn’t actually have a girlfriend till I was nineteen, well no…..I suppose it would be a little bit before I suppose, but I’d never…..I’d never had sexual liaisons at all until I was nineteen because it was all very different in them days, even though I do youth work with a lot of people nowadays I wouldn’t have known any of the things that I’m very upward about now, but yeah, nineteen and…..she eventually went over to…..she came over to Halifax…..I’m trying to think when it was…..it was when I was in Croydon. She….no I went over to Croydon so when I was away for the year she was in Lincoln but I came back every other week, believe it or not with my laundry, when I eventually moved out of the bed and breakfast into a flat, I’d no idea; totally wet behind the ears; there was buckets behind my ears, and so I’d bring my laundry back for my mum to do, and to see my girlfriend; I don’t think she ever did come over to London but I sort of didn’t want her to; it was a right tip! I do remember one night in the place where I was, the building where I was with these other two art students; there was…..there was actually…we’d had a party and there was water…..water falling down the stairs; I think we’d been to Tesco for some booze and we came back with the shopping trolley full, and the shopping trolley [laughing] – we had some mad parties – when we used to go in the local pub which was done out like a big Mississippi boat, they used to put The Young Ones on the screen so we did look like The Young Ones!

     

    TW:

    [laughing]….which one were you?

     

    AJC:

    I was the hippy; I was Neil! [laughing]…we had punk Tony and this weird jazz guy downstairs - I loved all the music – I didn’t mind everything, I loved the punk, I loved the jazz and what I was listening to and it was great. But anyway yeah, so when I came back I thought ‘brilliant’ you know, I think we’d……she’d been seeing somebody while I was away and I couldn’t believe this, so I’d resisted heavily, because I’m like that and still am, and yeah she’d gone off with somebody and I knew the guy that she’d gone off with and I knew the guy that she’d gone off with and….I met him and I thought ‘I’m gonna reverse tactics here, I’m not gonna do what normal people do’ I’d never had it happen to me before and I thought ‘what’s the point getting angry with him; he’s not gonna tell me anything is he’ so I actually became very friendly with him, knowing full well what he’d done. I don’t think he was actually with her at the time but he was the reason why we split up…..so I was just really really nice to him and…..I went back to his place and stuff like that; he was really generous; he used to buy me pints and get me stoned and everything, it was great [laughing]….I thought ‘this is wonderful, I haven’t got a girlfriend but I’ve got somebody who I know is gonna tell me something one day!’ and I’m in a pub and he does, he says ‘I’ve got to tell you something Creedy’ and I went ‘alright then mate, what is it?’ he says ‘I’m the reason that you and Debs split up’ and I went ‘I know’….. ‘no no…’ I said ‘no, I’ve known for ages; I’ve known since the day; it doesn’t bother me’ and he says ‘but surely…’ I said ‘it takes two to tango – get me a pint if you want’ he says ‘no I want you to hit me’ I says ‘I’m not gonna hit you’ [laughing]…. ‘why would I do that? What kind of satisfaction is that gonna give you? No, forget it, go and get me a pint, it’s alright, forget it’ and eventually me and Debs did get back together after this, curiously…..and she moved over to Halifax because she wanted to do nursing training, so she came over to Halifax doing nursing training; this job I was doing at…….at….Community Enterprise Agency doing…making the models and the painting, and doing bits of pavement drawing. That came to an end completely; the whole place was shut down; there was no longer any funding for it…..I’d qualified as a sign writer, and just as I was going out to do sign writing, it was nearly on the same week they invented this machine that did plastic cut out letters…..nobody wanted signs, it was ‘ahh, thanks very much’ [laughing] That was a waste of bloody time! [laughing] So I thought ‘right, well everything’s come to and end here; my girlfriend’s over in Halifax’ and I kept coming over and visiting, stayed at the Halls of Res; nobody’s supposed to stay especially blokes, but we did; got to hear a lot of bands that I thought were absolutely out of this world. Lincoln, the problem with Lincoln was, there was no outlet for music. I did do a few gigs while I was over there; I played with a band called…the first band was called The Graveyard Stompers…..which is very interesting

     

    TW:

    So you’d been playing music while you’d been doing all this art then; you’d also been playing at the same time?

     

    AJC:

    Absolutely, yeah, in fact it was music that…..coaxed me away from art really, I mean I used to, when I was a kid I used to draw all the time; I never used to go anywhere, I remember this without a little sketch book, but once I got into music it took over a little bit, and started to get into that, so yeah, as I was away…when I left….when I was at Croydon I probably spent more time playing music than I did doing art, and I started writing a lot of songs there….there was little else to do [laughing]….well there was actually, between parties I’d probably do a lot of playing; it was just one year of parties really……and….and so I sort of brought that back with me, I’m trying to think of when I actually…..no it was while I was away that I got my first acoustic guitar, proper acoustic guitar, it was actually…..in fact the first guitar that was of any use whatsoever I think…..when I was about sixteen my dad bought me my first guitar and, I remember it well, it was a Star…..a Sunburst Eros Les Paul copy and he bought me a little practice amp which I used to have on full with a fuzz pedal…..all the time [laughing]….and the neighbours loved it…..it wasn’t……you could hear it all the way down the street by all accounts, but the next door neighbours….they also…..I think one of them played the drums and one played the bass, and we used to jam with each other; not in the same room; through the walls……the neighbours usually got a bit annoyed by this but my mother was very very good at sticking up for me [laughing]…..because she wanted me to have a good time. My parents were absolutely fantastic, I mean…….I’d had…..because they were a little bit older as far as other parents were concerned, so…..because they had me very late, I mean I was….she was nearer to the age, she was on the age where she couldn’t have any more kids, and my brother’s ten years older than me; my dad…..ten or eleven years older than me…..my dad just assumed that….she didn’t want to have any more kids because she had…..she nearly died and so did he…..my brother, in his birth……so my dad assumed that she didn’t want any more and you know, as you know, assume makes an ass out of you and me, and……and so she did and so that’s fine and I came along; I did have to ask her at one time ‘are you sure I wasn’t an accident? Eleven years mum, what’s going on?’ you know, because my brother left me, well he left everybody but I always thought he left me when I was six; he was sixteen….very very upset about that…..it really did…..in many ways didn’t do any good; he went off to Germany to the RAF and did a lot of that. When I was younger, when I was about eight, I thought ‘ah I’ll join him in the RAF’ until I realised that the RAF was involved with…..with war, and nasty things, and I was……I thought ‘well this is not right; I’ve always been into peace’……in fact until I was five, one of my earliest memories was of the time when they put me in a school and I was sat there with a duffle coat on with my feet against a tree, watching everybody in the playground and argue over a game of football, and I just couldn’t believe this; I thought ‘why has my mother dropped me in such a place as this? This is awful. What are they blood arguing about? It’s only an inflatable ball.’ To this day I still have the same opinion…..and I don’t like any sport because to me it’s just……..over competitiveness that really is not doing anything to instil peace onto the planet, so I’ve always been a little bit like that….so yeah, first guitar, Eros Les Paul, when I was younger I used to play through the walls…..and….oh, let’s see now from there….

     

    TW:

    You were saying you were in Halifax and you were hearing all these bands that you had not heard before, that sort of side of things

     

    AJC:

    That’s right, yeah, because in Lincoln there just wasn’t anywhere to play so The Graveyard Stompers was the first band and it was basically a ridiculous band in many ways; there was a very tall bassist called Bealsy, one of my friends, and this guy on drums that was called Al or Mad Al was……and you think you’ve seen the mad drummer; you think you’ve seen……Keith Moon on a bad day, oh Jesus, you’ve seen nothing! This guy didn’t seem to be able to play more than about, I think I counted three straight beats before he put a fill in and that’s how he played; didn’t matter what he played, that’s how he’d do it, and when we actually…..and it was The Graveyard Stompers…we used to dress for that; I had a long coat and a top hat on with long hair, looking a bit Bolanish, Marc Bolanish, and Bealsy always wore a bowler hat which didn’t fit his head very well, so it wobbled around a little bit, and he had a face a bit like this, quite miserable looking, but he was quite chirpy really, you just didn’t think so, and he was about seven foot tall, [laughing] so he looked really funny; went down really well….we did some odd music, but yeah, so…..when we took Mad Al’s drum kit out of the place we were practising, which was I think Bealsy’s shed, there was just…..you could see where the drums had been by all the cigarette butts that were piled up around it…..cos he chain smoked completely; I think he ended up burning a load of bibles and he was sectioned; I think that’s what happened to him; we never saw him again….not that surprised really, so when I came over to Halifax there was a lot more places to play; there was loads of venues; Halifax was buzzing; there was The George….the top half was sort of like the…..the wallies as we used to call it…the towelling white sock brigade as I tended to call them, and down below was the….the rockers and the alternative crowd; the Goths and things like that, which I was far more comfortable in, but I could reside in the top half, put a jacket on and go to the top half, and mix there as well, but my hair was quite short then, well it was a bit peculiar really, it was like a…….ball-like and standing up, but it was still very curly, so I could sort of get away with either really if I wanted to, but yeah there was loads of bands around and one of the main reasons that I eventually went to Halifax, and I’ve told the band this many times, was the band called Fez; I really, really liked Fez…it was just something completely different; I didn’t have a genre…..it’s sort of prog psychedelic I suppose, even to this day, and they’re still going which is testament to how bloody good they are…..there was a lot of other bands but they really stuck in my mind for some reason, and I thought ‘well if you’ve got a band like that, then this is the kind of place I wanna be’ and I’d come to the end of this thing at the Community Enterprise Agency, and I was in Lincoln; there was nothing really going on, so I thought ‘well, sod it’ and I’d got to that age where I think……I think I’d become a vegetarian; I realised that……well I knew that I didn’t like meat at all; I never really did; I picked out bits, so everything had just changed really; I’d got to that stage in my teens when it was a bit difficult really…..I’d had very little arguments with my dad; not much because my dad was always very placid, and I thought ‘right, sod it; I’m going – I’m off’ and off I went. I remember my mum and dad at the train station, my dad sort of took me to one side and said ‘you know son, you should never trust a woman’

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah, and of course I never did take that advice; I trust everybody [laughing] but he was right as it’s turned out! [laughing] He could have said ‘don’t trust a man either’ but I sort of understood what he was saying; I think what he was saying was ‘I know you’re going up there to be with your girlfriend’ sort of thing ‘but it might not all work out’ – I think that’s what he meant, I think that’s what he meant, cos for me….I tend not to differentiate….to my own sort of disdain sometimes, but, so I thought ‘okay’ so off I went…….to start a new life but actually arrived in Halifax at my girlfriend’s house, Debs at the time…..she was in a really funny mood and I couldn’t quite get this; I thought ‘brilliant, this is it; we can live our dreams darling’ you know ‘together at last…..tripping over the hills, through the corn, listening to Fez’[chuckling]……but she was in a really funny mood and I couldn’t quite work out what was going on, and eventually sort of like she was talking to friends and I was thinking ‘what’s going on?’ and a friend sort of told me ‘well she’s a bit tentative; she thought she wanted this, but now it’s a reality…..she’s a bit doubtful’…..I thought ‘well okay’…..anyway, it eased off a little bit, but I think it was probably about a year or so later, maybe two years that we actually did eventually split up; I think we’d been together for five years on and off, because there was that time when I was at college and…..so this was the last try really, basically, but we eventually got a little house together; we shared and got a little house together and yeah, eventually we just…..we just mutually split up, leaving me with this house and a rent that I couldn’t afford, so I…..I can’t remember; there was another band around at the time called Broadcast that I’d really got into……and that’s the first time I met a guy called Paul Holmes…..there was a guy called Phil Wilson; Ian Watson was a drummer and that was the link; Ian Watson was one of the guys who used to go round to the nursing home…..with a best friend of Debs who I used to go out with, so we used to sort of like you know, get up to antics in the corridors and things like that, and it was nearly……you know, we used to support each other so I got to know him and I got to know his band. The band was called XLab at the time, the original one, then he moved to this band called Broadcast, so I got to know all these and then my mate Shack who I know to this day, was the keyboardist so Paul Holmes was looking for somewhere to…..to live, so he moved in - I think he’d had a similar experience - he moved in with me and instantly it became a party house; absolutely mad house……lots of surreptitious smoking and drinking went on in that house…..lots and lots of music; we combined our musical collections and we had some fabulous stuff so the house was just…..people just used to pop round at all hours of the day; it was generally about thirteen people in the living room, absolutely insane; brilliantly artistic, creative house…..lots of things went on; we did…..I think we hardly ever watched television; we didn’t have to; there was far too much of everything else going on really……wonderful times in many, many ways; hazy days……. [laughing] …..very heady…..I ended up joining Broadcast; they asked me to play - their guitarist had pulled out - and so……obviously I sort of jumped at the chance, went into it and I’d been doing little solo things; I actually did another dream thing when I came over; I actually ended up supporting Fez, doing little solo performances, which to this day I’ve started doing again so it’s….it’s great, in fact the last time they played after me which felt really peculiar, at a recent thing at The Trades, it was just because of the order of things, but I ended up having to play after Fez; it was peculiar, but loved it, you know, it was great; it went down really well, but……so yeah, Broadcast, I went into that, and they were doing really well and I ended up supporting Dave and Allen, they always wanted to support Gong, that’s the closest they got…..doing really well, and…..I met Shack, but the thing is with the band, Ian Watson the drummer……and the bassist Phil Wilson, used to argue like hell and Paul would sort of like join in and sort of….he’d end up being part of this, and the only person that wasn’t really arguing with Shack on keyboards…..I don’t really argue that much, or I didn’t; I have had my moments, but I thought it was a bit like back at that tree when I was five, watching them play football and thinking ‘why are you arguing?’ [laughing] ‘where’s the creativity in that?’ so I’d just like go and lean on the keyboards and have a chat with Shack, thinking ‘just let them get on with it, eh?......What are you doing this weekend?’ blah blah….we got to know each other really well. Eventually I left; they got rid of me out of the band and got another guitarist in; I was always disappointed because he copied all my riffs, that’s great, I thought ‘well, actually on another scale, the riffs were damned good; the music doesn’t sound right but there aren’t many more’ so I thought ‘good, I’m glad you can’t copy my riffs’…..got to know them all a little bit, and kept on seeing Shack, I mean Paul was still staying with them which was a bit difficult, being sacked from the band and sharing a house with the guy, but it was alright; we were really good friends. Incidentally, after a year of Paul being with me, just under a year, he said ‘it’s my birthday next week’ because we got on really well; I couldn’t believe how well I was getting on with this guy, and I says ‘well it’s my birthday’s next week as well’…..he says ‘well, what day’s yours?’ I said ‘well mine’s on Monday’ he said ‘well mine’s on Monday as well’…..I says ‘we’re both born on the third of January! That’s why we get on!’ and we were, and we are very similar; to this day, on our birthdays, we both wish each other ‘Happy Birthday’, and every time we see each other it’s always the same; he’s very creative now, he does a lot of…..video, well not video, visual stuff and he’s….I think he’s Head of Department at Bradford University and….he went quite academic at one stage, and still, right down to earth; still wears his cap, still got his long ponytail, still very much Paul Holmes…….and that’s also the first time I saw Shack, so….and Shack’s somebody that I work with to this day, but mainly in a radio capacity; we never did really get together with much more music….so yeah where’s that brought us to; where are we now?

     

    TW:

    Well you’re through Fez, Broadcast…….you’re still in Halifax

     

    AJC:

    Still in Halifax, yeah, I’m still in Halifax; I stayed in Pear Street for quite some time, but the partying died eventually, after two and a half years and several people….because a mate of mine, Sean, also came there; there were other bands which I’d almost forgotten about actually. There was……a friend of mine, Sean, Sean Williams who now lives in Malvern I think it is, and they….he…..that’s it, when I went out with Debs, before Paul even moved in, I had to take a job; she said ‘you’re gonna have to get a job’ because I was on the dole, and so I thought ‘oh I’ll just apply for any job’ so I applied…..for the first job I saw which was at the DSS, or DHSS at the time, in Huddersfield as a Clerical Assistant; I thought it was a Clerical Officer actually. I thought ‘why not, okay; sounds easy enough; got to do something’ so I was quite chuffed by this and celebrated the night before, a little too heavily, massive hangover the next day and I had a zoot suit which came up to here; it was hardly appropriate but in Lincoln a lot of people wore zoot suits and really old 1950’s jazz clothes, and so I thought ‘well it’s the only one I’ve got’ so I looked a bit strange, and I had to run up the hill because I was late for this interview, and then eventually got there and I was absolutely parched, and in the interview I was looking at this carafe of water and I was licking my lips a little bit because I was dry as hell and they said ‘you can have a drink of water if you want’ and I fills my glass three times and downs it [laughing] and drank the lot - this was the beginning of the interview – and they carry on sort of like asking me sort of silly questions; one was ‘how would you say that sort of like geographically Lincoln differs from Halifax?’ I did A Level Geography and one of the things I did really do was Economic Geography, so I went into this thing called Chris Starmer’s Theory of Urban Revolution and…..and described it all; it’s something to do with….I can’t remember now…..something to do with splitting everything up into hexagons; you split conurbations up into hexagons, so I went into this and they’re like…….it was not what they expected at all [laughing]….I answered them completely literally, and then they eventually said ‘why do you wanna become a……do the job’ I said ‘well I feel I’m really good at working with people’ and things like that, and they said ‘well you’ve got to be good at working with people if you’re a Clerical Assistant’ I said ‘I thought it was a Clerical Officer’ so I even got the job title completely wrong, but ‘there’s no way I’m gonna get this job’ and I thought ‘well maybe good’ but they must have been desperate because they did actually phone me back and I was on a list of sorts and started working there; never my cup of tea, but I met Sean Williams there and….and…….and so he was a bit down on his luck; he’d split with his wife and he was saying ‘can I stay at yours for a couple of weeks’ and I says ‘course you can mate’ so me and him were sort of like thick as thieves; we both joined the union and then, because there was a big party going on permanently, that I didn’t want to miss out on; we were both often off sick on a regular basis, often together, and of course if they ever came and…..and some of them got a bit annoyed and said, you know……’can’t have this’ because once we was in Blackpool; we all sort of like went…..we was together with two other lasses; we weren’t going out, we were just having a great time, and we all decided to phone in sick so we could go to Blackpool, so we went to Blackpool and me and Sean went back to work a couple of days later because we had a day to get over Blackpool, as you do…….and [laughing] this woman was not very happy with us and she was saying ‘what were you doing at Blackpool then?’….. ‘what do you mean?’….. ‘what were you doing in Blackpool? You were in Blackpool weren’t you because I saw you’….. ‘yeah we was in Blackpool; what’s the problem?’ she said ‘well you were off sick!’ and we said ‘that’s right; doctor’s orders……he said ‘go and get a bit of the old sea air’ she says ‘what both of you?’ we said ‘well we both felt a bit crook, we both share the same place….you know, these things just pass around’ [laughing]….and they said ‘right’ and they got very angry about this…. ‘we’re gonna see our union representative about this’ and they said ‘I think you should’ we says ‘well we will’ and they said ‘well I really think you should’….. ‘we will!’ I says ‘do you know who our union representative is?’ they went ‘no’ I says ‘there’s two of ‘em – me….and him’ [laughing]….we were the union representatives…..we says ‘we’ll have a meeting and we’ll have a talk with ourselves about it and we’ll make sure that it comes up at the next meeting; see you later’ so it was like….and I think we took the next day off sick, through stress…..eventually it got to the stage where….I think we were allowed…oh it must have been…..I think it was a year or even two years before they actually…..you had to go…..to see their doctor to prove there was nothing wrong with you; I’d seen something on….Only Fools and Horses about irritable bowel syndrome, and the fact that it’s almost traceless, and you can have any symptom and it seems to go with it, and I thought ‘brilliant….great, I’ll use that’ so I used to put irritable bowel syndrome on the forms when I was sick, and irritable bowel syndrome and eventually it would be…yeah, you guessed it, irritable bowel syndrome…..yeah, definitely, irritable bowel syndrome once more! It was just getting stupid and I thought ‘well they’ll have to suss it out eventually’ you know…..and the [incomp], my officer above, absolutely loved me, because he knew what I was doing – he absolutely knew what I was doing, and he’d have me in his office, and I remember once I’d come in at two o’clock in the afternoon and I was supposed to have been there at nine or something like that; he said ‘go on then, what’s your excuse?’ I says ‘it’s not an excuse, it’s the truth’ he says ‘go on, give me the truth’ I says ‘right, and this is the truth’ I says ‘I had a dream….and the dream was that I was at work, and I went through an entire day at work doing all this mundane stuff that you want us to do’ and I says ‘then I woke up and can you imagine my distress, to find I’d done a full day’s work and I have to come here again!’ and he says ‘oh my God’ he says ‘off you go’ [laughing]…..and it was the truth. Eventually though, I had to leave and it was like on the day that sort of like the…..well on the week that they wanted me to go to see their doctor and I thought, you know ‘game’s up isn’t it; game’s up, I’ll have to come clean’ so I wrote them a resignation letter which was comical…..cos they all had sort of like little acronyms there, sort of like it would be, you know, AA would be Adminastrive Assistant, CEO….it was all that kind of stuff, so at the end of my……I think my, something like, my resignation letter saying ‘I’d like to say what a pleasure it has been working with you all. However, we all know this is not true’ and eventually it said ‘as you probably know, the task of humble Administrative Assistant is hardly my cup of tea’ and then I said something about my potential of going into music and saying ‘one day this might come to fruition and I will be in the position to offer you free tickets to an up and coming gig’ and this was going at the end of it…..I signed it ‘Yours Faithfully or whatever…..A J Creedy AA GONE’ [laughing]…..and the boss, the boss, the guy at the very top of the building who you hardly ever saw, for the first time ever, came down and shook my hand, and says ‘oh we’ve all had a great laught with your resignation letter’ he says ‘we’ve photocopied it and put it up all around the building’ [laughing]….and they had….he says ‘I really do wish you luck mate’ he says ‘obviously this is not the choice for you; I can see you’ve got far more potential than that’

     

    TW:

    Have you ever written a song about that?

     

    AJC:

    No I never have; I never have written a song about that actually; not that I’m aware of anyway [laughing]…..I should do really because it was hilarious, and eventually left there; went to get signed on again and started to do a bit more music, and went back to the party, which finished two and a half years later; we took…..Sean [sp]would bring in another person from the street that he’d met that was homeless or something like that and I’d go ‘go on then he can stay’…eventually the bloody floor was full of people and I’d have my room upstairs…Paul would have his room, then downstairs was basically where anybody wanted to sleep; never did ask any money off them, I don’t know why; I think I’ve always been a bit over generous really, but…..you know, we just carried on; I never asked any money off anybody and I just let them stay and…..they created a mess and occasionally we’d have to sort of put our feet down and say ‘come on guys, can you help us tidy up?’ you know, and occasionally they would, but yeah, eventually that closed down and I was left in…..I think at that time….what was I doing at the time….Sean and myself….and his girlfriend Laurel who also slept downstairs, so they couldn’t go to bed at night until we went to bed, and then they’d put all the cushions together; they had this big elastic thing, a cover, that would keep all the cushions together, and that was their bed for the night. We played in the band; we used to practise upstairs in the bedroom, called The Creed and The Colour…..and we used to introduce it and say ‘we’re called The Creed and the Colour because the name don’t matter…..and we’ll be there…..after the hymn’ [laughing]…….which funnily when we used to sing in assembly at school, it used to be…the song is [singing] ‘and the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter, I was there’ and when it got to the bit about creed, everybody that knew me, which was quite a few people, used to shout ‘creed’ so it would be ‘and the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter’ and the headmaster would look up and he’d never understand what was going on, but that was what was going on, so The Creed and The Colour.....which was peculiar because we hadn’t got…he was the drummer, Sean was a frustrated drummer really because he hadn’t got a drum kit; we hadn’t got any money, we were all skint; couldn’t afford to buy a drum kit; couldn’t borrow one, hadn’t even thought of it; I’d updated my practice amp from years ago, it had a PA now, an H&H PA, which I carried around with me, it was a nice four channel, all lit up in green with a speaker that somebody had made me, which I actually carried across Wandsworth Common when I left Croydon…..along with big canvasses…..I was a donkey; I’ve always been a bit of a donkey as far as carrying stuff….all across Wandsworth Common to get a lift from my…..cousin’s husband or whatever when I moved back to Lincoln…anyway, I’d still got this thing so we had a PA…..and he…..he didn’t have any drum kit but he eventually bought…the first thing he could find was he went in the Argos catalogue……and…. though other catalogues were available… and he found this thing called a Yamaha DD10 which has got loads of drum pads on it, and you can assign different sounds to these drum pads; it was a cheap drum….well drum machine but it had loads of pads, and he played on this and what he worked out was you could actually pre-programme it and do it live, near enough, so he’d play on this drum machine, plug that into the thing and that’s what he’d play on, and he got quite adept at this; his girlfriend, Laurel, could sing a little bit, and she did more of the ooh-aahs behind what I was doing so I’d do the main vocals and the guitar; I’d use a sampler pedal which was quite swish for those days really, a Yamaha thing, a Yamaha DD10; I tried to buy one recently….you can get ‘em, but it would do….was it…..I think it was about….I don’t know if it was in two seconds, maybe it might have been two or three seconds of sample, which was fine because it means that with the volume pedal you can just fade in like a keyboard sound and then lock it and you’d have somebody to play at the top of, so I’d use this quite skilfully over the top and the whole piece of music was basically me and the drum machine; we needed a bassist so we….we advertised and instantly this guy came in, and he was called Paul Walsh, and we called him Turtle……he did look like a turtle; he looked like Touche Turtle a little bit; he had……he had these little round glasses, and I don’t know…..he did look like a turtle; you could almost imagine him with a little beak; he had a beaky sort of mouth, it wasn’t very big, and he still can’t remember why he said this, but he did actually say ‘I want you to call me Turtle’ and he doesn’t remember this, but it could have been worse; it could have been ‘I want you to call me Shirley….I want to have babies’ you know, it wasn’t that; it was…..and he doesn’t remember him saying this; he’s often said ‘why do you call me Turtle?’ and we says ‘you told us to call you Turtle’…. ‘and it’s stuck… you call me bloody Turtle now’ so he’s still called Turtle to this day, but he was…..he was a great lad, good bassist, so this was the band; this was The Creed and The Colour’, and we used to practise upstairs, in my bedroom…..which was blue walls, sky blue walls; it was when we pretty much moved out….yeah, it was pretty much when we moved in……but there’d…..there’d been……posters on there and we’d taken blutac off, so rather than repainting the room which was expensive; I couldn’t afford that much paint, but I did have some white paint thought, that somebody had given me for free, so I painted clouds to cover up….to obliterate….so I had this lovely cloud that was like sitting in the heavens, to cover up where all the blutac had been [laughing]…..so this was where we played. Next door neighbours weren’t that keen on it, but they’d sort of got used to us by now, and…..we was partying all the time, so…..so yeah we practised in there; we did a few gigs and they sort of…..they loved it, it was very alternative; well ahead of its time; nobody was using drum machines, not as cheap as that anyway…..and it was a live drum machine as well so it was, even though it was quite cheap, it was…..it was really peculiar cos I was writing some very expansive pieces that……that totally changed; the time signatures would shift slightly here and there to say the least, they were long pieces; to this day I still write very long pieces of music, and…..yeah we did….we did play a few gigs including a friend of mine’s….a guy unfortunately called…..well his family name’s Sleigh, and his parents decided to call him Bob…….and he’s recently got married…..in 2012; this was his first marriage and he invited us along as the band, to play, and he loved us….to play at…..he was a resident of Pear Street so he used to come round all the time, and get rather squiffy with us, and…..and so, yeah, Bob got us to do this…..this wedding, upstairs at the Brearley Bends, just…..not far from where we are now really, a pub now closed unfortunately, just near Ludd Foot, and

     

    TW:

    The Grove?

