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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Paul Deer

    LEWIS DAY:

    My name is Lewis Day and I am interviewing my father on his weird and wonderful life, who is Paul Deer. So yeah, I’ll just start off with the first question which is, well it’s quite a simple question really, it’s just to get the ball rolling, so how did you end up living in Hebden Bridge?

    PAUL DEER:

    I used to sell electronics for a company that was based in Cambridgeshire, and one of my clients was a company called Calrec Audio.

    Local business?

    Yeah they’re down the road here and they’ve got a big mill and they make mixing desks for the BBC, so I was asked to come along and sell them electronic components, or not sell them electronic components as was mostly the case with Calrec, and one day I came over for an appointment and the guy that I was supposed to see had phoned in sick and hadn’t cancelled the appointment, so I had a couple of hours to kill, and I talked to the receptionist at Calrec and said ‘is there anywhere nice to go for a walk round here?’ and she told me to go and have a look at Hardcastle Crags, so I drove down the lane towards Midgehole, parked the car up, had a bit of a walk and I noticed there was a house for sale down at the bottom there, opposite the Blue Pig, on that old terrace – that’s where we ended up living, so..I’m quite an impulsive sort of a person and we’d been living in Manchester for about four years and we weren’t really happy there, and we’d been – we’d had a number of burglaries and we felt very unsettled so I just thought ‘well I’ll have a look at this place’ so I went to the estate agent’s in town, said ‘can I have a view of the house?’ she said ‘when do you want the appointment for?’ and I said ‘now, I want to see it now if possible’ so she rang the guy up, he was in, I went round and had a look at it, went back to Manchester, told your mum, she came back over with me two days later, we put an offer in and it was accepted, and then we had a really long drawn-out process of trying to buy the house because the guy that sold it to us killed himself unfortunately, so the whole thing went into probate and it wasn’t his house to sell so the woman he was living with…so basically we’d sold our house in Manchester which you were a little one, a wee one, and I had to go and live with my parents in Manchester and you went to live in North Wales with your mum.

    So it wasn’t the easiest of moves.

    No it was a nightmare move to start with.

    Okay. And at this time when you’d decided to move into Hebden Bridge at that point, were you into the music you’re into now?

    Yes. I wasn’t practising – it wasn’t my work, but it was like, I guess you would say it was extra-curricula activities, outside of my working time. I was always interested in music – drums, that kind of stuff, so I guess it was something that had been there in the background, I’d kind of buggered about with a few bands and sat in on jam sessions or at festivals you know, even though I was working in the electronics industry, in the summer we would still go to Glastonbury and places like that, so I’d be sitting up on top of the Tor banging a set of bongos till four o’clock in the morning, that was something that was happening then but it wasn’t something that I wanted to

    You wanted to pursue

    It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pursue it, it just wasn’t possible because I had three young children and I’d made a choice to work in the environment I was working in, so moving to Hebden was the thing that – well it changed our lives to be honest with you, coming to this valley, completely. And that’s fifteen..sixteen years ago, so I would have been about thirty – is that right?

    Ish – close.

    I’d be about thirty when I moved here.

    So at what age did you start getting into music or was this like a lifelong

    Music’s always been an important part of my life, even from the point of view of just listening to it, you know, when I was younger I used to go and see lots of bands but I was always interested in the drummers in the band, so like you know people who grow up with guitar heroes and people they love to go and see, it was drummers with me, there was just something about rhythm that always spoke to me at some level, and even though – you see what I really, really wanted when I was your age, before I left home, every Christmas I asked for the same thing, I asked for a drum kit and never got one, and my folks didn’t really want me to drum. I had some kit lessons outside of home when I was like fourteen, I really enjoyed that but they really weren’t into me getting a kit at home and developing it, so it was kind of something that was on the back burner for a while.

    Well it can be like that in a lot of families nowadays can’t it? The more creative arts are sort of looked down on and not – not helped to pursue.

    Possibly, I mean my folks were very traditional. They liked music but they weren’t really interested in me having a drum kit in my bedroom, it was just the noise more than anything else, so I suppose it was just something that I thought would be, you know, in the background, until we moved here, and then it changed.

