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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Fern Bass

     

    [TRACK 1]

    [recorded outdoors - background interference – singing birds, wind etc]

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the nineteenth of April 2011 and I’m talking to Fern in the Zion Co-op and the first question I would like to ask is your full name and where and when you were born?

    FERN BASS: Right. My full name is Fern Bass and I was born in London in Whitechapel Hospital in 1953.

    TW:

    Right. What was London like then when you were growing up?

    FB: I had a very interesting view of London. My father was a petty criminal and I grew up with what you call new money. The family had done very well in the war, managing not to fight or anything like that, but to have protected jobs and my grandmother was pretty much king of the black market in the East End, so I had a privileged upbringing. Education was very strange, but...I never fitted in because I came from a background where I was put into private education, but in those days old money counted and new money was looked down on, but it all...when I was about ten my Dad got caught and life changed dramatically then. An experience that was probably, you know, until I was ten, far too old for me. I was used to very much the seedier side of Soho and the East End of London. When I was fifteen I left home, went to art college, decided that I knew I had to look myself so I couldn’t do fine art. I made a choice and went into advertising and when I left college, with a partner I met in college, we set up an agency and within about five years we were quite a bit successful which wasn’t what I wanted! [laughing] It wasn’t at all what I wanted and so in ’76 I thought you know ‘this isn’t me, it’s not what I want’ and I joined a....followed a guru and joined an ashram, and a couple of years later I’d had a semi-arranged marriage. It was a really interesting experience for me. I loved the communal experience.

    TW:

    Was that in Britain or was that overseas?

    FB: It was an international organisation, a bit like transcendental meditation, but typically I chose to go to Liverpool when people were going all over the world. What did I do? I chose to go to Liverpool in ’78 and.....I had always been sort of.....political. I’d always been aware, politically aware but it was actually going to Liverpool in ’78 that I suddenly realised the huge divide between what I was experiencing up there and anything I’d experienced before in London and that.....that was one of those pointers you know, that hit you......it didn’t work out for me and my husband and.....we did have a child in our first year together but really you know, we weren’t, we were not suited at all, [laughing] 

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    it was.....it didn’t seem to matter. I also had a daughter who died as a baby and that.....that put me in a dip for about a year and coming through that I realised I wasn’t doing what I’d always wanted to do which was follow my creative drive and see where it was gonna go, so being a single parent with a small baby, well he was about two then, I was in quite a privileged position in London. I was working a lot in theatre because I chose to work in groups. One of my first thoughts was I never wanted to produce an art work that I couldn’t afford to buy and I’m certainly not about to produce things that would cost enough for me to afford to live so this isn’t going to work [laughing] so working as a set designer, costume designer, I’ve had a wonderful time. I’ve worked right across London with some fascinating people

    TW:

    Which theatres did you work in?

    FB: The Oval House....I loved the studio up there.

    TW:

    I exhibited there in ’75 I think it was yeah, I know it

    FB: That was a bit before my... I think I got in there in the eighties ......there was the Tricycle.... Mydrill Hall and a lot of touring theatres....I kind of specialised in making a set and props and everything that would fit into a small van and be able to adapt to any type of you know, student hall or wherever it was gonna be performed and things like that, so....I worked with the Covent Garden Puppet Theatre which on the face of it sounds good [laughing]...and that was fascinating working on those shows, but I did a lot of work with.... women’s theatre productions and gay theatres and things and so through the ‘80s it was all kicking off in the arts and with the GLC (Greater London Council) down there and somehow I managed to get elected onto the GLC [laughing]

    TW:

    That’s an extraordinary new direction!

    FB: I’m not sure how that happened....I think I was going through a phase of political meetings where I should have learnt to sit on my hands instead of sort of putting my hand up when I thought something needed doing....so yeah, I was doing fine but as my son got older, it’s all very well for yourself to live as an artist and to work and not know where money’s coming in and again, even though I was getting a steady income, it was getting more difficult. You needed regular school hours. We couldn’t wake up under a pool table again, that was dreadful so yes, I wasn’t always the perfect mother but it was interesting, so I took a temporary job in something which I’ve always been interested in which was housing co-operatives. I’d managed to join a housing co-op when my son was a baby and.....lived in several in Islington and London and to me that was it, you know, not ownership of property but shared responsibility and community and it was the 

