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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Bear

     

    [TRACK 1]

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the eighteenth of April 2011, I’m talking to Bear in the Zion Co-op and could you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    STEVEN GIBSON: Right. My full name is Steven Richard Gibson and I’m from Essex. I was born in Essex on the 7th November 1957.

    TW:

    Whereabouts in Essex?

    SG: Chelmsford, County Town of Essex.

    TW:

    Chelmsford, right. And what was it like growing up there?

    SG: Well I suppose it was okay, I mean I’ve no great attachment to it.......since moving to Hebden Bridge I’ve just found a love of the place here and I’ve no intention of going back, frankly. I go down there to visit relatives every year but apart from that....it’s pretty enough in parts, but.....

    TW:

    What did you do down there?

    SG: Oh I had a whole host of jobs which varied from...I’m fifty-three now, I left school at sixteen and did all kinds of dead-end things down there...petrol pump attendant, hod carrying.....you name it, working in shops, factories, lathe turning.......I eventually became a self-employed builder which is what I’ve been doing for donkey’s years

    TW:

    How did you come about to come up here then?

    SG: I lived in London at the time that I was moving up here. I actually came here to do a building job for some people who’d been my customers while I was in London. They’d moved up here and asked me to come and work on the house, so I agreed, came here and really like the place so I just stayed here.

    TW:

    Right. When was that?

    SG: 2003, About this time of year about, Easter time-ish.

    TW:

    What is it that you like about this place that you like then?

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    1

    SG: Well it’s more a case of what’s not to like really.......it’s very friendly, very picturesque, grand walking country.....small town, I like the smallness of the town, I hate large towns like Chelmsford and London, they’re just great sprawling masses of concrete and tarmac, there’s room to breathe here basically, everyone’s friendly, good beer.....everything’s good.

    TW:

    Right. Do you feel like you’ve been accepted by local people?

    SG: Oh absolutely, yeah, no question. I feel right at home here.

    TW:

    Right. So how’s the mix of like born and bred people to what they call the off- cumdens...the interaction between the two different kinds.....what’s your experience of that?

    SG: Haven’t really experienced any kind of interaction based on those......whatever it is......maybe I’m too thick skinned or something.....I don’t feel any part of hostility or anything from anyone who is a born and bred local. I realise that there are lots of what they’re calling off, off-cumdens here and we probably outnumber them [chuckling] so they’re in a minority really, that’s what they’ve got to moan about! [laughing]

    TW:

    You live in this Housing Co-operative. How did you get involved with Zion then?

    SG: When I came to town I was working in somebody’s house just round the corner from here actually, and I started checking out all the different pubs in town you know, to see which one I was gonna settle on as my local.....you know, I kind of got into going to the Stubbing Wharf and one or two of the people who lived here at the time went in there, so I started to meet people that lived here already and word was getting out that I was actually a builder, so they needed some building work doing and they employed me to come and do a job here. That was my big intro into this building really. Subsequent to that I actually started going out with Christina who lives here as one of the founder members and we kind of half lived here in her room and half lived in a house that I was at that point renting in Midgley, and when somebody moved out here I just took their place and moved in.

    TW:

    Right. How do you think this place will develop over the coming years as a Co-operative? How do you think it will change? Or will it just stay the same?

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    2

    SG: Nothing ever stays the same. Originally there were eight or nine members here and only two of the original residents are still here, and that’s in eight years I think, so we don’t expect it to always remain the same; there’s a constant turnover of people – not a rapid turnover, but you know, people move on in their lives, but I expect the ethos to remain the same, you know, that we’re a Co-op which is...we work on Co-operative principles you know, with.....you know, a Co-op is a group of people working together for the benefit of that group really, so in our case it’s to provide ourselves with a social housing project in which we are both the landlord and the tenant.....so that aspect I don’t see changing......as I say the membership of course will change over time as it has been....the dynamics of the people within it are usually pretty good, obviously we’ve just kind of operated like a big family really so there will be differences of opinion of things sometimes but they always get resolved......but you know I can’t speak about the future with too much certainty. The benefit of the set up that we have really is that......we have control of the building and we.....therefore are the landlords and we get to decide who comes in and fills any vacancies, so basically we’ve got a head start over other tenants in a more conventional sense because those tenants have new house mates imposed on them by their landlord, but we actually get to be a self-selecting community really.