    And so when you moved here were you still working for Anglia?

    Yeah I was still working for Anglia but I’d got into African drumming. I’d seen a band at a festival that really blew me away and I just thought ‘I wanna learn a bit more about that’ so I had some sort of hand drums at home that I’d bought at markets and festivals but I didn’t really know how to use them, so I was just very much an intuitive player without any kind of understanding or knowledge of what I was doing, and so when I moved to Hebden I looked around to see if there was a drumming class and there was a West African guy called Amin Jasif that was teaching some classes here, and also a guy called Mussa Suma from Leeds who was a Guinean drummer.

    So they were both doing African drumming locally?

    They were both doing West African style drumming yeah, yeah, Hebden and Leeds, so I got my first jemba and started to play, and just got into it. It’s like with some people you find a class and for me it was like ‘that’s it’ I’ve found the thing I really, really wanna do musically, so I progressed very quickly because I put a lot of time in and a lot of hours cos I was really interested in it, so I started to do quite a lot of West African drumming, started to go to workshops, study with different teachers, go to the festival circuit in the UK that already existed, things like the Tribe of Doris, so I started doing that kind of thing and I also at that point…I mean we’re looking at – where are we now? We’re probably..we’ve been here maybe a year, two years and I’m getting more and more involved in drumming. I’d joined a band by this point – there was a group of musicians in the valley that at the time were called ‘Flow Percussion’ I believe, and it went through various changes. They were ‘Flow Percussion’ and then ‘Purple Fingers’ and they ended up being ‘Beyond Drum’ and I saw an advert, well I saw them play at the Trades Club and thought ‘they’re a pretty awesome band’ and they reminded me of a band that I’d seen a lot of in Manchester called ‘Inner Sense’ they played a kind of cross samba African type of music, and when I saw ‘Beyond Drum’ play I really liked them and I thought ‘well they’re a local band, maybe I could get to play with then’ so they had an open practice, they were looking for new members so I went up, took a couple of my jembas up there and then I got asked to join the band, initially I think because I’d got better drums than anybody else, I don’t think they really knew what my playing was gonna be like, and I was very much learning, but that turned out to be a very significant group to join and we had a…we had a pretty amazing time playing in and around the valley over the next number of years. It’s hard to….i’m trying to sort of work back in my brain, I’m not very good with dates and times, but we probably played for about three of four years and we played our last gig at the Trades Club on New Year’s Eve 1999, the end of the millennium. That’s when we decided it was time for us to go our own separate ways, and by that time I’d..in the August of that year which was the year that we had the big eclipse, I’d quit my job

    So this was the time you ended your career at Anglia?

    Yeah, I’d quit my job in August, gone down to Cornwall to the eclipse, came back up here and played the last gig with the band, and when the band folded…I got all the drums cos everybody was going off to do different projects and to do different things, so I said ‘if I set up a community group, are you guys happy for me to keep the drums and start running workshops?’ and they were all cool about that, so me and Jez who’s kind of the musical director of ‘Beyond Drum’ carried on running the samba project, so we set up Rhythm Bridge Foundation.

    Ah, so that’s when Rhythm Bridge started.

    That’s when Rhythm Bridge started in 1999, and we set up the Rhythm Bridge Foundation and we got funded from Awards for All, they gave us five grand to buy some new kit and to pay teachers to start a project, and we ran a ten-twelve week project to put a community samba band together for the Hebden Carnival, the Parade thing that they have in Hebden every year, so we provided a bit of colour and a bit of noise for that carnival.

    So how did you find the reactions to your like style of music being brought from like the local people and community?

    People loved it mostly, generally, I mean I think drumming, that particular type of drumming, because we had a thirty-five piece samba band, so you can’t pass quietly when there’s thirty-five of you drumming. Most people really enjoy it; I really think drumming splits people down the middle though. In the main we had nothing but positive comments from people but you occasionally found someone that really didn’t like it, you’d get some, you know, major objections.

    Extreme the other way.