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    Islington Housing Co-op section that had a temporary vacancy and for the first time in my life I did a proper job....I think within about five months I’d become the shop steward for the housing co-op section, that was always to be, and pretty soon after that I was the building rep right the way through until I was a branch officer and on the national....not a lot going on really....and....NALGO was a challenge because it was nowhere as near the left wing as I was focused.....and I became involved with equal opportunities, that was my field and I had great battles with people, explaining that everybody in the work....you know, if anybody is being mistreated unequally it affects the whole workforce and we can’t just pick and choose our members and that was one of my main conflicts in things that I thought would be of importance and went on from there and I just became a workaholic....I became....I was doing a full-time job plus overtime plus being a single parent [laughing] adding you know, union work, and then of course there was Thatcher and everything else that was going on politically with that and I was involved in Troops Out and all sorts of.....working with people who had been tortured, it just went on and on and on and....in the late ‘80s, ’88 -’89 I just collapsed....

    TW:

    You burned out

    FB: I burned out. I’d done about four, maybe five years if that, and every time there was a cut back I peddled harder to try and keep where we were because everything that I was involved in I thought was really important and it was, but...I hadn’t learnt to say ‘no’ – I hadn’t learnt to sit on my hands and I had a complete breakdown, I didn’t know what was going on....it was diagnosed as M E .

    TW:

    Really?

    FB: In ’89 – ‘90

    TW:

    Was there a physical thing?

    FB: I was paralysed for six months. I....I’d been working hard....it wasn’t uncommon for me to only have sort of one weekend out of three to do stuff and that would be the weekend out of the month that I would get a headache, you know, that was the....it seemed I was sort of able to save up all the stress until I could relax and so typically I’d had two weeks holiday and came back and was just really ill and....it was one of those....it was a strange time because I can only remember it now through people telling me because I just completely blanked but I’d...got a big presentation to do and nobody else in the office could do it, it was all in my head and it was coming up sort of just a month after I got back from my holiday and so I was too ill to pass the information on and apparently a taxi picked me up, I went to Regent’s Park....I talked for a couple of hours, I led a question

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    and answers and workshops and things, I was put in a taxi....I had no recollection of it at all....and when I got home I didn’t move for six months. I cannot remember who I was, I can’t even....I was just in an absolute blank, void state and that was a real shock to me you know, I’d had a couple of pregnancies, I’d had a burst appendix, I’d had other things but nothing debilitated me, I was always you know, I used to do karate, dance and that whenever I could, so... suddenly you know, being totally immobilised was just....I’m not sure what the hell was going on because there were huge blanks there.........but it was all to do with the breakdown of my relationship, the loss of my job....I was retired....a crucial couple of years with my son because he was ten or eleven which was

    TW:

    A formative period

    FB: Yes, very important....and it was like, you know, my partner at the time who I’d bought a house with....and we were planning to have children, just went off with somebody else and wanted to sell the house so we did....I was floored with negative energy – equity on the property, just everything – all my savings wiped out by not being able to work....and I thought ‘there is absolutely no fun living in London. It’s lovely to be in London for the things I want to do but I can’t do them....and I looked at a map and my mum was in Cornwall, there with my dad and I thought ‘I don’t want to go anywhere near them...I’d like to be somewhere green’ so I just looked at the map and put a pin in it and it landed on Hebden Bridge

    TW:

    Is that right?

    FB: And it was just...it was just that, and it was only when I started to tell people that I’d planned just to leave London and move with my son up here....’oh I know somebody who lives there’ or ‘I’ve been there’ and you know, it was like ‘oh this is interesting, there’s some coincidences’ so I.....it was a long weekend and....in 91 and my son and I came up here for a visit and we stayed in a lovely B & B round on the edge of Cambridge Street along there and....it just felt right, straight away. I’ve had experience with seeing people come and go over these twenty years and it’s amazing that some people arrive in Hebden Bridge and all the opportunities just fall in their lap, it just seems to unfold and make it very easy and that’s what it was like for me....I thought ‘oh, I wonder if I could rent somewhere here and there was a health food shop called Aurora I think?

    TW:

    Yes that’s right

    FB: And....I went in, and as I went in the woman was putting a postcard on the wall saying somebody had got a house that they wanted looking after and it was just like that you know, and I didn’t have time, I had to get a train but I spoke to the woman on the phone

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    whose house it was you know, and when I came back a couple of weeks later with my son you know, the key was under the mat,[laughing] on the kitchen table was a lovely, you know, a box of fruit and veg that people had grown and some flowers. There was everybody’s phone number and address and contacts and it was like you know, within ten minutes there was half a dozen women in the house with some really welcoming and

    TW:

    Whereabouts was this?