     

    AJC:

    The Grove it’s called, yeah…..yeah, so upstairs in there was a function room, that’s where we did the gig, that’s where we did the wedding; it was rather peculiar, and we couldn’t quite work out why he wanted us to play a wedding cos although some of the tunes were okay, we never did any cover versions; to this day I still don’t do cover versions; I can see the point of doing somebody else’s music; you don’t know what their intent was when they wrote it, so I tend to avoid it. I’ve been forced to do it in the past, but never really enjoyed it…..but one of the songs we thought was particularly inappropriate and the one he wanted the most was called Chapatti Kittens …..and it was a little story that I created; there was basically…..in fact I think we just did it one night when we was pretty stoned, me and Sean, and it was…..it was about the….this story of some people that were……poor and on the dole, students I think, and they were really hungry, and a car had run down a kitten and because it was dead - they didn’t believe in death - they ate it, and so it was called Chapatti Kittens; it was quite cruel [laughing] and Sean wrote the lyrics to it which went something like ‘you’re furry you’re black’….what was it…. ‘you’re furry you’re black, and you’re flat’…. ‘you’re furry you’re black and you’re flat on your back in the road now. You’ve had all your dinner, but you’re looking thinner, you’d look well in my frying pan now. Chapatti kitten’s covered in oil, covered in something, chapatti kitten’s covered in blood, covered in goo’ [laughing] so it was a comedy thing, but it was quite…it was quite an eastern sort of…..sound; very very peculiar, again, quite ahead of its time; almost Moroccan, which was odd….so, they loved this, even with the odd lyrics and they all sung along to Chapatti Kittens and I thought ‘this is really odd – a wedding, singing Chapatti Kittens [laughing]….fair enough, fair enough, but that was effectively the first band over here, one of the first bands on my own over here, apart from doing my own solo stuff with Fez and supporting other people……so, that went on for a little while and eventually Sean moved….Sean got a drum kit; he actually got some money, not much, and bought this cheap, shoddy drum kit; it was appalling, it was really really nasty, and I think he…he ended up…..somebody gave him some drumsticks, which came from….I think his parents lived down in Malvern, where he lives now, and has done for years, and the drumsticks actually came from the drummer of one of my favourite bands which is XTC, so we had XTC’s drumsticks which I thought was fantastic; didn’t make the drums sound any better, they were crap, but we got a little mill - I think they do this nowadays - a practice room in Sowerby Bridge, which is opposite the…..the waste site, the waste disposal site, and we used to play in there, and Fez also played in there all; it was all quite incestuous really along the way, so we played in this place and…..horrible, horrible place with just bare bricks….breezeblock walls, a little bit damp but it was alright you know, it wasn’t too bad. We were luckier than most cos a lot of people got their stuff nicked from there; it was regularly broken into, but there wasn’t anywhere else to play really, so we was in there, and by this time we were….we’d changed our name…..and yeah, the bassist had stuck with us; I think Laurel had moved on, who was the backing singer doing the ooh-aahs, and so we had this crap drum kit, my not very good PA [chuckling], some borrowed microphones; there’s a long trail of poverty here…..the bassist and myself, and we….we formed a band called Neat Eric, and for some reason this was just a little phrase that Sean used to have; if something was really good he’d go ‘ah, neat Eric’…..never did understand it, but I thought it was quite a nice name for a band so we were called Neat Eric; I think previous to that we was called Think……not that it really worked….but Neat Eric, so Neat Eric ……Sean really loved…..he got me into……lots of jazz and Gong and stuff like that….Steve Hillage and Herbie Hancock, and stuff that I’d never heard before, and got me into alternative time signatures and….so this band was based around just doing alternative time signatures and….a lot of songs that we did were based around this, and I’d written stuff that was….that was so complicated that I could rarely get to the end of it, nor could Sean, but we loved it, so we kept playing….kept playing with this stuff, and to this day nobody ever did get to hear it and I don’t think I’ve got a copy of any of it

     

    TW:

    Oh really? Not at all?

     

    AJC:

    Not at all. I think

     

    TW:

    Not even the….was it just music or were there lyrics to it as well?

     

    AJC:

    I might have some of the lyrics somewhere, and yeah, I can vaguely remember how to play some of the songs, a couple of the songs…..so one was in like five-four timing; I can vaguely remember that, how to play that stuff……and…yeah, but there was a lot….I mean I think we did play a couple of the tunes that I played with previous…..the previous band I was with called The Creed and The Colour, and there was a few of the stuff that I originally did solo that I brought through into The Creed and The Colour, and still being used in Neat Eric, but we….we never did go out and play live; we….we were just never confident enough to do it; we just never thought we was good enough, but all the bands used to come in and listen to us and go ‘bloody hell’….they were just like mesmerised and……not surprised that we could rarely get to the end of it! I don’t think they ever noticed any mistakes, but we did, and it was just like murderously difficult bits we created for ourselves, but it had to be so…..so we never did go anywhere further from that, and…..but I stuck with it and then Sean eventually, I think….. ultimately cut if off; he went to Malvern and then he went down south; he….he’d met a girl and that was it; he went down south. I think he’s married with kids…..now, and we just lost touch, as I have with a lot of people over the years, because for me, even though I’ve had loads of friends, sometimes when everyone…..usually when they’ve had kids strangely, I just lose touch with them; not deliberately, it just happens that way, and even though nowadays everybody’s completely mad on sort of having so many friends on Facebook and things, personally I’d rather keep a comfortable amount in the focus and the circle that I’m in at the time, and……when I see the other ones that’s brilliant, but otherwise I’d spend my entire life trying to keep in touch with friends and not do anything, so……that was one thing, so Sean was off, and Turtle was still around, and….I think Laurel was still around, and……oh…..what happened then……we did another band and I can’t actually remember what it was called………this is a difficult one…..so we’re still in there…..yeah…..was it Eclipse…….oh what was that band? [laughing]…....we did play…..I was doing my solo thing, and I remember my prize possession that I got when I was in Pear Street, was this red 335….cherry red 335 electric guitar, and that’s what I was using…..that’s what I was using with Neat Eric before Sean left, and left me with this house in Pear Street, the party house; the party was dying …and….one night, just right at the end of being at Pear Street, I mean the house literally was pre-trashed for anybody that moved into it, to the extent that….. we’d seen the carpet, and when I moved the sofa, I was thinking ‘what’s all this basmati rice doing underneath the sofa?’ Never even had a curry or rice or anything like that, then I noticed it was moving, and it was moth larvae, so the carpet had been taken up and it was dumped outside; bare boards, there was nothing in there, the last residents of the party had gone, I was in there on my own, feeling a bit lonely and a bit lost, and my only prize possession was in the corner, this cherry red 335 guitar, and I was in town and there was this friend of mine….of a sort, that I knew, and this guy that was…..I didn’t really trust, well I didn’t really know him that much, but this guy, Mick, he sort of said ‘can he stay at your house tonight? He’s just a bit….he hasn’t got anywhere’…… I went ‘well for you Mick, I will do’ he says ‘he’s alright and stuff’ so he stayed on the sofa, I went to bed; the next day I got up; he’d gone and so had my guitar…….so I’d had my only thing in the entire house that was worth taking, he’d buggared off with it. Police came round and said ‘yeah, we know who he is’ and they says ‘he’s probably half way to Blackpool now, but we know who he is’ I says ‘well is there anything you can do about it’ they went ‘got to say you’ll probably never get your guitar back’ I went ‘ah, brilliant’ so I’d lost the only thing of value in my life at that time, and I was thinking ‘right, well what do I do here?’ and I think I’d got…I’d been waiting to see if I could get an acoustic guitar, and Les, out of Fez, had a shop, Piece Hall Music

     

    ---------------

     

    TW:

    Creedy take Two

     

    AJC:

    So, the 335 guitar was stolen and never got back; had to find a solution; it was that time in my life, as I say, that the room……there was nothing there, and it was quite sad; everybody that had…..the final few people that had gone into Pear Street were all gone and there was just me, and it was expensive to keep the place going. I think previously we had a drum kit in there on a wooden floor, and I think the neighbours got so annoyed, we didn’t hear them one night, and they claimed they were bashing on the glass door, double glazed door, so hard that their hand went through the window, but to be quite honest it looked like a brick to me…..there were the sort of skiing types; they used to have skis on top of their car, and they weren’t very happy with us, and to be honest I can’t blame them…..beg forgiveness guys, sorry about that one

     

    TW:

    So did you ever get your guitar back?

     

    AJC:

    No. Never got it back, so

     

    TW:

    Oh right. Carry on.

     

    AJC:

    Never got that guitar back……so, again, I didn’t have any cash but I think I moved to a……did I move to….I went to Piece Hall Music and asked Les to see if he could find me an acoustic guitar, because I’d seen him so many times in Piece Hall Music; we used to jam up there, which was how I got into Broadcast all that time back; the bassist said ‘can you come and play in our band?’…..so, Les phoned me up and said ‘I’ve got this guitar, this acoustic guitar for you’ and I went ‘is this a Takamine?’ and I hadn’t heard of it at the time; it was quite a good guitar; it’s here now……and so I thought ‘right’ so I got this acoustic guitar and I thought ‘that’ll do…..I’ll form an acoustic band’….no, I’d got this before the 335 actually, now I remember, so all I had left in my room I think I had the acoustic guitar, and I thought ‘right I’ve got the acoustic guitar’ I couldn’t do any of the electric stuff that I was doing, so I……. thought ‘I’ll form an acoustic band’ and I moved house……not so far after that, to a place called Mile End which was just up the road from where I was…..and my cat; there was me and this ginger tom called Red; he was……he was…. a party cat; he used to……there was a little bit of smoking going on in the room occasionally and the cat was hooked on this, and he would actually sit and breathe in……and follow it round the room, and occasionally, as he got to the top of the sofa, he’d go woah! [falling off] and he’d look as if ‘oh I meant to do that, I meant to do that’….tough cat; I saw him outside many a time, with…. I was quite proud of him… underneath a car, he’d got one cat pinned to the inside of the wheel and he was backing off with another paw, with the other paw, another one, and I’d go ‘alright Red’ and he’s still turn round and say ‘hello’…I thought ‘what a cool cat’……so I took him up to this other house, and not long after that he left me as well; it was quite sad, because he’d been my mate, but I watched him go and I always knew he was off, and I sort of followed him for a bit and I thought ‘right, he’ll either come back or’ and he didn’t, and I remember being really sad and sort of calling his name out when I was drunk and being in tears… ‘red’ [wailing] you know, in the night, and he never did come back…..I did find him once…..he was……he’d shacked up a bit further on with this old lady and I thought ‘well, I can’t take him away from her; he’s probably doing her a big service’ and he obviously didn’t want to come back with me; he said ‘hello’ to me then he buggered off; very clever cat; he used to sit on the end of my bed when I was ill; didn’t leave me alone; very clever cat; but anyway, that’s the cat. So there was me, completely on my own in here, with an acoustic guitar, and I thought ‘right, sod it, I’m forming another band’ and it seemed like it was almost in the same week. Turtle was up for playing bass, and a guy called Jez Hellands and his girlfriend Nicky……McCard I think her name was, now married, so both Hellands…..they turned up, and he plays percussion - he was heavily into folk – he had a band called Hills Like White Elephants which was a folk set up really; I wasn’t that heavily into folk music; I always found it a bit over the ear and [singing] ‘when my lassie comes home’……but I started looking to folk a little bit more as a result of Jez, and he played great percussion; he could sing, he was great with harmonies; she used to sing really well, she was great with harmonies; Laurel was still around out of the previous band, who did the ooh and aahs; now there was two of them doing the ooh and aahs, so we had two backing vocalists and me, the bassist and this percussionist guy, and we started off a band, and we practised in….in the room where we were there, and…..we were called Eclipse….which at the time was quite an original name. Shortly after that though, and again it’s a bit like……… the sign writing thing; as soon as I learnt sign writing they came up with the plastic cut-out letters; as soon as I came up with the name Eclipse, everything was called Eclipse…..there was the Ford Eclipse car, there was the washing machine The Eclipse, it was just everything was called Eclipse, it was like…..really stupid…..but we went out and played; we did a…..we used to play at the….The Puzzle quite a lot, and we used to play at The Woodcock quite a lot actually; maybe The Woodcock now I think of it….The Woodman Inn that’s now no more……just beyond Eastwood; we used to play there quite a lot as Eclipse, and they used to book us quite regularly really, even though again, we used to do mainly our own music, self-penned by me, and the band would sort of come up with their version of it; I think we had a cover version that we did which was Make Me Smile by Cockney Rebel which we did a version of, and we did Norwegian Wood which we did, because it’s a very short song, Norwegian Wood, great tune; always loved it, but to make it a little bit different we did it in three different……tempos, so it would start of normal, then when we got to the end of that it would speed up and we do another version of it, then the end of it was ridiculously fast, and audiences really liked that, so you know, at least they could……you know, grasp on something, so we only did two cover versions, but we got booked for quite a few things, and…..the posters, I designed the posters, and what I’d thought of Eclipse, you know…..orbs….so I had these orb shapes, so the letter ‘e’ would be shadowed out so it looked like a……and the ‘l’ would be like a curve, and the ‘i’ would be like a curve with a dot sort of like on it, so all these were joined together to make the word Eclipse, so this was on the wall in the pub, in The Woodcock in Halifax, down Gibbet Street, and one guy said once, he said ‘what you called? Ecogoose?’…cos it wasn’t that readable really from a distance [laughing]; it was clever, but it wasn’t very readable, which is probably why I should have done graphics; it just didn’t, so…..that’s quite a nice name that….so this place where I was staying, I had to get a lodger, and a guy called Adam, and we used to call him Taff, cos he was Welsh [laughing], and…..clever….and he was quite happy being called Taff, and he stayed with me, and he says ‘ah, it’s like a cartoon character’ and he did a sort of drawing of what he thought Ecogoose looked like and I sort of says ‘wouldn’t mind that’ so I sort of did a version of it myself, this….so it was this big sort of….fat-bellied goose…..with sort of like a…..an aphro, and….something hanging out the corner of its beak, and underneath its wing was the world, and this was….ended up being the album cover; under its arm was the world, and under its other wing was a pink feather duster……and it was dusting it off in space, so Ecogoose [laughin]….so this was the….we eventually did a recording…..so what did we do…..I think we did it for….it was very cheap…..I think we were just experimenting….that was it, yeah…there was a friend of ours, or of theirs, of Jez and Nicky’s, who worked at a place that did a lot of stuff, making electronics for the BBC in Burnley, can’t remember what it was called now, and they’d got this….cutting edge thing that was….a hard disc digital recorder, of course nowadays very common, but at the time never heard of, so this machine was there and we’d never seen anything quite like it, and he wanted to test it out so he chose us to test it out on, because he’s seen the gigs and liked them, so he came on to the practice room in Sowerby Bridge; by this time we’d moved to a slightly bigger one with big metal doors - very safe – Fez was in there, and…..and he recorded us over…..I think it was over….it might have been just one…..one day…..might have been a couple of days; over the weekend anyway, so we did everything live and he just recorded it, and then we went over to……to wherever it was….Burnley I think it was, and we were there for the sort of mixing side of it, and we came out with the first album which was called Out of Time…..if we’d have looked a bit further we’d have realised that REM also came out with an album called Out of Time [laughing], but it didn’t matter; it was Ecogoose and it was quite obvious with this huge goose with a blue rinse perm that, you know, it was us, the cassettes went really really well, lots of people really liked it; in fact James Bragg, the local musician, he always loved; in fact we’ve always got on; some people haven’t, but I’ve always got on because we’ve got this musical thing; he loved it; he said ‘the first four tracks on that album inspired me so much’ he said ‘and still to this day one of my favourite four tracks’….so, the album went fairly well, and….so from not having an electric guitar, suddenly we had this band…..which had become Eclipse, then Kev went on to become Ecogoose…..we did a Battle of the Bands competition in….in The Coliseum in Halifax……and there was Fez on the bill who we loved…..I think there was Little Big Man…..and I can’t remember all of the bands but, they were all brilliant, and we got onto stage and…..being an acoustic band we had a certain set up, but Jez used to have this set up where he’d have two congas here and an extendable foot pedal for his bass drum which would be at the other end of the stage, so he could actually run across and play a snare drum on that pedal, but he could also play the congas and keep the bass drum going, so we hadn’t got that; we’d got a drum kit and we’d had to use the same drum kit and all the same amps, which was a bit testing for us because these were all electric bands and we were acoustic, so….we had to go for it; I think I ended up plugging my acoustic guitar into a….a Marshall stack…….not the most acoustic sounding amps in the world; they do now, but not at the time – Marshall stack – so everything sounded really strange; suddenly it was a drum kit behind it; suddenly there was a little bit of distortion to the guitar…there was a guy called Steve Marsden….again, local musician, he was a multi-instrumentalist; he came and joined us as Ecogoose, and he used to play laptop steel, mandola….every week he’d turn up to record the…..the practice with a completely different piece of retro kit, you know, little min reel to reels and stuff like that; he’d have really old pedals; to this day he still likes his old weird stuff….which was fine, so we was all there; we did the…..the gig and came off and went ‘bloody hell that sounded strange don’t you think?’ the audience loved it and we thought ‘that’s not really how we’re supposed to sound’….so it came to the results and we’re all sat there; I think I was going out with a girl called Francis at the time, we were all there looking… and then he says ‘and the winners….Ecogoose’…..and we all looked at each other and went ‘they’ve got it wrong…..they’ve got it wrong…..Fez were playing…..they’ve got it wrong’….and of course we went up and….. ‘well thank you very much’….we’d won it; it was like we couldn’t believe it, but everybody said it was such a great performance….. ‘it’s not really us’…..I have actually got a recording of that; we did actually get a recording of it, and I must admit it does sound quite good [chuckling]……which I was quite impressed by; I never realised; but of course, all these years distant from it, I’ve forgotten about the….. ‘surely you don’t like this’ you know, but we won it, and I think we got a free recording but we never did take it….take it up for some reason; I’ve no idea why, but we got The Courier coming along and they wanted to take a picture of us and they did the usual standard thing….. ‘hold your instruments lads and stand on the bridge, we’re gonna’…. ‘that’s a bit clichéd…’….. ‘no that’s how we want you’ so there we are, so there’s a picture of us just stood there with the guitar and things like that - I used to hate those kind of photographs - typical Courier, but [laughing]….at least we got some good stuff as well; I think at the time I said the best thing I’ve seen in The Courier is fish and chips, but…….apart from us, and….so yeah, we was on our way and people were getting quite interested in what we did, but at the time, Turtle the bassist wasn’t very well and…..he was suffering from depression and it was getting worse and…eventually…and the band was sort of getting annoyed with him, but I would support him and…..and I wouldn’t….so if he wasn’t available for practice, I wouldn’t practise….I wouldn’t do anything cos I was supporting Turtle, and eventually he sectioned himself……

     

    TW:

    Really yeah?

     

    AJC:

    Yeah. He went completely doolally and sectioned himself, so…again, the rest of the band was saying ‘we’ll get the bassist’ and I’m saying ‘no…..no; give him something to aim towards….when he comes out he’s got something’ and they all says ‘no way’ so, the band split up as a result of it, and I sort of stuck to my guns and would not allow it to happen, so band split up; Turtle eventually does get better and….when he comes out, as I promised, I said ‘do you fancy….are you ready to play?’ and he went ‘yeah’…..so I got together another band, so…..I can’t for the life of me think who the first drummer was in this band, but it was….it was called….I called it The Landing Party…..loved Star Trek…loved Star Trek……and I often thought of….I was quite into sort of like…..I’ve always been into weird stuff, aliens and things especially…..and…..so I mean some of the songs that I was doing with….Ecogoose, one was…..was about…..the fact that sort of…..Truman, the President, had covered up quite an awful lot and there’s a vast amount evidence for this…..about alien involvement and…..so one of the band, one of the songs, one of the ones that James liked particularly was this one; very strange, weird, spooky song…….and…..and so yeah, so I…..I’d got this thing still going and so The Landing Party was perfect, you know…..you know, we’re there to sort of greet you; we’re the Landing Party, and I used to get really annoyed because people used to introduce as Landing Party and we’d go ‘it’s THE Landing Party’ – didn’t make any sense without ‘the’ as far as I was concerned, although Pink Floyd used to be The Pink Floyd and that doesn’t sound right, but anyway….so we got together and…so there was me and Turtle as bass and……yeah, I’m trying to think who else was in there…..ah that was it, yeah…..we had…..eventually we got in Pete Gillon who now plays with Fever Trees, has done stuff with Blues Revelator….great guitarist, really good guitarist, and he played with us….and we went through…I think there’s a story goes that we had eighteen drummers in about two years of The Landing Party, maybe two or three years; I think it’s pretty closer to twelve, but we did have a lot and we practised, and some were just terrible…..good enough drummers but…..as people, we just couldn’t work with them

     

    TW:

    Are you of the opinion then like….a lot of musicians, or drummers, are just a species unto their own?

     

    AJC:

    They do have a little edge; I mean I don’t know; I suppose if your main wish is to…..is to….beat things up on a regular basis……yeah, I don’t know, it does give you an edge [laughing]…….but….perhaps they’re a little bit unworkable and untenable sometimes, but……I don’t know, we’ve had certainly many good drummers…..Ady Boyle who to this…..now does drum machines…..great drummer, always loved him; he was one of my favourites because he was such a good drummer. When The Landing Party split up, he wanted to reform it because he was that into it; never did, but……I remember there was a bunch of us, so there was Pete Gillon……and eventually……we had….we had a guy called…..oh, I can’t remember his name now; it’ll come to me, but he was…he was a complete pisshead……and he’d turn up , and he’d be….he’d always have loads of beer, and he’d…..I used to have a swig occasionally; I’d think ‘well, what the hell…..all for one’……and….I remember one gig with this guy…….we…..we was doing a wedding…..somebody’s wedding, no, a fortieth birthday, in this big place, and we’d taken….we’d borrowed this van, which we’d just managed to pack all of our equipment into, and he was…..he was absolutely rat-arsed when he got there, and I remember…..so we played this gig…..and…he was…..he was there behind the drums, and it’s like…..there was a ripple of applause, and I remember us having to speed up and slow down to accommodate for the drums, and the drums were supposed to be keeping the rhythm; in practices he could do it, but it was like he was off his head, and you know, big red sort of [ra ra ra] and there was like a little ripple of applause and he shouted out ‘fucking clap you twats, come on!’ and I thought ‘oh God, no’….and it was quite a polite party…..and it was like ‘oh God’ and when we’d finished the gig, you know, I think there was free champagne and he just went round anybody with a bottle, and he sat in the middle of the floor ith this big bottle of champagne and I thought ‘oh God’….so eventually we sort of like we packed all the equipment in the van; we were not very happy with his….his behaviour, and he says ‘well how am I gonna get back?’ and we says ‘that’s alright; you’ll get a lift in the van’ and what we’d actually thought was ‘right, we’ll put him in the smallest space we possibly can, and just see how….if he just like gets anything’ so we did, and the last time I ever saw him, I think I bumped into him in town a few years later, but the last time we saw him with the band, we’d put him into this van and his face was pressed against the glass, it was that cramped in there; this red, ruddy, pissed face was…..didn’t notice anything; he thought ‘ah, brilliant, they’ve given us a lift’ and we did just pack him into the back of the van and got rid of him [laughing]…..and got another drummer; saw him years later and he did actually say…. ‘so, sorry I haven’t been in touch’ he says ‘so….are we up for a practice soon?’ and I thought ‘oh I can’t believe you’ you know….but eventually…we got Pete Gillon who was still there, Turtle, and we got……it was……I think it was a Riverside gig in Hebden Bridge, and there was a band playing with this…..rasta guy playing on congas, and he just had a big smile on his face; he just had something that….I says…..I said to the rest of the band….I says ‘I want him to play with us’…… I said ‘I’m going to have a chat with him afterwards’ so I did; I went round and he was called Judah, Judah Allen……great guy, and I says ‘would you….would you go for it?’ so he did, so we got this….we was looking for this world sort of feel to the music, and…..and so he joined us….and it really picked up massively; we got Damon, who played with Fez, their drummer, came and played with us, and…..a fantastic drummer, and not your typical drummer, I hasten to add, by the fact that he’s very efficient, very very musical, and he used to come up with some fantastic musical ideas, and……when we went to record the album Making Faces for The Landing Party, which we’d just got some money together and went and did it, he came up with a lot of the harmonies and he was brilliant; kept everything together and he recorded the album Making Faces with the whole lot of us; big popular band around Hebden Bridge; everybody loved Landing Party, you see I’m doing it now, and The Trades Club, we’ve played there loads of times; they always used to bring us in to big the crowds up; people loved us….. World On Your Doorstep, I think we did that as well, certainly did Riverside several times, and did Making Faces, which I think was only….I think there was only…..I think we’d only four to do, about five tracks, so that’s the only album we ever brought out which is a real shame because we’ve done loads of stuff; not many recordings of any of it, but we did loads and loads of stuff…I’ve got loads of cassettes still, which have loads of……recordings of these and I’ve actually put them in shelves this time, and eventually I’m going to listen to some of these things and maybe digitise them, but….so, The Landing Party was going really, really well; people were totally getting off on it…..and…..yeah, my girlfriend at the time, Jeanine, her mother became the manager of us….big mistake……huge, huge mistake; I’ll never do this ever again and I’ve…..I’ve persuaded other people never to go down these lines….basically, don’t get your partners involved in the band. Pete, the guitarist, he had a girlfriend he was going out with at the time called Kate; she didn’t like Glenda who was the mother of Jeanine and the manager, and of course there was loads of problems, and everybody was getting involved in the arguments….apart from me, who would go and sit at the back and have a cup of tea…..and let them get on with it really, I thought…..and it was….to be quite honest I think you’d expect the band leader to sort of like put their foot down, but I never sort of thought I was a band leader even though I was writing all the stuff; I should have put my foot down a bit but I’m not like that at all, so I thought ‘well…..just let ‘em get on with it; I’m sure they’ll sort it out’…..yeah, it got very very bad…….to the extent that the whole band split up as a result of…..of her being involved and all this, and Pete used to get very very drunk and at gigs he would, even though he played brilliantly in practice, sometimes when he’d had a few too many, he made some really terrible lead guitar mistakes, but…..forgave him for that….but he was…he and Kate obviously were on one side and Jeanine and myself sort of on another; I wasn’t, but that’s the way it came across. He fell out completely with…..with me; we got rid of Pete….we effectively sacked him….this was a band decision, and Pete was absolutely furious about this, and the whole band as a result… we didn’t do a version, eventually Richard Dalby came in for the first time and played the other guitar; we wanted keyboards, so he played a bit of keyboards; wasn’t really a keyboardist so it took a long time for him to learn, and….and he played a little bit of acoustic guitar which was amplified up and that was the new Landing Party….we had various different drummers after that, Steve Marsden being one of them, and so this was the new band; this was the new set up. Turtle was still there, I was still there, and there was Richard Dalby and several different drummers [laughing] up to about eighteen…..this was the new band; it had moved on. Pete wasn’t very happy because we was playing stuff that we’d written together and….and he didn’t like that so eventually we stripped those out of the…..of the set and started putting in new stuff. We could have written a lot more stuff but every time we lost a drummer and got a new one, we’d have to do a new version of the song, and have to go through it all again, so constantly redoing the songs so that we could play them, and we knew that the audience knew them so we had to sort of do them, but getting new stuff out was getting more and more difficult…….and eventually, that completely collapsed and I’m trying to think when The Landing Party eventually collapsed; it just didn’t….we were just getting there as well with it, again, as it all fell to pieces…….for the life of me I can’t remember now why; there was a very good reason, certainly the Pete thing was…..was one thing, but that….that all….it all…..all fell….it went ory [laughing]….didn’t work

     

    TW:

    Ory – what’s that?