    TW:

    Right. I noticed you’re rebuilding....you’ve taken up all the flags and you’re redoing the floor in the room next to this one because you had some dry rot. It’s quite an undertaking that, and it looks like you’re doing all the work yourself, well amongst you. Is there a kind of.....a skill base that people need to become members or is that just a kind of idealistic way of looking at it?

    SG: No, no....that is a bit of an idealistic way of looking at it. Like I said, I’ve been a builder for many years so you know it kind of falls to me to be responsible for knowing what’s going on from a maintenance point of view and over-seeing any work, so you know, I am able to do the majority of the work. We did get specialist people in to deal with the dry rot so that we could get a guarantee with the treatment for it, but.....outside of that you know, we were able to carry out all the other work, in fact it’s necessary because it’s hellish expensive getting a firm in to do this work, so muggins here is the.....[chuckling] chief humper of things, mixer of concrete etc.

    TW:

    Right. I’d like to kind of move on to the other work that you do which is with Tree Responsibility

    SG: Treesponsibility.

    TW:

    Sorry, Treesponsibility, beg your pardon. SG: That’s quite alright. TW: What role do you play in that organisation then?

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    3

    SG: I don’t have an official role like a manager or anything like that. I’m just one of the workers.....everybody does a bit of everything really. There are groups within it; it’s only a small organisation – it’s got a management committee of nine people....a sort of core working group of actual workers who are all in a management committee of six of us.....or seven, I don’t know, six or seven of us actually do the majority of the work and we all have to kind of muck in with all the different roles really.

    TW:

    And what type of work do you do with them? I mean, everybody involved does different kind of work I assume and what are those?

    SG: Well I mean, I could explain what Treesponsibility does I suppose

    TW:

    Yeah alright.

    SG: Treesponsibility’s a climate action group and it works to raise awareness amongst people about the impact of climate change and how we can live sustainably.....and mitigate our contribution to climate change.....we do this generally through organising voluntary tree plantings and work in the schools, so we....we host weekend tree planting events for adults where groups...sometimes we’ll organise it ourselves and advertise it so people just come on an individual basis or the family can come or something, and just join in with whoever else comes. We accommodate them in a hostel which we hire - feed them, drive them about to the planting site and generally look after them, and give them a good experience of a weekend planting trees and interacting with each other and us, and just generally sort of noodling away about climate change and sustainability issues. Other groups book to come or they book us to host for them – we have some regular groups like Earth First.....Manchester Students Gardening and Permaculture Society and others who....just book us to come and have like a get away weekend for their entire group, it might be a wedding party or a birthday event, so yeah, those people come and plant trees for us. We aim to plant five hectares of new woodland every year and......we’ve got reasons for planting trees which are....flood mitigation, so we’ve got steep sided valleys in this area which catch a hell of a lot of water when it rains hard and because we believe that climate change is actually happening and we believe we’re gonna get heavier, more sustained incidences of heavy rain which is likely to increase incidents of flooding in the area, so we like to plant lots of trees on the steep valley sides which help to slow the run-off and prevent erosion, and just keep some of the water out of the bottom of the valley when it rains hard, so that’s our current main focus for planting. We also plan to increase woodland cover and increase biodiversity – provide wildlife corridors

    TW:

    I was gonna ask about the actual type of trees that you plant. Are the different kinds of trees for different types of uses, shall we say?

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

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    SG: Yeah, well we plant all native broadleaf trees, we don’t plant really many evergreens, only if someone particularly asks us to plant on their land, they specifically ask us to plant evergreens we would do that, but generally all our trees are indigenous broadleaf species.

    TW:

    Where do you get the trees from?

    SG: We buy them from a supplier who grows them specially in Scotland, called Alba Trees. We just get crates and crates of about ten thousand plus a year.

    TW:

    Are you into woodland management then as well?