    FB: It was just in Unity Street

    TW:

    Oh right

    FB: And....they’ve all now gone to Ireland but...it.....it was quite fascinating as well because......it really enabled me to ground myself.....Chris’s house was very earthy [laughing] I’d call it very earthy and......it enabled me to sort of like take time and to think ‘well who the hell am I, what is it with this creative thing that I keep missing out on’

    TW:

    Was that Chris Peel by any chance?

    FB: Yes.

    TW:

    Oh right I know her, yeah.

    FB: And...you know, she was just great and when she came back we shared for a little bit and I found a house in Foster Lane and it just....for me in many ways, smoothly unfolded from there. My M.E.’s gone up and down and after twenty years there’s been extra complications. I’ve had a lot of ill health...but I’ve had a lot of stress because my son became ill when he was about fourteen or fifteen – he’s thirty now – and that was really difficult but.....I’ve lived all over Hebden, from Foster Lane which was just two beds you know, one of those sort of back-to-back, tiny little place it is, then I moved on to Guildford Street and that was quite interesting there, it was a huge rambling place that hadn’t been updated since the fifties and no heating [laughing], the kitchen was in the basement and when the water table rose and it was cold enough, the kitchen floor was just sheet ice but you know, I was the mum and that was quite normal in Hebden Bridge you know, damp water running under the floor or this that and the other, and it was a really wonderfully creative time there, just to have the space to be able to do stuff....and I made lots of friends....travellers coming in and out of Hebden and I knew some from the 

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    theatre from years ago we gradually, you know, there was links and that and it was.....I’m drying up now! [laughing] Keep going

    TW:

    How then did you become part of the Zion Co-operative?

    FB: It was something I was looking at because at the time.....when was that.....it must have been about 2000 or just before.....my son hadn’t been living with me for a number of years and I was rattling around in a house that was too big for me; it was a Housing Association property and I was sort of, part of me was thinking ‘if he comes back I can’t cope with him, but if he comes back I would like him to have somewhere to live’ and so that’s where the seed of creating a housing co-op from my experience with the National Federation working for Islington Council in London on tenant management co-ops and stuff, so that’s where I was sort of moving. I happened to be Chair of the Ground Floor Project, probably for about the first ten years ago and.....I was just in the office and Dave Brookes had come in....the Ground Floor office, you know, a lot of support for people with ideas that come in and Jae Campbell who is the Manager you know, just said ‘Fern I think this is up your street – this is what Dave’s proposing – he’s living in the flat under the Zion Baptist Church and it’s coming up for sale. That means everybody that’s living there is going to be homeless but it’s just such a nice property and we think it could lend itself to be a co-op’ so that’s how I met Dave Brookes and...at that time Christina was already involved...I think that of the people here now that was just it, so I was there in an advisory capacity with experience of co-ops and with a personal interest for accommodation for my son in a supported environment.....that’s how it started. We took it through and we got gazumped on the Baptist Church but we’d called ourselves Zion Housing Co-op by then, so......

    TW:

    You had the name

    FB: We had the name, it sort of did, it created all sort of interesting conversations with people, but it got boring after a while....and then....opposite you know, where I’d been living prior in Guildford Street was the Catholic church and that was coming up for sale and Justin who’s got the ‘Hole In The Wall’ – he was looking at the house which was the Vicarage and huge because he wanted to do some residential courses, so there was gonna be – there would be an opportunity for us, not just to convert the church into accommodation and meeting space, but also the possibility to build one or two bedroom dwellings around inside the walls, I mean it was fabulous. Most of the green land was with the house but after a chat with Justin, he would have loved somebody to have taken on responsibility for that and actually, it would have provided some work as well as accommodation for people, and it was a really ambitious project but one that could be done in steps – ‘right, go with this one’ – so Dave did a hell of a lot of work on raising the finance and getting everything into place. We were involved with Radical Roots before that stage as well and it was all coming together. Architects....

