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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Chris Colling

     

     

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 20th of June 2012 and I’m talking to Chris. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    CHRIS COLLINGE :

    My name’s Christopher Paul Collinge, and I was born in 1978, January 1978 at the LGI in Leeds.

     

    TW:

    Right…..right, so which part of Leeds were you from?

     

     

    CC:

    I was born….well I was born…..we lived on Harehills Avenue, Chapeltown, and didn’t stay there for very long and then we moved up to Shadwell and then….very briefly, and then ended up in Headingley, the top. Like the bottom end of Hyde Park, so just…..round there

     

    TW:

    Right. What was it like round there then, when you were a kid?

     

    CC:

    I enjoyed it; it was a nice place to grow up really; we were sort of backing onto some woods and things, a load of land, so…..yeah it was just….it was a nice place to live really.

     

    TW:

    Right. What sort of things did you do?

     

    CC:

    General scratting around in the woods and….you know

     

    TW:

    So you were an outdoor sort of person?

     

    CC:

    Yeah just, I mean…..I think what was really nice, because it was literally backed onto a load of land and stuff and it was a different time then wasn’t it? We would leave, you know, mum would kick us out, you know, go at eight in the morning and we’d come back at six o’clock at night sort of thing and you know, we were really quite small so that was good…..it was good to have that….I think kids don’t get that now, so yeah there was….we did just go and….yeah, just go around and explore like the woods and stuff, and just…..you know, a lot of that really

     

    TW:

    Did you have like brothers and sisters or a big gang of friends?

     

    CC:

    No brothers and sisters; there was a load of kids that was on the estate; there was a lot of kids that lived there and…..I mean we went all over the place but my mum and dad had quite a big garden as well so, you know, we would go in there quite a bit and there was other people’s, and then there was a fair bit of land around so we’d just go everywhere really, but my mum was always pretty….she liked having noise around, so [laughing]….

     

    TW:

    Well what did your parents do?

     

    CC:

    My old man, he’s a second hand car trader, so when I was younger he did have a pitch up at Bramley but then he got rid of that and he just did trading, so like you know, buying off companies and selling at the auctions and stuff….and my mum, when I was born, my mum had a truckers’ café in East End Park, on….down by Cross Green on the corner where the roundabout is at Cross Green, but just after I was born, you know, after about six months they got rid of that and used the money to basically sort of push on the car job a bit more, and….before that…..my dad was a taxi driver before that and then he sold the cabs to get the money to sort of do the car job, just about the same sort of time

     

    TW:

    Do you think you learnt a lot off your parents then?

     

    CC:

    ……….yeah…….my mum and dad aren’t…..they’re not massively educated people, but you know they’re hard working people, and…….yeah they have worked, they did work hard to get you know, to get going and that, and the specifics of are what I’ve learnt off them. My dad tends to…..maybe play with too much of a straight back I think really; he was in the business when nobody played it straight or whatever, and he probably didn’t do…..could have done better if he’d have been a bit more bent….but…..but I think I probably do carry on that…..the same way rather than doing it really dodgy……..yeah, I mean….

     

    TW:

    Well the reason I asked that is because they both had their own business, and you started your own business, and they’re both sort of in the motor trade for the lack of a better word, and you’re in bikes, so it just seems to me as if like that side rubbed off on you, and without knowing it you might have picked up a lot.

     

    CC:

    It was a strange one because my dad’s family were all heavily into motorcycles…..you know, from my Uncle George, he had his last bike when he was in his mid seventies, and you know, they used to go and do all the scrambles and stuff up at Post Hill in the fifties and the sixties and stuff; all my dad’s brothers – my dad was the youngest or whatever – he used to go off and….you know, I think he said….because he wasn’t….he was a lot younger than his brothers, and he spent a lot of time with his brother-in-law, and he used to, you know, they’d go all over on….on the back of an old BSA or something, you know, the various bikes that they had, so he spent a lot of time travelling, you know, literally going all over, but everybody did I suppose in the fifties……but……motorcycles weren’t in my life as I grew up. A few came around that my dad sort of picked up because they used to swap….at the auctions and stuff they’d just swap stuff, so it was…you know, one day he’d turn up with some ridiculous watch or something like that, and then he’d go and swap it for…..I don’t know, a caravan or something like that and then he’d swap it for like a motorcycle, like a dirt bike, and then they’d just….they just seemed to be always swapping and coming home with random stuff, so he’d turn up with stuff but we never rode it, and….I never had a back seat; he had a…..my dad, bizarrely, his first job when he left school, he was a bike mechanic, but he didn’t….he didn’t do….I think he was fifteen or whatever when he did like a….bit of time and that, and he had a bad crash and came off without any gear on and slide down the road, and ripped all his back up and stuff, so he’s always been really quite…….you know, bikes weren’t part of, you know, my life as a kid really. Physically, They were a big part of my family, but I didn’t have anything to do with them.

     

    TW:

    Right. Well…..so let’s kind of jumped forward a bit then to…..like when you would have left school then. What did you get into when you left school?

     

    CC:

    When I left school I went to…..art college for…..I went to art college; at first I really…..I was really into cars at school; I was really into cars and I did a lot of skiing and stuff, but I was really into cars…..and art and drawing and stuff, but…..and I wanted to go and do car design, so I went to college at Dewsbury to do the Art Foundation, but after about half way through the course I dropped out, and I’d been doing bands at school and I wasn’t feeling that the art…what I was feeling was that I didn’t really feel was that I was…..you know, I had a lot of a sort of design thing in me, so…..I

     

    TW:

    So did you feel that about yourself?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, it just wasn’t really happening; I mean I was good, I was pretty alright at drawing and stuff and things, but I didn’t….I don’t know….I wasn’t…..what I realised with a lot of creative stuff is that you need to be prolific; it needs to come naturally, and I could do it, and I could produce good stuff but it wasn’t like flowing, or with the drawing, so…..we’d been playing around, you know, doing bands and stuff at school…….and they had some on t’computers and sequences and stuff at school and we used to use them at lunch time, and I did that quite a long time; I’d got a couple of bits and pieces and I just wanted to… basically so I left the college and started messing around with music………..but didn’t go to college to do it, just moving down to Hyde Park where there was a lot of music, and sort of….I knew a load of people down there that were doing things and sort of

     

    TW:

    So I mean when you say music, what do you mean?