    Yeah, but mostly people enjoyed it because it just brings a bit of – a bit of life to the town, I mean I think that certainly when we did the first parade, people really blown away because they’d not seen anything like that, and then you know it became a tradition that every bonfire night we would busk in the square and that used to be a really amazing gig, that we’d just show up, twenty-five/thirty of us you know, pounding away in snow or rain or whatever it was, but it was always a good night you know. Even when ‘Beyond Drum’ finished, the community samba band carried on doing those gigs.

    That’s good. So you do feel generally that your music did fit in to the community?

    Yeah, and it was being made by people in the community, that was the important thing, that me and Jez were both semi-professional musicians I guess by that stage, but the people that joined the community samba group were people with no experience of playing music at all, and so that started me off in a completely different direction. Jez did it for a year and then moved to London, it wasn’t really his bag, so I carried on running the Rhythm Bridge Foundation alongside my own business Rhythm Bridge cos I started to do African drumming classes as well as the samba, so we got a little bit more money from Awards for All, bought some African drums and I started to teach some basic kind of beginner level classes.

    Okay, so how long did the samba stay on?

    The samba carried on for a number of years and eventually I moved over to kind of full-time teaching on the African side, and we had a variety of different teachers come through the samba until probably about four years ago the samba group just fizzled out. The people that were running it didn’t have the energy or the passion to do it anymore and it just – it fizzled out and last year we actually sold, well we didn’t sell, we gave the samba gear to another community samba group in Halifax, so the Rhythm Bridge Foundation now is really more focused on West African drumming.

    Well hopefully you’ve moved the samba to another part of the country.

    Yeah, well it’s gone to Halifax.

    Not very far but…so speaking more on where you live and stuff like, what do you feel like happy with the community and like sort of the surroundings you live in generally?

    Well Hebden’s

    Changed

    It’s certainly changed since we moved here, but it’s been – it’s been the perfect place for me and for your mum and for you guys for the last fifteen years, it’s been a great place to raise a family. We’ve made lots and lots and lots and lots of friends, both musical and none and it’s just that kind of community you know, you meet lots of people and it’s been, for me it’s been a transformative place to live. When I came here I was you know working in an environment that I wasn’t happy in anymore but I felt a bit stuck, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to change that. I had three young children, I had a big mortgage and all those kinds of things, so when I look back now I took a big risk giving that up and pursuing a career in

    Pivotal point

    It was a pivotal point in my life I suppose, but you know it was a risk and it worked out, you know financially I’m nowhere near as stable as I was, but creatively I’m really, really happy and fulfilled, I mean since I moved here my creativity has exploded really, I mean you know musically I’m playing with the Kagimo family which is a group of Senegalese musicians, one of whom lives in Hebden and a few of whom are in the area – Huddersfield and Sens in Manchester, I’m playing with Maghribibeat so you know Mohammed who’s kind of the front man of the band is someone I’ve known since I moved here and in fact when I met Mohammed he’d stopped drumming

    Really?

    Yes, he’d actually given it up and he came to one of our samba sessions and it re-ignited his desire to play and he started a band of his own some time ago, Maghribibeat and I – he was always asking me to join it and I was just kind of busy with other projects and doing this that and the other and it never really happened until a few years ago, so now I’m playing with Maghribibeat which again you know creatively is fantastic, it’s just a really awesome band to play with and the music’s amazing and who knows where that’s gonna to go, but I just enjoy doing that, but on the other side you know I’ve set up a fairly successful business you know, I do workshops in schools all over the country, we’ve run a festival in Hebden, West African music festival through the foundation Rhythm and Grooves, that happens once a year, we do a big winter community drum circle which is gonna be happening this weekend and that will be – we’ll probably get about hundred and fifty people turn up to that, so I guess people in the community know me, even if they don’t know my name, they know ‘that’s the drumming bloke that drives the weird van around’ the graffiti-painted van which has only got a year to live unfortunately, we’ve just found out, it’s just got through it’s MOT and the van’s gonna die in a year’s time so we’ve got to replace it, it’s very sad, but we’ll get another one and we’ll paint that up and it will just you know, it will carry on, so creatively, Hebden’s been you know a brilliant place for us to move to. It’s been a brilliant place

    Do you feel like it’s influenced you as well?