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    there were two architects who did a lot of work on the idea and I made them a model, so we were deciding how to split up space and when you’ve got a huge space there’s not very many people can actually visualise unless you’ve got the hands-on stuff....so I made this model and it was....it was really pretty, I mean it was very simple and I also had an idea of....there’s some wonderful beams in churches that support the roof....of considering it like you know, like tree houses in...so there was this really creative thing coming out and I was getting more into ownership, you know when you do something you have to walk through that door

    TW:

    So you had a vision

    FB: You had to get there, you had to...so working with the architect, I was getting, I found I was getting quite attached to this and so I asked everybody in the co-op, I said you know like ‘I’ve come to this for support and advice you know, we have meetings in the front room and all that and actually, I think this is what I want’ and so we went a lot more along the way of all the members then about digging together and putting down rules or not putting down rules and we had huge discussions about all the ins and outs of what we thought the people who had experience, who were living....it’s a bit frightening....people had had experience of like sharing food and entertaining and all that, it can be intimidating.....but anyway we got all this thing together and I was walking round the site of the church with the architect or Hilary, one of the architects, and it was like....where’s the drains?.....we can maybe piggy-back water and electricity through and do a deal with Justin, but that’s expense.....and when we had another look at our finances, that would have took up our emergency cover

    TW:

    The reserve funds or whatever

    FB: Yes, so you know, it was, you know, we couldn’t go into that reserve fund before we’d even bought the place you know [laughing], that’s what it was gonna be, so we had to pull out, you know, we had to say ‘sorry, no’

    TW:

    That’s a real shame that

    FB: It was a shame because the opportunity would have been....mind you it is on the darker side of the valley [laughing], so Dave was living up the road here at Wood End and we were all going gloomily to this meeting.....’what do we do now? We’ve got everything in place’ you know ‘yes, we were prepared for two years’ hard slog to build this – it’s not gonna happen’ you know, that sort of thing ‘what are we gonna do now?’....everywhere we’d been looking, the developers were coming in behind us, it’s almost like they’d tailed us you know, [laughing] we were frightened to be seen going to place in case

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    somebody else, you know, like the old battery place, so on the way here I saw them putting the sign up For Sale for the ‘Tavern’. We had a meeting, Dave and I cooked up an idea, we sent a friend of mine who didn’t know anybody to the estate agents for the details.....Dave and I turned up for the viewing as the most implausible couple [laughing] but you know, we just didn’t wanna let on until we’d bought the place you know, we just didn’t want the flack.....and the couple who sold the place, Mr and Mrs Painter, the landlord and lady, they were lovely; he was ill, he’d bought this place in ’75 so it was dirt cheap when he bought it, trading as a pub, at that time I believe they bought the last piece of it, so I think ’75 as the first time the whole of the ‘Nutclough’

    TW:

    Was into one?

    FB: Yeah, that we know, yeah, was one piece....he bought properties along here, you know, these rows across here, and they ceased trading even as a pub.....oh it must have been a couple of years before we bought it in 2002. I remember the second visit we’d been speaking to Mrs Painter and Dave and Mr Painter were doing all sorts of plumbing and knocking walls and all that stuff you know, what they were gonna hear I don’t know, and....they were talking because Mr Painter had converted all the bedrooms to have sinks and that and they were numbered and it was supposed to be a B & B, you know, when they shut down the pub for it to be a B & B and I just took a look and caught Mrs Painter’s look, and it was like ‘no way am I gonna be doing this!’ [laughing] ‘it’s kept him occupied for two years but if he’s thinking I’m gonna be doing bed and breakfast now, you know I want to chill’....unfortunately he was ill and.....by selling up all the properties he’d got in Hebden, he’d been able to buy a new place near his family, living with his wife, he’d been able to settle money on all his children, so when it came to selling this place, they just wanted to sell it – there was no.....there was no financial pressure on them to get a certain amount at all

    TW:

    So you got a good deal then

    FB: We got a very, very good deal, and there were little things that we could do that they were really happy with and we moved in.

    TW:

    How many people moved in originally then?

    FB: On the 23rd of December, which was when we got the keys to move in

    TW:

    What year was that?

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    FB: It was 2002 and Christina, you know, moved in within the first week, it was sort of like....moving stuff in, I think Dave stayed with her the first night, Ziggy was a bit later, so was Coln because they were serving notices on where they were living you know, it all moved very fast, I mean it was only a matter of weeks, it couldn’t have been a quicker....it seemed right

    TW:

    So were most of these people from the original Zion then? They had places to live there?

    FB: Yeah, I mean like Stuart at that time was in America so he didn’t move in for a year because he wasn’t in the country, but he was very much part of it and even after he left, he travelled off again, he didn’t...he still maintained the links with us and gave us a lot of support with the accounts and finances

    TW:

    Was that Stuart Cooper?

    FB: Yes.