     

    CC:

    It was dance music, you know, dance music – electronics

     

    TW:

    So you were like…..were you becoming a DJ or were you becoming like

     

    CC:

    We were just making music; I wasn’t a DJ for quite a long time, but we were doing you know, electronics, sort of…..odd music I suppose, it was kind of weird electronica.

     

    TW:

    So you had a kind of group that you worked with, or

     

    CC:

    Yeah there were a few different people, so yeah, there was one….there’d be a couple of groups, but

     

    TW:

    So you….I mean when you were really creative in this music thing……was it just for your own like pleasure, or did you have kind of some ambitions of going somewhere?

     

    CC:

    Yeah as you do, at the time or whatever, it was still…..you know, dance music had been happening for ages but it was changing and……it seemed you know……but yeah, it seemed like……you know, you have wacky ideas don’t you or whatever about things and it seemed like something but you know, Hyde Park was a pretty full-on place and there was a lot going on, and a lot of weird stuff going on……a lot of great……a lot of great music, a lot of interesting people; it was like…..a lot of interesting people, a lot of really strange stuff and a lot of weird music coming out, and a lot of stuff going on all the time, so an outlet, so it was one of those scenes that was really quite….you know, you didn’t…..a bit like here really, you know, people don’t get sucked into it, and don’t really…….you know, there’s so much stuff going on there, you can be like a sort of a hero in your own back yard or whatever and there’s always load of stuff going on, and everybody’s doing something, you know, so there’s a big group of people who are all bouncing off each other and trying different things and just doing loads of wacky stuff, so that was……pretty good really…..I mean, yeah…..the music stuff though, like I said with the creative side of me, what I realised was there wasn’t…..I wasn’t really, you know….there wasn’t a lot of musician in me, but I was really good at….with the technology…..I was really good with the gadgets, and they were quite hard then….they were quite hard to…..you know, to programme and make them do what you wanted to do, so I ended up sort of getting more technical than…..yeah there was creativity to some degree, but it was, you know, it’s that sort of music – it’s a technical thing in a way………………….. (Chris goes to get a CD) that’s one of the records with one of my mates from that period – gives you an idea of what we were into……….

     

    TW:

    ‘Kakadabu’

    We’ll just……put that there…..so that’s all electronica is it?

     

    CC:

    No that’s a ska band

     

    TW:

    Oh really?.....Oh right

     

    CC:

    Yeah, but……but there’s bits and pieces on there that people who I lived with…….and me and my mate did like remixes of it and stuff like that, and we put them out and self-released them and stuff

     

    TW:

    Oh right……oh great….so were you into like DIY kind of stuff?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, it was totally DIY

     

    TW:

    Oh right….very good…….so how long did that period last then?

     

    CC:

    That was about…….well I was in Hyde Park…….from like 1996 till 2001, so like five years or something………first I lived with a guy who I sort of knew through…..he had a spare room come up; actually he was living with a girl from Todmorden and they’d split up or whatever and I moved in, and he…..he had a band called ‘Oochi’ who were really popular, sort of in Leeds, and they did you know, sort of electronic stuff, well it was like…..it was dance music but it was a live band and they had loads of wacky dances and stuff, so I lived with them for…..pretty much the whole time, yeah, I was there….I was there for a few years…….

     

    TW:

    What made you……jump to Hebden Bridge then?

     

    CC:

    That was….that was with work, now or whatever…..my business partner that I work with now…….he lived in Manchester, him and his wife lived in like a north Manchester estate; they’d got a couple of houses that they’d bought during the boom or whatever that they rent out and stuff, so they’re like slum landlords [laughing] essentially……so they were living in Blackley which is…..you know, it’s not…..it was a difficult place to live; they got broken into a lot and it was pretty…..and Julie got pregnant…….and so they were living there and I was living up in north Leeds…..and it was just, you know, we were getting it together and it was like we need to try and get everybody a bit closer together, and the guy who lives over at Worsthorne, who makes parts for us, so it was like……give it a crack, and the timing was right really because Julie had just had a baby, and they just, you know……it was an opportunity you don’t……when it came….it was an opportunity to get out of where they were and it was a good one, and I was thinking of where I was really; I’d been there for………….yeah, eight years………so….yeah, basically it was just an idea to get everybody together and basically it was like we don’t want to move to Burnley , so we came to Hebden, but I’d always I said I’d never move to Hebden Bridge from being at Hyde Park

     

    TW:

    Why?

     

    CC:

    Because everybody was on this like triangular circuit between Brighton, Hebden Bridge and Leeds, all the sort of the…..you know, the hippy type, groovy people from Hyde Park…..and like, no….[laughing]

     

    TW:

    So you didn’t see yourself as groovy then? What were you?

     

    CC:

    Oh yeah……we were like sort of……I suppose migrated into the more the…..sort of the urban techno people, but we liked doing the parties in the woods and everything; that way there was a bit more…..you know, less flowery more banging sort of thing, you know, so there is a bit of that really, I don’t know, it’s just…..yeah, it was just a cliché that everybody always came here…..as they used to say, Hebden Bridge, where hippies come to breed [laughing]…….so…..yeah, but it sort of panned out right that…..Dave and Julie needed to move; I sort of had enough of where I was, and……..Dave came over with Julie one day; they had a look round and I think she got a bit of a shock because we didn’t mention what was going on or whatever, and we were going for a day out which never happened, so they came over, had a look round; literally that first day I think they went and looked in the letting place, found the place which was up at Old Chamber, which was an amazing little house, and then basically I think they came back that day and Dave said ‘right, we’ve signed up, we’ll be in on the sixth of June’ so it was like ‘we’d better get moving’ [laughing]……so then we came back a couple of times, got the unit over at Mytholmroyd really quickly - that was really lucky as well – the guys that we got it off had just bought it and really…..they didn’t want to buy it at the time, but if they’d…..because it backed onto a load of other buildings that they had, so it was like if they didn’t buy it they could be getting a load of problems with somebody else that had it, so…..and it had to go at the time; the lady who had it before wanted rid, so

     

    TW:

    Whereabouts is that then?