    The place? I think the place has influenced the way that I…the way that I probably approach certain things in my life

    But not in a musical sense

    I don’t know, I mean well I think musically it will have had an effect because there’s such a melting pot of stuff going on here, I mean the Trades Club for such a small town you’ve got a venue that gives you all kinds of music to see, but that’s not necessarily music from the valley, but you know there are things here that I’ve seen and there are musicians that I’ve worked with that of course have an influence on you, but maybe it’s not so overt with me, it’s perhaps more subliminal, but I’m sure being here has an effect, you know the kind of place that Hebden is, I mean I’ve just spent a day away from Hebden, we had to go to a funeral in Congleton and I just got reminded again how unusual this valley is because I had to spend a day in the world with other people who don’t – who don’t live in a place like this and it was – it was kind of weird being outside in the world outside the valley. It’s a bit of a bubble the valley, it is a bit of a bubble, you forget that you know, the way that we live and how we do things here is – it’s maybe just not normal, well it’s not normal but it’s..there’s just something different about Hebden, I think that’s why it’s attracted so many creative types over the years.

    So going back to the bit with drumming with kids, how did you go from being sort of a musician in a band to teaching children?

    When we started the samba workshops we opened it up to anybody, so kids were turning up and Jez was more interested in teaching people music and I was really interested in interacting with groups of people, it didn’t matter if they were musicians or not, so Jez has gone on to, you know, he is running a samba school in London and he is very much working on the musical side of things and teaching and he’s very good at that, but I was really interested in the dynamics of groups, you know, being able to work with a group regardless of their musical ability or their age, and so I started to do kind of warm-up stuff. Before we played samba I would start running little exercises and games with the groups and I’d found some books about this that and the other and I’d read this book by this guy called Arthur Hull [sp] on something called drum circle facilitation and the book was really inspiring, and it gave me some ideas and so I started to try out some of these ideas with the samba group, and that gave me some ideas about what I might be able to do with…what if I just worked in a school with children, so one of…at the time there was the head at Stubbings, Chrissie Ratcliffe, who was a friend of ours, and I got chatting with her and said ‘how would you feel if I came up and just ran a workshop for some of your kids – you don’t have to pay me, I just want to try some ideas out’ and she was really into it, so I went up there and I kind of got, you know I got free access to a class for a couple of months pretty much and I was able to try out ideas and develop ideas and eventually she got hold of some funding and paid me to continue, and that was like the beginning of it really and then she told other teachers about what this guy was doing and then I got another job from there, and so it just started very organically and it’s carried on that way, I don’t have an advertising budget and I don’t really advertise the business.

    Just word of mouth sort of

    It’s all word of mouth. I have this kind of underlying philosophy that if I put stuff out that’s good, then good will come back. And sometimes it takes you a bit close to the wind financially, you know, sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s just the way I work, I believe that you know it will come.

    So how was your first drum circle so to speak with kids?...Like did you find it sort of diffucult or did it just come naturally?

    I think because I’d got the chance to practice before I actually went out and did it for pay, I was fine

    You didn’t sort of jump in at the deep end?

    No, but I guess the opportunity to go and work at the local school and test out some ideas, but you know I’ve never been one for – I’m not a shy and retiring wallflower type of person, I will jump in and take a risk and I think with kids particularly, they will respond to that kind of energy, so I just – I basically, I figured out that I got permission to just be a big kid for a day and get paid for it, and so my workshops – I mean you’ve been in a couple of workshops with us and you’ll get an idea of – it’s the high energy, and I have a laugh and the kids also learn some stuff you know, they’re very musical, they’re very accessible and we have a lot of fun, and after reading Arthur’s book I eventually went and trained with him, and I am now certainly in the top two drum circle facilitators in the UK in terms of experience, there’s nobody that’s been doing it longer than me

    A very good achievement

    So you know, down the road, who knows where that’s gonna take me, it’s something…we run a training programme here in the UK for Arthur now and I’m part of the management that runs that training programme and you know down the road I’d really like to be able to, yeah. you know train the trainers, so we’ll see, that’s a possible development.