    SG: On the fringes of it really. We’re more about creating woodland than maintaining it at the moment, although we do recognise that’s gonna be a large part of our work in the coming years, and we’ve got kind of a sister group called Knott Wood Coppices who manage a....well, a wood nearby called Knott Wood

    TW:

    What work do they do then?

    SG: Generally coppicing and keeping the place tidy......just making sure that some of the weed species such as.....sycamore, bit by bit are removed and plant more native species in their place because the sycamores and biggish trees are kind of overtaking the local species

    TW:

    Is that just in Knott Wood or do they do that through the Upper Valley?

    SG: No, no no, they just have permission to manage Knott Wood for its own....but we do realise that you know, we are gonna be probably more involved in managing some of the woodlands that we plant in future years because....apparently we get money from funders you know, kind of like though Government sort of funding and the Lottery funding etc to do projects that we do, so....realising that you know, that it is kind of not sustainable forever and ever to keep relying on funding, we will be needing to take on you know, the ability to generate our own funds so management if probably a way of doing that

    TW:

    So you work with private individuals like farmers as well as council land.....how does that work?

    SG:

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    5

    Yeah, well we don’t own any land at all and all the land that we plant on is offered to us by the owners. It’s a kind of trade-off really because we get land to plant on which allows us to do our flood protection and that education etc......and of course the landowner then has the benefit of owning the woodland that they create. We create.....two types of woodland really at the moment. One is a kind of recreated natural woodland....where the trees are relatively spaced out and we also do coppicing in woodland as well where they are much more densely packed which is for future firewood you know, sort of to prevent burning fossil fuels, so if a landowner wants coppice woodland they basically end up with a never ending supply of free firewood on their land

    TW:

    Right, not a bad plan. So this idea of having alternative energy. Is that part of the ethos of Treesponsibility, or is that an add-on, or is it actually built into the kind of fabric of what you do?

    SG: No, it’s pretty much built into the fabric now. I mean, I wasn’t in Treesponsibility at the very outset. I’ve only been a member for the last three years and although they were doing coppicing woodland when I did join, I mean that I did know that that hasn’t been going since the very beginning.....in 1998 it started.......so you know like every project it’s an evolving project...sorry I’ve forgotten what your question was now....oh, was it part of the ethos to use alternative fuels...yeah, I mean now it is, definitely.

    TW:

    Right, okay. I’m just curious. You lived most of your life in London in an urban environment doing jobs along that sort of line of things, and you say you came up here and just sort of fell in love with it. How did that come about, I mean, why didn’t you fall in love with Epping Forest....what was it about this area that you kind of liked?

    SG: Well as I say, it’s kind of what’s not to like – everything about it is just good really [laughing]. It’s extremely picturesque, I mean I have lived in other parts of the country as well for brief periods. I lived in Stroud in Gloucestershire for a short period of time which is very similar to here you know, its stone buildings, valleys....Stroud’s at the heart of five valleys. The only difference really in the two areas is the hills and walks are sort of softly rounded down there and a bit more jaggedy up here really. I like the openness of the countryside, I like the variety of.....if you go for a walk in a very short space of time, you can be walking through streets, through woodland, out in the open hillside, out on the moors, on the tops, you can be crossing a tumbling streams or walking for miles on open flat moor land. The variety is amazing. Absolutely laced with footpaths. I like the wooded valleys personally you know, walking in Hardcastle Crags and Colden Clough, really, really beautiful landscape

    TW:

    That sort of explains why you like the sort of the landscape and your feeling for it. How did it come about then, having being a builder for so many years, you’re now

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    6

    doing something quite different. You’re planting trees, doing educational work and that sort of thing, how did that switch over happen?

    SG: Again, it’s just an evolution really you know, life moves on, circumstances move on and new things present themselves. You know, I grumble and moan about being a builder. I’ve been doing it far too long. I didn’t choose to be a builder in the first place, it kind of chose me because of the circumstances when I started it, but.....working for Treesponsibility is....the opportunity to work for Treesponsibility came up after I’d been doing volunteer work with them for a little while and it was a perfect opportunity to get out of being a builder really.