     

    AJC:

    Ory….that was it….ory…..ory is like when it went a bit…..it collapsed; there was something a bit wrong….it was because……let me think about this…..swig of coffee….swig of coffee break………..yeah….so we had Steve who was with us, who wasn’t actually…..a drummer, but a great musician, but he was so nice to have around; we were very patient with him, sort of doing the stuff and…..he was lovely to have around….that was it……he…..he left….no, we had another drummer, sorry, there was another drummer; he left and…..Turtle….shortly afterwards sent me an e-mail saying that if he was going, he was going as well, which left me with me and Richard, and Judah, and I just….couldn’t think of anybody that could be a replacement bass; I was really angry at the time because he’d let me, after all these years, I’d to wait for him to come out of….the psychiatric ward, after creating a band, after destroying a band before that, he let me know by e-mail that he didn’t want to be with us any more; I was really not very happy about that, and it was the way he did it; Richard was a bit more diplomatic but I was furious. I said ‘no, sod him’ and I didn’t communicate with Turtle for a long time; didn’t sort of say anything nasty, but didn’t communicate with him for a while, so there was me and Turtle left…..the jewellers is closing downstairs [laughing]….just in case you’re wondering…… and….and so yeah, there was me and Richard left and we started doing little bits and pieces together, and…..and eventually started to do…I started to do a lot more solo stuff and….Richard joined me on a lot of that, and we went out as a……as a double act at the time, again playing a lot of my stuff; we played a lot of the…..some of The Landing Party tunes, and still occasionally…..I’m trying to think what we’re playing nowadays….we’ve still got stuff in our armoury that was Landing Party, so me and Richard used to go out and do gigs together after all this; I used to do various other bits and pieces….I created a thing called Electronic Fest around here, because….it was basically Flanny, a guy called Flanny, we were sat in the pub one night and we was talking about….I’d started doing a bit of music technology; I’d moved in…I’d moved into Hebden Bridge; I was in Hebden Bridge for a while before that, I can’t quite remember how long I’ve been here now; fifteen odd years, and we shared a house together so we got to know each other and we started playing…….and yeah, so…..oh……threads……..let me think now……so we were sharing a house……we did that….oh yeah, Electronic Fest, so I was talking with Flanny and….at the time I was working on Reason, a bit of music making software, and I was fascinated by this; I’d finally got a computer; I’d moved in with Richard; we’d bought…..we were sharing a house together, three of us; we had to move out of that house and Richard decided to buy a house, and I could move into it, and I was his lodger, so we was in there together, and I had a computer because I was doing radio for the first time; I was working for Phoenix; we helped create Phoenix, me and Shack, going back a little while; me and Shack sort of once met each other in The Puzzle and he says ‘what are you up to?’ and I says ‘well I’m thinking of doing hospital radio’ he says ‘I’m thinking of doing radio; that’s really weird’ so we both went to do training at hospital radio, and…..while we were doing that, the guy thought we were so ahead of the game that he says ‘oh we’re doing something called Phoenix’ he says ‘it’s live radio’ he says ‘forget the training’ he says ‘come and do that; you obviously know what you’re doing’ so he just…...he just put us straight in on a late night show, and we used to do stuff that he didn’t know how to - this is why he put us in there – with computers, so we did…..we had sound beds, we had features, we had little characters we used to put in, and drop in….at the time on minidisc, and….he just couldn’t believe it; the late night show was a bit comic, but with really weird music and he loved it, so the next time he put us onto Drive Time and we ended up doing Drive Time, put us straight into highlight, and we used to do the weirdest Drive Time because we didn’t mention any traffic and travel, or weather; well we did, but the traffic and travel was a fictitious person called The Man In The Sky, and so we’d prerecord this, so Shack would say ‘now it’s over to The Man In The Sky with the traffic update’ and you’d get the sound of a helicopter behind, because he was saying ‘in our Phoenix helicopter, we’ve got The Man In The Sky’ so they’d go over to The Man In The Sky and he’d go [silly voice] ‘hello, I’m Shack. What’s going on down the road?’…… ‘what?’…. ‘what’s going on down the road?’…. ‘tell you what, my Aunty Alice’s azaleas need a bit of a trim’ and he’s say ‘no no, what’s that? Look down….oh no!’ [shouting] and he obviously had vertigo, so we never ever got any traffic news at all, none of it…..and the weather was…..was Judah again, Judah, and Judah wanted to do this and he….so we had…..the jingle for…… ‘so now it’s over to Phoenix FM….weather update’ and it had this little bed underneath it, and at the end of it, it would go ‘shoosh…Phoenix FM weather’….we took out the middle bit and instead of it going into this bed, it went [singing] and Judah would give the weather; we did nine different weathers, and slotted ‘em in, because we thought ‘what’s the point? Look out the window’…..so, we’d have things like Judah saying [Jamaican accent] ‘you think it’s cold…..you know why? It’s your own fault, living in a place called Colderdale’…..and it would be a ridiculous thing; one of the ones he wanted to do was….and we said ‘are you sure about this?’ he says ‘I really wanna do it’…..it was like [Jamaican accent] ‘you think it’s dark…..almost as dark as me’ [laughing] and we said ‘are you sure you wanna do it?’ he says ‘it’s fine, it’s okay’….so we had different weathers and we used to put those in the day, anyway, that’s radio, and Phoenix was around at the time and that’s when we started using computers because we started training, and then moved into Dean Clough; eventually there was a big fall out….and we started that, and we started by doing…there was a job going for training there, and Shack was more experienced than I was in this one so he went for it, and I sort of….I went there voluntarily and eventually got the job because I’d been working for them for about a year with not much money but thinking right… so we had nine computers in this place, people from random places; youth, you know, bad lads, people who wanted to go into college, older people, disable people, all walks of life came through here, and they all got trained in doing bits of software. The first day I had to teach computers and I’d had an update; forty minutes was how long I got trained on how to use this piece of software which was Adobe Audition, and then I was teaching it, and managed to do it because sat next to Shack when he was working out this stuff that we did for ages, and…..and so I managed to get it until it came round to turning the computer off and I’d never turned one off before, so….I thought ‘there’s a big button there’ so I pressed that and Andrew who was there, was there in the office, he was a bit of a pain in the arse, says ‘are you sure you’re supposed to turn computers off like that?’ I says ‘oh there’s several ways you can do it’ [laughing]….so Shack eventually says ‘there’s a thing called shut down’…. ‘oh okay.’ He said, ‘you just taught that lot.’ Yeah, yeah…so I got into computers and eventually got enough money to…..to get a computer; I think it was as a result of the death of my father at the time actually, who left me some money and one bought the computer; no he bought the computer before he died……insistent on….I think the first amount of money went to bailing me out from some place that I ended up leaving, and I finally got some money through and this time I bought myself a computer, so I got a computer and that’s when I got into doing Reason; I started to do stuff which I started all these kids as well, and other people; adults and kids and the lot…..and so me and Flanny have got well into making music like this in the pub, and I says ‘how many people are sat in bedrooms doing just this? Creating this music and nobody ever hears it’ and…..I says ‘apart from that there must be a lot of people doing computer visuals as well, and where are they?’….. so I decided to take this as a mission, so I created Electronic Fest and ….managed to get together a team of people; the first one…..somebody knew a visual artist and I thought ‘oh brilliant….brilliant’ I had this image of these big projections to this weird bleepy music, and so I had to meet this guy in the same pub, in The Fox and Goose, and…..never met him before; he’s called John, and so I went to the pub and some guy comes up to me with these big thick rimmed glasses and he can hardly see, and he went ‘are you Creedy?’ and I says ‘yes, who are you?’ and he says ‘I’m John’ and I thought ‘no…..no’…..I thought somebody was winding me up completely, so I had a chat with him and I thought ‘this guy knows his stuff’ and that’s all he can do; it was like incredible, and he would get really close to the screen like that and do stuff, but what he produced was out of this world, and he used bits of film loop and….effects to make this incredible thing, which would go along with what people played musically, so Electronica Fest started and we used to have…..we had Joe, we had a guy called Joe Coates and Mick West who was a multi-instrumentalist, and he came up with some of the strangest performances; he had Furbies that he’d reprogrammed to swear and talk when you hit them across the head; he’d have Speak and Spell machines going through pedals; he’d have cassette players wired in wrong so they created a single that he’d manipulate with pedals…..really peculiar stuff, all with these back sort of images…..and we did quite a few of those; became very popular…..and we did the first one for the Arts Fest and we had to go along to the Arts Festival…..it was a guy…..Dave Boardman, not Dave Boardman, another Dave, forgot his second name, said, he was on the committee, he said ‘come along; what we need is something a bit more modern; it’s getting a bit boring all this classical stuff and what they’re doing’ so I says ‘okay’ so I went along, and sure enough this meeting I was in…..when it came round to me saying what I was proposing; they did laugh at me….and I says ‘well, that’s what I’m proposing’ I says ‘you know, it’s cutting edge stuff’ I says ‘it’s modern art’ and I says ‘it’s up to you’ and they was all questioning me and I would give them the answers so I thought ‘well that’s that’ and….and Dave says ‘I’m sorry about that’ he says ‘I told you they were a bit stale’ I says ‘a bit stale; for goodness sake they’re in the Stone Age!’ and….he said ‘I’ll have a chat with them’ so he had a chat with them and suddenly they came round so we did it, but when we did it, it was a sell out and then they were interested, so the next time they wanted us to do it, we didn’t [laughing]….we did it ourselves, and we did it at Machpelah Mill in Hebden Bridge the first one, and I think we did our second one there; we did various places around after that and the committee got bigger and bigger; we had people doing decorations….we had people sort of, again, there was a lot of girlfriends [laughing], and they used to have a meeting in the pub, every week; there was really no need to do it every week, and that was probably a big mistake as well but everybody loved the social……so they all went every week to discuss Electronic Fest and what we were gonna do to make the next gig bigger and bigger and better, and by this time we took over the entire back room of The Fox, and there was too many people; it was almost…..certainly untenable, and it became impossible; there was…….everybody had got so many different ideas that it just wasn’t gonna work any more, and I just like pulled the plug…..didn’t wanna do it anymore; I thought ‘I’m not working with this; we’ve got too big’….just at the time when we could have…we were cutting edge; still to this day there’s not many people do what we did then….to this day though I’m actually gonna bring it back, but that’s another…that is a future story, but….so Electronic Fest fell to pieces, like everything else; just at its peak……so that had gone, so a lot of the time it left me and Richard and I went back into doing acoustic stuff again, with me and Richard doing the solo stuff, which to this day I do really; I do a lot of solo stuff, but also we got to know…..a guy called Mohammed, who was playing….well we got into a band that was called The Magraidibeat, who were doing Moroccan stuff, and I always…I loved what they did, really enjoyed it, and eventually he asked me to play……and so I went along and….I decided that….that….because it was Moroccan music there was something a little bit drone about it – very droney – I sort of understood what was going on, so I decided to totally change the tuning of my guitar to the closest I could get to Moroccan tuning, which is ude, the dacca tuning, so I’d said ‘right, I’m gonna change all my tuning; I’ve never played anything in this tuning at all; let’s go for it’ but because I play intuitively and not by…..reading or knowing anything about the chords, notes, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to me; I can always find the root note and find where I’m going, and then…play it, so I played with Magraidibeat and Richard ends up coming in to join us; we had Steve Grey out of the Owter Zeds, we had Richard coming in there as another guitarist and eventually there was three guitarists, and Mo, and Paul Deer joined us as well, so that was the….the final line up of us; there’d been lots of line ups, but that was the one and it was going really well; we did Soul Fest and the guys who used to be in Electronica Fest….Techie played every Electronic Fest; they were part of the crew but because they were, the played every one and we played Soul Fest on the same day that they did and it was great; we played….they played later on; audience went absolutely mad about us, but…..this was the biggest one we’d done; this was why we wanted to do festivals; we were a festival band , and so really important and somebody had told me…..a few weeks before, two stories I’d heard, exactly the same, about guitars falling down and I’m getting completely destroyed, and I was dead paranoid because it was a big gig; twenty five minutes before the gig I’d put my guitar on a stand and I’d made sure there were no wires near it so nothing could lift it up; I made sure there were no loose boards on the stage so it couldn’t move; I was paranoid as hell about it, and so there was nobody on the stage; this guitar’s on there twenty five minutes before the gig, and….every member of the band saw this – I didn’t – I just heard it; they said what happened was, the guitar didn’t just fall over, it threw itself on the floor…..and I came back to find this guitar, picked it up, and the headstock was hanging off it like that, on a thread….and I thought ‘well what do you do now?’ I’d got twenty five minutes left; I’d taken my Takamine with me, just in case; got a bit bored of playing that, got a nice big new guitar, and it just….committed suicide on stage, twenty five minutes before we played……I had to calm down a little bit, I had someone roll me a big fat one [laughing] and….I’d come round a bit, and I’ll just….. just enough to kill that memory so I could just focus on the music; I’ll play my spare guitar…..so I came back and…..and we played the gig and it went down a storm, and strangely this guitar that I’d got bored with was playing beautifully, and I was tempted to smash this guitar up on the stage but I thought ‘no I won’t do that’…..found somebody to repair it and to this day it’s my main instrument, but after that Magaidibeat was offered one year…..six festivals, three of which were headlines….one was after I think, it was either The Wailers or The Blockheads, so it was……it was a big….big sort of set up, and we were really looking forward to this, but Mo was getting a bit strange….something was going on that wasn’t quite right; he’d moved out of his wife’s and moved in with somebody else, and it was all going a little bit ory [laughing]…..word of the week, and….eventually he just buggered off; he’d been a naughty boy somehow, and we’ve never seen him to this day but we was very very fed up cos he left us with six gigs that we couldn’t play, and we tried to get together but there was nothing we could do, because we were a Moroccan trance band, but without the Moroccan bit, we were a trance band….that’s not what we were booked to do, so we had no vocals because it was all in what I used to call cling-on….it were a bit….but it sounds like cling-on, and so we were stuck, absolutely devastated by this; really really annoyed; it took…..cos we felt really let down by him as much as anything else; to this day we’ve not ever heard anything from him; we didn’t get an apology; he just moved, and….so that was it; again, just got to the peak, all fell to pieces again……bloody devastated…….eventually….that’s why I carried on doing my solo stuff; eventually…..we met a guy called Ade who used to play with the Groovy Beat; felt the same about Mo as we did; we were all annoyed with him….there was Paul Deer and there was Richard….me, Paul Deer and Richard got together, trying to sort of come up with….we thought ‘right, at least we’ll get the trance element there’ so we tried the trance element, came up with some tunes…..we decided….I decided that it was gonna be called Nomos because Mo wasn’t in there, and I thought it was very funny that we called it Nomos but other people were saying ‘ah that’s daft’ so, Nomos we were, so we had…..I think we had Nomos five; Nomos…..Nomos one, Nomos two, Nomos three, Nomos four, Nomos five…..Nomos one I’d written the lyrics to; I thought ‘what I’ll do with the lyrics’…..we played them…..it all went well but Paul Deer said ‘it’s fine’ he says ‘but it sounds like I’m playing our music rather than ours’ and I went ‘fair enough; we need somebody else in’ so Ade comes along…..and we get together and start doing stuff with that, and again, that was starting to get some heads turning; we’d already got re-bookings; a lot of the places we were gonna play said ‘let us know when you’re ready to go again and we’ll book you; we can’t put you on headline but we’ll certainly have you as high as we can’ so we thought ‘brilliant’ so…we all got together…..and then…..unfortunately Richard had a child – not unfortunately – great kid, but his wife went a bit strange and went awol, leaving Richard with the child, and his commitments then were obviously to the child and we understood that completely, but that left us without Richard and it had just got too much by this time, so Nomos died a death. Paul Deer had got….busy doing other stuff, the Cagimore Family, and we…..were left with very little, so again I immersed myself into solo music which to this day, now [chuckling] – we’re nearly there – I do an awful lot of and that’s starting to pick up an awful lot as well; the people are….I’m terrible at self-promotion; I’d not bad at promoting other people which is why Electronica Fest worked, but promoting myself has been almost impossible; I haven’t got the ego for it, and…..so I get offered a lot of gigs, and I tend to play most of them; don’t get an awful lot of money for them but I do enjoy doing them, and I’ve got my….I met….I went to a….a course with…..cos I did an awful lot of radio stuff after Phoenix; I formed a thing called Now I See; there was three of us; me, Shack and a guy called Doug Lyons; we used to go out and do radio training as a form of personal development, but we did an awful lot of work with the Art University of East London and all over the place; we did an awful lot of radio work, again to this day; just starting to pick up on that one….but during that……met Andy Wells, who is a great…..Doug was doing a music technology course and I thought ‘I can learn a bit more about this’ so they was looking for extra numbers - didn’t even have to finish the course - they were looking for extra numbers, so I went along, did it, and met Andy Wells who was one of the teachers there….and he loved what I did, absolutely loved what I did, and says….and we had a studio there; we’d started just recording; he says ‘this is gonna be an album Creedy; I’m up for doing an album’ and I thought ‘can’t be serious’ and eventually left the course, because it wasn’t doing anything for me; it was always going backwards really, for me, and I think it was nearly a year later he phoned me up and says ‘what about that album then?’ I went ‘are you serious?’ he says ‘yeah, yeah’ so I went in and…..and started doing the album with Andy Wells and started recording….he used me for his students to practise on, positioning mics, but then Andy being belligerent and very very…..he knows what he’s doing to be quite honest, would go… I’ll jusr move them around to the right place now… (laughing) and he’d…..so he started recording me and looked at….and he started putting his own keyboards and….his production was amazing and I couldn’t believe he was doing it; the album was going really well and I think I ended up going round to his studio in Wyke….. Hideaway Studios and finishing bits of the album off, and I remember going to the studio in the college one day and I says ‘I don’t get this’ I says, you know, ‘I’ve got no money and you come in here and you do all this wonderful recording for me’ I says ‘I feel like a privileged vagabond’ and he says ‘that’s the title of the album’ and that’s what he said; he wasn’t bothered about the fact that he was doing it for free…..and so he says ‘in fact we’ll make sure that we don’t have to pay for anything; we’ll see if we can get the graphics for free or trade and everything like that’ and I did….Johnny, the guy with the glasses, ended up doing my graphics; he’s still a fantastic graphic artist, one of the best ones I’ve ever known; how the hell he does it I don’t know; he did the album for me in return for me doing something for him; I can’t remember what it was but…we traded and…..and so Privileged Vagabond didn’t cost a penny to produce, and it’s to this day my main album; again, promoted….it was Holyground Records, but they sort of died a little bit of a death; there was no sort of like marketing or promotion in place and it was left to me, and again, I ended up to be quite honest giving most of my CDs away; I think I’ve got one left that I haven’t given away; there was a load at Sid’s I never went and got the money, and it’s just….terrible, and I about a year on after a bit of a tragedy in my life recently, I’ve got to go back and finish off the second album which is gonna be called Where Are You’….. ‘W R U’….. ‘Where Are You’ but ‘W R U’…..tech speak, so the idea of this one is there’s a big stage, there’s something really exciting going on, maybe I’m playing or something like that and all the audience are coming right back to one big sing at the end, and you see all the lights on the phones coming all the way back to the front, and at the front of the album there’s a big sort of tech screen saying ‘Where Are You’……..yeah……yeah, so it’s a statement……and so we’ve started doing this and Andy’s been constantly trying to contact me, saying ‘when are you gonna come and finish this?’ so that’s where the future lies; Electronic Fest I’ve….I’m bringing back cos The Dog House, which is a big organisation, is…..is…..it’s actually got its own place now and they says ‘that’s what we’d like you to come and do’….that and an open mic session, so that’s where we’re at………..

     

    TW:

    There’s one other thing I would…..like to ask you about. It’s about artwork.

     

    AJC:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    I know you did some drawings for….for corporate people.

     

    AJC:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    Can you explain a little bit about that?

     

    AJC:

    Yes. This is a little invention of mine. It’s called a Conceptograph; the word itself is also an invention. It was while I was working with Now I See with Doug and Shack [sp] and we was doing this personal development stuff and a friend of Doug’s …used to go out to these corporate events, and he’d do an abstract painting of their…..meeting, and they’d buy this of him and…..and that was….and I thought, and he says ‘you should do something like that’….I thought ‘well I wouldn’t do it like that really’ because again, abstract, I sort of know now more about abstract but again, when I draw, I always draw something that’s figurative, so I decided to do the same thing myself and was doing a radio…..workshop for Apple Organisation, at the University of East London where we also went and taught…….and, he says ‘here’s your opportunity’ he says ‘we’re doing radio afterwards’ he says ‘offer it for free; take your sketch book; I’ll have a chat with them’ he says ‘and draw the meeting’ I went ‘okay’ so this was the first time I’d ever done it, and they said ‘it’s fine’ so I went to the back of the class…..the room, and so I said ‘I’ll be drawing your meeting and you’ll be to hopefully see where you’ve been’ I said ‘I’m just trying to help’ and….this meeting was huge; obviously Apple Mac, you know, so it’s….they were discussing this new system whereby…..people learn in different ways - people access stuff in different ways - so they wanted a….different learning techniques and….and bits of software developed around it so that people could maybe learn through shapes or colours or whatever, rather than words and….and everything, and they had a big screen there, they were linking in with Macromedia in…..in….I think it was in New York; I think it was about five in the morning over there, so they were part of the meeting as well; big meeting, so I’m away just like, scribbling away and what I’d decided, the only way I could do was to try and remain as subconscious as possible; they were coming out with so much technical detail there was no way I could really know what was going on, and all I did was to like…if something suggested itself to me….three is a magic number…..three times, I’d think ‘that’s not my symbol’ and I’d put it down on paper, and it’d join, and eventually I ended up with the finished piece so at the end of it…then in the afternoon we did a radio workshop which they got an awful lot out of this; we played their….played….the roles were reversed so they experienced what it was like to receive this service when it was developed, and….but after that they said they wanted a big chat and the thing they was more interested in was my Conceptograph, and….they just….they were really perplexed, and for about an hour afterwards until the building had to be shut up, they were…..they were going hell for leather trying to work out….and thinking ‘something’s wrong; it just doesn’t seem to work’ and they weren’t saying my drawing; they were saying ‘something’s just not in place here; it shouldn’t be like that’ and eventually they sort of said ‘is there a pub round here; can we take that?’… ‘oh, go on then’ and I refused….I wouldn’t comment; I let them talk about it so again, they went to the pub and they were saying ‘it’s not gonna work; there’s things like…..the calendar hasn’t quite turned over and it’s next to some other symbol, and it’s suggested that the time’s not right and….and there’s certain pitfalls legally that aren’t gonna work’ and…..they eventually ended up not doing it…..I wish I’d charged [laughing]….if I’d got royalties on that I’d be a rich man now, but it’s not all about money is it you know……that’s only money so really, I am rich, but….so I decided to do a few more of these and so the Conceptograph, I went out and…..again, I’m not goog at marketing, but I did get a few, and went out and drew people’s meetings and stood at the back of the class…. ‘I’m an artist, I’m drawing your meeting in a metaphorical, symbolic way, and hopefully you should be able to follow the story of your meeting, the bigger picture, and you can cut out all the little bits’ and….I went to one thing which was promoting it to businesses…and I went as part of Artworks in Bradford, saying ‘can you show us what an artist do in that’ so I stood at the back, normally I do it A3, takes most of the day; I had an hour and it was like a six foot……roll of paper so I was drawing away at the back while they were having their little meeting, doing workshops, and at the end of it the head of all these business groups sort of said ‘don’t know about you’ he says ‘but when I get to the end of a meeting I’ve got piles of paper and minutes’ he says ‘I don’t read ‘em all’ he says ‘but I can look at that drawing and know exactly where we’ve been, and it gives me an idea of what’s going on’ so, that’s the Conceptograph which I…I haven’t done much of recently but I’d love to get back into.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay, very interesting that…….is there anything…..I mean I know I haven’t asked much, but is there anything I

     

    AJC:

    I’ve never shut up, that’s why!

     

    TW:

    Is there anything I [laughing]….this is what I always say at the end; is there anything I haven’t asked about that you’d like to add on? I mean I know you’ve given me quite a full story

     

    AJC:

    I think you’ve got a fair picture of it there really to be quite honest….I think what I…..there is…..there is one thing actually; there’s another one because there’s obviously…being an artist, I mean the reason why I left….art college apart from the fact that I was overdrawn and….and felt a bit uncomfortable in London and there was a lot of…..for some reason people who were sent to do Fine Art were….had rich fathers and stuff like that, and I wasn’t; I was from a very working class family and I didn’t want to get so overdrawn that my parents would end up doing it, so I was….I was playing a lot more music there than I was doing art, so music was….was a sort of extension of the paint brush, so I painted less and played more……and….recently I’ve…..I’ve teamed up with…a guy called Winston, a poet, and a guy called Jason, Caroline; he’s a visual artist, a drawer, a painter, and she’s a movement, dance type artist, and we’ve come together to form a thing called Ecphrasis; don’t ask me what that means because I can’t remember [laughing]

     

    TW:

    How do you spell it?

     

    AJC:

    Ecphrasis; it’s a Greek word

     

    Tw:

    Right, okay

     

    AJC:

    Can’t quite remember what it is, but there’s a website with it on; so….the idea….he came up with this idea saying that we wanted to be in the same room and just like feed off each other, so I could play some…..some incidental music……you know, he’d do some poetry, and I said ‘well’ I said ‘I’m a bit more interested really if……you were all in separate rooms’ because I’ve got a great interest in…in the connection between science and spirituality; I think they’re the same thing and at one time art and science and spirituality was the same thing….and that is coming together nowadays, I mean quantum physics is….the stuff that’s saying they’re there; sounds weirder than anything a mystic’s ever come up with; it’s getting to that stage now; they’re all starting to join, and this project joins it as a lovely solid object which is the most solid object, the triangle, and it is art, spirituality and science, so I separated everybody out in each room, have a fixed half hour, and…..you won’t be able to hear it; nobody knows what each other’s doing; perform for half an hour; everything’s on video, and then at the end of it, we’ll see how they connect; I says ‘I bet you there’s crossover, a synchronicity, that….is dumbfounding; I said ‘I’m so confident with it, we’ll just do it anyway’ and he went ‘right, fine; I like that…it’s okay’ so we all did it; he persuaded the others that it was a good idea….so we did it; we all separated ourselves out and did it for the first time; recorded it all; we did a bit of a settling exercise the first thing to focus ourselves and then we did a…..my idea was ‘talking sticks’ when anybody only gets to talk only when they’ve got a stick in their hand, recorded that as well, so the first one we do……and there’s….there on video, Winston doing his poetry and then somebody…gets his hand and a marker pen, draws round his hand, and then he cuts it out and folds it up in a weird way, at exactly the same time, because we were watching….we’d got these four laptops watching it all as close in real time as we can, all zeroed up; at exactly the same time the artist has like started doing a different drawing….and he turns around; what he’s been drawing….and it’s exactly the picture of this hand……..yeah….so, the synchronicity was pretty obvious; totally separate rooms….unfortunately there was a bit of a bleed in the music so the dancer had a bit too much of a clue of what I was doing…..I was playing acoustically….so we did another one, and….this one I played an electric…..and borrowed an electric because mine’s broke at the moment….I’ve got very into acoustics…..the 335 I love it…..but….and I used the thstch pedals so a lot of it was echo, so she said she could still hear a bit of a bleed, but what she didn’t hear was….was the fact that a lot of it was so…..so what she might have heard was [singing] ‘ding ding ding’ might have been ‘dickidickidicki’ because there was a delay on it….but we haven’t actually viewed this yet, but we….or heard it yet, so I still don’t know if this worked, because it’s been….a few months where everybody’s been on holiday and stuff like that; we’re due to do that very very soon [incomp] and…..but me and Winston….I thought ‘well maybe that didn’t work’ and I says ‘something’s bugging me’ and I couldn’t quite work out what it was, and the second exercise was Winston; he did something with a….peacock feather, and he’s said ‘I just put a peacock feather in front of this just to settle me and then get some focus on something before you went off to your separate places, and eventually it was like ‘so you got…..just feel the weight of it and put it in the middle of your….do you think that’s gonna balance on your hand? Don’t do it, just think….will it? Will it or not?’ and then eventually he said ‘let it go’ and of course a peacock feather’s perfectly balanced and it will balance on your hand without very little movement; incredible…and so we did that….what had happened was the artist had done loads of drawings and Winston had got obsessed with this vessel that was shaped like….almost like a goldfish bowl with a bit of a top to it there, and he says ‘for some reason there’s a spot on the bottom of it’ and he wrote down ‘why….why this shape? Why the spot in the middle of it?’ the shape again….. ‘why this shape? Why’….and that was his piece, and he said ‘I don’t know why I’ve done that…..no idea’ and then the artist had drawn loads of things, but then eventually it just clicked and I said ‘I’ve got it’ …..so the artist had done this drawing of…peacock feathers in his own interpretation of peacock feathers, and the shape was just like that with an eye for the peacock feather, just like the shape with a dot, and he went ‘that’s it…that’s completely it’ and there’s a few other bits and pieces but we’ve not actually explored this, but the synchronicity was there; the future, for me, I’d like now to…because he said to me, he says ‘you are truly an all-round artist’ because I’m very interested in lyric; again lyric and music was the reason why I took up guitar; not to play guitar effectively, though I can play….because of the way I play, I can totally ad lib for hours, which is what I do there, and……I can play in any tuning in because I don’t think about music in the same way, so I’m intuitive, but the lyric for me, also fits in; I like the poetry and the music coming together - it’s the….the big brush – so that with the electronics and everything else, have expanded out, so…..the future for me is….is a web design - I’d like to get a website – once I can finally get a decent internet connection, and put out the Synchronicity Generator, and the Synchronicity Generator is…..we put this out to the world in half an hour; you find out what your time line is and if you want to be part of it, do something creative; it doesn’t matter what it is, for half an hour, film it, and put it on the website; the two rules are: 1 – you must realise you’re part of the same thing; 2 – put your work out for us to see…..with your permission, and then we should end up with a load, and my idea of how it would look would be a fruit machine; pull the handle…………four little blocks come up….those four go into the corner of the screen, and then you watch it in synchronicity and see what the crossover is in them, and it’s a means of bringing all together and realising they’re part of one.