    TW:

    Oh yes I know him

    FB: Yes, Stuart. Well he’s......supported before while he was here and for a long time after. Brooksie.....Dave Brookes ....I think when he moved in here he thought he’d got it for life and then he went and met the wonderful Emma, and things just turn on their heads don’t they, so two years later or three years later after moving in we celebrated their hand fasting here in the garden and....you know the travelling....and now they run the hostel at the Birchcliffe Centre, so we’ve got a....you know, they did the wheelie bins thing and that was very much.....a change in the co-op because the very strong energy came in, you know, when you imagine maybe two or three people who weren’t comfortable at living communally had moved on, with those vacancies, I mean that’s when just at that time Clive arrived.....I can’t remember names...because Dave and Emma were doing the wheelie bins which was at the Festival Café Support Network thing, we just got the very lovely Dave, we got our Brian who my mother thought was wonderful because his manners were perfect...who else...oh and Duncan Lowe so we suddenly had a whole group of people who were all working

    TW:

    All very active

    FB:

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    Very active, but also working on one thing which was....it was good...it was incredibly disruptive to the household because there was no...when you’ve got five out of eight people, you know like, when you’re sitting down to eat, the main thing, the important thing about living here is the communal meal at night – sharing food, ‘how did the day go’....if you’ve got five out of eight of you have all been working together and living together on sites and working, it becomes, whether they like it or not, becomes a very strong bubble so you feel, there was in Weirdigans and us not, you know, so....and that took a while for us to come to terms with and jig around and actually fully appreciate what effect it had on the co-op, and the largest effect was....that when Dunc Lowe decided to leave the wheelie bins set up and decided to move out, also Brian and then Dave and Em, so suddenly they all went off into different directions and that’s quite hard to fill

    TW:

    It must have left quite a gap really

    FB: Yes it was a sort of a bit of a shock to the system.....and there was a bit of reshuffling things and then you get you know, Dave was sort of still with us.....then we had Gareth I think you know

    TW:

    I know Gareth, yeah

    FB: Now then we’ve had....oh, Simon was a lovely person to be here as well [laughing] you know, he was here for a year or two. He actually, him and his wife, were also married in this garden and they had a humanist ceremony here

    TW:

    Very nice

    FB: So....yeah you know, John went on and now he’s got married and you know, he’s got around a bit, but the biggest bit, is Bear is the whirlwind, the ever practical superstar, yeah....and that’s been a really interesting change to the co-op....I think it’s fair to say that me and Bear will lock heads more times than anybody else, but we’re just both passionate about what we believe in

    TW:

    Is that because you have different views on what it should be or is it just practical things that

    FB: We have very different experiences of life you know.....to live communally, the cooperative principals, everything is so deep in me I couldn’t imagine any other

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    way......also, creativity and appreciation and supporting and appreciating others is really important to me so I want to nurture that.....and sometimes.....you know, they give me the most wonderful opportunities to try and work out why I’m doing something or why it’s important [laughing] it’s a practical brick wall, yeah.

    TW:

    Is there a creative aspect to the co-operative then?

    FB: Yes, from the very start

    TW:

    And what is that then?

    FB: Well....it’s kind of about coming from recognising that creative people are probably mostly selling their souls into an advertising agency or for some film company or whatever....you’re not making money at it, it doesn’t....you cannot easily live off it and to be creative I believe it involves space and a spirit in the community you know, so if somebody is rubbing two sticks together with a bit of string, you know, and they’re in that creative zone, you respect that, you know, you wouldn’t say....it’s about respecting each other’s expression of creativity.....so we have live, Dave’s off in India doing circus skills and he’s ended up.....making his living out of his hobby and turned his life around and he’s now teaching children in India circus skills. He’s been out there for a few months now...Clive’s a singer/songwriter musician... Gethen’s very new......Gareth of course you know, he’s....wonderfully supportive with recording and sound and you know, all the tech stuff that I don’t understand and.....I think John, is, was an actor/musician..., who was here....Bear plays, Christina’s an actress/performer....who else have we got? [laughing] I’m just trying to think you know, Athol lived here for a while, he’s a musician... TW: Is it sort of the people, the creative people or is there any activities focused within?

    FB:

    It’s opportunity. It’s opportunity for people to make connections. Everybody who’s creative have got friends or people they will bring and stuff and there’s this wonderful mixing of meeting up with interesting people, yeah....it’s....there’s certain advantages, like you know, for Dave you know, Dave went to India for five months. If you bought a house or a flat you know, it would be difficult even if you were sort of sub-letting to be able to do that sort of thing....and you know, like many other creative people, his room is absolutely chock-a-block with costumes and everything you know, and all his clowning stuff and his performance things you know, and a bit like mine, you just can’t.....you sort of need space and.....Athol when he was playing, I mean he was away on tour regularly, more than he was here, but you know, he knew his record collection, his instruments and all his stuff was absolutely safe and he didn’t you know, so there was that...allowing

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    people to travel away and come back you know, it’s part of it and...but you can’t...you can’t describe...you know, there’s no sort of ‘Nutclough’ stamp that says ‘made in the Nutclough’ – no, it’s about just respecting and supporting each other

    TW:

    You haven’t really spoken much about our own creativity. Would you like to talk about that a bit?