    TW:

    So you were looking for something anyway but you weren’t really sure what, but you just wanted to get out of what you were in.

    SG: Yeah. I mean I’d never.....I would never have thought I would go about planting trees you know, until...when I moved to here and.....Christina my partner was a long- standing member of Treesponsibility so I kind of got involved via her really and....just kind of morphed into it really.

    TW:

    Very good. You’re part of the Transition Town sort of movement if I can call it that. What does that actually mean to you then? What is a Transition Town?

    SG: A Transition Town or a Transition Initiative is a group of people or an area – it can be a town, street, a hamlet......where the residents are working together to reduce their impact on climate change and to recognise that.....the future effects of peak oil and to build resilience into the town to combat the effects of that....if that makes any sense. We expect the price of oil particularly, well fossil fuels in general, will rocket as supplies dwindle and demand increases world wide, and the effect of that is going to push the price of everything up and to make things less available and less affordable, so we believe we should recognise this now rather than wait for it to happen to us, and take steps to increase our resilience to it so that it doesn’t slap us in the face when we’re not expecting it and leave us disadvantaged. It’s a kind of two pronged thing really. One is to reduce our effect, our actual contribution to climate change and the second is to build in a resilience to the effects of peak oil. So, examples of that are growing more food locally, not being reliant on imports and to encourage.....the you know, to encourage Government even to recognise the fact that we’re vulnerable to food security issues because we rely so heavily as a net importer of food you know, when we actually have the capacity to grow all our own food, so food’s one example, but generally it is about localising everything really and taking responsibility for our own welfare and well-being, so there’s food, energy. We’d like to try and increase the local supply of energy with things like water power, solar power, wind power etc

    TW: Are there any projects on those lines that you’d like to get involved with or are involved with?

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    7

    SG: Well I am involved in the energy group, with the Transition Town group locally here. We are working on a project to install some hydro power equipment into Hebden Water and a dam near the cricket ground.....

    TW:

    Is that gonna be like a generator?

    SG: Yeah, a generator. There’s a....because there’s so much water running around here in all these valleys, it’s amazing how much water there is actually flowing in this area of course, as you know it was once hugely water powered you know, there were mills everywhere so there is a lot of infrastructure already in place which really just needs repairing to enable more modern methods of generating power from water to take place.

    TW:

    Might stop for a second

    OTHER PERSON: (another coop member who was helping Bear rebuild a floor) Did you say the level of its second spikes needs to be a hundred and seventeen lower than the top of the other ones?

    SG: Yes.

    OTHER PERSON: Okay.

    TW:

    This generator up Hebden Water then, up by the cricket ground – are you actually gonna have it in the river and then where is the electricity gonna feed to? Is it just into the National Grid or is there a group of people down there that would benefit from it?

    SG: Well, assuming it actually happens because I mean it’s hellish expensive – we applied for a grant for about £120,000 to do this recently, but which we haven’t actually got, but there may be alternative ways we can raise money, and it would work by taking water out of the river using the existing leat, which used to feed the mill pond at what’s called Dodd Bottom and then installing the generator at that point so that water actually returns to the river at that point.....the electricity that’s generated will be fed into the grid via a nearby house

    TW:

    How much do you think you can generate?

    SG: I think it’s a fifteen kilowatt generator.

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    8

    TW:

    Oh right. And how long would that last for before you would have to kind of re- service it to upgrade it shall we say?

    SG: I think...well I’m not really an expert on the technicals of it, but we’ve had some work done by an expert on it who has suggested to us that about every ten years a set of bearings or something like that would need doing, but the actual generating equipment should last up to about fifty years. Currently the Government......has set up a feeding tariff mechanism so that people can actually earn money or people can have equipment that generates money and there’s a guaranteed return from the National Grid which has to buy in stuff, which is fixed for about twenty years so the money that that generates would be used to fund future sustainability projects in the area, so for example insulating hard to heat homes thereby reducing energy consumption, providing some local employment and also helping to set up other sort of sustainability, particularly in energy products that might come along.