     

    TW:

    That sounds like a lot of work.

     

    AJC:

    It probably is, but we’ll see what happens [laughing]

     

    TW:

    That’s very interesting…..right then, well I’d like to say thank you very much.

     

    AJC:

    Been a pleasure.

     

    TW:

    And I shall….I shall stop there.

     

    AJC:

    Thank you.

     

    [END OF TRACK 1] 

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Mary Loney

     

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 26th of June 2012 and I’m talking to Mary Loney. So Mary, can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    MARY LONEY:

    Mary Loney; I was born in South London, 1943.

     

    TW:

    Right, so you were born during the war.

     

    ML:

    Yes I was, yes, yes.

     

    TW:

    And do you remember any of that time?

     

    ML:

    No, not really, very very little, no.

     

    TW:

    Whereabouts in London were you from?

     

    ML:

    Merton, South Wimbledon, yes.

     

    TW:

    Right.

     

    ML:

    I lived around that area, around Kingston, for the rest of my childhood.

     

    TW:

    Right. And what was it like around there at that time?......It’s nearly into Surrey isn’t it?

     

    ML:

    Yes it is in Surrey actually really, Kingston is part of Surrey. I mean very pleasant really……quite a lot of community feeling at that time, although I think that’s changed quite dramatically since I left…..yes it was a very…quite a happy childhood really, yes.

     

    TW:

    So were your parents creative in any way?

     

    ML:

    My mother….my father was a musician; he was actually killed in the war. My mother…..danced and did all sorts of things; they were very interested in the Arts obviously, and I can remember being taken as a very young child to Regent’s Park to see the open air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; I thought it was magical, absolutely wonderful [laughing] and then eventually I went to Art college, at Kingston College of Art and enjoyed it enormously, and then did a year’s Teaching degree at Reading University which I absolutely loathed – I thought it was really boring and I didn’t like it [laughing]………had a very good time really, moved……obviously then left home and moved to…..where did I move to…..the top end of Gower Street; I got a job in……it was a stage school in the middle of London at the end of Piccadilly; it was mostly ballet school and stage, and I became Head of Art there to my total astonishment after I’d left Reading University……so, that was quite an amazing place to be

     

    TW:

    So what kind of art did they do

     

    ML:

    All sorts – it was generally sort of things like GCSE and A Level Art – they had to do a certain amount of normal schooling as well as doing their creative bits

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    ML:

    And I met some fascinating people; I met Yehudi Menuhin, I used to teach his son and I met…..I made coffee for Rudolph Nureyev [laughing]……he’d be leaping around in his…..in the dance studio, and lots of the kids were on television…..but they had quite hard lives some of these children; they had celebrity parents and……I remember Shirley Bassey’s daughter very well, a very unhappy little girl who I believe later committed suicide

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    ML:

    So it was quite sad, yes…..so it was an extraordinary school…..I had an art room overlooking…….well Piccadilly really…..

     

    TW:

    Circus?

     

    ML:

    Yes, yes, and it was a rackety old building, but quite interesting. I used to take the kids out into Green Park you know, they had no playground or anything……so

     

    TW:

    What was the name of the school?

     

    ML:

    Arts Educational Trust. They’re now in The Barbican

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    ML:

    They moved to The Barbican

     

    TW:

    I see. So how long were you there for?

     

    ML:

    About four years……and then I met my husband…and we moved to Kentish Town…..we lived in a basement flat next to a pub, that was quite interesting [laughing]…..and I had a lot of friends in London, and then we had this idea that we’d moved northwards, and I’d never been higher than

     

    TW:

    What reason was that then?

     

    ML:

    We just thought it would be interesting to move north.

     

    TW:

    It wasn’t because it was cheaper or you thought it would be better for children?

     

    ML:

    No, not really. We actually did think it would be a much better environment to bring children up and we had two by then; we’d been foster parents in London as well; this is bit garbled, but we had been foster parents for a while, and we had one two year old, a foster daughter, and our own son who was about five months, and we decided we’d look for work up here, and Derek got a job with the Commission for Racial Equality in Halifax, so working with mostly the Pakistani community in Halifax, and we moved up…..I don’t know whether you know the housing estate up at Illingworth

     

    TW:

    Yes I do

     

    ML:

    White Lee….we moved up there; it was a cultural shock I can tell you……couldn’t get all our stuff in the building, and overnight a lot of it was nicked, so that was my introduction to Yorkshire [laughing]……and we moved up there and we’d two small children, one aged two, one five months, one dog, three cats and eleven kittens in the back of our Morris…..was it a Morris Estate, Morris Thousand; I didn’t like it very much! We used to go and stand in Marks and Spencer’s because it reminded me of London; it was the only thing I had any sort of connection with

     

    TW:

    So you were homesick really?

     

    ML:

    Oh definitely; it wasn’t that far to go…..but we did put down roots and then we moved to Parkinson Lane in Halifax, not too far from the college and I got a job in the college, and we lived there for about four years, and……then started…..decided we’d live out in the country, and we had a look at this cottage and then dismissed it; there was an old man in here; he’d been breeding Bulldogs in these rooms, in sort of cages; it had an outside loo, and that was about all. But then it came on the market again and we……foolishly or not decided to buy it…….and…..it was bloody hard work I can tell you

     

    TW:

    And how much did it cost?

     

    ML:

    One thousand four hundred.

     

    TW:

    And what year was that then?

     

    ML:

    19……early 1970’s……about ’72 or ’73 I think…….but it was not easy. We had no loo so we had a Nelson upstairs; we had no bath, and because we were trying to renovate this place, we went to quite a famous pram and baby shop called Liley’s in Halifax, and Derek went to ask them for the biggest baby bath they could find, because he needed to get in it at night [laughing]…….nobody around, and he’d walk down the stairs stark naked and tip the water out over the track……we had three children by then and I remember one of them saying ‘couldn’t we live in a proper house?’ when some of the ceiling fell down upstairs…..so it was…..it was very, very hard.

     

    TW:

    Well it’s a lovely house now. How old is it?

     

    ML:

    It is. It’s about two hundred and fifty years old I think, and in those days you got a grant for building a house, so you had to do certain things like take the stairs down, which were stone stairs, and Derek got a book out of the Halifax Library How To Build Yourself A Staircase, and he built one in five weeks before we moved in, and even the removal people felt sorry for us [laughing]……but we moved in May and it was…..it was lovely.

     

    TW:

    Do you know any other history of the house then, I mean

     

    ML:

    Yes, we’ve met odd people who’ve stopped and asked us about it. It was two houses obviously, so it had been knocked through downstairs but not upstairs, and we were absolutely sure it was haunted when we first came because we all never admitted it to each other, but there was somebody went through from what was the back kitchen and disappeared through the gate and the dogs would rush to the door, and it happened many times, and nobody admitted it, that they’d actually…..just an impression, and a very benign spirit, but I think we’ve driven her out now, there’s been so many of us [laughing]……so I got a job at the Art College part-time

     

    TW:

    That’s the one in Halifax

     

    ML:

    In Halifax yes, yes, at Calderdale College of Art, and I also got a job at…..with Adult Education Calderdale in Todmorden, so I had these two, you know, work going, and then we had two more children so we had five by that time, and the house was getting quite small for us, so we knocked through and made sort of extra little bedrooms, as I said before, like cells for them each, but wonderful community, you know, it’s the sort of place you’d come back from shopping and I can remember, some neighbours all sitting in the garden waiting for us to come back because the children wanted to play, and it was very much in and out of each other’s houses, and helped each other a lot; it was…..it was lovely

     

    TW:

    How many other families lived around here then?

     

    ML:

    Oh there were quite a few; quite a lot of children surprisingly enough. There’s one two three…..oh there’s about five or six quite close, and we did become very good friends all of us, and looked after each other’s kids when we were working……very lucky really. Snow was a bit of a problem…….they couldn’t go to school because…..which they thought was wonderful, you know

     

    TW:

    Well you would wouldn’t you? [laughing] as a child

     

    ML:

    Calder High’s not that far…….what else…..yes, as the children were growing up they had a huge amount of freedom, and four of them live in London now and they remember it with great fondness – digging dens, going out, they used to tie a string across the track to the big tree, the sycamore tree, and they’d do plays for us and all the neighbours; we’d sit and wait for hours while they prepared and got costumes on……lots of bonfires and picnics and….it sounds idyllic; it was hard work, and I didn’t drive when we moved up here, so that was quite a problem….bribing children to walk up the fields from Mytholmroyd, and there was always one that wanted a wee half way up you know [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Well there’s always a bush somewhere!

     

    ML:

    [laughing] There aren’t many bushes down that track!

     

    TW:

    So I mean, Foster Clough is the next one on isn’t it?

     

    ML:

    Yes it is, and you can walk down a track down to Mytholmroyd, to Banksfield Estate, so that’s the way they used to go, and they moved to Old Town School which was…..yeah, they loved that, very happy there.

     

    TW:

    Right. So, the Art School work that you did…….in Halifax….cos you basically, the one in Todmorden , you basically built up from nothing yourself.

     

    ML:

    I did, I did. There was an access – you’ve probably heard of Access courses running for mature students in Halifax, so I worked on that for a little while, and then I was also working with Adult Ed at Todmorden and I realised I was sending people to Halifax to do the Access course and Todmorden, all that area, they tend not to go to Halifax; they tend to go to Burnley or Rochdale, and they’re more sort of orientated towards the Lancashire side, and they’re quite remote from Halifax, and I sort of said ‘could we not start an Access course in Tod?’ and they said ‘oh it won’t run’ but they let me have a go, and I started off, I remember this vividly, with seven students - Eileen was one of them - seven students in a classroom and we did six hours a week; we had to clear it all away again, but after the first year it grew and it grew and it grew, and at that time……Calderdale College came under the blanket of Local Education Authority, so there was no dispute about pay or rules or anything like that, and there’s some big…..in Todmorden College there’s some big engineering rooms and woodwork rooms and they were all empty; they’d all disappeared, all the apprentices, and we sort of infiltrated really, and gradually took over one huge room, and I remember one workshop we had……what was it…..eleven Minis and a motorbike, and we sort of worked round it, and the students did installations on top of one of the Minis; it was extraordinary……but there was a huge sense of ownership from the students, and I remember one student – I didn’t even have a desk - got me a desk for a fiver out of a farmer’s barn and we sort of built it up ourselves, and….got furniture, and Bradford College gave us easels, so it was a very good time those years…..and then we started a pre-Access course called Routeway, and then we got a Higher National Diploma, HND in Fine Art, and so it was getting much much bigger, and then eventually…..it was partly the students, Betty Ward, who died a few years ago who was the Mayor, she and Harry were on the courses, and they got a petition up from students, asking for Todmorden to be allowed to offer a BA Honours Degree in Fine Art; it actually materialised and Leeds Met was the college who

     

    TW:

    Who sort of underwrit it…

     

    ML:

    Yes, yeah, so that was very exciting and it meant that the students could stay in Todmorden, and they came from Littleborough, some from Manchester, Rochdale, Burnley, so a huge area, and it was very very exciting, and of course they had to employ more staff, and we got very involved with the local community which I very strongly believe in; we had exhibitions in empty shops and mills and Hebden Bridge, down at Hebble End we had quite a lot, Melbourne Street where there was a big mill, it’s now converted into mills, Unitarian Church, we had many many exhibitions there, so it was an exciting time……and being twelve miles from the main campus actually served us very well I have to be honest, because I mean I just took decisions for the students and it worked well – very exciting.

     

    TW:

    So…….you’ve finished there now then?

     

    ML:

    I finished……three years ago this summer, yes, yes.

     

    TW:

    And the course is still running though?

     

    ML:

    Alas, with all the cut backs, Leeds Met axed all their Outreach courses so they don’t have a BA course which is really sad, and it’s shrunk….a lot of the courses are much smaller than they were, and it’s just a cost saving exercise.

     

    TW:

    Do you think that perhaps because you’re not there anymore and all your drive and energy really kept it going?

     

    ML:

    I don’t know, it’s very hard to tell…..I’m not sure. They’ve got some good stuff but they’ve cut back dramatically, I mean we had a purpose built ceramics room, print room, we did textiles, we offered sculpture – all these things – and a very very good guy who’s since moved south called Mike Walker who I worked with, I don’t know if you know him

     

    TW:

    I do

     

    ML:

    Yes, Mike….

     

    TW:

    Williams you mean?

     

    ML:

    No, Walker. No Mike Williams was sculpture; it was Mike Walker who did

     

    TW:

    Oh yeah, yes, I know him as well, yes.

     

    ML:

    Yes, so he was excellent, and brought a lot of sort of academic back up to the course as well, so he was very good

     

    TW:

    Because he was a librarian originally wasn’t he?

     

    ML:

    Yes he was, yes, yes, interesting guy

     

    TW:

    And then he became a kind of painter and print maker

     

    ML:

    That’s right yes, and he’s moved down; he’s in Chichester now, and Tony O’Keefe, I don’t know whether you know him – a painter – quite a dynamic sort of guy, but it’s changed and it’s very sad really; it’s shrunk…..put it like that.

     

    TW:

    How did your own work change over all those years then?

     

    ML:

    I didn’t do a huge amount while I was working; I think all my own ideas dissipated; they were used with students you know……I think you give so much at the end of the day you’re knackered when you come home; I did have a studio in Northlights and I kept that up, but did very little, but before I retired I decided I needed to get my act together so I did an MA at Bradford Uni over two years, and that got me working again, and yeah….doing a lot of work at the moment

     

    TW:

    So what kind of work are you doing?

     

    ML:

    It’s……it’s figurative work……quite big, and really based on the things that I see around me; like I had a very big painting of a couple eating fish and chips in Rochdale, and I had that short-listed for the John Moores, so I was quite proud of that; I actually haven’t got in, but I’ve got it short-listed, so that was good, so…..yeah, it’s……it’s fascinating, I’m having a wonderful time. Still teaching; I teach at Northlights…..Back Door Project

     

    TW:

    Oh yes

     

    ML:

    That’s a co-operative by the way

     

    TW:

    It is indeed, yes. Well I was one of the original members of Northlights.

     

    ML:

    Oh were you? I didn’t know that.

     

    TW:

    Yeah I was there……well I had a studio in there

     

    ML:

    You had a studio, yes, when we were at……was it Brunswick Street above……

     

    TW:

    On Melbourne Street

     

    ML:

    Melbourne, yes, yes, that’s right

     

    TW:

    At the top

     

    ML:

    Yes, up the top, yes I did for a while

     

    TW:

    Above there……well we started it and then we left that for about…..six years and we went and started Linden Arts in Linden Mill

     

    ML:

    Oh right

     

    TW:

    And then did that….

     

    ML:

    Yes I remember that

     

    TW:

    And then I

     

    ML:

    Because they’re at the top of Artsmill

     

    TW:

    They’re at the top, yes

     

    ML:

    Yes, yes I know

     

    TW:

    Well about Mike Walker – when I moved out he took my space when I moved out there

     

    ML:

    That’s a lovely space; they’ve turned that into a print area…..yeah, so it’s good, and they’ve made lots of sort of studios on the first floor…..there’s about twenty-two of us

     

    TW:

    Well the architects moved out didn’t they

     

    ML:

    They did yes

     

    TW:

    And they’ve taken over that whole space

     

    ML:

    Yeah, but the building’s been divided.

     

    TW:

    There’s the health bit at the far end

     

    ML:

    That’s right; that’s David Fletcher’s and Philip Bintliff has got…..owns this space, yeah….so it is quite interesting, and I’ve got space to work now.

     

    TW:

    Do you know of the other……creative like studios or spaces in Hebden Bridge?

     

    ML:

    Yes I do, I mean a lot of them actually are run by my ex-students, which is very nice; it’s sort of got this ripple effect…….there’s the mill behind us; what the hell’s it called…….Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn behind us…..and there’s just one opened in Todmorden now called Todmorden Studio and they’re all e-students; there’s a pottery down in Mytholmroyd – Brearley – that’s a lot of ex-students of mine as well, so it’s rather nice to see all these little spaces filling up with people, and I’m in contact with a lot of them as well

     

    TW:

    Oh that’s great

     

    ML:

    Yeah it is, it’s really nice how it’s carried on

     

    TW:

    It must be kind of fulfilling for you

     

    ML:

    It is….it is

     

    TW:

    You know, to see all that out there

     

    ML:

    Yeah, and I’m actually getting ex-students coming back enrolling on my courses in Hebden Bridge because they feel they need something to get them going again

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    ML:

    So that’s quite fascinating. They’ve got degrees a lot of them you know but that’s quite…..yeah it is very satisfying really, and there’s little……there’s another one in Todmorden – Platform One – that’s ex-students, that’s run by my ex-students as well, so they’ve sort of spread out.

     

    TW:

    Well it sounds like you have been a big influence on the creative scene around here.

     

    ML:

    I just pushed it a bit I think, and I didn’t take no for an answer…..and although I shouldn’t say it, I probably ignored some of the things from the main college…….or I did things and I told them later, that worked well!

     

    TW:

    Well it obviously worked out, so I mean how could they complain?

     

    ML:

    I know, I know, but maybe my record keeping wasn’t perfect and my paperwork

     

    TW:

    Well most artists are a little bit like that

     

    ML:

    Yes that’s true, yes, yes.

     

    TW:

    So what do you think, I mean all of these art studios and potteries and what have you are thriving by the sounds of it, what makes Hebden Bridge such a good place for that creative activity do you think?

     

    ML:

    I think any place could be a place for creativity; you need to give people the chance, and a lot of the students I had in Todmorden, they were the non-traditional learners; they were the mature students who wouldn’t naturally perhaps go an enrol, say in Halifax, because they felt overwhelmed by the people there, and very unsure of themselves; there was a lot of people had addiction problems, mental illness, people with physical disabilities, but we tried to make all of them feel welcome and give them….I think it was a very safe environment; all these people who weren’t sort of the more natural entrants perhaps to go to an art college, and they, I think we nurtured them, I think that’s what it was, and it grew by word of mouth; there was very little advertising when we started, and it was word of mouth. I had one guy who joined and he said he only came in to clean the windows, and I persuaded him to [laughing] the course, and a lot of them said ‘it’s your fault Mary, you persuaded us!’ I’d go ‘go on’ and of course a lot of the courses were free then, and that makes a difference…….and now if you’ve got a degree in anything, no matter how many years ago you took it, you’re not eligible, even if you’re willing to pay your way, to study a, you know, to go for a degree again. I think that’s grossly unfair.

     

    TW:

    Oh right I didn’t know that

     

    ML:

    Absolutely. When you think when you were eighteen and a lot of people got pushed by…..perhaps ambitious parents or….you know, to do a degree. I had one who did a degree in Theology; it’s not what you want to do at all, and you know, when they’re older there’s a….people are living much longer aren’t they and I think they need to be given a second chance, people, and I think that’s how we…..that’s how I thought about it anyway.

     

    TW:

    But in this era of cut backs……like humanity shall we say, are ignored really aren’t they?

     

    ML:

    They are, absolutely, and maybe the studio groups are sort of trying to nurture that, I mean very difficult because you’ve still got to pay, even if you have half a space in a studio, you’ve got to pay something…….I would love to open……an independent art college……that’s a dream for quite a lot of us I think who’ve been in teaching probably.

     

    TW:

    I know a few people like that myself I must say. It is an ambition

     

    ML:

    I know colleagues of mine, yeah, absolutely. If you could find a building big enough…..

     

    TW:

    But there are still art schools at the universities, or what used to be polys or what have you

     

    ML:

    Yeah, yeah

     

    TW:

    And they must still take students in……maybe on more of a limited basis than previously

     

    ML:

    Absolutely

     

    TW:

    But there will be a kind of……..mentality about the kind of people they want to do those particular courses….

     

    ML:

    They’ve been far more selective.

     

    TW:

    What is it? What makes a…..prospective candidate to an art school these days good? Why would they accept somebody

     

    ML:

    Probably somebody without any obvious problems, and a good portfolio of work, but then we used to sort of…..I looked for the potential in people, and some of them….they hadn’t done art for years and years and years, and you’ve to think ‘if you’re motivated’ and it was amazing how people progressed…..and you know, I learnt not to make assumptions about people when they came for interviews because people constantly surprise me. Give them a chance…..and so many of our students had never been given a chance at school, ever…..you know, that little voice in their head ‘well you’re no good at that’ – it stays with you for years and even students I’m teaching now, who are actually paying to come on some of my courses, very, very unsure of themselves……and they were told they couldn’t do it, and I think we all know that…..by art teachers, absolutely

     

    TW:

    Well what do you think those kind of art teachers are looking for then? Are they looking for a student who

     

    ML:

    An easy ride I think – I’m being very cynical – but I do, I do, and it was very limited, the art they did in some schools; it was copying things, being sort of academically good, and I’m sure you’ve found that as well.

     

    TW

    Well….I……I was lucky in the sense that my foundation was based on the Bauhaus

     

    ML:

    You were lucky

     

    TW:

    And that was a very good introduction to…..to art, and then when I went to art school it was…..the first year…..it wasn’t a degree, it only became that later on in the third year, and so in our first year we were taught how to mix our own paint and to makes sized and stretchers and all of that, although it was very much life drawing from nine to five every day practically, but after a term of that I got up and said ‘I want to study colour’ and they allowed me to do that

     

    ML:

    Good……good

     

    TW:

    So they were open minded in that sense….but I think an awful lot of art schools are very prescribed really

     

    ML:

    Absolutely, and they have to fit within certain criteria; it’s a box ticking exercise isn’t it? And you have to sort of twist it round to make it work for some of the students.

     

    TW:

    But I’m thinking that an area like…..you know, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden, this Upper Valley area, it seems to attract so many different kinds of creative people, not just artists, but musicians and actors

     

    ML:

    Yes and lots of writers, yes

     

    TW:

    And I’m still trying to pin down why that is, and it’s not just because……it’s a cheap place to come because it isn’t any more

     

    ML:

    It isn’t, it’s expensive

     

    TW:

    It might have been when you first moved here but it’s not anymore, but it still attracts those people and I’m just wondering whether it’s just the landscape or the…..the community spirit that there is, I mean how

     

    ML:

    Yes it could be that, I mean originally there was a lot of hippies wasn’t there? And I knew a lot of them too you know, up and down on this hillside and I don’t know, maybe that attracted people; I mean it is visually, it’s interesting to look at isn’t it? And you’re within easy reach of Leeds or Manchester and all sorts of sort of cultural activities, yeah

     

    TW:

    I’m just wondering whether the sort of non-conformist kind of attitudes of local people were born and bred here…..rubs off on non-conformists who are trying to get away from something and finding this place; I’m just wondering whether those kind of like attract like, kind of thing

     

    ML:

    Yeah it could be, and a lot of people have come up from the south haven’t they? I mean we were…..long before anybody else, we were one of the early incomers, because I do remember telling someone, we lived in Ealing for a while and we said ‘we’re going to live up north, up in Halifax’ and she said ‘oh I am sorry’ [laughing]….people were commiserating with us because we were coming up here, and it was black and dark – no stone cleaning, no shops open on a Saturday afternoon; it was a bit dour…..but the landscape is fantastic. I like that greenness.

     

    TW:

    It’s changed quite a lot since……in the forty-odd years you’ve been here

     

    ML:

    It has yeah, oh it’s totally, totally changed. Even since you’ve been here it’s changed hasn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Well is that just the physical side of it?

     

    ML:

    No it’s the people as well, you know, and the type of food they’re selling

     

    TW:

    So everything’s changed really; the whole lifestyle has changed

     

    ML:

    It has really I think, yes, yes. I mean we’re some of the oldest residents on this hillside…….now you know, we’ve lived here for a very long time, and we look at these incomers……and it’s changed; they’ve bigger cars…….farmhouses are renovated at a huge cost which makes our minds boggle you know, considering how we did ours bit by bit and living in it…..very different.

     

    TW:

    Right……okay……so why have all of your children gone to London then?

     

    ML:

    They went to college and they stayed…..you know, that happens a lot. You put down roots, but……my eldest daughter……they’ve been together for about eight years and they’ve got two young daughters, and they’re going to get married up in Hebden next year and they’re hoping to move up, but it’s finding jobs, housing’s more expensive. My youngest would quite like to move back up with his partner , but again it’s finding work……and the house property, I mean it’s cheaper than London but it’s still quite expensive, so and they did music; two did music, one did art, one did astrophysics, so….and one is a journalist actually; he’s been a journalist, so, you knows?

     

    TW:

    Well all of those…..categories of work are limited with these cut backs again; I know journalists who’ve lost their jobs and it’s hard

     

    ML:

    Yes, yes, it’s just, I know – you’ve got to be realistic haven’t you? I mean they’ve got quite interesting communities where they live in London; I’ve been down the last week, so it’s very different from up here, but they love coming back and the children, the grandchildren, just love the freedom. They cannot believe you can walk out of your gate and you are allowed to, and you walk along the track, and they’ll pop down and see Linda and Bob; you don’t do that when you live in Tottenham or Lewisham, you just don’t…….which is a shame, and my kids say they would love their children to have this freedom.

     

    TW:

    Right. Are you involved in Arts Festival in any way?

     

    ML:

    Open Studios I am, yes. I’ll have an open studio next week and I have done for the last few years; and we’re trying to decorate, I’m going there today actually, the basement gallery; we’re hoping to just get a little bit sorted out at Artsmill, so some of us are having work showing there

     

    TW:

    Where the carpets used to be made at the hole

     

    ML:

    Yeah the big hole, yes

     

    TW:

    Is it still there, the hole?

     

    ML:

    It’s still there [laughing]……it’s sort of been boarded up; there’s a huge amount to do to it, but I think we’re just gonna go ahead with it even though it’s……a bit piecemeal….be good though, be interesting, yes.

     

    TW:

    You said you had this…..a picture……short listed for the John Moores

     

    ML:

    At Liverpool yes, I was quite surprised

     

    TW:

    So is that still like one of the big things in the art world?

     

    ML:

    It is, it is, for painters anyway, yes it is. The first time I’ve gone for it, so……and they have about three thousand entries so it’s quite nice to be short listed. Unfortunately I didn’t get into the final thing, but it’s given me a boost!

     

    TW:

    So I’m just wondering about the art world really, I mean there used to be like John Moores and the Royal Academy Open Summer Show and those….there are other ones about, but

     

    ML:

    There are

     

    TW:

    I haven’t been involved in the art world for……nearly fifteen years now

     

    ML:

    Really? Yes, yes

     

    TW:

    I’ve been in teaching and doing this, and I’m just wondering if it’s changed in that time, I mean it sounds like it hasn’t really

     

    ML:

    Not really, no I still feel it’s

     

    TW:

    So it’s quite static

     

    ML:

    Yes it is, it is, and very difficult to sell any work at the moment…..and quite hard to get exhibitions; I’ve had joint…..I’ve had joint exhibitions with people, but you don’t……my work certainly wouldn’t sell. I think everybody thinks it’s slightly sinister, so…..[laughing]

     

    TW:

    Sinister in what way?

     

    ML:

    Well there’s a lot about childhood and…….the way children are treated in our society, and that’s what I did for my……my MA, for my dissertation, but I’m quite interested in elderly people, really old people, so…..you know, it’s social realism possibly, I don’t know

     

    TW:

    Right. So have you got any….artists that you look up to in that…..sort of field shall we say?

     

    ML:

    ……yes…..you know, you take little bits from artists don’t you? I went to the Lucien Freud Exhibition in London the other week, and found that quite amazing, and there’s all sorts of, Marlene Dumas, there’s a whole range of artists that I do look up….I manage to get down to exhibitions, and I’ve always run loads of coach trips down to London, and when I was up Todmorden we used to run European trips every year for the students, and take them…..first trip for a lot of them…Paris and Barcelona and Madrid and Prague, we had a wonderful time. It’s getting more expensive now.

     

    TW:

    Yes it is, yes

     

    ML:

    It precludes some people which is a shame, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Do you think art should have a message then, you know, this social realism kind of thing

     

    ML:

    I think it’s everybody according to what they believe in you know; mine has changed, like it does when you’re working…..it changes doesn’t it? And I’m very moved by the…..the things I see around me.