     

    CC:

    Cragg Road.

     

    TW:

    Up the top, or

     

    CC:

    Next to the ice cream factory just down the bottom

     

    TW:

    Oh right, okay, right

     

    CC:

    So, I think she’d got……yes, so that was quite fortuitous; literally the day that Dave went to look at it, they were signing the papers and it was like….and it was pretty run down at the time; it hadn’t been used for ages and the people that had been in before…..when we walked in there was all these free-standing rooms inside the warehouse space that were like cobbled together; plasterboard….plasterboard like wooden framed rooms, plasterboard and all that, insulated these rooms………it looked a bit odd and we really didn’t think too much of it at the time, because I hadn’t really looked at it and then spoke to Chris next door and it turned out that there’d been this supposedly decorating company in there, but they had……they’d sort of come….they’d do loads of work, bang bang bang, building all these rooms or whatever, and then they sort of disappeared off on jobs for a few weeks or whatever and then they’d come back at night, they’d be there for like a day or whatever and then they’d disappear again, and then one day the police came, battering rammed the door down, and they were growing weed on like an industrial scale

     

    TW:

    Oh really? [laughing]

     

    CC:

    So…..somebody had spied them when there was like…..I think they got like a nine hundred pound water bill for like a quarter [laughing]…….for the hydroponics……so that’s basically…..the lady was like…..her husband had died and they had this old…..I think they made hardware, like nuts and bolts or something like that, and there was all the old pulleys and stuff and machines going back years, and he died and she was just renting it out, and the guys had tried to buy it off her before but she’d said ‘no I’ll just hang on to it’ and then I think she got pretty……that was a bit unpleasant and she just wanted rid then, just get rid of it, so…….so yeah

     

    TW:

    Oh right. So are you still there?

     

    CC:

    Yeah yeah…….yeah, so we…..it was horrible; it hadn’t had anything done since the seventies so we ripped out all the rooms…..we put a new floor down, painted it all, decorated it, decorated all the offices and put a load of stuff in…….and then when that had got a bit small we knocked through to the warehouse next door as well, and they……they’d put a new floor in; that had still got gas heaters, you know, like open flame gas heaters that you pull and light them up in the air from like the fifties, so they put a load of lights in there and put a roller shutter on it and a new roof then we moved into that, and now we’ve just knocked through and gone through to the next one as well, so……it’s kind of handy that you know, they didn’t……….so yeah, there’s been space to do and they’ve bought……they’ve just bought the old……you know the old….big old mill at Mytholmroyd where the clog factory is

     

    TW:

    Yeah

     

    CC:

    We’ve just bought that

     

    TW:

    Walkleys?

     

    CC:

    Is that what it’s called?

     

    TW:

    Walkleys Clogs, yeah. It used to be Maudes before it was that – on the river

     

    CC:

    Yeah, the massive, the really big building…….no, not on the river……on the main road you’re on about?

     

    TW:

    Yes, that’s what I’m talking about

     

    CC:

    It’s…..you come down and you go…..if you’re going from Hebden, you go past Sainsbury’s, past that junction there, you know, where you turn right to go up Cragg Road

     

    TW:

    Yeah…..you go left

     

    CC:

    Yeah you go left

     

    TW:

    Up on the left there

     

    CC:

    The big mill there

     

    TW:

    Yeah, oh you’ve just bought that? So aren’t they making clogs there any more?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, but they’ve bought it to rent and develop, because they’re builders.

     

    TW:

    Oh I see

     

    CC:

    And basically they said…..Dave had said…..because he’s into buildings and stuff, he said ‘look, we might run out of space in a couple of years so if you’re not in a rush, sort us out a spot; we want this bit or whatever, and hold it for us’ so it was like….you know, if it keeps sort of going in the right direction we’ve got somewhere to move, so

     

    TW:

    Right, that’s good…..I sort of have jumped ahead a bit; I’d like to go back a little bit. We kind of went from you doing the music thing and then I……and then you talked about how you came to Hebden which is what I asked you, but how did…..I mean the business that you run……is to do with motor bikes and parts; how did you get into that before you actually moved to Hebden then? How did you transist from doing the music into that?

     

    CC:

    What happened…..I suppose…..from doing the electronic music I got asked……basically I’d started playing round with sound systems as well, because we were doing the raves and stuff, and then a couple of people that I knew from that who did do some work sort of in the industry, professionally in the music industry, put me onto a guy who got me into doing sound engineering for bands, and I started going out with him and doing loads of jazz gigs…….and then……..it’s a bit of a long convoluted thing……I did that for a few years while I was in Hyde Park, and then……I ended up getting a random phone call – it’s a bit of a round the circle to get there, but……….there was some money in it…..it was pretty sporadic doing sound engineering, you know, it’s difficult to sort of plan things and really get a lot together, and you know. you’ve got to sort of build up and get into the right sort of size of company and I was just sort of getting……anyway, I got a call from some guy asking me if I wanted to go and do a tour with Northern Ballet doing some light……because somebody had dropped out and I said……I was actually doing…..there wasn’t a lot of gigging happening and I was doing teaching on a…..on a project that we’d set up in Leeds……doing music technology teaching in the university for unwaged people, so that was…..it was all going alright, it was running; there was other people to take it over, it was like ‘I’m gonna give this tour with the ballet a go’ and I went and did that, and there was a lot more money than I’d had before; it was different work so it was pretty hard going for a while, but…..basically we started off, it was just on contracts so it was loads of money and then eight weeks off, so…..I think it was twelve weeks off the first time, so the first one, I got all the money and I went off to New Zealand, and I was into skiing; I hadn’t skied for a while, so I did like……three months in New Zealand and I did a load of skiing, then the next tour they came back, and it was a shorter gap and I couldn’t….I wanted…..I went away in the winter but then I wanted to go and do something in the summer and I couldn’t really get to any of the places in the southern hemisphere to ski, so then I…..I didn’t have a bike licence and one of my mates decided he was gonna get one, so I went and got a bike licence, and I figured ‘well I can’t go off on a big trip skiing somewhere, so I’ll get a bike and go somewhere on that’……so……..so I got one and I really really enjoyed it; I got a lot of the same sort of feelings out of…….out of riding the bike that I did from skiing, so it was the same sort of dynamic riding the bike on the road; I felt…..you know, ‘that was good’……and you could go places, and you didn’t need to go anywhere exotic to do it, you could just pull it out of your shed and go for a ride, and…you know, and it was suitable with the UK, so………..yeah I got…..I got…..I bought a bike and I went and toured around the south of England and Wales in the summer for the first time, and that’s sort of how I……well that’s how I got into sort of touring with bikes.