    TW:

    So you say this idea that you’ve got in building that generator and using the old goits as it were, can you see that as a model that can then be used again and again through different valleys

    SG: Oh it already is you know, I mean we won’t be the first person to have done this, you know, there are other examples around the country of it, they’re bigger ones as well you know.

    TW:

    So what kind of financial impact would they have – do you know anything about that?

    SG: Not really......

    TW:

    I mean it costs one hundred and twenty grand to set one of these up and you’ve got a twenty year income coming from that by putting electricity into the grid. Is it the fact that it costs one hundred and twenty thousand which is a lot of money when you look twenty years ahead, or is it the amount that you actually get back to kind of cover that cost and then some to help do new projects so it becomes a sustainability project – project shall we say rather than income

    SG: It sounds to me the question you are asking is would the hundred and twenty grand get repaid in income basically

    TW:

    Yeah, I’m trying to....you see I think it’s probably a very good deal, but I mean I haven’t really looked into it. I just wondered whether you’ve looked into that side of it so that....because you were saying that if you did set it up you’d get an income from

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page

    9

    what you produce and you’d use that towards other projects. I was just wondering....is that the only way you’d like to do it....I mean I was just thinking about whether private people would want to do this sort of thing that lived on the river, and how they would go about you know, giving back to the community shall we say.

    SG: Well obviously I can’t really speak on behalf of other private individuals......there are other groups that have tried installing hydro power things in the area and they tended to come unstuck you know, with it being community groups, when they’ve identified a piece of land with water running through with the right whatever it needs to be, and the landowner might say ‘yeah that sounds good profit and then when they start looking into the amounts they go ‘well actually I think I should have that funding really’ so the projects end up not going ahead......so I don’t know what the answer to your question is really, but in this particular instance there’s been an issue with that piece of land in the past where a developer wanted to come along, chop all the trees down that had grown over the area, over the years since it had been disused and put a new housing development down there and......the incident....

    TW:

    Below Windsor View

    SG: Below Windsor View, now known as the Chainsaw Tuesday incident [laughing] when the developer engaged a whole load of people to come along with chainsaws and start cutting down the trees and the local people all went down to defend the trees and basically drove them out again, and some of those people......who are the residents there put some money together to buy the land to prevent that from happening again, and we’ve got....we’ve been negotiating with those people who currently own the land to have this project on their land and they’re in agreement with it, and in agreement with our aims to use it for future sustainability projects, so we’re pretty sure that we’re not gonna have that problem of somebody going ‘oh actually’ you know ‘let’s have the money in my bank’ [laughing]

    TW:

    Yeah that’s very good. Have you heard about the plan that David Fletcher has for doing a generator for Bridge Mill along there? Have you seen any of the plans or heard anything about that?

    SG: I haven’t seen the plans but....the funding streak that we put in our bid for was actually one of very many for this particular pot of money and David Fletcher’s was another competing bid, so neither of us has actually got this particular funding pot for our project, but of course as part of the Transition Town group, of course completely support what he wants to do there because you know, even though it’s not our project we wish it well because it’s gonna be providing energy from renewables and taking that building which......which is a great building and houses seventeen small businesses I believe as well and is run as a not-for-profit organisation, if that comes off grid and is a model sustainability and education facility as well, we can only wish it well.

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page 10

    TW:

    Right. I mean I believe there is about three hundred or so, probably more, sort of Transition Towns or Transition Town projects or initiatives or whatever they’re called. What kind of networking do you do with other groups about the various projects that are going on? How do you keep in touch?

    SG: Well to be honest not nearly enough. It’s aspirational of course to be fully integrated with all of these people but the reality is that we’re all voluntary work people here and....it’s just a mammoth.....sort of mammoth work for those of us who want to sort of run the organisation if you like....I’m the Secretary

    TW:

    How many people are in the group in Hebden

    SG: The group is divided into sub-groups and there’s probably fifty or more people involved in total.

    TW:

    Oh right. Quite a lot of people then.

    SG: Yeah, we’ve got a committee of......twelve....eleven or twelve people which is a representative from each of those groups plus some permanent members like the Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary.