     

    TW:

    Right. Well it’s more people that you’re interested in

     

    ML:

    Yes I am, very interested in people and their lives and…..how they survive and…..they’re amazing.

     

    TW:

    That’s very interesting……so you paint?

     

    ML:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    I mean, you were teaching sculpture and print making and all of this

     

    ML:

    Oh I teach anything, yeah, I don’t mind [laughing]…….you can usually…..yes, I mean, I’ll admit to students, this isn’t really my forte but I know so-and so and so-and-so and I can take you so far, but painting’s my main…..and it always has been

     

    TW:

    So that’s the one that you enjoy yourself

     

    ML:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    So what would be the basics to teach somebody to paint then, if…..like I said I haven’t done any in fifteen years and let’s say I came to one of your courses at the back door and said ‘right, I haven’t done it in years Mary, where should I start?’ What would you say to me?

     

    ML:

    Yeah, do you know what it is – it’s giving people confidence, so you give them something – they need to have an early success with what they’re doing, so I’ve discovered; give them something that you know they can achieve and they go ‘oh, I didn’t know I could do that’ and it’s lovely to see that, and then you bring in the nitty gritty, some of the drawing skills they need, how to mix paint; I do an oil painting workshop and that’s quite interesting……and I find students really enjoy that once they get going. It’s all sorts of things – basics of design, look at other artists, take them to galleries, give them a sort of very rounded view of art.

     

    TW:

    Right. And how do you…….after, you know, a term or a year even…..it sounds like you push them in the right direction and you give them knowledge……technical knowledge they need to know, and then they kind of go on their own journey as it were

     

    ML:

    No they keep coming back and you make it more challenging for them, I think that’s what you do, within their limits, and what they’re interested in as well, and I think you have the luxury when you’re not working for a college that you can listen to students and actually what they want to do, and what knowledge they want to acquire, and that’s very important. You can’t always do that when you’re working

     

    TW:

    Within a system

     

    ML:

    An establishment, yeah…..yeah.

     

    TW:

    And when they come to you…….their aspirations shall we say, not just to learn how to do art, but where to take that and either try to sell or make a career of it – do a lot of them have those sort of aspirations as well?

     

    ML:

    Well surprisingly they still do, although this is not in a college with me, it’s just…..you know, the studio setting. Yes some of them, I mean some of them I have directed up to Todmorden to do perhaps an Access course…..and encourage them you know, to build up a portfolio, but they’ve all got different needs all the students…..very very different; different ages, different abilities, so you go from like this, you know, you’ve to be very aware and very sensitive to their needs as well.

     

    TW:

    I’m just thinking about comparing like Northlight and Linden Mill, Artsmill……and the studios and the people that are involved

     

    ML:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    Are there any kind of comparisons or are the spaces the same, or are the people different

     

    ML:

    Oh yes there are……I mean Northlights is a co-operative, so they…..everybody’s expected to help to a certain degree, and the studios, they’re much smaller, it’s a much more open system. Artsmill which I do like, I’ve got my own door, I can shut it; I’ve got a lovely big space, not particularly good light but you can’t have everything for the price, and that works very well for me. The other one, Northlights, has done brilliantly but it’s very open, there’s a lot more noise, it’s much more…..it’s much harder to concentrate on what you’re doing. I do like to sort of be away and have some music or something going.

     

    TW:

    Right. So in….in the open studios, do you think there’s more of a mingling of ideas between the artists?

     

    ML:

    Not……sometimes……yes, not always….sometimes. I think open studios is quite good because people do tend to mix and wander round, and I think my present students are very curious, and my old students are curious to see what I’ve been doing, you know, they come and have a nosey round [laughing]…..and see if I really am any good at all, after all these years of telling them what to do! So it’s hands up, this is what I do…..I’m under no illusions, don’t worry!

     

    TW:

    Do you think more could be made…..of the arts in Hebden Bridge then? Not from a teaching perspective, but of a more emotional point of view?

     

    ML:

    Yes I wish we had a really…..a really big space where people could exhibit, because it’s very limiting in Hebden. Whether the new gallery at Linden Mill will answer that; it will be…..will have ground floor access eventually when it’s made which will be brilliant, because there’s no access for people with disabilities, no wheelchair access at the moment and that’s really not on, and neither does Northlights, not upstairs anyway.

     

    TW:

    No that’s true…….so

     

    ML:

    I think the whole thing needs to be more accessible.

     

    TW:

    So…..if you had a magic wand

     

    ML:

    I would have a big space in Hebden

     

    TW:

    Would you like…….for example, instead of building flats and shops on some of those empty spaces, would you like to have like an arts centre or

     

    ML:
    It would be absolutely wonderful, a big arts centre…..minimal costs, where people could come in, perhaps a sort of drop-in centre, and like many of the things in this Upper Valley, word of mouth – I know it would work. You’d have loads of people coming in; give them a chance….give them a paintbrush, some colours, you could offer all sorts of things…..ceramics and textiles and print making……you could fill it, I’m absolutely convinced of that

     

    TW:

    Well that sounds like you’d like it to be….a new art school so to speak

     

    ML:

    Absolutely…..well yes, yes

     

    TW:

    Well what about just a promotional space, like for exhibitions and that sort of thing

     

    ML:

    Yes that would be…..yes that would be excellent, but it’s gonna be new flats isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Ah well, who can say? On Brown’s field are you talking about?

     

    ML:

    Yes I was, I just think what a fantastic space

     

    TW:

    Well there’s all the goits underneath it so that’s gonna be a lot of time and money to sort out

     

    ML:

    That’s true, that’s true, I mean it is on the flood plain isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Oh definitely yes.

     

    ML:

    So maybe that’s not a good idea. Plan B! [laughing]

     

    TW:

    We’ll have to see, yes.

     

    ML:

    Well we have wandered round and looked at places; we found a fantastic place, Unit 8 on Valley Road; it’s now been….it’s owned by Setbrays and we actually, we actually called ourselves The Big Shed and we tried to get funding and to persuade Setbrays to let us have it, but unfortunately they turned it into offices. We worked quite hard for nearly a year doing that, had a lot of….the first meeting had sixty-five people came so they were so interested; it would have been fantastic

     

    TW:

    Well you’ve got your audience there

     

    ML:

    There is, yes, yes I know, but it’s quite sad; it would have been wonderful that place, and there’s one or two places down Victoria Road, those…..the egg packing places

     

    TW:

    Yes the old places

     

    ML:

    Heated and we went round those, had a look at those, but it’s money basically. It’s trying to get some funding which is almost impossible at the moment

     

    TW:

    It’s difficult, very difficult

     

    ML:

    Arts Council funding, you know, it’s a no-no. Yeah, it’s a shame. I don’t give up – I keep

     

    TW:

    Maybe in a few years

     

    ML:

    You never know, I keep saying to people ‘if you see anything let me know’

     

    TW:

    Yeah [laughing]

     

    ML:

    Like these students in Todmorden of mine, they’ve got the upstairs of….I don’t know what…..Iron Gates I think, the actual factory, and he’s let them have the upstairs spaces, no heating yet, that could be a big drawback in the winter, but…..but it’s a nice space and he seems to be quite a good landlord, so they’re just opening up now

     

    TW:

    Whereabouts is that?

     

    ML:

    Stansfield Road; you go past the bus station and it’s the first road on your…..right, and it’s right down the end on the left with iron gates, and they’re beginning to fill up so I’m so pleased about it

     

    TW:

    Yes that’s good

     

    ML:

    I think they’d quite like me to offer one or two classes – I’ll think about it.

     

    TW:

    You’d have to fit it in

     

    ML:

    [laughing] yeah, exactly! What else would you like to know?

     

    TW:

    Well, I’m just wondering whether there’s anything I haven’t asked about, that you might like to speak about really

     

    ML:

    I don’t think so….oh I did get an MBE for all this work once

     

    TW:

    Oh did you?

     

    ML:

    In the year 2000, yes.

     

    TW:

    Have you got an MBE?

     

    ML:

    Yes, believe it or not. For services

     

    TW:

    Have you got it now?

     

    ML:

    No I don’t know where it is…….well

    TW:

    Did you meet the Queen?

     

    ML:

    No I met the other one…..her son

     

    TW:

    Her son…….Charles

     

    ML:

    Charles, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Oh right.

     

    ML:

    He looks as if he’s got a lot of problems, and very inhibited I think, poor guy.

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    ML:

    Yes. It’s very shabby, the Palace.

     

    TW:

    Oh well I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been there myself [laughing]

     

    ML:

    I felt slightly guilty about accepting it, but the students

     

    TW:

    Well you should have given them some tips on how to do it slowly over time [exactly]

     

    ML:

    Yes exactly! It was a very bizarre, totally surreal experience, quite funny actually.

     

    TW:

    Is there a very formal way that you have to do everything? Are you told how to act?

     

    ML:

    Oh yes, yes, yes.

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    ML:

    Absolutely. It was hilarious. When you’ve received your medal you’re supposed to walk backwards – I thought buggar this, I’m not walking backwards. I just said ‘Bye’ [laughing] and you could have three people with you, so my two daughters and my husband were there, and they were just killing themselves laughing, and there was the Band of the Royal Irish Guards and they were totally out of tune, and the loos smelt, I mean it was……a bit like Monty Python [laughing]…..I’m sorry about that, but it’s true actually; it was not impressive…..at all, and I felt slightly guilty you know, about accepting it

     

    TW:

    So who put you up for this?

     

    ML:

    The college I think, yes, the main college

     

    TW:

    What you’ve done is amazing you know

     

    ML:

    Not really, just happened – it grew organically and that’s the best way for things to happen, and I acquired things; I’m quite good at that.

     

    TW:

    Well it’s having…..the kind of personality that you have, that engages with people

     

    ML:

    You have to persuade people don’t you? And I’m quite good at twisting arm too

     

    TW:

    Are you?

     

    ML:

    Yes I’m quite good [laughing]…..oh dear

     

    TW:

    I’m thinking…..this…..this house that you live in……really it’s……I’d like to try to get a bit more…you know….do you care a lot about this house? Was it a farmhouse?

     

    ML:

    No no, just two cottages.

     

    TW:

    Right. And you don’t know why it was built? Was it built for farmers or was it built for weavers or

     

    ML:

    No not specifically, no no, it was just two cottages. Probably farmworkers I would imagine lived here. There’s a little study through the sitting room and buried inside was a tiny clog, but that was to keep the evil spirits away, and unfortunately when we brought it out, it just sort of disintegrated. Derek did take it to Banksfield Museum, they had a look at it, and it was absolutely minute, and you bury those in the foundations

     

    TW:

    And how did you learn that then? How did you learn that that’s what they did?

     

    ML:

    I don’t know, read it, read it in a book, probably in the museum as well, would have told us, and you have holly and rowan you plant and that keeps witches away, so we’ve kept it

     

    TW:

    I know about that, but the clog – what symbolism is there of the clog?

     

    ML:

    I don’t know. It was a child’s clog; it was absolutely minute, and it is to sort of to ward of bad luck I think

     

    TW:

    You haven’t found a cat buried in the walls yet then? [laughing]

     

    ML:

    No we haven’t, not yet. We’ve had loads of cats, but [laughing]…..just one disappeared, but I think…..yeah…..and we’ve had hens and somebody in Todmorden gave me peacocks and they use……you could hear our peacock Arthur miles away; we had a pair which was quite interesting

     

    TW:

    Did you really?

     

    ML:

    And they used to roost up in the trees, but so they wouldn’t get caught by foxes I used to have to knock them out with a drainpipe at night, and we had a shed with a high perch, and try and get them to go inside to protect them; we had ducks, we had geese, Shetland pony, donkey, all sorts of things over the years you know, never made a penny out of any of them; it was sort of the good life, it didn’t quite work! [laughing]

     

    TW:

    What happened to these peacocks then?

     

    ML:

    Eventually they…..we think they got caught by foxes. We had them for quite a few years, and my friends over the valley in Mytholmroyd could hear them at night, and every now and again they’d take off and roost up in someone’s tree or on a roof you know – fascinating

     

    TW:

    I didn’t know peacocks could get that high.

     

    ML:

    Oh yes, they’re amazing.

     

    TW:

    Right. Were they a couple then?

     

    ML:

    Oh yes, Arthur and Muriel, yes.

     

    TW:

    You didn’t have any baby peacocks?

     

    ML:

    She did lay some eggs, but they’re not very clever and the eggs got eaten by something; they’re not very bright actually – they’ve got quite small brains. And Arthur, I don’t know whether you’ve seen them, you know, when they display, and they make this ‘sshhhh’ with all their brown feathers; he used to do it to cars coming down the track, and you’d hear cars driving down and they’d stop, and we’d say ‘that’s Arthur’ [laughing] – he just wouldn’t let them go! He displayed to dogs, to cats

     

    TW:

    What, blocking the road do you mean?

     

    ML:

    Yes, oh yes, absolutely. ‘Oh look at me I’m lovely!’

     

    TW:

    You don’t need a guard dog – a guard peacock! [laughing]

     

    TW:

    We had guinea fowl and they sound like football rattles. They used to make that noise if people came down, and we had geese that used to chase people, so, you know, very different for someone born in south London; we learnt a lot.

     

    TW:

    Well I mean…..going on to the other theme about the environmental side of things

     

    ML:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    Why did you have all those animals? Was it for the children, or were you thinking about

     

    ML:

    No we were interested – we just liked animals – we wanted to keep them; we had a lot of goats for years and years and years and I did used to milk them, except the children didn’t like the milk so that was a [laughing]…..never mind…..no we did…..I mean we have a sceptic tank and spring water so we’re fairly self-contained up here, which is good. I mean it’s hard work; you have to maintain things and look after them, but…..it’s a huge sense of satisfaction I think, and my husband Derek’s very good, I mean he put the electricity in, he put the plumbing in, and built everything, but it took a long time……and we had to dig up the stone flags in the sitting room because that was one of the conditions of getting grants – it was a shame really, but we found all these little marbles from a game called Nur and Spell under the, under the

     

    TW:

    Oh I know it

     

    ML:

    That’s right. We kept some little…..yes that’s right

     

    TW:

    Have you got some?

     

    ML:

    Yeah, somewhere packed away.

     

    TW:

    They’re ceramic aren’t they?

     

    ML:

    Yes they’re little ceramic balls which are called nurs and spells, that’s right

     

    TW:

    You hit them with a….like a…..a bit like a golf club

     

    ML:

    There were quite a few, and there were mouse runs underneath the flags and all these little ceramic balls, and we discovered what they were.

     

    TW:

    Why did they make you take up the flags?

     

    ML:

    That was one of the conditions; you had to lay a concrete floor

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    ML:

    A shame really. I regret that bitterly but we didn’t have a choice. We had no money, and we were reliant on a grant, and we’ve got concrete down….and then one of the cats walked across the concrete in the hall I remember; I saw this cat come flying out of the door, and Derek had kicked it……great big feet…..[laughing]…..oh dear!

     

    TW:

    Left its signature

     

    ML:

    Yes, absolutely! We have done some silly things probably over the years, but it’s been good….I think the children, they look back and say they had a fantastic childhood, and it was so free; they’d go out and we didn’t worry about them really

     

    TW:

    What do you think about people these days, who have this sort of ecological tendency – everything you know, green this and green that, and everything…..what’s your take on that?

     

    ML:

    Bit over the top probably…..a bit more of a realist I think.

     

    TW:

    Right. So are you in favour of wind farms or not?

     

    ML:

    I don’t know. Derek doesn’t like them at all; I’m not sure. I don’t know how much electricity we actually get from them. I personally don’t mind them; they’re quite sculptural sometimes, but the noise is quite intrusive. I wouldn’t want to live near one at all, and I don’t know how much it disturbs the birds – I’m not sure about that. I’m very undecided.

     

    TW:

    I’m just wondering, like you have your own water and all that sort of thing. If you had one of those, would it generate enough electricity for your household?

     

    ML:

    I don’t know; I’ve no idea. A lot of people, they are springing up; they are quite obtrusive some of them. Intrusive I mean….yeah, not sure…….what do you think about them?

     

    TW:

    I’m a bit like you….I find them…..I’m not sure because……in theory I think they’re a great idea because it’s sustainable

     

    ML:

    Absolutely

     

    TW:

    And I’m really quite in favour of that idea, of any kind of, you know, sustainable. Having said that, I don’t know how much they actually produce. You hear a lot of contradictory argument about ‘oh they only produce this much’ and ‘the wind only blows at a certain time of the day’

     

    ML:

    Yes I don’t know actually how much they really, really produce

     

    TW:

    And then of course they can….some people think they’re a blight on the landscape, and again, I see them as being quite sculptural

     

    ML:

    Yes they are aren’t they when they’re sort of turning round

     

    TW:

    What….eighty years ago or ninety years ago when they put up all the electric pylons

     

    ML:

    I think the pylons are far uglier and intrusive

     

    TW:

    We would have complained about all of that, but again, you look at them as sculpture, I think of them as totem poles

     

    ML:

    I know I know, I know and you think actually……yeah, interesting

     

    TW:

    And people don’t even notice them now because they’re more interested in the electricity that we get out; I’m just wondering whether

     

    ML:

    I don’t know, I really don’t know

     

    TW:

    I wonder if wind farms will become like that eventually, I don’t know. I’m a little bit up and down about it really.

     

    ML:

    Yes I am as well; I absolutely agree, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    ML:

    Anything else do you want to know?

     

    TW:

    Well I’m sure we could carry on talking for ever

     

    ML:

    For ever, yes!

     

    TW:

    [laughing] but I think that’s…..

     

    ML:

    I’ve probably left out enormous chunks but it doesn’t matter

     

    TW:

    Well that’s alright; it’s……..what you’ve said has been quite fascinating really

     

    ML:

    Good….good

     

    TW:

    Just let me have a look at this

     

    ML:

    Go on

     

    TW:

    Yeah……I think that’s it really

     

    ML:

    Good

     

    TW:

    I’ll turn it off and if we think of anything else I’ll turn it back on again

     

    ML:

    Yes just turn it back on again, okay

     

    [END OF TRACK 1]

     

     

     

     

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Anne & Tony Isseyegh

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Right. This is Tony Wright, it’s the 24th of July 2012 and I’m speaking with Anne and Tony Isseyegh in their home in Heptonstall. So, can you, both of you tell me your full names and where and when you were born?

     

    ANNE ISSEYEGH:

    Okay, shall I start? Anne Christina Isseyegh and I was born in Rustington, Sussex.

     

    TW:

    Do you have a maiden name?

     

    AI:

    Hughes.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    TONY ISSEYEGH:

    I’m Anthony Isseyegh……and I was born in Egypt in 1951, and we came to live in London when I was eight……in 1959 and from London we moved to Heptonstall in 1984, and this is where I’m presently living.

     

    TW:

    Right. How did you meet Anne?

     

     

    AI:

    At college in London.

     

    TW:

    Ah, which college?

     

    AI:

    The Central.

     

    TW:

    Oh right. And what were you doing at college?

     

    AI:

    Fine Art

     

    TW:

    Right. Both of you?

     

    AI:

    Yes.

     

    TI:

    Yes. Well Anne studied Graphics before……..and that was her second course, but for me it was my first course, so I’m slightly younger than Anne and we met in…..early seventies…..and got married while still being students, so we’ve been together……thirty…..

     

    AI:

    Thirty-something!

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    It’ll be coming up to forty

     

    TI:

    Probably, yes….yes, thirty-seven years thank you Tony

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So…..I’m trying to think…..so you moved from Sussex up to Yorkshire

     

    AI:

    No, Sussex to London to work when I was nineteen and…..then London for sixteen years and then up here

     

    TW:

    Oh right…..well you came up in the early eighties then?

     

    TI:

    Yes; ’84 we moved up to Yorkshire and……previous to that I lived in London all my life……prior to that, obviously born in Egypt…..that’s it, but you know, I think the sense of being…..slightly an outsider remains and I think coming London to Yorkshire, that was our…..my first impression, that really it’s….we’re southerners moving to a very rooted county like Yorkshire is, but because there were a lot of other creative people here I think we were encouraged to feel that there was a sense of……openness and freedom about the way people thought and I think that is both attractive to us as individuals, but also for the area; I think it encouraged creative people to feel…..we were going to be odd enough in an interesting way to fit in with quite strongly individualistic type people; it wasn’t going to be hard to somehow operate in this area.

     

    [dog barking]

     

    AI:

    Shall I move him?

     

    TW:

    I think…..I think so, I think it’ll get worse really because he just wants to be part of it

     

    [moving dog]

     

    TW:

    Well what you were just saying about……feeling an outsider and also feeling accepted, coming up to Yorkshire, I mean did you have those sort of feelings when you came from Egypt to London, when you were younger?

     

    TI:

    Yes, yes I think as…..you know, I belong to a family that were typical refugees like there are lots of now, so that sense of being a refugee has always been part of…….my history and in a way I don’t mind that because it…..it’s a bit…..the creative life is slightly separate from…..the ordinary functioning of society, and it’s……quite an interesting place to be, because you’re an observer more than somebody who’s fully integrated in the system of how society might work, and I think from that stand point it gives you a different perspective.

     

    TW:

    Right…….

     

    TI:

    As you might have experienced yourself.

     

    TW:

    I……well I get that sometimes, that’s true. I’m just wondering about Anne. How do you relate to this idea of being an outsider?

     

    AI:

    Yeah I do too actually, yeah.

     

    TW:

    In what way?

     

    AI:

    Well I certainly did…..well I’m a southerner [laughing] and I haven’t dropped my accent, so yeah, it’s obvious. Probably when we were first here there were more of the older people who were more, you know, part of the real community that had been here, although everyone’s been very nice; never had any problems, but……..

     

    TI:

    There’s always been a sense of curiosity like ‘why……why are you here?’ and I think….I find that amusing because of course people who have had to leave the countries that they were born in, well they have to go somewhere else, but people who are very rooted , and I think that’s what’s so………what’s the word….evident about a rooted county like Yorkshire is that you take it for granted that this is where you belong, this is where you’ve all come from and even if you move two miles up the valley you think you’ve emigrated, because we used to have lots of friends and builders who worked with us and they’d say ‘oh I don’t come from Heptonstall I come from…..Mytholmroyd’ which is a sense of they didn’t belong to Heptonstall, they belonged to Mytholmroyd, so it didn’t take much for them to feel out of their……locale… so us coming from…..I think, again, it’s part of….because it’s part of my history, I think it’s also part of my creative sensibility. I like….being an outsider looking at…..whatever’s going on, so as an observer I’m not observing by identifying with a culture or a society, I am slightly outside of it.

     

    TW:

    So do you bring that into the art that you create?

     

    TI:

    I think so.

     

    TW:

    And how do you think that works then?

     

    TI:

    Well ultimately it……it’s accepting that we’re probably mainly spiritual people, or a phenomena, and maybe that sense of our spirituality and not quite belonging to the world is something I’m interested in or I’m nurturing very mildly you know, it’s not…..I’m not trying to propagate any religious attitudes, but just that sense of otherness, not just…..this is an observance of what is evidently here; there is a sense of I’m not sure what this is, so there’s a question.

     

    TW:

    So do you think this creativity, this outsider thing, but do you think that you’re reacting to your environment when you create the works of art that you create?

     

    AI:

     

    The environment round here?

     

    TW:

    Well around here, but….but the next question I was gonna say is…..so if……if you are or you aren’t reacting to your environment, then who is the audience that you’re creating these works for, because if you’re creating using the environment as a kind of inspiration is it for the people who live in this environment, or is it for somebody else, somewhere else, who might look at your works and say ‘oh that’s an interesting environmental idea’….the creativity based on that kind of environment is……is something I like….I’m just trying to ask….you know, how part of your creative process, how do you put forward…..it’s a question for both of you really.

     

    AI:

    Yeah……I think for me, I don’t actually think about the audience; it’s for me.

     

    TW:

    Right. So what kind of work do you actually do then?

     

    AI:

    Well recently…..mainly water colour, a fairly strong water colour; there’s one behind you over there which started off with a still life basis but now have figurative elements as well, but that’s really because I’ve been teaching water colour for several years so it’s sort of made me interested in it. Originally I used to work in a very different way and there’s one up on the mantelpiece there, which as you see is much more abstract and I still do some of that

     

    TW:

    Very Mondrian, and that type of thing.

     

    AI:

    Yeah……yeah, I mean that’s what I was doing at college.

     

    TW:

    Right. And do you sell these?

     

    AI:

    I have done, yeah, more of the water colours.

     

    TW:

    Right. But you’re also a teacher you say.

     

    AI:

    Yeah I teach water colour.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay. And have you done that all your creative life?

     

    AI:

    No. Before……I don’t know how long……well I’ve been teaching art to adults since maybe, since she was about six, so nineteen years, yeah. And it sort of turned into water colours eventually because teaching adults, you’re sort of led by them and really that’s what they wanted to do.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay. So you said earlier you did feel like an outsider coming up here and you said partly because there were so many locals here, you know, still. Does that mean that you think there’s less people who were born and raised here?

     

    AI:

    Yeah, I think it’s probably changed quite a bit.

     

    TW:

    Do you think, just people’s died off and younger people have moved away?

     

    AI:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    Right. And why do you think that is then?.....If some people come here because it’s so wonderful, why are the people that were born here moving away? How does that work, I wonder? What do you think about that?

     

    AI:

    I don’t know if they’ve moved away, but…….

     

    TW:

    But there’s less of them.

     

    AI:

    Yeah…..

     

    TW:

    What, in comparison to

     

    AI:

    Well maybe not

     

    TI:

    It obviously is house prices. I think that there was a period where people who were coming in obviously were coming in from areas where the houses were more expensive. We moved up here and…..because houses were cheaper than living in London and I think we’re not alone in that, so that’s probably…..that’s probably pushed up prices and there have been many jokes about…….outsiders coming in and pushing prices up, and people who were born in the area not being able to afford those prices and having to move away, and I think that’s happened everywhere nationally, and it’s probably more to do with how the property market is……nurtured or otherwise in England, because I think we all pay quite a price for having a roof over our heads. We now know, because we have children, and we hope and wish that they can have their own homes one day but we know how hard it is to start that.

     

    TW:

    Have they moved away?

     

    TI:

    Yes. One is in the south and the other one lives in Leeds, and I think…..they moved away willingly because they wanted experience, and I think we brought up our children with a sense of ‘you don’t have to remain in the locality that you were brought up in’. We do encourage them to go and experience other environments, and some do……you know, that oldest daughter wanted to do that when she was eighteen really. The younger ones….

     

    AI:

    Well, although she’d like to live…..she’d like to live here now but she’s got a family

     

    TI:

    Now that she’s got a daughter, yes, she’d like to sort of come back

     

    AI:

    It’s getting the work.

     

    TW:

    So well, that’s two different things I was going to ask about. One is….is to do with work, I mean when you moved up here was it because you wanted to raise a family in a nice place or did you have work here to come to, or it wasn’t just the cheap house prices

     

    AI:

    No, we were a bit mad, being artists you know, we just did it. Tony set up his own business and I was still doing some work…..freelance work which was mainly going down to London to get it, but eventually that turned into more locally based stuff.

     

    TW:

    Right. So what kind of freelance work?

     

    AI:

    At that point I was…..well I sort of fell into doing a lot of illustrating for…….children’s…..academic school books and things

     

    TI:

    Educational.

     

    AI:

    Educational that’s the word, yes, but I sort of fell into that by mistake, but that was good [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So did it just sort of happen sort of thing?

     

    AI:

    Well I was interviewed…….potentially to design a cookery cover for a book and the guy who was interviewing me went and got the……..oh what was it…..

     

    TI:

    What were you going to say

     

    AI:

    Chap in charge of the company

     

    TI:

    Editor….no, manager

     

    AI:

    Manager, yeah…..I think I must have had some illustrations in my portfolio, and they needed an illustrator at the time so he came and said ‘ah, could you do these illustrations? Can you do colour?’ Which I never had……..and I said ‘well no I haven’t’……. ‘oh well give it a try and bring some back’ so…..so that was the beginning of quite a lot of work wasn’t it?

    TI:

    And what’s also quite interesting about this area, that probably had that been in London it would have been less easy for work to casually happen like that

     

    AI:

    Maybe…….yeah, casually

     

    TI:

    I was just thinking that I wonder if that’s another…..outsiders coming in to the area with their…..skills have been an attractive new injection of creative energy to the area, because it’s all very well talking about…….what’s the word…..nurturing an environment to remain as authentic as possible, but it’s actually this outside energy that probably added to the mix, brings new energy.