     

    TW:

    Right. Well what made you then…..decide to kind of…….use that experience as a business?

     

    CC:

    Well after……how long ago was it…….so I was working with the ballet and I was riding my bikes a lot…….yeah, so I was touring with the ballet and I was touring on my motorcycle quite a lot, going round, you know, the tour with the company, because you had to get yourself around and then I was a bit sort of sick of everything; I’d been doing that for……two or…..I think two and a half years and I was a bit sort of….just…… ‘where’s this going…..I’m a bit sick of everything, I could do with a change’ and a friend - one of the lads that I’d lived with in Leeds – he told me about a mate of his who wanted to organise this big, massive motorcycle tour that was supposedly coming from China back to the UK, and there was loads of people going and it was all massive, and it was gonna be amazing and all that, so I thought ‘that sounds interesting’ and I got in touch with him, and after……it started off with like ‘oh there’ll be ten people’ and all this and it ended up after a few months……..and nobody else had….you know, it sounded like a great idea in the pub but nobody else was really that into it, so me and him ended up doing…..planning this big ride back from China……and so that……that took a while to sort of plan everything; six months of messing around and then we…….so we went and did that which was, you know, a lengthy story in its own right, but that took seven months to get back, to ride back to the UK, so basically

     

    TW:

    What route did you take?

     

    CC:

    We set up

     

    TW:

    This is with your guy, with your partner now?

     

    CC:

    No it’s not; Rory came and worked for us for a bit, but we’ll leave that at that

     

    TW:

    Okay, alright

     

    CC:

    We set off……what it was, Rory, who I went with, well he worked for like an expedition company, taking……I think called Wheel Challenge; they used to…..basically they take children on expeditions and stuff and he mainly sold for them…..he went round and managed a load of ……because it was through schools and stuff, but he ended up, once a year he’d go and do one of the expeditions so he was going to Mongolia, then……so his idea was to……get a bike, because they all sort of, in Beijing you go up on the train to Ulaanbaatar, and you can go out from there and go back to Beijing, so it was his idea…..that’s why it ended up going that way, which is the wrong way really; going west is not the right way to travel.

     

    TW:

    Is that right?

     

    CC:

    Yeah because you’re going back through the seasons rather than following.

     

    TW:

    Oh I see.

     

    CC:

    So…….but anyway, so…..so we set off…..the idea was to set off from Beijing and go south, basically down through that part of China out into Vietnam, down through Vietnam into…..we had a load of problems in China; it’s a really long and sort of convoluted story, but…..the bikes got lost and didn’t end up making it to Beijing, so we ended getting them in Hong Kong, when they finally found them; they sent them to Dubai instead of Beijing, the freight company, so….we were stuck

     

    TW:

    So how did you get them out?

     

    CC:

    We ended up getting them…..well, eventually when they found them, it took them three weeks to find them; they’d Fed Exed them to Hong Kong and so we’d lost loads of time and the permits for China were waiving and we thought we’d be able to pick them up in Hong Kong and go back, but we couldn’t…..because the permits were for a specific route; they don’t like people travelling independently at all, so you’ve got to actually pre-book all your……routes, and they actually make you take a guide……so it’s……anyway, so the long and short of it was that it was going to take three months to get new permits from mainland China, so we were in Hong Kong and we ended up freighting…..just sticking them on the boat, hop them over to Vietnam, so we got…..originally we got an overnight train down from Hong Kong from Beijing…..messed around down in Hong Kong for a bit, sorting stuff out, realised we couldn’t get…….we couldn’t legally get into mainland China and we didn’t really want to go in illegally, because it’s alright getting in, and getting back out again you’ve got as much problems and if not worse, so we ended up them on the boat to Vietnam which took a day or so, and then hopping on a few buses to get to Vietnam which took a day, you know, it’s not long, and then going into Vietnam and then we got stuck there as well for ages, but……with the bikes, it was illegal to import them into Vietnam

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    The trip that didn’t wanna be, it sounds like!

     

    CC:

    It certainly didn’t wanna be, so there was a lot of……so we spent a month there sorting that out…..bribing people and doing all that good stuff and everything, so eventually when we did get going, it was down through Vietnam, and we actually went down…..there’s a route down the coast which is like the normal route which is well populated, but they’d just……they’d just been building a…..have you heard of the Ho Chi Minh Trail?

     

    TW:

    Yeah

     

    CC:

    Well we basically followed……the Ho Chi Minh Trail wasn’t one trail, it was a network of routes down through the mountains, but they’d basically just supposedly finished a Ho Chi Minh highway which was an inland route, which would be really cool because it’s down through the mountains along the Laos border with different……so we went that way, I mean a lot of it wasn’t finished which was…..it made it really hard, but…..so we went down through Vietnam which was awesome; the time we had in Vietnam was really cool….went into Cambodia……..then we went through to……Thailand, travelled around Thailand for a bit, and then you can’t….because Burma, or Myanmar, or whatever, is pretty much closed, you can’t do that, so we ended up flying the bikes from Bangkok to Chennai or Madras on the east side of India, and riding through India, up across the thing, around the west side, all the way up into the Himalaya; it was getting later on the year, and then back down there into Pakistan, all the way up….what they call the Karakoram Highway up to where there was that big earthquake in Kashmir, up around there - we were up there for ages – and then down across to the west side of Pakistan, then down the Afghan border sort of thing, then all the way along the bottom and across into Iran, through Iran

     

    TW:

    Did you get through Iran alright then?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, Iran was great; travelling in Iran was dead easy. Getting a visa was really…..it was really hard, it was really awkward; that was about the only one we had problems with……but travelling in Iran was dead easy; a really nice place. The people were great……it’s a lot….it’s easier travelling in Pakistan than India because everybody speaks English, in a way, but the conditions……and Pakistan was an awesome place to travel, you know, it was a really great…..really great place to be in. The people were awesome and it’s an amazing and unbelievably varied country. Iran….was…..so yeah, we travelled through Iran…….