    So in general do you find working with kids more interactive than adults or does that vary?

    I think kids are more responsive and a bit freer, and it depends on the environment, I mean I teach adults in an African drumming capacity and you get a variety of students with a variety of different needs. Some people come to the drumming class because they want a bit of stress relief, some people come because they really want to learn how to play and pick up bits of the culture so it’s – you’ve got to be able to kind of spread your net and cater for all of those needs, and it’s quite a challenge you know within one class to meet all those needs, and sometimes people you know, try something for – especially here in Hebden cos there’s so many things that people can do on an evening, so you know people might come drumming for three weeks then you don’t see them again because they’re gonna go and try salsa classes or flamenco or they’re gonna go and do this or that. The drum circles that we run in Halifax, they work because no experience needed, anybody can show up, we get all sorts of different people coming through the doors for them, and it’s free you know, and that’s something that I’m really proud of. We set a circle up ten years ago and our intention was that it would never cost anybody anything, and ten years later we’re still running the same circle, it’s the longest running community drum circle in Britain, and it’s free.

    You could land in the Guinness Book of Records.

    [laughing] I don’t know whether they have a record for that – you should ring ‘em up, ring up Norris and ask him, or Ross, I can’t remember which one of them’s alive, one of them got killed didn’t he? That would be before your time, boy – you wouldn’t know that.

    So are you generally happy with – do you feel happy where your full musical career is at the moment?

    [laughing] it’s never been described as a music career before! Yes and no. I really enjoy playing with the two bands that I play with but I also - they’re both frustrating in different ways, cos I don’t get to do it enough and neither of the bands has reached a level of success where regular gigs are happening, so I would like that to

    To progress more

    Yeah, I’d like to be able to play more and do more live work cos I really, really enjoy playing live and I like the interaction between the band and the audience and you know, this summer we’ve had some amazing gigs and I just want more of that, I really enjoy that. On the business side, we’re in the middle of a recession and things have quietened down a bit. Again, I’m someone that’s happier when I’m busy. If I get time on my hands then I get a little bit

    Agitated

    Yeah, and you know, again because of that, in the last six months because I’ve had more time on my hands, instead of allowing myself to go down that road I’ve opened up another creative door and I’ve started really getting into my photography, so now all of a sudden when I’m bumping into people in town, I’m having conversations with people about my photography, not just my drums now so I’m getting a lot of

    So it could be another branch on the tree.

    It’s something that I would be open to developing, definitely, it’s something I enjoy and it takes me outside of the kind of normal mode of operating. Taking a camera out just puts me in a different perspective, makes me see the world differently, slows me down a bit so I enjoy that, so yeah I’m happy but there’s a lot more to do and I could be – I definitely could be busier on all fronts.

    It’s always good to have ambitions.

    It certainly is.

    So do you feel like…talking more of Hebden Bridge now, do you feel like the community’s sort of built up more and got stronger in the time you’ve lived here or how do you feel that the changes in Hebden have been for the good or bad?

    Oh God, what a question. Personally I….I think that…I’m probably less happy with Hebden now than I was would be my honest answer. I think that at some level both me and your mum are seeing out time here, that’s how we feel right now, you know, we’ve got two daughters who’ve grown up and left home and you’re the last