     

    AI:

    Well I think that happens everywhere, I mean my home town is Worthing on the south coast which is……was very well known as a retirement centre and the joke was that anybody on the Council there would have been from Yorkshire, so you know I think [laughing]…..that’s how it goes…..

     

    TW:

    So they were the other way round

     

    AI:

    So maybe other people who are a bit sort of….go-getty move around, I don’t know! [laughing]……they were retired, you know, people retire down there and then they find things to do.

     

    TW:

    Yes. Like join the Council!

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So Tony, have you…..the work that you do…..well what kind of work is that?

     

    TI:

    Well…..I think as a creative person, for me, the whole……the point of it is to continually be…..I’m interested in continually reinventing what I’m doing and the purposes, there was a stage where it’s quite difficult to work out how to make any money out of your creativity, and a bit like Anne I did have to stumble across making bits of furniture that………I thought might appeal to………a more adventurous clientele who might want to buy things to decorate their home; it seemed like a softer option for getting creative things into people’s homes - it actually wasn’t - it’s no easier putting a creative piece of furniture into a house than it is to put a painting or…..but I did enjoy that period and I did sell enough work to make it……a fruitful and….commercial enough success, though I think that’s……that’s part of the period that now is not relevant to me anymore; I’m not that interested in the commercial market place; I see myself much more like a mature ……..creative person who…..as long as I’ve got enough money to live on, it’s…..I don’t need to make lots of money out of my creativity but I do need to reinvent where it’s going, so the last three years I’ve actually been doing a digital media degree and that’s………re-jigged my creativity to suggest different pathways to carrying on, not…..and this is where we differ because Anne doesn’t understand why I would bother to get into all this techno stuff, and yet for me it’s been quite a delightful……….experience because it’s a new toy; I don’t know much about it and I’m not adopting it seriously; I’m adopting it like a playful child-like………adventure, but because it’s technology and it’s not how we were brought up as creative people, then we differ; I think Anne might agree, seeing it as a distraction from just developing one’s……it’s unnatural maybe to her, or……..whereas to me it’s actually exciting

     

    AI:

    It’s also…..it’s sort of….it’s more blocked in a way because it’s not easy to actually see what you’re doing…….so

     

    TI:

    From an audience point of view?

     

    AI:

    Yeah

     

    TI:

    But even from an artist’s point of view there isn’t much to do because a lot of what I’ve been doing over the last three years have been little playful experiments and, although I’m not embarrassed – I’m not worried about the fact that I’m learning and that somebody might say ‘oh that’s a bit of a pathetic little film, you call that animation?’ that’s not because I’m a sixty-year old artist; I don’t care about the evaluation of my creativity by society or culture and I think this……the fact that we have exhibitions and we try to sell art, and we’re all competing for levels of………acclaim seems like that’s a real distraction. We have got so…..up ourselves thinking we have to be great, or we have to be famous, or we have to be rich for it to be worth it and actually for me, it’s just worth it and I’m quite adamant about the strength of that, but it’s a lonely thing; I can share it with probably a few people, but there’s no point my saying ‘oh I’m going to put a film show out of these little experiments’ because they’re not for public consumption; they’re only for…..for private creative…..if there were other creative people who were on my wavelength I’d happily sit for an hour and say ‘well I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ – that kind of thing – and I think that’s….that’s good

     

    TW:

    There is a tour of very short films running from the Shetlands down to Southampton and back again.

     

    TI:

    Really?

     

    TW:

    Have you seen any of them?

     

    TI:

    No

     

    TW:

    Mark Kermode was talking about it on ‘The Culture Show’ – they’re all very….very short, you know, two or three minutes, that sort of thing, but there seems to be quite a lot of them about all sorts of things really, and I just wondered whether you’d known about that and sort of…..

     

    TI:

    No, I……I’ve not tuned into that world yet because I’m only freshly into this digital thing and for me it’s still about playing and still about playing from the root of being a fine artist who was……what’s the word…..educated with painting and drawing , in inverted commas educated, because in the seventies there wasn’t a rigid education in these skills - it was really up to you – whatever you called painting and drawing could be painting and drawing in the early seventies, so really……it’s an open environment for what we……whatever develops our creativity and that’s remained the case still I think, and most young people are encouraged to keep on keeping it open, except they want skills, they want more skills and I think Anne’s experienced that probably more than me, that she’s given……people enjoy being given skills by somebody who has……that knowledge to pass on, whereas for me it’s still about experimenting and playing

     

    TW:

    Do you have works that you can show me a little

     

    TI:

    I have; I’m on video, so I think what you were saying about…I think I’ve had one visitor which is my daughter [laughing]…….and I sort of think ‘oh well it’s…..it’s a joke’ but it’s still there, and I don’t mind it being…..it’s a public place that people could go to, but…..I’m not embarrassed about it, it’s just…..there isn’t much tangibility to saying ‘oh blimey that’s a great film Tony’ – it’s not about that – it’s not trying to be a great film, it’s trying to be a creative enterprise, and carry on being the creative enterprise, I’m gone, so for me, that’s…

     

    AI:

    I think we….we’re the same in that way, that it’s about our creative journey and we’re not actually really bothered about other people entering into it

     

    TI:

    We don’t mind sharing

     

    AI:

    No no, not at all

     

    TI:

    I mean you’ve had exhibitions, you’ve put your work in exhibitions

     

    AI:

    Well I’ve put my work in exhibitions, but I’ve never really gone out of my way to exhibit - we’ve never applied for any grants for anything – we sort of were a little bit too late for all of that, weren’t we?

     

    TI:

    Maybe

     

    AI:

    We found other ways of being able to do it for ourselves, so……

     

    TW:

    I mean I know when the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival initially began twenty-odd years ago I think it was, you were part of that I remember

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    TW:

    Are you still part of it in any way?

     

    AI:

    Now and then……..yeah we did it…….three or four years ago, probably longer!

     

    TI:

    Yes I think that sense of taking part with other people in something, but I think when your creativity is……is about changing yourself so much it’s a…..it’s a bit of a private thing, you know…….I probably would like to have conversations with creative people but I don’t want to stand in my studio and explain anything to anybody; it’s sort of…..now and again I think that the people who do open up their studios are very generous and say ‘here I am, come in, walk around’…….there’s always a sense of judgment and….people sort of walking round spaces that you’ve spent three years building work in, in five minutes then walking out again with a sense of……they’ve……what’s the word…..categorised you; I do it myself, you know, I go into a studio and say ‘oh yes, I know, I understand this’ and it’s…..it’s not….there is a sense of trivialising…..we see too much, where there is too much available, we take it all for granted……on the other hand, this is people’s creative lives and they’ve invested so much, they spend money on their studios, they buy materials and they invest a lot of their heart and soul into this practice, so when they open the door it is….it’s a privilege that they’re doing that for an audience, so great, it’s not something I particularly want to do very often myself. I like that invitation, yes, one creative…..come in, or just a person, come in, have a chat, engage in sharing what we do spontaneously, but the whole rigmarole of, to be honest, the whole rigmarole of exhibitions and framing work

     

    AI:

    We used to run a gallery ; that’s one of things that we did in our naivety when we were in London….we had a gallery for unknown artists, which we lived above, and we did that for a couple of years and I think that was quite a learning curve really wasn’t it?

     

    TI:

    It gives a practical basis…..it is about, you know, persuading people that it’s worth spending money on scribbles on bits of paper because they’re meaningful and they can enrich your environment when you place them in your home, but they cost money, and to get a public to understand that paying money isn’t a desperately serious thing, it’s quite…..it should be light-hearted and I think we should pay money because it’s enjoyable to spend that money, if you have it; if you don’t have it you don’t buy art and you shouldn’t waste your money on art if you can’t afford it; it is really for people who can afford it. I can’t afford it, but I would never ask….you know, not expect an artist to sell their work, and I think that’s the thing you’re saying….it’s very hard to get people to understand they have to pay.

     

    TW:

    You talk about art being maybe a…..partially it’s a spiritual journey and it’s about exploration and reinventing, but then you have a kind of disillusionment about trying to become famous shall we say, but if as an artist you want to sell your work because it should be worth it…..it’s……it’s a funny world you’re talking about here isn’t it really, this whole kind of……mixture of like, people who can afford – are they buying it because…..is it an investment for them?

     

    TI:

    No.

     

    AI:

    That’s what they hope!

     

    TW:

    Well you see, you say no, you say yes

     

    TI:

    I say no very definitely; they should stop that

     

    AI:

    Well that’s what you would tell them!

     

    AI:

    I would tell them ‘just stop that - that’s a ridiculous approach to buying art. Because art costs money; it costs a creative person….a large amount of their time has been invested in bringing about this piece of work. If you are spending that money because you think somehow it’s……about securing this amount of money into something, we’ll call it art, and one day I shall be able to get that amount of money back and I shall have more money’….that is a total spoiler to what creativity is about, and what creativity is about

     

    AI:

    But all of that happened, you know, starting with sort of Tracey Emin and so on, it’s suddenly become something or it did become something that actually you could invest in…..living artists, young living artists, and that sort of happened after our time didn’t it?

     

    TI:

    Yes, and it’s happened for very definite reasons, for market place reasons, just like……money

     

    AI:

    When we were at college there was no talk of we’d actually do after we did our degree

     

    TI:

    Nobody knew, nobody knew they could sell their work

     

    AI:

    No, we weren’t told anything by our tutors; we weren’t trained in how to sell ourselves, market or anything like that. You did the course because you wanted to explore art, that’s what it was about……and then obviously that….it was at that time when people…..actually could go to college and it didn’t cost them any money and there was a knock-on effect for British industry, because of the creativity of the people that were involved in the art colleges, so I think it worked as an idea but we were just part of that weren’t we?

     

    TI:

    Well maybe we come from that period of time where we were not worried about making money; it was…..money wasn’t a big incentive for what we did - even the jobs that we did - we basically did jobs that just about gave you a living; you didn’t think ambitiously about money. The ambitions were always internal things, they were spiritual things or…..you know, just wanting your work to get better in some form and not better because it would make you famous, or rich, it just got more interesting, got deeper, or……and that’s probably remained, the main core values, certainly for me, you know, even though I’ve had…..I am commercially astute, I do expect people to pay money for what I do, but I also don’t expect everybody to be able to pay for it, and I…….you know, it’s…….it’s the product

     

    TW:

    Do you follow the art world still?

     

    TI:

    No.

     

    AI:

    You maybe do a little bit more than me

     

    TI:

    Well do I?

     

    AI:

    Maybe not! [laughing]

     

    TI:

    Well I think I’ve become much more internalised over the last three years because of the nature of digital work in a way and computers and

     

    AI:

    You’re looking at different things now aren’t you? We’re looking at different things to each other now.

     

    TI:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    Have you looked at the Hockney things then?

     

    AI:

    Oh yes

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    AI:

    Yeah we did go to the……Hockney down in London

     

    TW:

    And what did you think of that?

     

    AI:

    And surprisingly enjoyed it; I think both of us did didn’t we?

     

    TI:

    Yes.

     

    AI:

    We went separately

     

    TI:

    Well I work in a hospice two days a week, and what’s exciting with working with people who don’t have an art background or…..is that when they get enthusiasms it’s…..it’s majorly stimulating for us all, and this group of people who are living with life threatening illness wanted to go all the way to London to see this major exhibition of…..of course David Hockney isn’t a ‘local artist’, in inverted commas obviously, but we had a fantastic time because not only was the work of this…..abstracted nature which forces people without an art training to question ‘well what’s he doing and why is this slapping of paint alright? Why is it good?’….or ‘what is actually going on, on these huge canvases?’ and I think that does get communicated by…..to ordinary people by David Hockney’s work because I think his market place is fairly broad and…….expresses that enthusiasm for looking and interpreting what he sees

     

    AI:

    He’s very good at putting over those…..what to use are very simple ideas but actually they’re probably not very simple ideas, so actually we could be quite thankful to him really.

     

    TW:

    Well I mean, he’s always chased technology in a way hasn’t he, all of the photograph pieces that he did almost, and that cubist kind of way of looking at things

     

    AI:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    I mean they were like twenty foot high, massive big things

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    TW:

    With hundreds and hundreds of photographs creating an image, and that was just…..the beginning of that kind of technology, so now it’s moved on and he’s doing this sort of thing

     

    TI:

    Yes, well the iPad, I mean it is interesting that really, because David Hockney is so rich he can actually blow up an iPad image to a massive scale and…….exploit that excitement which is there when you play on the iPad, but what….what it generated in….as I say one of the patients, he said ‘oh my God’ because he had an iPhone and he began to draw on his iPhone and recognised just the…..excitement of that electronic mark, and in way that…..that makes it accessible for people, making a mark on your iPad – ‘wow, that was easy’ – it doesn’t make any mess, it doesn’t require huge materials, it’s an app on your phone and in a way you link with somebody who is a very creative artist……and that’s good for all of us because it’s……it’s encouraging everyone’s perceptions to…….you know, expand to that horizon because art is not about this one little channel and I think what’s interesting with digital technology, with film and animation and games and…….it’s spreading the idea that it’s going to be very difficult to make these separate little channels for creative experience. People are going to be producing works of art that have many many many multi…….influences in the future which can only be good as far as I’m concerned

     

    TW:

    Though does that make……the old skills redundant in a kind of way do you think? You know, drawing and painting and knowing about watercolours or oils or acrylics, or whatever that might be. Is there still a place for that sort of thing?

     

    AI:

    Well I’d like to think so, but whether there really are…..is, I don’t know. I mean it’s sort of sad going around colleges these days and realising that all these sort of skills have gone or are going, and that students are all working on computers

     

    TI:

    And why are they going? I think that’s the…..that’s the subversive……I can’t think what the right word is, but there is……they’re going for the wrong reasons; they’re going because money for space is more valuable if you assess it in terms of students per square foot, and I think if you dedicate a messy space to an art student that’s going to splash paint around for three years it’s far too expensive, when you could get three students in there on two computers or let’s give them three computers, and much cheaper, and

     

    TW:

    You really think it’s as crass as that?

     

    TI:

    I do

     

    AI:

    It might be, because probably it’s different people who are working out money these days, you know, how to spend the money

     

    TI:

    I’m sure it is, but the optimistic thing is that students aren’t stupid and in the end there’s going to be a

     

    AI:

    There’s quite a lot of revival of things like…..you know, our daughter’s just been doing a proper photography…..well they both have, they’ve both done proper photography using cameras

     

    TW:

    Using chemicals

     

    AI:

    Using chemicals, yes, developing their own photographs, and they’re very keen on this sort of thing actually, so……until perhaps they’ve got a load of rubbish at the end of it and it’s much easier to use a digital camera [laughing]

     

    TI:

    Well it’s….I don’t think it’s about nostalgia, I think what will tend to happen is probably the memory of those old….the sensation of material, the material world that we were all brought up in will come back

     

    AI:

    Do you know it’s theatrical isn’t it, I mean to go into art studios where people have their own little spaces which they’re sploshing the paint around in and, there’s the smell of oil paints and what have you, it’s a really theatrical experience. Walking into a room full of computers, there might be amazing stuff actually happening and theatrical stuff happening on the computer, but you don’t experience it in the same way

     

    TI:

    No, and it’s hidden from you. I did this course as I say and what was really bizarre was that it’s only on the final year show that you realise what people might have been working in; there isn’t a shared experience within a space; it’s….the space is very internalised because it’s computer based, and I like that because I’m new to it but as a young person I’d probably feel….because I’ve had the other world, I’ve had the big material world and I can throw things on the floor if I…..I have my own personal studio space so it’s not, I’m not deprived of that, but I think this younger generation have been deprived of those material experiences. I’m sure they’ll find them because they’ll find them in the streets of……if they need them, but they’re not being encouraged to explore those sensations and is being somehow…..

     

    TW:

    Do you think they’re being….I don’t know what the word is…..mainstreamed shall we say, so that if you really wanted to do something different you’d become a graffiti artist say, or in like you say in the seventies there was an attitude that you were exploring and learning, whereas now it isn’t about, you know, exploring so much it’s more about being taught skills that would get you a job

     

    TI:

    Well, I’m going to just say, I think that’s a pessimistic aspect and I think most…….enlightened tutors would say ‘no, we want to engender that creativity in the students’ but the students find it very difficult to find that place because they haven’t come from schools where….so it already hasn’t happened at school; they’ve had tick-boxing at school, they think that that’s the only way it can be assessed, so they want to know how they’re going to assessed before exploring

     

    AI:

    Yeah, which is really weird for us isn’t it but it actually…is meaningful to them, how they’re being assessed

     

    TI:

    That’s their conditioning, you know, nobody cared about us, that’s why we were free, it was great

     

    AI:

    I mean we were ultimately assessed but

     

    TI:

    Yes, but we didn’t care about the assessment either, you know, I didn’t get my degree; I refused to write my essays; I was a stupid twenty-one year old, so I rejected getting a qualification which I now……didn’t work that hard to get, but I did sort of have to get that piece of paper, so it’s quite amusing how different these…..periods of time have been with the conditioning

     

    TW:

    On Radio 4 this morning there was a programme on, about a young man called Cosmo Jarvis I think his name was, who is a kind of…a bit of a songwriter but he also makes little films; they’re not just…..you know, just MTV things of him stood there singing his songs, they’re actually creative things, and he’s made quite a lot of these and what he said, when he was at school, was he said ‘we were only taught to do the exam so we didn’t actually….we weren’t educated about anything, we were just….you know, given answers’ so to speak, he said ‘which stopped me being creative so I had to do it my own way’ and it sounds like you seem to think that sort of thing as well – there’s like a whole…..more than one generation, you know, of children through school who have been kind of programmed in a way, rather than allowed to learn really, you know. Do you think that’s true?

     

    TI:

    That is true, and I think the sadness is that they’re a bit frightened of what their own way is, because it hasn’t been qualified. Nobody has said ‘your way is good’ – nobody said ‘our way was good but we didn’t care and we weren’t forced to care by saying look, well, you know, I was in a sense’……if you performed within these categories you get the rewards and the rewards are this bit of paper or this mark, but if you perform outside of that you learnt a personal richness that stays with you, and I think that’s what I’ve got out of my liberal education at an art school and it didn’t cost me anything so I didn’t pay £18,000 like my daughter has done to have her education, but I certainly don’t regret a single moment of that whereas she probably is a bit….a bit regretful. She’s got this debt that she has to pay back, and she’s wondering if ‘that was the right thing for me’.

     

    TW:

    Well Anne said that you thought it was very good for business and industry, the liberal education through the seventies because people who came out of that system actually did things in industry, and you’re saying

     

    TI:

    And they did them differently

     

    TW:

    And now it’s not really like that, it’s almost like…..your daughter is…..she’s learnt photography which is a great skill to have, and probably a lot of different ways of making money or having, you know, out of that, but she

     

    AI:

    I don’t know though…..go on, yes

     

    TW:

    You know, she’s obviously looked into it and said ‘oh maybe there isn’t’ you know….did she not choose it because she loved it?

     

    AI:

    There are hoardings on the M62 now that say ‘learn the skill of photography and get a job’ or words to that effect – it’s utterly hilarious you know, I mean, what….well I know what that’s about, but those people are not gonna get jobs [laughing]……

     

    TI:

    Well, the pessimism is to do with young people having a tough time at the minute, you know, there are a million young people out of work; our daughter’s not been out of work, but they’ve got very……low skilled employment for their degrees; they’re not following…..careers….well one’s a mother so she’s stopped her career and she has

     

    AI:

    Yeah but she did have very well paid jobs

     

    TI:

    She had a well paid job, but again nothing to do with her archaeology

     

    AI:

    No, not to do with her degree

     

    TI:

    Not to do with her degree, so………I can say that I’ve always….my degree has been relevant throughout my life. It’s not given me a job, ever, but it’s

     

    AI:

    It has now! [laughing]

     

    TI:

    Well, in the sense that it’s my creativity that’s given me the job; it’s not going to art school and getting a BA

     

    AI:

    Oh no, no

     

    TI:

    So…..whereas they’ve gone to university and they’ve got a degree, and they’ve got their 2:1s and, you know, that surely is worth something; well it’s only the beginning of worth something because lots of people have got that, so I’ve got to fight even harder to get more qualifications; the pressure for them is about qualifying, fitting in, somebody giving me a job. I think we were luckier in the seventies because we scrapped about and somehow a living was put together from these various scraps, and that’s how we’ve carried on our lives; neither of us have ever had a full-time job I don’t think; Anne might have had one before she went to college but I don’t think you’ve had one since. You finished your degree in Fine Art…..

     

    AI:

    No

     

    TI:

    No, but we managed to survive and bring up a family

     

    AI:

    Oh, for a little bit…

     

    TI:

    Well, you know, fundamentally we’re not….we’ve been allowed not to live nine-to-five lives, bring up two children and several cats, have a roof over your head and carry on having a fairly comfortable, simple, middle-class lifestyle, well, that’s probably difficult nowadays; I think people would feel much more pressured to have to earn much more money than we had to earn for our lifestyles

     

    TW:

    Do you think then, the gap between scraping by and…..being a nine-to-fiver is kind of…..gotten farther apart shall we say?

     

    TI:

    Definitely. To me it seems like that because I know our youngest daughter works extremely hard in a caring profession. She’s never going to be paid very much, even if she reaches a managerial stage which she’s quite capable of doing, she’s only twenty-five, but she can see it as…..is she going to be able to afford to buy a property, and her boyfriend Mini, he’s still a student – he works part time – rents, in Leeds anyway, seem to be not…..very affordable for both of them sharing that lifestyle…..how long will they have to live in that lifestyle before they can say ‘well you know what, we can have a three week holiday in the sun on our income’…..they’ll be thinking ‘we don’t have enough money’…..they don’t drive cars, they don’t…..you know, it’s a basic existence and yet they……they work

     

    TW:

    Do you think, you know, I’m the same era as you; I’m sixty and I went to art school in the early seventies and all that, but do you think we were almost privileged because….the people, some of the older people, who are in their nineties now who I have interviewed, back in the twenties and thirties they lived at home until they were quite old and be able to save enough money to put a down payment on a cottage somewhere in this area, but all that sort of changed in the fifties and sixties and seventies

     

    TI:

    It did

     

    TW:

    Is it just….life goes like that sometimes, it’s up and down

     

    AI:

    I think so yeah

     

    TI:

    Yes, and…….I think I regret that it was easier for our generation than it is for our children because I’m sensitive to their….it would be nice if their life was a bit easier I think, or they had a bit more spare money, and I think, for us, it’s been alright, you know, and we haven’t had to work supersonically hard to have this life; I know my father would have worked supersonically hard to have his lifestyle, but then he had a pension at the end and he was secure in his job but he had to give himself to this company or that job for the thirty-five, forty years that he did do. Your

     

    TW:

    My father was similar, yes

     

    TI:

    Yeah, and our fathers did that; that was their sense of responsibility, but that’s what they had to do to bring up their family; we were lucky that we didn’t need to do that and I think a major reason why we didn’t need to do that and I will admit this, is to do with the housing market. We all did up our houses, so we might have been creative people but we all had a little bit of nouse, that we bought our properties instead of renting, and we put in that extra bit of……..effort into making our houses pretty interesting places to sell on and the market place was up for that at that time, but we put that in; I mean my parents never did that in the house. My dad just used to redecorate the house once a year or once every two years, but he’d never knock a wall down and put a bathroom in or….it wasn’t seen as necessary; you just made do with what you could afford, whereas our generation was brought up to think…..it didn’t cost us loads of money to do that either, so….I think that must be to do with how we’ve been allowed to have such a….a liberal lifestyle and yet still have………a comfortable life.

     

    TW:

    So I mean your children then, they’ve learnt these skills that they’ve got…..do you think they have the same kind of view of life shall we say, that you two have?

     

    AI:

    I think it’s coming round because I think that….well certainly our oldest daughter looked at us and thought ‘oh they’re artists and they don’t really have that much money. I want more than that’ so that’s what she chased, but actually I think there’s the other side of her as well, so it’s always going to be a bit of a battle really

     

    TI:

    Yes, because you chase more money but it costs you more to chase more money, so you……you have to work harder probably, you have to dedicate yourself to particularly career standards, you love those careers or those jobs, then you are sacrificing a little bit of your spirituality in that, and that balance between ‘what will make me happier’ – living in a modest house or……or living in an area where housing is cheap....is housing…….I keep coming back to housing because I think it’s been a major security for our family life. If we were living on incomes that we’ve been living on and didn’t own our own house, we’d probably be quite poor I’d say, but the fortunate thing is that we started in our own properties at a time where property appreciated, and that’s made us comfortable and able to carry on being creative….the pressure would always be Anne would like me to be an assurance agent, I know, we’ve had this conversation [laughing]…..and how good would that have been for my soul, my God, imagine

     

    TW:

    Do you think your children will come back to this area?

     

    AI:

    Maybe…..yeah maybe

     

    TI:

    I don’t think we’re going to move out of this area, because one was in the south and now we’ve got a grandchild and we sort of think ‘oh should we buy a little modest flat and live next to our granddaughter and’……

     

    AI:

    But then we’ve got another one up here so…..so really, you know…..

     

    TW:

    You’re stuck

     

    AI:

    Yeah, exactly, yeah

     

    TI:

    I think the main thing is that creatively, it doesn’t matter where we live; this is the area that we’ve lived in the longest out of all the areas we’ve lived in, so… ..but…..this home…do we…..does our generation need anywhere to be home, because our children have moved away and….do we see it as that’s the cycle of life, you know, that they’ll bring up children to live in Leeds or live in a city somewhere; does that matter to us? I don’t think so because I don’t come from a very rooted…..family, so place is slightly immaterial

     

    TW:

    I was just thinking about that, I mean you were born in…..your early life was in Egypt, and now with the Arab Spring as they call it

     

    TI:

    The unusual thing about my upbringing is not…..I’m not an Egyptian brought up in Egypt; we were Greek Cypriots and Italians brought up in Egypt and after Suez, that’s why we were exiles from Egypt - all Europeans were kicked out - so…..I don’t identify with Egypt as being my roots, so I am not an identified in-root type person other than…..obviously I have qualities that, you know, my grandmother was Italian; my grandfather was Greek Cypriot but I didn’t know any of the grandfathers so my main inheritances are European and Southern European but I was born in Egypt, and so I have memories of the smells of streets in Cairo that are obviously quite different to the streets of Hebden Bridge, so…….but they……I think…..I’ve travelled quite a bit and I identify with a lot of other cultures, but slightly outside, slightly removed; I’m not……I can’t identify with any one particular nationality or type of person and say ‘oh that’s where I belong’….I don’t think I properly need to belong anywhere other than in some creative space, you know, for me.

     

    TW:

    Right.

     

    TI:

    You?

     

    AI:

    Oh I think it’s a bit different for me because my family was very rooted in that one area, so yeah, I probably still think that I’m actually from Sussex, you know, that is my home even though I only spent nineteen years there, and I didn’t think it was fantastic! I’d probably like it better now than I did as a young person.

     

    TW:

    So you wouldn’t want to go back there then because your family have been there for generations?

     

    AI:

    It’s a very nice part of the world, I mean we’ve built up our friendships and things around her now, so the great thing about the south coast is that it’s warm and sunny which is very nice [laughing] I do miss that and no midges – fantastic!

     

    TW:

    I’m just wondering, is there anything that I haven’t actually asked about that you might want to talk about…..about Heptonstall or Hebden Bridge or…..creativity, or about being removed, you know, being somewhere on the outside, either as an artist or as a person? Is there anything I haven’t asked about?

     

    AI:

    Obviously we could go on for a long long time….

     

    TI:

    It’s a good position to be in, you know, feeling on the outside…..even on my BA course, I was talking to somebody yesterday and saying ‘well you know what, as an older person I felt on the outside of all these young people doing their degrees’ but actually it’s….it’s although it’s slightly lonely and that’s not a word I’m using in a sentimental way, it’s a separateness from culturally belonging and being part of, and that’s alright, it’s not……it’s a useful place to be because it means you can observe and you can contribute from a different place as well. It doesn’t cost you as much by not being fully integrated in the culture

     

    TW:

    Did it cost you £9000 a year then to do this course?

     

    TI:

    No, less because it’s just gone up to £8000 now so it was £3000 and a bit

     

    TW:

    You got in there early!

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    AI:

    Just in time

     

    TI:

    Well just in time; they only changed it last year wasn’t it?

     

    TW:

    I think it was yes, I think you’re right there

     

    TI:

    But it will get, you know, if I was to do a post-graduate it would cost me £8000.