    FB: Yes, I’m frustrated at the moment [laughing].....bloody frustrated yeah....I love you know, I love the theatre and doing that sort of stuff but that’s physically beyond me, I mean the last piece of work I did was probably three years ago when John and High Hat Theatre was doing a tour of production and I loved working quite intimately with two people and....that was....that was ideal for me. It posed all sorts of problems but it was a joy to solve them and a joy to work with John, so I can do little things like that, no but that isn’t really the thing is it? I....since I’ve come to Hebden....when did I.....in the mid nineties I thought I’d do a bit of skills. I wanted to do some welding....I’d got some idea of something that I wanted to create, my work comes from interactions with people. It’s performance associated with all the props you know, props whatever they are, maybe it’s just a one to one and it’s about the experience between....I think it came from when I was working with Wet Paint in the early eighties [laughing] and the number of times the audience was less than the crowd on the stage, but yeah, it’s about that real connection between the artist and the person participating in the experience, so yes, my art experience is happenings and all that stuff....yeah, pursuing and idea

    TW:

    What did you weld then?

    FB: Well I didn’t. I joined Calderdale College and they lied to me [laughing]. What a surprise! There was a change of leadership or there was a change round and there was no ability to do anything like that. I got back into a bit of ceramics, mind you to me ceramics is playing with clay, it’s not really what I do

    TW:

    It depends how you do it

    FB: Yeah, it’s for me it’s a way of exploring something

    TW:

    Like ideas?

    FB: Yes, I might be exploring something through it but I still you know, the finished objects are only for my own reason or referral, that’s how I perceive them.....yeah, where am I?

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    So, I was very involved...didn’t go for Calderdale College. Somebody told me about the one at Tod so this was still in the early nineties and I was absolutely knocked out at the work they do there.

    TW:

    That’s the one Mary Loney runs.

    FB: Yes she did, and I was very cheeky you know, because I’d already qualified and everything and anyway I did a Foundation [laughing] I did a Foundation in Art and really had a lovely time with the people who were there, like it was just my ethos of working with found material, stuff around you, creating, developing, not being precious about.....you know, just actually being able to develop ideas, working with other students, and I suddenly found that I had a bit of a knack working with other students......especially at stuck points. I’d probably you know, I’d experienced enough of them to....

    TW:

    So you kind of facilitated other people?

    FB: Yeah, and fortunately that’s what I do, so instead of pursuing with my own art, yet again I got involved as part of the support network and working with other people

    TW:

    Are you still doing that?

    FB: No, I had to give up through ill health. My health just....I mean, only eight years ago I was doing...I remember.....I had....it was around 2000ish, it was one of the Hebden Bridge festivals and probably, yeah, the climax of all the work I’d been doing up to then came when I actually turned my whole house.....it was the year Tracey’s bed had got the....Tracey Emin’s bed had got the nomination and so I completely decorated and transformed my whole house with anything personal up in the attic and created a very virginal bed with starched lace and everything on the middle bedroom and Eileen lived next door to me, and she was also working with a poetry performance and we worked out this whole thing and it ran for you know, two performances a day for....six weekends I think we did, yeah

    TW:

    A fair few

    FB: It was a fair few, and it was a long time to leave your house totally unliveable [laughing]. Lots of people had contributed to the art work but I particularly asked an artist who’s a watercolour wildlife painter and she produced a sculpture that she’d never shown, so lots

    13

    of artists produced things to fill the house but they were not their normal, it was about...if someone had recognised their name they would have to adjust, it was all about that....a young woman, Linda, who was at college when I was there, she produced some beautiful paintings and Mary had assisted her. Linda’s profoundly restricted in her movements and it was a joy because there was a very narrow staircase up to the first floor with all Linda’s pictures in this most awkward, inaccessible spot, and we sold a couple which was lovely – the only thing we did, but that was good.....but it was just....it was great fun. I’d been working.....with a food piece.....a kind of, I covered her in saccharine pasta.........yeah, there was a thing going on in my work that was about male and female and somewhere eggs had got into the equation, and there was egg yolks and flour made pasta and egg whites and sugar made meringue, so there was a huge piece. I’d made a complete body suit out of meringue all fitted together that I believe was worn by a woman in Manchester, though I never saw the result! [laughing] I remember having to deliver it in loads of pizza boxes, it was great. So all the meringue went that way and disappeared from me, it went out into chance, and the pasta stuff, we had a whole thing where I made the pasta, I’d sourced the eggs, I knew exactly where the flour came from, where the mill was, and I think some of my work is a bit like....you know the Japanese tea party, the tea ceremony?