    So I’ll leave, I will, I’m getting there

    [laughing] yeah get your finger out and sort it out. No I think that we’re you know, we’re very conscious that you’re on – you know, you’re on your path and you’re starting your own creative life and we have to support the beginnings of that and we’re more than happy to do that, but we’re definitely at a point where we’re thinking about the next step and you know, there are things that are pulling us in other directions and we’re not gonna go just yet but I think when you reach that point after you’ve been in a place for a long time, and this is the longest we’ve lived anywhere in all that, you know we’ve been together for thirty years and it’s the longest we’ve stayed in one place, so Hebden will always be a big part of me, you know, and if I move on and leave here a part of me will stay, and a part of Hebden will stay inside of me definitely, and you know I don’t think we’ll ever sell this house to be honest with you, I think that even if we don’t live here this will be somewhere we’ll – I don’t think we’d want to completely let go of our connection with Hebden, it’s too strong, having said that, yeah, you know, it’s changed, but I’m not adverse to change, I think change can be positive, it’s just finding your place in that change. Sometimes I feel like the grumpy old hippy who’s…you know, railing against too many coffee shops and too many you know, I do feel like some things in the community have shifted and not for the positive, like for you – if you want to stay here it’s gonna be difficult for you, you know, you’re gonna need to get a job that pays you a certain amount of money to be ablebuy or rent here, it’s not cheap, so I think in that respect things have shifted you know, when we first came here it was

    Cheap

    Relatively, you know, it was cheaper to buy a house here than it was, you know, we sold one in Manchester and bought one here for a lot less.

    Yeah, but in ways it’s a positive to show that in ways the community’s come on to make it more of a desirable place to be

    It’s more desirable, yeah, but to a different kind of person I think. I think the kind of hotbed that creates artistic expression is not here any more, I don’t think it’s the same as it was, and I could be wrong, there may be other people that you know, are involved in projects of music and art that feel that it’s as vibrant as it ever was and I’m just some Luddite that’s not

    There’s not enough hippies any more

    Well there’s not enough hippies any more, I don’t know. It’s just changed. I think the kind of people that I was really connected to when I moved here, a lot of them have left, and so I’m aware of that. At some level I’m acutely aware of you know, I’m one of the few from that group of people that I used to hang out with that’s still here so, you know, that just makes me wonder sometimes why they’ve all gone and I’m still here.

    Cos you’ve got kids.

    Well that’s the important thing.

    So going back to your life here, and your life in Hebden Bridge, do you sort of feel that coming here and spending this much time, it’s not regretted, it’s still – you feel like you’ve gained a lot from

    Absolutely, no I don’t regret a moment of it, and again because of my underlying philosophy, we had to come here, it was kind of meant to be, and it was the perfect place for us to raise a family, and for me to develop my artistic self and it’s been perfect.

    So do you feel if you’d have stayed maybe in Manchester or in a city life you maybe wouldn’t have pursued your music career in the same..

    Don’t know, I mean it’s one of those hypotheticals. I suspect if I’d stayed working for the company I was working for, then I would be in a completely different world now and maybe I wouldn’t have gone down the music road, maybe I wouldn’t have got back into the photography, maybe you wouldn’t be able to sit here and have this interview with me if we’d have gone down that road, I really don’t know.

    Well it’s not a possible question to answer.

    Well it’s an interesting hypothetical thing to look at but I think that you know, I don’t regret coming here and you know we’ve been through a transformation in the time that we’ve lived here, both me and your mum, but for me, no I don’t regret it for a moment and at the same time if I moved on from here I wouldn’t have any regrets about that either. I’m not really a looking back kind of person.

    And do you feel that for the rest of your family, do you feel like that they’ve sort of settled in and made bonds and sort of dug their own roots into Hebden?

    I think that all of my children have been affected profoundly by their growing up here, and certainly your sisters, you know, it’s absolutely had an impact and both of them couldn’t wait to get out, you know, not in a negative way but it’s like they expanded creatively to the point where they needed to be somewhere where they could express that and this wasn’t the place for them and I suspect that you will be in a similar position yourself in a couple of years time. I think you’ll want to fly and you may not feel that you could do it here, I don’t know, I mean that’s you know – but certainly Beth and Romilly needed to go and be somewhere else to do what they wanted to do and you may feel the same in a couple of years time and if you don’t, we’re gonna kick you out anyway! [laughing]

    Think it could be the other way round.

    What you’re gonna kick us out? And hang on to the house? Interesting…I hope you’ve saved up your pennies boy.

    So all I’ve really got time left for is to say thanks very much for the interview, it’s been very pleasant and I’ll see you in the kitchen soon!

    Nice one Lewis [sp] fantastic interview, it’s been a pleasure.

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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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