     

    TW:

    Right…..okay, well I think we’ll leave it there then if that’s okay, and…

     

    TI:

    Well it’s been nice to remember all these things

     

    TW:

    Maybe it’s one of the things that will……you will keep up thinking about, that sort of thing, and you know, it might find its way into your creativity.

     

    AI:

    Right, yeah………

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Tony Wright 2

     

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Ready to go then.

     

    INTERVIEWER – MARTIN JONES:

    Yeah.  Well first of all, hello.

     

    TW:

    Hello.

     

    INTERVIEWER – Martin Jones:

    What I want to speak to you about today Tony if it’s okay is……being an artist, where you get your inspiration from and does it tie in with you, politically or personally, or the way you live, and what inspired you around the time to become an artist, so I’ll start off with….I think, when did you first make the transition to becoming an artist or deciding you were gonna be an artist?

     

    TW:

    …..deciding I wanted to get into art and be an artist…….started about when I was….I don’t know……twelve….ten, eleven, twelve, somewhere around that age.  I think…..I mean it’s something I always liked to do.  I have a memory of doing finger painting at nursery while the other children were taking naps and I just carried on, and the teacher didn’t notice, and then I heard my name called out and they’d all got up, got dressed and were standing in the queue ready to leave, and I was still….there was paint all over my shirt and my hands

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So nothing’s changed then!

     

    TW:

    No nothing’s changed, this is true, so I mean I have memories of really being into it when I was little, but…..and I always enjoyed doing it, but I think I went to….a reasonable school, a Catholic school in Omaha in Nebraska and we had to do a kind of…..IQ and some other sort of tests, and out of those tests they said I was the artistic type, and I thought ‘oh really, oh that’s interesting’ and I think it probably held true because there were questions like ‘what would you like to do with a typewriter – write a story, fix it if it broke, sell it to somebody’ and it went on like that, and I guess from doing that they sort of thought I was artistic, so once I’d kind of got it in my head that I was that way inclined, I…..and I think I must have had it naturally anyway, I went for it and I just started doing all these art classes and I loved it, and I just never really stopped.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Did you have a lot of encouragement from school and family?  Did they see the potential that was in you to become an artist…..

    TW:

    My family did I think.  I think both my parents were frustrated creative people.  I think my father wanted to be a drummer, he wanted to be a musician really and he….we always had music in the house and that’s what he really wanted to be, and my mother was….she used to design her own clothes when she was young and make them up, but they all got on the, you know, the nine-to-five treadmill thing…..and neither of them really ever did anything, but I think they saw the potential in me and then…..they didn’t push me, they…..if that’s what I wanted to do they supported me in whatever it is I wanted to do really

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Did you actually go to art college?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Whereabouts?

     

    TW:

    I did a foundation year in St Helens and then I did a degree in Epsom in Surrey, and later on I did an MA at Leeds.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So is it a case of……you’ve got pretty hefty qualifications, but do you think your art would have remained…..as it is if you hadn’t gone for the qualifications, or do you think that inspired you at all, all that sort of thing… 

     

    TW:

    Oh, I think it totally changed me.  Before I’d done…..any…..before I’d completed any of my formal education shall we say, I was….I used to read about art all the time and try and do it, and I’d actually done some correspondence courses as well….and it was very much…I was a Vincent van Gogh man, Vincent van Gogh, he was like my….sort of hero.  I read everything about him and tried to paint like him, but I used to read about….I liked Rembrandt and Goya and different kinds of artists like that, I used to read about them a lot

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you looked at the classical artists really

     

    TW:

    Yeah, at that time, yeah, definitely, yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you relate to any modern artists at all?  Is it something you liked to see or

     

    TW:

    What now, or then?

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Well now really.

     

    TW:

    Now…..these days…..the only contemporary artist that I probably have any kind of interest in are the ones that do things to do with nature really.  I like Andy Goldsworthy, or that type of person really…..mainly because I’ve just got fed up with the art world as being….so insular and so narrow minded that I’ve kind of rejected a lot of it – it’s not so much I’ve rejected the artists, it’s just I’ve rejected the subject almost, and so I don’t keep up with it as I used to; I used to read – I used to know about everybody and knew everything that was going on.  These days my knowledge is somewhat limited, so I’m not really against it

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you find that those artists who were against the grain, maybe talking late sixties, early seventies, who were considered to be outsiders in the art world, are now those who are running it and…..decide what’s art and what’s not

     

    TW:

    I don’t think artists really have much say in running anything much; I’m sure some do, it’s agents and gallery owners and critics and the likes of them that dictate what goes on and what gets known.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So it’s actually more….the actual freedom of art is always gonna be there because people… 

     

    TW:

    Well most people who are into art, they’re not gonna be bothered with all of that side of it.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    But it is becoming a very……what’s the word for it I’m looking for……a very business orientated…..

     

    TW:

    It’s a very Saatchi kind of mentality….I mean if that’s what you want then fair enough go for it, but……it’s not what I was ever into, and never have been into making money really, unfortunately – I’ve been very successful at that – not making money! [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I think you should be proud of that to be honest. [laughing]  What artist apart from van Gogh – do you think van Gogh is championed by so many people because he is so…..the mad man with bright colours I suppose…..was he one of your main inspirations when you were a teenager?

     

    TW:

    Well when I was a teenager, after that, I suppose the Blue Rider movement – Paul Klee and Kandinskey and Macke and Marc and that…..that became very important for me, which later sort of turned into the Bauhaus movement, but all of that period from the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, that whole period I find fascinating really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Is that the German Bauhaus movement?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    As in the furniture and everything?

     

    TW:

    Well it was also…..I mean Gropius….Walter Gropius was an architect but it was also about furniture, but it was about everything cos what it was supposed to be, they taught the principles of design, of colour and this and that and the other, and that was supposed to be included into everyday life, that was part of the whole ethos which I really kind of went for in a big way really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Where do you see yourself now as an artist?

     

    TW:

    Well  don’t….well I do and I don’t…..I haven’t painted in about ten years really.  What I have been doing during the last ten years is been thinking about it a lot…..and when I actually stopped painting I was becoming more and more involved with using words as part of the image, and I suppose…..in my head I’m still there somewhere…..but what I’ve been doing is I’ve been doing……I have made some things out in nature, just do things that don’t even get photographed, they just get left and they disappear, but also I’ve been developing story telling as a kind of alternative creative activity.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So the art that you’ve…..you’ve just….the art’s still there but you’ve just changed lanes in a way.  Does that make sense?

     

    TW:

    Well….that’s right, that is right, although I don’t do much.  I plan to get back to doing it……just exactly when I don’t know.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Did you have a……an anti-epiphany I suppose, when you decided to stop painting, or was it just something that stopped, you weren’t getting that creative urge… 

     

    TW:

    I made a conscious decision because of……my personal life……I got divorced and had to get a job, a nine-to-five sort of job to earn a lot of money to pay off my wife, my ex wife…..and I knew that if I was gonna continue being an artist, cos when I do I just get so immersed in it that I don’t do anything else, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold down a proper job if I carried on thinking about it, so I had to focus on earning the money bit, which is what I did, and in fact it’s what I’m still doing, although what I do now gives me a lot more scope, a lot of free time shall we say, and it’s……collecting oral history which is what I do, is a creative activity in itself really, or I look at it in that way.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you get as much satisfaction, I mean, that thing that you do, with seeing people and getting their life down on film and tape, is fantastic, I think it’s such a positive thing to know the history of individuals as well as a society if you like.  Do you get as much satisfaction out of doing this as you did when you were….when you were painting and drawing or

     

    TW:

    It’s a difficult one that…….because what immediately runs through my head…..how do you…..how do you balance them up, how do you judge this against that, and I guess I used to get satisfaction from both of them and also get very frustrated from both of them, but in very very different ways……I think if I won the lottery tomorrow I would set up a trust and I would sit on the committee that ran Wild Rose interviewing people, although I’d still like to be involved by interviewing people but I’d have other people do all the rest of the work and I would probably just paint as much as I could, or create things out in nature.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you’d know this was still carrying on and you’d have an oversight?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.  I have a kind of…..thing about it, that it’s…..which I shouldn’t do really, because I started it and I’ve…..done it for nine years now…..I’m getting to the point where it’s no longer just the way I make a living, it’s….it’s become

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Part of your life

     

    TW:

    It’s starting to become – it is a big part of my life – but it’s actually starting to become what my original vision for it was, which was creating this archive over a period of time and looking at one small place, Hebden Bridge, but on all different levels so that there’s a whole…..it would probably be for other people to go through it all and work out what was really going on here…..over the past ten years or over the next ten years as well.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Is that how long…..I mean has this got time structure?  Have you decided there will be a cut off…..like painting, have you decided, will there be a cut off point ‘I’m going back to painting’ or will you decide to carry on with the nature sculptures, or will you go in a completely different direction that says things that you haven’t done that you want to do now, regarding your artistic…..artistic-ness?

     

    TW:

    Yeah well there is, I mean there are….I have ideas of like not so much making films as in big Hollywood productions or even low budget feature films, but I would like to maybe use video more, and use it almost as if it were a painting, and create layers of things and use….again, use words with it, but…..incorporate images of nature as well as humanity, and the use of words, be it just sound and talking or actual visual words that….you know, and create like montage kind of things in film, so I can see myself going that way really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So that would be getting many different pieces of film and editing them together

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That sort of thing

     

    TW:

    That sort of idea.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I want to go back a bit.  When you were……first getting into art….as a teenager, as a young man, was the political……change that was going on, would it be the late sixties? Is that right? 

     

    TW:

    Late sixties yeah, I mean I started art school in……well I went to university in ’69 in the States but I wasn’t studying art, although I did study art but it wasn’t at an art school, and the political side of things….it was very much….it was a very big part of my life…..because there was all the Civil Rights and anti Vietnam and stuff, and I was really…..like the autobiography of Malcolm X, but I was also listening to…..pop music – rock ‘n’ roll

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That was an amazing time to be around.

     

    TW:

    People, you know, with kind of revolutionary ideas and….but also lifestyle choices and just talking about, you know, it doesn’t all have to be the way they tell you it has to be

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    They’re throwing questions at you and it’s up to you to make your own answers to them I suppose, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    When…..we were going back but we’ll come forward….when did you come to Hebden Bridge?

     

    TW:

    I moved to Hebden Bridge in 1987.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Had you been living in the UK before that or had you

     

    TW:

    Yeah, I’d been living here since 1970.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    And…..I’ve been to the United States, I loved the place – the weather was better – what made you actually connect with the UK and want to make you stay here?

     

    TW:

    Because I thought it was a place…..it was freer, it was a place where the word freedom meant something.  In America I felt that everything was…..controlled is the word about America, everything was trying to be controlled……and……my father was American and my mother was English, and the whole idea…..I mean the National Health Service as an idea I thought was brilliant, you know, for a start, but also it seemed to be a much freer place where you could say what you wanted to say…..without getting hit over the head with it.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Well there’s time to change. [laughing]

     

    TW:

    It has changed a lot since.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    When you moved over, was it at a time when you……you started…..painting straight away or was it something you fell back into or was it something you continued from

     

    TW:

    When I came here?

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    I came here to go to art school.  I moved to Liverpool; I lived with my grandparents…..and got into a foundation course in St Helens which was, again, their course was based on this Bauhaus idea in a sense….their foundation, it was a rotating….you did a week worth of…..well 2D, so there was design and painting and all that sort of stuff and a week of 3D, so we worked with clay and wood and glass and metal and all that, and then a week of what they used to call graphics which was much more to do with the commercial side of art, and then the fourth week you were back to the other one, but every week you always did life drawing, photography, art history and what they used to call complementary studies, which was to do with a little bit of sociology and a little bit of literature and what have you.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Have you ever thought about going into teaching art yourself?

     

    TW:

    Yeah yeah, I have done.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Was that in Hebden or

     

    TW:

    It was in…….well, you say teaching, I was…..I actually worked as a community artist for a lot of years and I started doing that in Kent.  I lived in…..in Folkestone.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Someone’s got to! [laughing]

     

    TW:

    ……and actually began doing that in….the early eighties, then I went off; I came to Manchester and did a course, did a qualification in community arts which wasn’t just painting and art, it was also, I did music and theatre as well, and public speaking and things like that…..and then I worked in Salford, in youth clubs in Salford and I was part of a circus group……and did all sorts of things for a year or two there, then I moved to Hebden in………again, I started teaching in adult education and in further education, and did that for part-time, while I did community arts I also did teaching and I was painting and I had…..used to have exhibitions in various parts of the country and I had a gallery in London and showed some of my work.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you’re quite a successful artist really aren’t you?

     

    TW:

    Oh, I don’t think successful’s the word [laughing] but I’ve done a lot!

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Oh I don’t mean to say it in a monetary way, I mean you certainly haven’t……you’ve been there and you’ve pushed the boundaries out for certain you know, you’ve done the galleries, you’ve done the….but I’ve got to go back to the circus troupe….tell me about this.

     

    TW:

    It came about in a very weird kind of way.  When I was doing the community arts course, every term you had to do a placement and I’d been living in London before I moved up here, and I had a friend there who had a girlfriend who had a friend who lived in Eccles and worked for a community magazine, and he used to work with a youth worker who ran this…..community centre, well he didn’t run it, but he ran the activities in it, and so through that long line of things I got hooked up with him to help him work in this community centre, and I did a term doing that…..and then I did a term with Horse and Bamboo doing large puppets and stuff like that, and then…..I started working with this guy because he wanted to learn circus skills because we were working with kids that were unemployed, kids over eighteen, or were they over sixteen…..I think they might have been over sixteen and under twenty-five who were out of work, and he decided one way to get them engaged was to teach them circus skills, so there was a group called Manchester Circus…..Skills something or other, I can’t remember exactly what they were called

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    What sort of time period was this?

     

    TW:

    This was ‘80……must have been early…..late ’85…..’86

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Cos there would have still been high unemployment then in the north

     

    TW:

    Yes.  So we…..you know, we had to learn it and then we…..you know we learnt it off the proper people and then we taught it to the kids and we had a thing during the week in the evening, and then a kind of Saturday club thing that we did with them, and we did….you know, juggling, clowning, unicycle riding, stilt walking, you know, all that kind of basic stuff…..and then we used to go and do little performances in working men’s clubs, like rugby clubs; we went in with the kids and various places like that [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    You say you moved to Hebden Bridge about ’87.

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Was it a place that you….cos it took me a year to get used to the place.  It is a very…very eclectic…..very open minded artistic place.  Did you grab that vibe straight away or did it take a while to

     

    TW:

    Fairly quickly I think……I mean we moved here…..the reason we moved here…..was….we were going to Scotland on holiday and the car broke down, and we couldn’t get it fixed for three days so we stayed here and we decided we liked it, and at that time I was working at the University, well the Polytechnic as it was then, of Manchester in the Art History department and my wife had just gotten onto her Social Worker course in Leeds Poly and it just…..because we happened to break down here, we realised it was half way in between the two and we thought ‘right, well that’s’….and we just sort of liked the whole place, there was….you know, the park and the smallness of the shops and….because we’d lived in London together then we’d lived in the south side of Manchester together and we were gradually going from you know, big cities to smaller and smaller and this just seemed like a natural progression and we liked it, and as soon as we were here, after about two weeks we found out she was pregnant, so I started plugging into….thinking ahead because we bought this particular house so that I could have a studio here, of course with a child we couldn’t do that so I started looking around for studio space and found…..and helped found North Light originally, and also helped found the….the nursery - it was NAG – Nursery Action Group, I became part of that and we did it at the bottom of Moss Lane and once I’d got it up and running after about a year and a half, two years, I just turned it over to the people who got employed and they’ve taken it on leaps and bounds, bought Crossley Mill and they’ve turned it into a really good thing, so I realised there was a lot of people doing all sorts.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you find that Hebden Bridge has changed since you came here?

     

    TW:

    Oh yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    For the better or for worse?

     

    TW:

    ……

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Or a little bit of both?

     

    TW:

    …….well I suppose both in a sense.  I mean change is pretty inevitable really…..it’s a lot busier now than it used to be.  There’s more traffic……there’s more people, there’s even more, I mean it used….they wanted it to be a tourist town and it has definitely become a tourist town, and when I moved here there were lots of like junk shops and antique shops and now there’ll all cafés 

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    It’s got a very European vibe to it – do you find that?

     

    TW:

    Yes, I mean they have things out on the street, I mean that would never have been known back in the eighties……that whole idea was….anathema I think to people in Hebden Bridge.  There are less born and bred locals now than there used to be I think, because….of an older generation, well a lot of them have died basically and people….people who are here and have made some money, they’ve….a lot of gone to France or Spain or Portugal and that sort of thing to kind of retire because it’s nicer and the weather’s supposed to be nicer and it’s cheaper to live I think, or it used to be.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Where do you see yourself as an artist in five years’ time?  Where do you….have you ideas and goals that you want to go towards or do you just take it as a feeling ‘I’ll do it when I feel like it’ or do you have set….. ‘right we’re gonna start doing this then, that then’

     

    TW:

    I don’t…..think I have any goals as such….I just want to….between now and in five years’ time I just want to be able to start doing more artistic work, so I suppose it’s a goal to do more I suppose, and where that leads me I’ll have to find out

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    An adventure.

     

    TW:

    It is a bit, yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I’m sort of running out of questions and stuff. [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Okay. 

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I’ll have to frame this right.  Do you regard yourself, or have you always regarded yourself as someone who likes to create or to put yourself in that bracket, like ‘I am an artist and that’s…..there are’…..do you see what I’m trying to say?

     

    TW:

    Do I see…do I….my identity

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    As an artist

     

    TW:

    is as an artist, yes, I mean I think I’m a human being before I’m anything else…..but definitely I feel as if I am an artist, even though I’m in a hibernation period at the minute [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That’s not a bad thing

     

    TW:

    Well it’s not really because I’ve…..like I said I was so fed up with the art world and its bitchiness basically and I just turned off from it all…..I’ve got to a point now where it doesn’t bother me any more because I can, I can laugh at it, I can…

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    You can see the irony in it I suppose really.

     

    TW:

    Well there’s some irony yes, definitely, and it just…..it’s like water off a duck’s back now I think

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you…..being your own artist, you have the ability to do your own thing and keep that foot out, one foot in the art world and one foot out, so you can step either way if you want to, so you don’t have to, I suppose tolerate the bitchiness and you, you can just do your own thing.  Is that something you’re aiming towards, or have you got already?

     

    TW:

    Well I don’t even have one foot in, I haven’t even hardly….I haven’t got a little toe in at the minute, apart from….just my own tiny little bubble when I do odd things every once in a while…..

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    You say you’re…..you’re doing stuff with nature now which I really love.  I like that…that principle of building something that’s gonna decay over time because it’s….everything decays but I think it’s got a certain beauty to it……why have you decided just…..or you’re aiming it towards nature.  Is that something that you’ve wanted to do for ages or

     

    TW:

    Well I always have….I mean I trained basically as a landscape painter, although I wildly veered off that into doing……people but I did used to do a lot of drawing of….animals and plants, so I suppose that’s part of nature, but it was a very kind of realistic type of artwork, but I used to experiment with….you know, collect mud and bits of leaves and pine needles and all that and make pictures out of those sort of things….just experimenting with…..rather than, you know, human made found objects, nature objects, and I used to create things that used to hang, you know, I used to spend hours sewing together seed pods and all sorts of weird and wonderful things, seaweed and feathers and God knows what, and they’d be like sculptures but they’d be hanging things, so I’ve always been involved in……in nature and using it in some kind of way…..and now because of….I suppose my….my beliefs; I’m very anti…..religion shall we say, or authority I suppose is another word for it

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    A man after my own heart. [laughing]

     

    TW:

    I want to…..have options of looking at things without being a member if you know what I mean.  If I want to look at you know…..the Christian religion, I want to look at it for what it is, not….I don’t want to be part of it, I don’t want to be a true believer and all the rest of it; I’ll look at it and see the good and the bad in it, and observe it and say ‘right, that part of it’s crap and that part of it’s really quite good actually’ and the same with political movements and……sort of keep my mind open

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you’re almost like a social commentator; you’re an independent…

     

    TW:

    Well, not so much a commentator, but an observer that I can then use into my own….little world and some people I suppose would say ‘right then you have a message to tell to others’ but it isn’t a message as such except for the fact that….you know, I want to have an open mind and observe this stuff and try and put it together creatively and then when you wanna look at it, I want you to be the same; I want you to be open minded and get out of it or not get out of it whatever you can

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Again it’s putting something there and saying ‘right, I’m not telling you what to think.  You’ve got to make your own decisions and get what you want out of it’.

     

    TW:

    That sort of thing.  I mean the last big art piece I ever made way back was…..it was a series…..it was a whole series of images attached to a series of words, and the first word was ‘artist’ and I looked it up in the dictionary and I typed it all out, and then within that meaning of what the word ‘artist’ meant, I underlined one of those words, and the second word became, the word that was underlined, and I typed out its meaning, and I underlined one of the words in its meaning and so forth, and it led from artist to viewer through a series of about twenty-five or thirty words, and each had a different picture associated with it, and some were by me, and some were by little children that I’d worked with in school – there was a whole series of images – and that’s the kind of way I think about it, is that you know, what happened…..you know, from the artist to the viewer, a whole series of processes take shape and if you did it reverse-wise it would work the same really

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So it’s one feeds back to the other isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Well in a way yeah, so

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    If you do decide to start painting again, or sculptures, would you……would you…..would you want to show them, would you want to get them in galleries again or is it just for you, or is it……just for that satisfaction

     

    TW:

    No, really, I mean it’s…..I think I’d probably like to show them somewhere; I’m not exactly sure where…..I know like…..the Zen Masters used to, you know do their calligraphy, with wonderful calligraphy on scrolls and roll them up and keep them in drawers, but they’d only bring them out every blue moon to show another master – ‘oh see what I did eight years ago, isn’t that pretty good yeah?’

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So it’s more of a personal journey

     

    TW:

    But that’s still showing it to your own audience, you know, your Zen Master audience right, well I’m not in that category but…..it seems, I mean I can sit and write poems, you know, or write stories or…..or dance around my living room all the time and no-one would ever know I did any of that

     

    INTERVIEWER:

     

    Please tell me you do.

     

    TW:

    I do dance around my living room, but that’s beside the point!  But if you’re creating something physical, it seems to me as if……are you gonna just stack it in the corner and…..and then it gathers dust and…..I suppose that’s just as valid and eventually it just rots away and that’s the end of it and so what?  It’s just like human beings, we’ll kill ourselves off or the ants will take over and we’ll be like the dinosaurs, we’ll be gone, and the earth will continue for more millions and billions of years, and artwork’s similar really, but I….I kind of have this idea of, well, if I go to the trouble of making it, maybe I ought to share it you know

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That’s what I think  you….if you are going to create again, judging by your paintings and that, they deserve to be shown, me and Sam, we love the black and white stuff.  I love the stuff……where is it…..I love these with the trees, I just think they’re amazing

     

    TW:

    They’re trees of life

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Yeah they’re absolutely amazing, and again dug the Peruvian… 

     

    TW:

    Well that one….I did a series of birth, life and death.  That’s the death one actually [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That style of…..of painting is….is…..it’s…I don’t know how to put it…..it’s sort of real and not real if you know what I mean; it’s got that……the longer you look at it the more you see, the more it gets you thinking about what’s actually in there; that’s…..at a quick glance it’s just a bloke, but it’s not, there’s more there.  You look at the expressions on the face….yeah, I really think you should display your paintings mate to be honest.

     

    TW:

    Well maybe I will…..maybe I’ll take up your…..advice and try and

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Don’t take my advice – you’re damned if you do! [laughing].  I’m taking responsibility for nothing!  Just one more last question really for me.  Do you think that your art has been influenced by living in Hebden Bridge?  Your thoughts….your creative juice, has it got it flowing again……so if you’ve been here since ’87….cos it’s quite insular, Hebden Bridge, it’s different from the towns down the road – it’s just got this vibe to it, and that…..has that played any….

     

    TW:

    Well in a wider sense, yes……because of the landscape really, but not just that, I mean a lot of my pictures…..when I first lived in Hebden were to do with…..partly to do with the birth of my son, and I’ve always been inspired by mythology and….a kind of…..a spirituality I suppose, whether it is a kind of wiccan thing or a cultish sort of thing, so I have created…..pictures to do with those kinds of stories, and lots of mythological stories are about what they would call a hero, but usually heroes are a child who then progresses through into manhood, so I painted pictures or I…..created things that were to do with those kinds of stories, and I saw Hebden Bridge as the stage where all that happened, cos I used to do a lot of walking and you can go up and see Mesolithic stuff and Neolithic stuff and Bronze Age stuff on the tops, and then as you kind of like walk down to the bottoms you just get closer and closer to contemporary times, so I see this small little place as a kind of…..age, an epic, a place where, you know, all kinds of things can go on

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    And have gone on…

     

    TW:

    Yeah, so it’s inspired me…..in thinking, reinforcing the stuff that I was into….and finding little spots all over different parts of the valley where I can identify then with certain stages of these stories and therefore try to create pictures…..that had to do with those really, and music has always been a part of my life so I started trying to draw music into it……so I did a whole series of pictures about musicians and there is a lot of music goes on in Hebden Bridge…..so really…..Hebden Bridge has a big influence because of the way that it is, and because I’ve been living here and I’m just reacting to my environment really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    It seems to be not only a beautiful place, it seems to be…a smelting pot for….for….I used the word widely….people with artistic inspiration and talent, it’s….there are a lot of people here and that must influence you because you’re not only…..not only….mixing with the countryside, you’re also mixing with the people that are here, and it’s quite inspirational

     

    TW:

    Yeah there’s a lot of creative people so you can have very weird and wonderful conversations about….just about anything really

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I’ve seen you a lot in the pub – I’ve seen lots of weird and wonderful conversations. [laughing]  That’s it for me Tony.

     

    TW:

    Okay that’s fine, that’s fine.  Finished now?

     

    [END OF TRACK ONE]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Richard Wincer

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 4th of May 2011 and I’m talking to Richard Wincer in Arts Mill.   Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    RICHARD WINCER:

    My full name is Richard James Wincer.  I was born in 1951 in a place called Alvechurch in Worcestershire.

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    RW:

    Near Birmingham.

     

    TW:

    Right.  What was it like in Worcestershire in those days?

     

    RW:

    I had a really good childhood, quite free in the countryside.  We lived in a sort of rural area and basically in the 1950s at that time, looking back on it, it seemed a very freer time when we just wandered around the countryside basically.  I lived there till I was about ten and during that time I sort of went fishing, playing football and was out most of the time.  I developed a strong affection to the countryside and I can’t complain about it all, it was a really nice time, and then later on after that at about the age of eleven I moved to a place called Bromsgrove also in Worcestershire, which was also in the countryside, and I basically carried on doing the same things, playing sport, fishing, wandering round the countryside and I had, looking back on it, an enjoyable childhood.

     

    TW:

    So did you relate to the countryside in a special kind of way do you think?

     

    RW:

    I think over the years I did develop an attraction and an affection for the rural landscape there which has certainly influence me as an artist and…..definitely, all those early experiences have really influenced my work, looking back on it now, certainly, and they still do, in fact I still go back to the area.  My mother still lives there, she’s ninety now and she still lives in Bromsgrove and I go back visit her and I go back to my old haunts; I go fishing in the places I used to go fishing when I was a child, and take photographs of the area, and often it will come through in my work, so I’ve got….I think it’s quite important, that sense of place, I really do feel that, so….I’m very much aware that these things influence my work.

     

    TW:

    Were any of your family artistic at all?

     

    RW:

    No…..my mother could play the piano and my father had a good singing voice, but he didn’t really sing that much – no, not really, so….you know with all that pressure to get a proper job basically rather than being an artist….but I think I knew from quite, from being in my early teens what I wanted to do and that’s what drove me to carry on to be an artist basically

     

    TW:

    Did you have any formal training then?

     

    RW:

    No, I did the normal O Level and A Level at school; I went to a grammar school and the art department was quite good, and I became very interested in landscape painting and soon found that it was one of my big passions really, so along with sport, I played  a lot of sport, and by the time I was about seventeen I really pretty much knew what I wanted to do, it was just how to go about it really, and I’d already been out there in the countryside, taking canvasses out and painting pictures on my own at that age really, so I was pretty much determined that’s what I wanted to do, but obviously there’s always the pressure that ‘are you gonna get a proper job?’ ie, ‘is it gonna make you any money?’ and I think even when I first went to night school in Stourbridge which was the first year of a foundation I was basically told that it would be very difficult to earn a living, but there’s just something driving me to do it, I just ignored all that really, so it’s proved to be correct [laughing] – I haven’t made a lot of money, but I just felt that….I think I knew from that time that that’s what I wanted to do.