    TW:

    What are the sub-groups? I mean presumably they’re focused on.....I mean there’s one on energy and would there be one on growing food, I mean what kind of groups are there?

    SG: Yeah we’ve got two there. Energy, food; the food group’s been running a project recently. They want to start a community supported agriculture project here in the valley and to get organic food, veg box scheme, all grown within three miles of Hebden Bridge. That’s the aim, and over previous months.....over the previous...five months.....four or five months, something like that, they’ve been running a veg box scheme where they’ve been buying veg in from an organic supplier in Hipperholme which is probably ten miles away, something like that.....and it’s all been run by volunteers so there’s no wages to pay, no rent because it’s distributed from the local church, so all profits from that are being stored up to help set up the local food project. So what’s that....energy, food....transport......obviously transport is a big contributor to global warming so you know, we want to get people out of cars and on to public transport, bicycles and on foot....so the transport group’s got a new project to be announced at this week’s main meeting actually which is about getting people out of cars and on to bikes so that’s quite a multi-faceted project.....there’s a waste group – waste and consumer culture – which their most recent project actually only happened last weekend which was a Give Away Free day, whereby people were encouraged to find things they didn’t want and put them outside their house with a big

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page 11

    sign saying ‘Free – please take it’ to keep the stuff out of landfill and stop people just wasting those products which are really perfectly valuable and useful and serviceable and stop them from buying new ones to replace them, so it keeps stuff out of landfill....I did rather well out of that myself. I got a new frame tent out of it [laughing]

    TW:

    Very good...very good!

    SG: .....so what other groups....education......it’s about talking to schools and......any parties, it’s generally about raising awareness you know, about the issues....so what’s that, that’s four isn’t it......there’s a health group.....there is....I can’t think what the others are of the top of my head......I’ll come back to that

    TW:

    Yeah, okay.

    SG: There are others......

    TW:

    Right.....I want to talk really about....a bit more about this idea of Hebden Bridge being the kind of place that accommodates all the different things that you’ve been going on about, you know, Treesponsibility, the housing Co-op, doing the Transition Town things – all sort of alternative ways of looking at life shall we say. What do you think it is about Hebden Bridge that all this has kind of come together and is happening?

    SG: Well my understanding of how Hebden Bridge has developed you know, in the last sort of fifty years or so, forty or fifty years, is it used to be a thriving sort of textile town you know, mills.....you know, it’s the heart of the industrial revolution area isn’t it really? Lots of mills and lots of employment and then of course the Indian sub- continent became the place to outsource work to....you know, mills started closing as imports became cheaper, people got laid off and a lot of people moved away and from what I’m told you know, the place was a kind of rather grubby, dirty, black ex- industrial town that didn’t have much going for it really and the prices of houses were falling and people just moved away, and.....the people that came in to fill those were kind of like the hippy types from the sixties who came and realised that it was actually a rather attractive place and the housing was cheap, and so we had quite an influx here of....they’d had been the first off-cumdens wouldn’t they....of a sort of more alternative types of people really – more arty, more musical, more laid back than the previous occupants might have been and so you know, I mean there are lots of sort of second generation hippy types around here, it’s still a very arty sort of place. The likes of David Fletcher who you’ve mentioned earlier have done a great deal to sort of do preservation work in the town and encourage tourism and.....so you know all of these things have contributed to making the town what it is today which is just sort of thriving, vibrant, artistic....and not everybody looking to make a fast buck really.

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page 12

    TW:

    Do you think the local Council, Calderdale Council, have been useful in any kind of way in sustaining, well, bringing about this sort of lifestyle change and that sort of thing?