     

    TW:

    Along the coast

     

    CC:

    No it was straight through the middle; it’s kind of

     

    TW:

    Oh right, really?

     

    CC:

    The problem with Iran is that they don’t……they’re a bit funny with their visas so I think we had a fourteen day transit because you can’t…..and it’s…..I think it was fourteen days…..it can’t have been less because it’s a big old country like, and it’s a few thousand miles across and sort of you see, you’re coming across on the east side below, you know, on the corner of Afghanistan, so you’ve got…..you know, from the corner of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and you sort of head straight out across the desert….there’s one road that goes across, it like cuts through the middle…….until you get to….I think it’s a place called Lashar Gah and it’s becomes a bit more

     

    TW:

    What’s it called, sorry?

     

    CC:

    Lashkar Gah……once you sort of get there it gets a bit more…..all the stuff in the sort of desert is like one road and a load of smallish towns….if I remember vaguely……and you sort of cut north up towards……you sort of cut north up towards Tehran - we didn’t go to Tehran – we had this sort of policy by then to avoid cities with more than a couple of million people because they were just always like a nightmare, with all the bikes and gear and stuff and sorting things out made it really tricky, so we……..yeah, we went……west out of Iran towards Turkey. Now the problem with….because we got so delayed and everything, and because to be honest we didn’t plan it that well…..by this time it was like end of January, and you don’t think about it, but….Iran was bloody…..you know……once you got that side it was freezing, and we were getting snowed on, and in Iran, and then as you head out of Iran into Turkey you basically end up at a place called Dogbiscuit…..and it goes up into the mountains, and the whole or eastern Turkey’s on a plateau at about two, two and a half thousand metres, so it’s high; it’s….you know, it’s like a European ski resort, or certainly higher than a lot of the ones in the Rockies, so it was full of snow; there was like lots and lots and lots of snow…….and you know, we got…we got pretty badly sort of stiff by the snow, because riding motorcycles in the mountains in snow is not easy, and it was pretty treacherous really, so we ended up…there’s a big lake in Turkey, in eastern Turkey, so we got a ferry across the lake because it was……literally getting through the mountains was going to be really tricky, so once we got out of the mountains into Turkey we headed into Bulgaria and…..up through Bulgaria into Serbia, through Bosnia and the Croatia, up along that Dalmatian coast, across Slovenia, Italy and then off you go……

     

    TW:

    How many of you actually did it?

     

    CC:

    Two.

     

    TW:

    Just the two of you did it?

     

    CC:

    Yes, just two.

     

    TW:

    And how long did it take in all?

     

    CC:

    Seven months.

     

    TW:

    Seven months.

     

    CC:

    Largely because we floundered around extensively. We actually met two guys push bikes in Turkey who’d left Beijing at the same time as us [laughing]…..

     

    TW:

    So is that where your idea came from for the parts?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, the problem….what we found was that there wasn’t really anybody who was really….that was supplying the right stuff, so yeah, there’s a load of good forums; there’s like a forum Horizons Unlimited which is pretty much a…..it’s like a bible for anybody travelling on a bike; it’s really complicated and it’s really hard to find what you want, but there’s essentially this thing, there’s a bulletin board on there which has got all the different regions in the world, and anybody that’s travelling on a bike at the time is on there, and they’re all communicating and passing information through, of what the situation is at the time, so that’s pretty much absolutely essential, and you get a lot of info about…….bikes and stuff because there’s a lot of…..there’s certain bikes that are really popular for overlanding……and so you get all the sort of info and prepping and stuff from there, but there wasn’t really a lot of…..it’s chaotic and it takes a lot of time going through all that information and sifting it, and it’s also, you know, it’s all kind of home-made and there wasn’t really an industry making this stuff at the time, so it got….sort of, the travelling on bikes got popular by the time, because there was that big trip that Ewan McGregor did, and that really put it in the public eye, and….but there was nobody….there was like one big company that was catering for it and they were vastly expensive, and we thought they actually totally missed the point, you know, how we were sort of doing things was totally different, so we thought….I came back and luckily when I left the valley, I said I was leaving, and they said, came back to me a few days later and said ‘do you wanna come back?’….so I was a bit scuppered really on money and I just thought ‘well I’m just gonna have to take a hit on this and hope I get some work when I get back’ but instead I had a job to go straight back into, so I went straight back there, but it had sort of all changed and you know, summat like that changes you a fair bit as well and I wasn’t really into doing……the theatre stuff that much any more, and I kind of wanted something, just something, different. It was like, ‘do I go to university, do I buy a house,……you know, ‘what do I do?’ whatever, and I thought ‘oh maybe I could have a go at doing something myself’ and it was kind of….with the bikes, it was ‘what do I know more about than most people?’ and…..that was sort of one thing that I thought ‘well I think there’s a hole here; there’s nobody really addressing it’ you know, there’s a lot of people out there travelling a long way on motorcycles, I mean Ian Coates from Hebden is on his way back, and he’s been away for like fifteen years, and that’s not completely unusual; there’s not one, there’s dozens of people on the road for that length of time

     

    TW:

    There’s a great tradition of biking in and around Hebden Bridge.

     

    CC:

    Absolutely, yeah, with the Bridge Rats and all that. You see I’ve not really been involved in that, but there is, yeah, there is…it’s, you know, in Yorkshire and in the north of England in general really.

     

    TW:

    So have you met any of those people?

     

    CC:

    Who?

     

    TW:

    The other people into bikes that are in Hebden Bridge.

     

    CC:

    Not really, I mean…….since I’ve got back here, I’ve not really been riding on the road at all and I’ve not really…..I’ve never been into bike clubs and stuff like that so much, so I know quite a lot…..saying that I do know quite a lot of people that….you know, there’s Gary who goes in the pub, obviously, we go riding every couple of weeks and stuff, and I know the guys up at Cragg who are Bob’s mates who do sidecar racing and they all used to do bits and pieces, and there’s a lot of people doing trials and stuff, but I don’t…..that bike club type of people I don’t really know them, because it’s not really what…..you know

     

    TW:

    Not your thing.