    TW:

    I do yeah.

    FB: And the ceremony master has to know absolutely everything about everything that can be seen and is in that enclosed space, and you don’t sit there and lecture people about it, but if somebody looked at the wooden box you’d know who’d made it, you’d know where the wood came from...you’d know where the wood grew if you could, you know what I mean, it’s....so that’s kind of how I approach my work – is knowing every detail, of having absolute control of understanding where everything’s come from, but not necessarily boring anybody else with it, but it’s there, you know, so that was, yeah, one of the pieces was

    TW:

    The pasta piece

    FB: The pasta piece, which was of that moment and involved about a hundred students in all. We had the ceremonial rolling, carrying pasta, draping it – it did look a bit like Rule Britannia when it was finished! [laughing] but the whole idea was the moment that happened as it dried. I didn’t realise how much heat it would take out of his body in the drying process so Chris started to go slightly blue

    TW:

    Is that right?

    FB:

    14

    Yeah, and we had Ted Hughes on something that had come through – you know the cheap books that they try and sell you and tell you you’ve ordered and you get them and you didn’t order them and they’re a pain to get back? Well the morning I left to do this piece with Chris....Ted Hughes’s CD came through this door and I thought ‘oh that might be...’ so we’d got this little broom cupboard, we’d got Ted Hughes playing, we’d got Chris being draped up like Rule Britannia, there was poor Jim stuck in a corner on this tiny little box to get a bit of height videoing the whole thing and...we decided that he was going too blue, and [laughing] and I just left the room and he just broke out of it, and Jim was able to record that and then sometimes I keep thinking....we’ve got it all on video and we must try and find the bloody thing, but the piece wasn’t about recording the experience, but the experience was just in the moment....and I think the moment came as I turned my back and walked out the door, and I’ve talked over your hour I would imagine

    TW:

    Not yet. I was just wondering. You have this wonderful terraced garden and just a fantastic space, and you have all kinds of things growing here. Do you look at it as a kind of performance space in any kind of way?

    FB: This very much to me is....yeah, the creative space. We’ve had Shakespeare here.

    TW:

    Oh have you?

    FB: Oh yes. We do good parties here. You can get a marquee over this one and that one so you’ve got a lovely back stage and audience....yeah, it’s....we need to do a few things before we can...it’s not safe enough for health and safety, but you know, it’s pretty dangerous for kids. I don’t mind it being a bit dangerous. The drops are a bit high. So we do that with planting, actually planting the flowers and that. I’m very conscious of the shapestheymakeandtheopportunitiestofusethroughand. It’sprobablymycreative sensitivity that makes me want to hug the garden [laughing] and not let people just lop things down and do stuff you know.

    TW:

    Well one final question then. What direction do you think the co-op will go in? I know it’s a prediction, but over the next few years, sort of five or ten years, how do you think it will progress?

    FB: It would be nice to have got all the physical jobs done....we’ve done quite a bit with it physically but nowhere near enough and now it’s got to the stage where it really does need some attention, and that’s difficult to find that balance between people who are active and doing things....people like myself physically can’t do things. I can give you a list of things that need doing but

    15

    TW:

    Project management [laughing]

    FB: Yes but you know, when you’ve got you know, people who are working for umpteen hours every day you know, they need a break. I know more than anyone not to get burnt out so.....this time, living communally, adding to ill health has probably made me much more tolerant than....of things but you know....but you can’t change, you just....so yes it would be nice for practical purposes, adding physically to the building. As for jelling together, it’s other people, it’s great, we’ve had a very steady time for a while. Graham moved out in November.....and....I’ve forgotten to mention Nimbi for us, he’s a comedian and everything

    TW:

    Sorry, who?

    FB: Graham.....do you remember Graham?