     

    TW:

    So how did you progress then, through your twenties, late teens to twenties?

     

    RW:

    Well, after doing a couple years of foundation at Stourbridge I decided to specialise in fine art; I pretty much knew that I wanted to do that anyway and then I applied to a London college because being ambitious and everybody felt the place to go would be London, and I fortunately got accepted at Goldsmiths College, so I was at Goldsmiths College from 1971 to 1974, and….and that’s where a lot of my art education really got started and I met a lot of very interesting people who taught there, and they changed the way I looked at things, and…..I don’t have any regrets about that either, it was a really good place to go and it was just getting to be….it was just starting to be the place to be in terms of art education.  As an arts school it was starting to develop its reputation so I was there at the very beginning of that really, and you know, I met a lot of very interesting people and some well known artists, so it was good.

     

    TW:

    Well when you finished at Goldsmiths, did you carry on painting, or did you have to earn a crust in a different way?

     

    RW:

    Well I had to…..I wanted to do post graduate but I didn’t get…..it’s a bit of a long story – I didn’t get accepted at Slade or the Royal College although I had an interview so I was suddenly out of the college environment and no job and no work basically, and into the real world where I found it very difficult at first because when I was with my contemporaries I was in an art situation, studying art on a very intellectual level and suddenly I was unemployed basically, and I was unemployed for a while and then I realised I just had to do something, so I just got a job in the Parks and Gardens Department, just learning how to be a gardener and although it was poorly paid, it was actually a really good experience and I met lots of people who were ex-dockers because the docks were closed in London and so the Council was employing a lot of ex-dockers at that time and I….I enjoyed it, a bit like I suppose National Service really, and I had, I just felt……I was full of my own self-importance a bit when I left art school but I was….you know…had a big ego….it brought me down to earth a bit and I worked there for a while and then I could have carried on working and worked my up, because they offered me a better job with all the qualifications that I had, but the art thing pulled me away from that again, so I left and I managed to finally get a studio in Deptford in South London which I found there quite a large building which had a floor in it which I set up as a studio and I was still in contact with all my old people from Goldsmiths, so I got them involved and we set up a studio in Deptford, in south east London, and then I just basically tried to do my own work and do jobs; I worked as a technician in a school for a while, a pottery technician, so I learnt about ceramics and I lived quite cheaply in some cheap council housing in Deptford, and so I managed through those early times to get by and tried to establish myself as an artist, which wasn’t easy, and…..so I was always doing some form of employment to earn some money on a part-time basis or I’d have a few months when I’d work, and I was still trying to do my own work as an artist….so then by the time….I was still doing that and living in Deptford by the time I was in my early thirties and then I got into a couple of quite good exhibitions in London, so I started to get established then, and a bit more work…..yeah, so….it was a struggle but you know……

     

    TW:

    What exhibitions were those?

     

    RW:

    Well in 1980 I was in what was called a Summer Exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery which was selected by another artist called Tony Carter and that was for basically promising up and coming artists to get a foothold, so that was quite a good…..you know, quite a good audience for that and the work was well received, and then further on in 1983, with a show at the Hayward Gallery, a sculpture show at Hayward Gallery.  There were about fifty sculptors in the country then, so I sort of got myself into that position but then I found it quite hard to sort of capitalize on that and….so I just went back to my studio and I carried on working, and then my work at that point – one of the nice stories is….I had a job, my way of earning a living at that point was window cleaning so I would usually get up about half five and then I would go out with a sort of gang of window cleaners and I’d be finished by one o’clock, two o’clock, so I had the rest of the day to my own work and we were driving all round the centre of London and at one point during the Hayward exhibition, because my piece of sculpture was outside, you could see it from Waterloo Bridge so one morning I was in the back of the window cleaning van and we were driving over Waterloo Bridge, I saw my sculpture outside the Hayward Gallery and I was in the window cleaning van! [laughing] and everyone was going, ‘Richard’s hut, Richard’s hut’ so it was a bit of a strange situation to be in that, you know, and…..I still couldn’t sell much work because I was doing large sculptors and installations basically which weren’t sellable like a drawing or painting, so I wasn’t making much money at all from art, in fact hardly any, so I was still window cleaning at that point, and then unfortunately I got made redundant from that because there was no work, and so I was walking around thinking ‘this is a bit rough- I can’t even get work as a window cleaner now’ so I decided to…I just had to do something, I wasn’t making enough money from art, so I set up my own business which was making wooden canvas stretchers for artists, for frames that they stretch canvas on and because of my contacts in the art world I knew there was a niche for good quality stretch frames, and well, it took quite a lot of….I just jumped in at the deep end really and I finally got that set up, made a lot of mistakes, finally got it set up and I worked away, and suddenly it started doing quite well because people knew me from the art world, and soon really well-known famous artists started coming in to me to get their canvas stretchers, and I made sure that I was at the right top end of the market, I gave a really good quality products and basically I was a craftsman working with wood, and so that sort of…that was okay you know, I’d got it going but there was a certain tedium in it when I was just working at my woodworking machine doing hundreds of tenons, and again I had this call that this isn’t what I should be doing – I should be doing my own work, so I was supplying lots of well-known artists with things to do their own work, so I turned up at their studio thinking ‘this could be me really’ - delivering stuff – and so at that point I got an offer, somebody wanted to buy it, because it was going up, so I sold it, sold it after about four years and that gained me a little lump sum of money which was really nice because I’d never really had any money, and about a year…..oh I remember now, this money….I’m tying into my childhood bit now – my mother had gone to visit my brother in New Zealand so my house in Worcestershire, the house was empty, so I thought ‘the first thing I’ll do is I’ll drive up to the house and stay there for a bit’ and I found that one of the things I did was I went out and bought a whole new load of fishing tackle with the money, or some of the money, and suddenly rekindled this interest in what I’d done in my youth and I thought ‘really this is…’ so I’d been in London twenty years at this point, and I thought ‘why am I there?’ – I didn’t feel my work as an artist was going that well and so I spent a bit of time back at home, a month or so, getting familiar with the place and you know, sort of going fishing and doing things, taking photographs and when I went back to London I didn’t feel I had any connections with it any more, and I felt that I was getting near forty, I’d be thirty nine or something like that, that I should leave but as it happened you know, there was a strange circumstance where I actually ended up meeting up with someone from my past, which developed into a relationship and my partner, Louise, was living in Hebden Bridge so I met her and fell in love, then she said ‘well come and live in Hebden Bridge’ so I left London and came to live in Hebden Bridge so that would be 1990, something like that, something like that, and again I arrived and it was a bit difficult at first because again I’d no work and my money was running out, and then suddenly I got all these phone calls from London, saying they weren’t happy with the stretchers they were getting, so I thought ‘I don’t know what on earth I’m gonna do’ - it was all a bit difficult, so I thought ‘I’ll start again’ and in the meantime I’d had an artist’s studio at Dean Clough in Halifax, so I started developing all my contacts again with the artists that I’d dealt with and they wanted my stretchers again, so I started manufacturing canvas stretchers again as a way of earning a living, and….did that for a while and left Dean Clough and went to another, bigger workshop in Siddal in Halifax, and I found that I could make stretchers and do some painting, and I got my work going again, my paintings going again and…..then about, I think it’s about eight years ago now, I took the plunge again and just stopped the business.  My lease was up and I had to leave the building so I thought ‘I haven’t really got it in me to start again, so this time I’m going to give up and start painting again, and see how I get on’ so I just took the risk again really’ so that’s how I went from – that’s how I ended up here then getting a studio at Arts Mill, so I’ve been here for about eight years now.

     

    TW:

    Right.  So do you still make sculptures or do you just paint now?

     

    RW:

    I don’t make much sculpture at the moment.  I do the odd wood carving. My problem with sculpture was that you soon get a studio full of sculpture that if you haven’t got an outlet for you’re just cluttered up with sculptures, especially if it’s large, and I started a process which is a bit akin to wood carving which was wood cut print making, using wood cut, so I have a wooden panel which I then carve the image into and then ink that up and take a print off that, so I found that connection with the wood and the carving of the wood to make a wood cut quite a nice compromise, so when I get a 2D image I still feel that I’m sculpting it out of the surface, so my wood cuts did quite well and I usually get them in at the Royal Academy in the Summer Exhibitions, so that’s one of the main things that I’ve done, is wood cut.

     

    TW:

    Do you have, what shall we call it, a philosophy of art, what are you actually trying to say with the work that you do it?

     

    RW:

    Well I suppose you know, I’ve always felt that it’s….a spiritual activity.  I’ve never really done it to try and make money which sounds a bit strange because that’s probably why I’ve never had any money, but I’ve always tried to keep this feeling that I’m searching for something of the truth in some way, and I try and remain true to that; obviously you know, it’s really nice when I sell work but I don’t really wanna just make work to make money – what I mean by that is I don’t want to just look at a market and compromise what my vision is and how I see things, and in order just to sell work, so it’s a delicate balance between doing what you feel you’re really about and getting someone to feel that when they see your work and making it work financially.  You can go the other way I think and say ‘I’m just going to make money from art’ – what sells, what is popular, what does well and do that, but I’ve never really felt comfortable with that at all, so basically it is a deep spiritual activity in the sense that a lot of the time I don’t know where the work’s coming from – it’s an unconscious process and I still have that idea that the artist is some sort of medium for things that come in from somewhere, I don’t know where, and it comes out through you and you’re trying to find what that is and you make those mistakes, then every now and then you get something that really does work and it’s quite magical when that happens, and because once you experience that magic the first time, you know that is the truth – there is something there trying to express the truth, and…..I don’t know if that makes any sense at all

     

    TW:

    It makes perfect sense to me

     

    RW:

    Yeah, yeah….but you know, it’s difficult because obviously……[getting a drink] 

     

    TW:

    So do you think your audience or spectators, people who look at your work, do you think they get some of that magic and some of that spirituality out of the work?

     

    RW:

    I hope so, but people tend to bring their own filters into it when they look at work.  You have to be open and very often people will approach work with pre-conceived ideas, and so a viewer will look at a piece of work with their own pre-conceptions so they filter out sometimes, so instant decisions are made like ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘I like it’ or ‘it’s not my thing’ whereas a lot of work really needs to be contemplated and you need to spend time, but we don’t seem to have time and I’m guilty of it myself you know; I make a judgment in about three or four seconds on something, so I’m guilty of doing that when I approach other artists’ work I have to say….but there are people and it’s happened quite recently; I’ve recently sold work when someone’s come in and gone ‘I really like this’ and they paid me for it, and I really appreciate that, so it does happen definitely, you know.

     

    TW:

    I’m just curious, you said when you were young you were always in the countryside, and you seemed to have….you liked it shall we say.  When you moved to Hebden Bridge then, the landscape around here – has that affected you or your work in any way?

     

    RW:

    Well I’m not sure; I think people who see my work tend to think that it has.  I still, if I’m doing a landscape now, I mean my work has gone through a period of abstraction and I’m now coming back now, so my recent work – I’ve been working on abstraction which obviously gets rid of the figurative image, but has a landscape feel to it, I think you could feel the landscape in it.  Now I wasn’t sure whether it was a Yorkshire landscape or whether it was a child thing, or….I really wasn’t sure, but just recently I’ve been pulling it back.  I’ve been coming back to more figurative – I’m on the border between figurative and abstract which is the realm I find quite interesting now….I was explaining where you can, you know, on a sliding scale between being very detailed and very figurative, going right the way through then to abstraction, where there’s virtually nothing but a black square, so if you’re painting, in a way you’re operating somewhere along that scale.  At the moment I’m….I’m finding it quite interesting to be just where the images start to go into abstraction, so….for me to deal with abstraction was quite hard at first because I’d never done it before, and now things I’ve learnt through that…..I’m trying to bring it back, so the landscape feeling is coming back but I find I’m using imagery from Worcestershire rather than Yorkshire, but I think there are elements of…..I think it must happen, you know, I think people would look at them and probably say ‘it’s not…..’ it’s not coming from where you might think, it might be a bit more…

     

    TW:

    So I mean, this sort of imagery, this naturalist imagery, you’re on the edge of it, what about the other aspects of it?  The colour side of it, or even design or shape, that sort of thing, or even scale, are there any influences locally that affect those aspects of it, or is it just you in front of the canvas kind of exploring what’s there?

     

    RW:

    Well I don’t…..I don’t go out any more….I don’t go outside and paint which is a different feeling.  If you’re out in the landscape and you’re working outside directly, then that is a different feeling.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about trying to do, then I would probably be a bit more aware of the scale of things like you’re saying, and the real colours that are out there, but when you’re drawing on your inner self, it’s a different thing, so…..I think I’m very much aware of the vast expanse and how small we are in comparison to that I think, so…..and also there’s a feeling of isolation about it you know, the lone house in the middle of the wild countryside, but there’s a certain comfort in that in the sense that you know, when you’re trudging back you see the hut in the distance with the light on and smoke coming out, that sort of romantic idea or the feeling that you’re coming back to a sort of warmth you know, that feeling – I used to get that feeling late at night when I’d been on a fishing trip and you’re walking in the sort of dusk or darkness back, but you’re going back home sort of thing you know, so there’s a feeling of isolation about it, but as an artist that is a part of the process, that you can feel isolated but it’s a very nurturing, creative isolation if you know what I’m saying.  The problem is getting the work out there and you getting out there to promote what you do.  I was said to be….I’m happier if I come to the studio, I can deal with that; the problem  that I find hardest is getting out there promoting and marketing what I do, in fact I’m hopeless at it, so some of the paintings do express an isolation but it’s not a lonely….it’s not a loneliness, it’s a nurturing, creative space or place where you’re trying to express yourself.   Does that make any sense?

     

    TW:

    Yes.  So is there a kind of romantic element or a symbolic kind of meaning to between abstraction and sort of naturalistic sort of pictures.  Do you think about those aspects of it when you’re actually painting?

     

    RW:

    I think I tend to be on the romantic side, yeah.  I think there’s a strong tradition of…..well there are various things that you can get trapped – there are certain things on the romantic side you can get trapped into, that is the starving artist in the garret which is a myth basically of we all starve and we’re all just poor and mundane, you get discovered, well……it’s not true basically [laughing] but you can get locked into that, you can think ‘oh I am this person, this’ you know ‘I’m poor but I’m doing really good stuff and one day someone will just walk in and say this is all great’ – bit of a dangerous situation to get into, so there is the romance of that, but there’s also that….we have an English landscape tradition through Turner, Constable and the romantics – I definitely feel akin to that because I associate with the….there’s a romanticism about nature, plant life and that thing I was saying about the artist being a medium for external things and a reliance on the unconscious – that’s romantic, and not….I used to intellectualise a lot about art; I have always had a theory or a reason why I did something and a lot of that came from my art education.  A lot of work in the seventies was conceptual so if I was talking to someone, I’d have to have a very good reason or why I was doing something, or I could talk very eloquently about what I was doing because I had a theory, or the current theory of art which constantly changes, so each generation of student thinks they’ve got the answer, but it changes.  As I’ve got older I don’t intellectualise as much about what I do, I work basically on a feeling about things, not to the extent you know, that I feel I’m slapping the paint all over the canvas in a highly expressionistic way where it’s just a motion, there is some control, but I find the more I think….I get trapped if I start thinking too much, I need to be acting and doing something and learning from that really.

     

    TW:

    Right. I suppose there’s two things I want to ask really.  One of them is about being an individual and the other is….for the lack of a better phrase, issue-based work.  Would you put yourself in either of those categories?

     

    RW:

    You mean issues politically?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    RW:

    No….no, I don’t do that…..I have tried to in the past, but I don’t feel comfortable with it.  I’m not sure why….it’s….not it’s not my thing, but I don’t have a problem with it in the sense that I do know there are other artists who work like that, and deal with contemporary issues, but from my point of view, no…..it’s not a conscious decision….it’s…..from the point of view that I feel…..politically I feel that the arts is impoverished; we don’t fund the arts much…..and people who are trying to be creative and working are finding it very, very hard in the current political situation, and it’s hard for me you know, again it’s very hard to earn a living but I……I feel that there has to be people out there flying the flag for creativity, because we’re so obsessed with making money and we’re so obsessed with material things, don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to be the starving artist in the garret that we were talking about, but we seem to have lost sight of more meaningful, spiritual things and then creativity becomes a material object in itself, so people buy things for the sake of it, for their monetary value, not their artistic value, so I feel…..that it’s important for me at my age now, not being a young person any more, I mean when you’re young you want to change the world, so you get involved in….I was more political and I wanted things to change, and you know, I found it hard living through the Thatcher years you know, I felt slightly oppressed as a creative person then, and now I still have the same feeling – I feel the arts is being squashed and….we need it corporally as a society, we need a culture.

     

    TW:

    Like you said, art theories, they come and go, not even every generation, every few years they come and go, and politically and economically it seems to be the same really.  What was in politically five years ago is out now and in another five years it’ll change again I’m sure.  Is that another reason why you think you said you don’t like thinking about it too much any more, you like to just do.  Do you think on that political side it’s because it just changes, that there’s in some ways, there’s no point because you’re always playing catch-up and you’re not actually trying to produce something of value, shall we say?  Is that part of the roundness of the way you visualise art?

     

    RW:

    Yeah, you mean that because politically things change that you can’t get on one band wagon because then you’ll be off it in a few years’ time….yeah, but it’s…..it’s very difficult because you have to find your inner core then, you have to find an inner centre which is not easy, it come and goes you know, sometimes you find it then it’s just gone…..it’s an inner strength that isn’t…..obviously you’ve got to be aware that you’re a part of the sophisticated society.  Artistically we’ve gone….all the boundaries have been broken down, you know, all the barriers between the disciplines of painting, sculpture, photography, video, it’s all open to you and it’s a sophisticated world – I don’t want to advocate the idea that I’m some primitive guy working away in a jungle somewhere and I just don’t wanna know about society at all and I’m just doing what I do, that wouldn’t be correct at all cos I’m still a political, social individual who’s having to bring up a family and deal with council tax and everything else, so……but artistically, I don’t know whether I’m going to explain it very well, but….it sounds a bit….it is just finding yourself really within that, and it’s very difficult to…it’s a hard thing to do, but……you know, it goes well sometimes and then sometimes it doesn’t go so well, sometimes I feel…I come in and I think ‘time to put all the paints away and forget about it, I’m so bad’….you know, you just have incredible self-doubt because….if you’re a musician and you play to an audience you get an instant applause or whatever – you get some response quickly.  If you’re an artist in the position that I’m, in you have to work for months and months and maybe a few years and then someone will see something they like, so you’re bound to go through self-doubt, and you’re not in a college situation where you’ve got a peer group or people constantly interested in what you’re doing; there aren’t constantly people interested in what I’m doing, I don’t get many visitors, I just have to have this self-belief….and believe me, I go up and down, you know, so I wouldn’t like to make out that I’m on top of the game all the time, I’m not, but then it wouldn’t be interesting if I was.  I need to solve problems.  If I could just do it like this every day, knock them off and they were selling, and you know, it wouldn’t be interesting.

     

    TW:

    You say you still do a lot of wood cuts and you do the painting as well which is in this flux position.  How do those two compare, your wood cuts to your painting?

     

    RW:

    Well I’ve had a slight problem with it because the wood cuts is a sort of fairly…it’s a disciplined craft in a way; you have a distinct process to go through and that controls your emotions in some way.  Like I was saying earlier, you can’t just fling the paint at the canvas.  If you’re doing a wood cut, you have to go through the process – that is you make your panel, you put your image onto the panel, you carefully cut it, do a graphite rubbing to see what you’re getting, then you have to ink up the thing and….it’s a…..there’s a craft to it, there’s a skill to it, and then of course you’ve got all your emotional image that you want to get into that as well, you know…painting can go right….as I say on this scale where you are literally splashing colour around, either angrily or despairingly, and so you’ve got this emotional outlet, totally emotional outlet, but really I feel things come together more when you can control the emotion in some way, so I’ve had a problem with the painting from the abstraction point of view because…..well I’ve found over the last few years, I enjoy physically painting but….I’m throwing myself into an abyss; I don’t know what I’m doing in a sense – sounds a bit strange – but I don’t know what’s gonna happen when I’m painting, and with a wood cut I know I’ve got an image, say of a tree, I’m trying to reproduce that in some way and I know at the end of the day I’m gonna get some sort of image of a tree……when I’m doing an abstract painting, I don’t know what’s going to occur, basically – I’m far more lost and that can be an interesting position to be in but it is also quite frightening in a certain way, and having tried to do this for about four or five years now, that feeling of throwing yourself in at the deep end was getting a bit tiresome because what I want to feel at the end of that process is that something really happens and I’ve got….wow, after all that work, yes, I’ve found what it is I’m trying to say, or what I’m trying to do, but I was finding that more and more difficult so now I’m pulling it back and using a little bit of imagery, recognisable imagery with it, I’m feeling much more comfortable and things are starting to flow a bit and I’m back….I  feel it’s more about what I’m about and when I’m involved in an abstraction I’m dealing with what high art terms….I’m dealing on the sort of….. ‘wow what happens if I paint a black square and put it on a wall’ – what question does that ask of somebody?  So I’m involved in arty theory which I feel comfortable about, now I’ve pulled it back, I’m more comfortable with what I’m doing without looking at the whole history of American abstract expressionism or something like that [laughing]…..you understand what I’m saying?......and…..yeah

     

    TW:

    Very interesting that, yes.  What do you feel about sort of Hebden Bridge, the sort of the art scene in Hebden Bridge or the cultural scene in general?

     

    RW:

    Well I feel very good here…obviously as an artist you feel….if you want to, if you’re a young person and you want to get on in the art world, really you do have to be in London, sadly.  Everything focuses around London, so when I left London I knew I was making a bit of a….you know, could I be making a mistake?  But it was my personal life that took me through that and became happier in that sense.  Now what I wanna say about Hebden Bridge is….I do feel very comfortable here and I like it, and there is a group of artists/musicians, there’s some very interesting people in Hebden Bridge – I’m not a great socialite, but I do…..I mean I like it here, but I’m always aware, from my past, that I’m no longer in London, but then I used to deliver stretchers to hundreds of artists in London who lived in rabbit warren studios with their name on the door and nobody had ever heard of them, so you could feel incredibly isolated if you live in London – you don’t….it’s not this great world - it can be equally, it can be a very lonely and isolating place, and there are a lot of people who leave colleges and a lot of artists who feel like that, although they are actually in London.  I don’t…..I’m probably at a period in my life when I’m more comfortable with myself now, as an artist and as a person, and I like Hebden Bridge, it suits me, you know, it’s not a…..it doesn’t suffer from the small town mentality – I don’t feel that – I think it is quite open because of the people that you can meet her, you know.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.  Are there any sort of other artists that have influenced you in any way?

     

    RW:

    Well my first influence was traditionally Constable, and having rejected all that [laughing] and gone through you know, the art education, I rejected all that and I got into the sort of classic Marcel Duchamp phase, whose work I did find very interesting, but….since that time I’ve just tried to develop my own vision of things.  I do look at other artists’ work and it varies; I may like somebody or you know….and now I do….have a broad range of things really and I still look at….I go back to looking at Constable oil sketches or Turner, the very traditional things….but for me the problem is creating the time to do the work really, that’s one of the big things – doing it, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Do you think you’ll ever, on that scale you were talking about, go further and further towards the realism side of things and may actually become a landscape painter, and that might be a direction you want to go

     

    RW:

    It’s possible.  At the moment I’m….one of the problems I had was because the wood cut was so figurative and the paintings were abstract, I felt I was sort of split in some way, I was trying to tie the paintings in, and I think when people look at a….you have to be….if you’re in the top echelons  of the art world or if say somebody like Picasso, it gets to a point where you’re so well known it doesn’t really matter what you do; you can do….well, a sculpture with forks sticking out of it, or next you can do a drawing of a…..a really nice linear drawing of a nude, it’s just a Picasso and everybody accepts it, or…..but when you’re not, then galleries and people like to say ‘what is it that he does?’ so the problem I have sometimes is because I do different things, or one minute I’ve got an abstract painting on then I’ve got a woodcut, ‘hang on, is he a woodcut artist, is he an abstract artist, how do we compartmentalise him?’ do you see what I’m saying?

     

    TW:

    Yeah

     

    RW:

    But it shouldn’t be like that really, you should be free just to do things.  If I feel like I want to make a video or a film, then I feel I should be able to do that, but I’m trying to, at the moment, artistically bring this, you know, this figurative element into the abstract world where I’m on that boundary between the two, which I’m finding quite interesting at the moment, so then the imageries, coming back to the woodcuts, its landscape, I’m feeling a bit happier about them, I’m feeling happier about things, so…I don’t know whether that answers your question – I can’t remember what

     

    TW:

    Yeah, the other thing that’s a bit split like that is the fact that you use all this imagery from Bromsgrove that you bring back to Yorkshire and then you base things on, but  the environment here obviously fulfils you in some kind of way, so you’ve got this kind of double imagery in a way that you’re trying to fit together as well.  Does that bother you, or is that something that you’re actually trying to do, or just sort of happens?

     

    RW:

    No, I just feel that if that’s happening, it’s about what’s happening in my life and you now, I tend to feel that work is about my life in a way and my experiences in life, which is where I want the work to come from…..so I’m happy with that really.  I’m aware that these things are gonna crop up, and even family life, I’ve done work about my family situation and used figures from my personal life in the past, so I’m happy when work shows those things cos I know it’s more truthful and more honest.

     

    TW:

    Yeah.  Do you sometimes think you’re going back to your childhood at all when you think of that?

     

    RW:

    Yeah there’s obviously….there’s a feeling that you could say is…what’s the word….when you’re looking back in a nostalgic way, regressive in some way.  I used to worry about that, but I don’t worry about it any more because I don’t know, it’s like you….I listen to authors who write books – I used to do interviews with authors and it would be about their childhood and everyone was saying ‘I’ve got a great book’ and then there’s an artist you’d do something and you’d say ‘can you do something about your childhood and they’d say ‘oh it’s a bit backward looking, nostalgic’ and it’s not – it’s a part of the rich vein that makes what you’ve actually become, and I don’t feel uncomfortable about that any more, you know, and there’s a childlikeness to some of the things I do, but then that’s because that creative spark can be very childlike and playful, and it hasn’t any preconceived ideas at all, it just does what it does in an honest way, you know………..

     

    TW:

    Right.  Well I just wanna ask about, I mean I’ve been asking you all about your life and you’ve been responding.  Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you’d like to say, either about your work or your life in this area?

     

    RW:

    I suppose if there was a message that I’d like to say, is that…..if you’ve been given gifts in life you should use them, and if it’s to be an artist or a musician or a teacher or caring for people, it’s a crime not to use it, so that’s what I’ve realised in later life that I have to do, no matter what the circumstances are.  Don’t waste your gifts basically.

     

    TW:

    Are any of  your children….are they artistic in any way?

     

    RW:

    My son who’s fifteen, George, plays guitar, so I think he’s got a lot of music ability, so I’m encouraging him to do that, yeah, it’s really nice.

     

    TW:

    Do you talk to him at all about being an artist or being a creative person?

     

    RW:

    He’s at an age at the moment when he’s just out playing sport and doing things, and he does come here, but at the moment he’s sort of all things on his mind.  I’m sure it will change – I don’t push it…..and he is toying with the idea of going to art school, although I feel that his true vocation would be in music in some way, but no, he’s sort of quite blaze about it all really, he doesn’t [laughing] you know, he just wishes we had more money I think, more posher cars and things like that, but I’m sure it will change, unless you do the classic thing of you don’t wanna do what your parents did, I don’t know – who knows?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.  How long have you actually been in this studio then?

     

    RW:

    I think it’s about eight years now.

     

    TW:

    And you find the environment…..cos you have a kind of separate studio and in different parts of the building there are groups of studios, so there would be more interaction shall we say.  Do you feel quite comfortable to be on your own?

     

    RW:

    I am completely comfortable with it, yeah and I really enjoy it, and I can’t wait to come in in the morning.  You know, there are times when I get a bit down and think I’d sooner do something else, but this is the best studio I’ve had for a long time and I like the idea that there are people around, but I didn’t really want to be in an open plan situation.  It reminds me a bit of being back at art school, and the rent takes up a sufficient amount of my budget, but you know, I like it.  I wish I had a bigger space but everybody wants a bigger space but the light is good, it’s nice and warm, it’s a good studio, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Well I think we’ll leave it there then if that’s alright, we’ll call a day.

     

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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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
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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