     

    CC:

    It’s not really, not really my thing, you know, so……so although, you know, yeah I do actually see quite a lot of people who are into bikes round here but we don’t sort of….apart from Gaz and a couple of other people we don’t really go out and…..because now, rather than going out and riding on the roads, unless I’m going on a big trip, I tend to just ride – I just go off and do, you know, a day or so here at a time and go and do day rides……I’ve not done anything this year, but like last year we went to Portugal…..I’ve not had the time or the money to….mainly the time, to go off and do any travelling because, really to get anywhere good, you’re looking at, you know, if you want to go to Morocco which is, you know, it’s like a week to get down, or like five days to get down there, ride for ten days and five days to get back, so it’s like three weeks, do you know what I mean? So I’ve just not had that time….so I’ve not been doing much travelling.

     

    TW:

    So how did you actually…..I mean you’d done that trip from China, you came back, you fell into the ballet job again and got some money together, so how did you really decide….I mean you decided that…what did you, you know, to do something that you knew more about than anybody else, and you decided it was to do with bikes

     

    CC:

    Yeah, it was a bit of an odd one, I mean, I suppose….I’d had the idea and then actually met Dave and Julie up on…..riding on some trails in North Yorkshire. Dave was like teaching Julie who hadn’t ridden motorcycles – she had a licence but she’d not really ridden off road much – so they were out there on one of these Horizons Unlimited meetings, you know, this……this organisation or whatever that we’re still involved with a lot really, and I met them actually up there or whatever and we just kept in touch and did a few bits of riding, and then we went and did……did you meet my mate Austin in the pub, in all the overalls and stuff?

     

    TW:

    I did meet a bunch of your mates once, up in the

     

    CC:

    He’s got really, really white hair and he wears 1960’s racing overalls; he’s a bit of a…..he’s a total one-off

     

    TW:

    I’m not sure

     

    CC:

    Creedy and them might have met him I think, but anyway, so…..through the people that helped me sort of, through a friend of Rory’s, a friend of a friend got us into…..sort of trained us up before we went away. Through that we got invited to go on this….this Pyrenees thing which was this guy who I’m on about; him and his wife’s first wedding anniversary, and Austin’s……well, he’s a total hero to me and that’s what really inspired us to do it in that…..he made two…..he made a first trip in the early nineties, across….they wanted to go and travel……they wanted to go and do the longest possible route, land route around the world, in the shortest time, so him and some mates got together, just when Russia had opened up and you could do it, and they got second-hand army bikes, little 350s or whatever, and rode all the way across Russia and Siberia, hopped over to the States, went all the way down from like northern…….like Seattle, you know, the top of the US all the way down to the tip of South America, then got the bikes over to the tip of South Africa and then came all the way up through the east side and through Egypt, and then back through the Middle East and came back to the UK, and they filmed it all on a little, you know, a little, I think at the time, Hi8, when they’d just come out and they’d borrowed one or something, and a Super 8, and they put it together, and that’s still getting shown on the Discovery channel

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    CC:

    So…..and then they went and did another trip, so anyway Austin was like a massive inspiration, and it was Ewan and Charley, their trip copied basically, although they never got credit for it, but that was the…..that was the inspiration for that, so we got invited through as I said, a friend of a friend to go on him and his wife’s first wedding anniversary, and Dave, he had this idea to create this……like basically, an orienteering event on dirt bikes in the mountains of the Pyrenees because they used to go every year with a load of mates and go and explore these beautiful mountains, so when they were doing it they spent three weeks before going round with little metal plaques that they’d hammered numbers into, riding all around an area of the Pyrenees of three hundred square miles, and hammering these little plaques to trees and sort of lamp-posts and stuff, and taking photos and prepared this massive……this big…….yeah, so I got invited - I went the year before – I went one year, the year I got back from China, went and did this event with a couple of guys I didn’t know; we got sort of bundled together when I got there; it was good, it was a really enjoyable time but then the next year I thought…..because I’d been riding with Dave a bit and I thought ‘we could do really well at this’ – the idea wasn’t too competitive, but if you’re gonna do something you may as well try and win [laughing]…..so….so, Dave’s always been into orienteering and things and he loves maps and everything, and we just….we sort of rode together and while we at the right sort of pace, and so I thought similarly enough to do it, so we went….we went back to try and do this event, and it was……basically it was a couple of things; we did a trip……across….we had some routes to ride the Pyrenees from coast to coast off road; somebody had got a load of GPS points and so there was a trail all the way over the mountains. We started off like in Barcelona and rode to the event or whatever…….done loads of planning beforehand on these maps and created these road books, but what you do is you get loads and loads of points and these checkpoints all over this map randomly, plot all the points on it and then you’ve got….each point’s got a number; each checkpoint has a number of points value, and the idea is you’ve two days, eight in the morning till eight at night and you’ve got to bag as many points as possible, whatever route you can come up with, so we came up with this route; Dave and these kids that he taught at school blew it all up, chucked it into this road book format that was really easy to follow, and we went down and sort of worked with me and Dave and another guy over two days, and just absolutely annihilated everybody [laughing]….not from like being fast, just by knowing where we were going and keeping going, so we went down and did that or whatever, and it was like bloody hell, you know, we obviously had complementary skills to some degree and I’d got on well, and I sort of suggested…..you know, I had this……at first the idea was to basically have a……there was lots of bits and pieces of gear that you could get from all over the world that was made in all little sort of you know, cottage industries type of things, and the idea was to get it together for the British market, so bring it all in you know, get a load of this stuff so people can get it locally rather than trying to buy it from Australia and South Africa, but then pretty much as soon as we started it, we realised that within like a week or something of selling it, we weren’t just selling it to the UK; people were buying it from everywhere because there was nowhere that was doing it, so we were like selling to America and Greece, you know, immediately, so yes, that’s how we’re going with that…..yeah, so that’s how, you know

     

    TW:

    That’s how you got together and it took off sort of straight away.