    TW:

    I don’t think I know Graham

    FB: And.......you know so we get a new person and you know, Gethen’s great and he’s young and that’s what it needs to be; it needs to be

    TW:

    A nice mix

    FB: A nice mix.....and.......yeah, understanding. The one thing that we really can’t do is probably have children here. It’s not...... the household and everything, how it’s set up, pretty much excludes children on a permanent basis. We just don’t have the room that they need – their own rooms and things and the planning, that can’t work with us as we are now but we have children who come in as friends and partners’ children....children who don’t live with their parents, so....we get a.....we get an energetic boost from the youngsters occasionally which is good! [laughing] And I try not to tell them.....been there before, done it....

    TW:

    Is there anything else that you’d like to say about living here, or about yourself or anything like that, that I haven’t asked about?

    FB: The positive things....I mean physically today I’m doing quite well. I had major surgery

    16

    last year and for about two years I wasn’t able to get out of the house, barely at all, and my God, six months of that was just....agony, and there’s a wonderful web site called ‘Pain Support’ that I’d....been trying to you know, even if I could just about look at you know, ten minutes of e-mails a day; I was in a bit of a bad way last year and.....I....can I remember now.....it’s given me an understanding of communicating with other people when you’re in similar pain to me at the time for similar reasons and stuff.....the lack of support people get you know, I was suddenly thinking ‘how lucky I am to live in a house with eight other people’ you know, ‘I don’t have to worry about...has somebody put the rubbish bin out’.....just you know, there was always somebody who want to you know, ‘do you want some shopping or do you want anything?’ there was....you don’t have to have people sort of running after you all the time, but just to feel that you’re not alone....and I think that’s got to be important in the future with our population ageing and the services reducing, it’s definitely something that people should consider. When they don’t need the family home and the other you know, to actually live communally is a huge benefit. I mean I do feel a bit guilty sometimes when I can’t physically do the things that I’d like to do, but I do kind of think ‘I did a lot’ [laughing].....there’s been times when I’ve done a bloody lot so, it’s got to all even out some time.

    TW:

    Okay, well that’s it

    FB: Thank you. I didn’t realise I could talk on so much...

    TW:

    Well thank you very much

    FB: Thank you

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Andy Carter

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT:

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

    Right. And did you grow up there then?

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

    TW:

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

    AC: Yes, yeah by then, yeah.

    TW:

    What did he do?

    AC:

    Andy CarterAn trans

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

    TW:

    Have you inherited those design talents?

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

    Andy Carter trans Page

    2

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    3

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    4

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

    TW:

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

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    5

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

    TW:

    So are you doing any music at the moment?

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    6

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    7

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    8

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

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

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

    Andy Carter trans Page

    9

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

    TW:

    So you’re the Black Prince?

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

    TW:

    Right. How long have you been doing that?

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

    TW:

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

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

    AndyCartertransPage 10

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

    How did that come about?

    AC:

    AndyCartertransPage 11

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

    TW:

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

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

    AndyCartertransPage 12

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

    Right, that’s good.

    AC: Despite the economic downturn [laughing].

    TW:

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

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

    AndyCartertransPage 13

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

    AndyCartertransPage 14

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

    Well a bit of both really, yeah.

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

    TW:

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

    AndyCartertransPage 15

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

    TW:

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

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

    TW:

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

    AC: Thank you.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: James Taylor

    [TRACK 1]

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

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

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

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

    When did you move to Hebden Bridge?

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

    Why’s that?

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

    Has that been a positive change?

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

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

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

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

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

    What kind of people were they?

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

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

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

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

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

    So you’re glad to be out of it.

    Oh yeh, definitely!

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

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

    How did you find Hebden then when you moved here?

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

    Did you make a lot of friends here?

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

    Whereabouts in Hebden Bridge did you live?

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

    That house on Guildford Street – what was it like?

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

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

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

    Did that last a long time then?

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

    Who was the teacher?

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

    Was he your Head of Year?

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

    Did he teach you a subject as well then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Was there anything else besides computer games?

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

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

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

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

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

    Was that the steps of the cinema?

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

    I know where you mean.

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

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

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

    Was there anything that you did like?

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

    How has that gone down in Hebden Bridge then?

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

    It always was high on the list I think.

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

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

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

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

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

    Sounds good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    SAFFRON:

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

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

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

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

    Do you come from a dramatic family?

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

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

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

    Do you ever like go to see shows?

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

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

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

    Is this what you wanted to do as a career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It’s an experience isn’t it?

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

    TONY WRIGHT:

    I’ll just finish off then.

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

    Thanks very much for that.

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

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

    Like what?

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

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

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

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

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

    So you prefer the sort of countryside attitude?

    I do now, yeh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    That’s a fine word!

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

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

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

    Awesome.

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

    Thanks for asking me on.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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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.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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