     

    CC:

    We say it took off; it was, you know, it was slow and small or whatever for quite a while and it was out of Dave’s front…..you know, out of his front room or whatever, and we were just sort of playing at it for a while, and I just sort of….because we’d never done anything like it, we didn’t really know what we were doing…….but quite early on when we started it, it was like ‘okay, we’ll see how it goes, get it built up a little bit and at a point somebody’s gonna have to do it full time’ so I sort of actually said ‘I’ll leave work’……so….that was after about nine months or whatever, and it sort of looked like it was going roughly in the right direction, so I quit work; I basically borrowed every penny that I could get my hands from the bank, credit cards, whatever, just to stick a load of money to fund the business and to fund me to not work for a while……and…..that was early 2008, just before it all went ‘pop’ kind of thing with money, batten down the hatches, so I squeezed out all the money and quit the work, and then I went back to doing freelance sound engineering on a night and doing that during the day, so I did try and get some money in towards supporting me while I was doing that, and……so basically I did it for eleven months without taking any money, and then at that point we moved here pretty much, and then we started paying wages and Dave went on to like half time at work, so he’s doing half on that company and half on his job that he had before, and then did that for like nine months and then he quit his job and went full time.

     

    TW:

    Are you both full time now? Because that’s been like a couple of years.

     

    CC:

    Yes a couple of years; it was like March 2010 when he packed in.

     

    TW:

    And is it…..is it paying its way and is it growing?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, I mean……yeah, the business is growing really well; there’s four of us now full time, so that’s good………..we’re not…..we’re not taking huge amounts of money, but the nature of what we do is……because we import a lot of stuff and there’s always a…..quite a big demand on stockholding, and if you’re gonna grow then you need to grow the stockholding, and that……because the nature of importing is that you need…..sort of as you get bigger the windows of buying get wider as well, so it’s actually having to find more and more money to sort of keep up with the growth; it’s not like you can just go and buy it and it’s here in two minutes and keep turning it over; you end up having a quite

     

    TW:

    You have to have a reserve almost don’t you?

     

    CC:

    Yeah you’ve got to have reserves so it’s…..there’s quite a lot of pressure on……on funding, doing that side of what we do which is a big part of why we’ve grown really, so….so we’re not taking

     

    TW:

    So you’re building the business up rather than paying yourself

     

    CC:

    Yeah, and the other side of it, I’m skint all the time because I’m paying off all that on credit cards that I borrowed to set the business up in the first place, do you know what I mean? [laughing] It’s not the wisest way to start…..I mean it worked out alright; I got some decent rates on it and stuff and it just wouldn’t have happened otherwise; there was no way we were gonna get enough funding from anywhere else, and at the time it was sort of borrowing at four and a half per cent on the card and stuff, so

     

    TW:

    So has this recession slowed you down do you think?

     

    CC:

    We never started operating before the recession really, so we don’t know.

     

    TW:

    So you don’t know, right……but it sounds like it’s been steady.

     

    CC:

    It’s been steady, and looking at it, how it, you know…..we didn’t know anything about doing any of this at the time, anything about running businesses and how they work; I don’t think, you know we keep saying, if somebody gave us a million quid we could just throw it all at it and do that, but the infrastructure of how we do business and, you know, it wouldn’t have been there and you can’t…..it still needs time to get it working right, so it’s almost like……it’s almost been quite a good thing that we’ve been building up, sort of almost holding it back a bit, because it’s like if you can’t…….you can’t service the amount of business that you’re gonna get correctly then it’s gonna fall apart, so…..so you know, that’s been how that’s worked really…..it’s sort of grown at the fastest rate that……we could have done some tricks and maybe got it together a bit quicker, but I don’t think it would have really done anybody any favours, so

     

    TW:

    So are you still happy doing this sort of stuff?

     

    CC:

    It drives you mad half the time, and the other thing, you think it’s quite great and it’s nice to be…..you know, to be in an involving project, you know, it’s half the time…..half the time you hate it and it’s just…..but the other side of it is, and I’ve talked to Dave about it….it’s like, I don’t know what I would have been doing now, so if I hadn’t have done it…..I didn’t want to go on working in London on the big West End shows and be stuck there for years or whatever, or I didn’t want to go off with some other company you know; the sound engineering stuff and the theatre stuff, it was something that I did…..I never…..it just happened anyway, I didn’t really sort of actively go and choose it, so it was, you know, and I don’t know what else I would have done really, so it’s like…..it does drive you mad at times but then you think, where else would I be anyway? What else would I be doing?

     

    TW:

    So is Hebden Bridge a good place for you to be based?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, I mean……yeah it suits me, I mean it’s…..yeah, I’ve always been a kind of….well I suppose…..since I left school I’ve always been in a pretty alternative environment, I mean down in Hyde Park, in the middle of a big music scene, when I wasn’t in that I was working with bands, and then when I went out of working with bands I was on tour thirty-five weeks a year with a touring theatre company, and then when I wasn’t doing that I was away travelling, so, you know, being in Hebden where, you know, I’m not used to normal…..it doesn’t work, do you know what I mean? It just doesn’t…..it just doesn’t…….I wouldn’t know how to do it really and it wouldn’t, you know, polite society, it just doesn’t fit, and there’s a……there’s a nice….it’s a kind of an easy place to operate really, Hebden Bridge

     

    TW:

    From a business point of view is it good?

     

    CC:

    Yeah, I mean it doesn’t matter where we are; we could be anywhere, because fundamentally what we do is….you know, we send stuff to people all over the world and, you know, we actively discourage people from coming to us, so the fact that we can, I mean that’s one of the beauty, the critical thing about it is that, you know, a lot of people can come and live in Hebden Bridge but they’ve got to commute for an hour a day to go to Manchester or Leeds or whatever, but it’s ten minutes on the push bike to work, or half the time I just stay here and do it, you know, which is….so it is good, it’s been……really that’s our luxury, that…..when you look at, you know, all the hours and stuff that we do, there’s a lot of it, but the fact that yeah, we can live in a really…..really lovely place and not really…….you know, it’s kind of the idyll really, you know, we work in doing something that is….you know, you’re involved with, you’re heavily involved with and you can do it in a nice place; it’s…..I think that’s one of the things that you can get from doing something for yourself really, you know, you don’t get sucked away to go and do your work; you can sort of choose where you want to do it to some degree.

     

    TW:

    You mentioned to me a week or two back about maybe wanting to move to Spain or move to America – are those ideas still on?

     

    CC:

    Yeah the Spanish thing’s happening; I’ll be going out imminently. I’m not moving, but we’ve got this….we’ve got a…..sort of a set up where people can sort of…a holiday set up where people go and…….basically they do trail biking holidays, so fly down to Malaga, we’ve got some guys we’ve been working with down there, selling if you like…..marketing the front end of it or whatever…..it’s kind of……it’s happened…..we’ve got the right connections to make it happen, so rather than….we’re never gonna go down there, go and live down there, but it means that I can go and be working, getting it so that my side of the work, I can do it from anywhere I’ve got an internet connection really, so I can go down there for a week at a time or something and go out with Gaz who I’m doing the business with and go out and make some new routes in the mountains or whatever or, you know, and then come home and do some accounts [laughing], so it’s not like moving to Spain, but it’s Malaga, so you know, in off season it’s cheaper to get to Malaga than it is to London, you know on the flights like, so it’s not…….you know, go down….I mean it just means I can go down there for a week or so at a time

     

    TW:

    Yeah well that’s handy isn’t it?

     

    CC:

    A few times, and it’s….like I say money’s been tight and we don’t have a lot of time, so if you can combine a bit of work doing what you like to do in a nice place, then it’s….you know, it makes up for that a lot.

     

    TW:

    So that’s like your next venture really, is like doing this sort of holiday thing with other people and that sort of thing; have you got any other plans for a business?

     

    CC:

    Well the big market for what we do is in America, and that’s, you know, vast; it is the really really big one, so, I mean that’s another option we’re discussing; we do sell into America anyway; we think we could grow that a lot, and I kind of thought, well I’m not…I’ve got no ties really, so if it gets to the level where it does demand that somebody goes, then I can go, you know, I can go and see what it’s like and find somewhere over there or whatever, go over there for a couple of years and have a crack at that and see if we can get that going, so….

     

    TW:

    Right, so you’re just keeping your options open really.

     

    CC:

    Yeah………yeah…..there’s still a lot of potential for what we do, and I think if, you know, if we use that potential and use it as an opportunity to go and try something out, because a lot of people hate the States and everything and the people there, and I’m no fan of American foreign policy, but it is an amazing country……physically or whatever, terrain-wise….it would be nice to just go and give it a go.

     

    TW:

    So is it just off road stuff? You wouldn’t want to get into like…..the, you know, the cycle racing, you know, where they go round and round in circles for ever?

     

    CC:

    Sports bikes?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    CC:

    I’ve done track days and stuff and I would, you know, if I got some money together I would probably would by a track bike, an old beat up sports bike, to go and, you know, ride on the tracks, but there’s a lot of people do it, do you know what I mean; our bit of the market is…..there’s road bike stuff and sports bike and there’s dirt bike stuff, and there’s this empty middle ground that’s sort of developed, and that’s where we sit, so

     

    TW:

    You’ve found your niche in a way.

     

    CC:

    Yeah well there’s a part of the market that didn’t exist and we got in early enough to probably, you know, wave the flag enough to be quite significant in that, even though we were a couple of……skint dudes in Hebden Bridge or whatever, you know, it’s….it’s…..you know, in that scene, in that scene, but at least the brand and the company’s well known so it’s a good solid base you know, and more and more people look to it, so

     

    TW:

    What is the name of your company?

     

    CC:

    Adventure Spec.

     

    TW:

    Adventure Spec.

     

    CC:

    Everything we do is certified to Adventure Spec.

     

    TW:

    Okay, right, I see. That’s very good……….we’re getting near the end of the hour now, and I’m just thinking is there anything else that I haven’t asked about that you might want to mention?

     

    CC:

    ……..don’t know…..about……what your project angle is

     

    TW:

    Well no, I’m just trying to capture people’s lives and what they do, and you’ve done all these different things and it’s interesting that…..that a lot of people who do different things end up in Hebden Bridge

     

    CC:

    Yeah well that’s……I mean I do feel pretty comfortable here. As I say, Hebden Bridge was comfortable, I mean like Hyde Park or whatever, I felt that comfortable, it was a good scene down there or whatever with pretty like-minded people……like I say when I was on the road with the theatre guys, a lot of the people that work in that are…..when I was…..started doing it, until all the students that had trained in it got involved, the people were all….who were on the crews were artists and musicians and stuff, and their priority, their thing in life was painting or being a musician or whatever, and they just happened to also do entertainment industry jobs, whether it be you know, crewing, lighting, sound, building scenery or whatever, it was like secondary but……but because of that, it was a good bunch of people and again, it was like…..a group I felt comfortable with because they were kind of……they thought a bit different, you know, and they were comfortable, you know, comfortable sort of on the road, and as I said, I’ve never really settled…..at all; this is the most settled I’ve ever been, you know, like most people, it looked like they’ve moved in two days ago but, you know……so yeah, I think it’s…….I think it works quite well

     

    TW:

    I mean you’ve been in Hebden what, about

     

    CC:

    Three years now.

     

    TW:

    Three years, and in that short period of time have you seen any change in Hebden Bridge?

     

    CC:

    …………….I don’t……it’s always changing I suppose to me, because you meet different people and you spend times in different places and you feel different, and…….yeah there are things, but I think things change everywhere, do you know what I mean, so I don’t…..I suppose I don’t look at anything because I’ve never, you know, I’ve always been relatively transient and I just expect things to change all the time, so yeah I’m sure there has been quite a lot of things changed, but

     

    TW:

    No, I’m just…..there is no right or wrong answer, it’s just from your perspective that’s all really.

     

    CC:

    No, I don’t know…….I suppose I don’t really look for changes because I expect them anyway, so…..

    TW:

    Okay, no that’s fine, yes….well I think….I think we’ll call it quits there, and that was great, thanks very much Chris.

     

    CC:

    Cheers Tony.

     

    [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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