    SG: Well I suppose they must have, I mean the Council generally is there to serve the people isn’t it? They’re elected by the local people to run the town, so....I mean I know that the Council in years gone by had a lot of the buildings cleaned up after all the mills stopped running and churning out soot you know, they had a lot of buildings cleaned up and they improved the facilities for people you know, parks etc......nowadays you know, are more clued up nowadays than they used to be about the workings of Councils. Since I’ve been working with the Transition Town group really, I’ve had more of an education about that and I realise that the Councils are actually very keen on the same sort of things as us really you know, they want clean, safe environments for people to live and work in which aren’t polluting, which...sustainability of course is a big buzz thing now anyway from National Government which is like pushed down to the Local Government levels to implement, so yeah, I would say so, they are very much into sustainability you know, we have contact with.....quite good contacts with Hebden Royd Town Council and different projects that are going on you know, we have contacts with Calderdale Council in different departments, the Leader of the Council, Janet Battye, is very supportive of us and what we’re trying to do. She’s gonna be coming to our next meeting I believe.

    TW:

    Right. So they support like allotment schemes and maybe even this energy scheme that you’re talking about. Can they come up with some finance for you or some sort of funding or knowledge or actual space that they might be able to hand over to you?

    SG: Yeah well I mean it was actually to Calderdale Council with Yorkshire Forward, no it’s Calderdale Forward, that we did apply for our funding, although I can’t actually blame them for not funding us because there were over a hundred applications for this pot of £2,500,000 which they had available so obviously there would be a lot of bids that weren’t successful, but yeah, I mean, talk about allotments, I’m actually on the Local Council’s Allotments Committee as well and that’s.....that’s come about because I went as representative to Treesponsibility to support an allotments scheme that was being proposed that all the residents locally were objecting to and it looked like it was gonna fold, so I went along and joined in with that and.....we managed to you know, look at all the problems that the residents were raising and get over all those problems and now it looks like that’s going ahead, but the status of that one at the moment is that we’re waiting to get land asset transfer over to the local Council

    TW:

    Is that up Sandy Gate?

    SG: Yes, although the Allotments Scheme is now designed to go up on the Dodnaze Estate at the end of that field.

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page 13

    TW:

    Yeah. It’s flatter access isn’t it?

    SG: Yes, it’s flatter access, it overcomes all the problems of the original scheme which had it all down the bottom at Sandy Gate which was mostly to do with traffic issues and overlooking issues, that’s valid reasons to object.

    TW:

    Right. So you work for Treesponsibility, you’re part of the Transition Town and you do the Allotment things, you do the work here at the housing Co-operative. How does all that fit together then within your lifestyle, let’s say over the next ten years, your sort of, your life plan of action shall we say, which is gonna become....are they all gonna diffuse to one big thing or are you....is any particular one gonna become more important than the other thing?

    SG: Well I think they are diffusing into one big thing which is my lifestyle really and my lifestyle does encompass all of these things now...I’ve got quite an education since I came to Hebden Bridge about lots of things you know, mean your life’s changed enormously since I’ve been here and for the better I’d say definitely, so you know I mean, I haven’t sort of plunged into all these projects all at once you know, I’ve gone into one and then you know, something that raises my level of awareness of something else and I kind of like drifted into that as well and it just kind of works really you know, it’s just an evolving process you know, obviously I don’t earn a lot of money doing it but living in a housing co-op, you don’t need to earn a lot of money. The rents are cheap and it’s secure housing so you’re not likely to you know, like become homeless. Because I’m not earning much money, so long as I don’t drink too much beer, I don’t have too much money. laughs

    TW:

    So do you see yourself then as becoming more and more of an activist than just kind of looking after your own patch. Are you actually becoming more and more out there in a kind of political sense almost?

    SG: Yeah. I’ve been involved in some sort of direct action projects you know, in the country, I’ve been involved with Climate Camp, a camp for climate action which has just recently ceased to exist in that format but since it began by camping out sort of by Drax power station a few years back, I’ve been involved with that you know, with organising it as well as just attending......my most recent activist activity was October, the year before last, the last major thing anyway, a group of us descended on Didcot Power Station in the middle of the night and climbed up the chimney and camped out there for a few days to try and stop it from burning fossil fuels again and raising awareness.

    TW:

    I may just have to turn this off until after the teas made. SG: OK

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page 14

    TW: You were just talking about the Hebden Bridge Partnership. What do they actually do?

    SG: Hebden Bridge Partnership is......basically a group of people who represent various organisations and so on in the town and it’s to further the interests of the town and its people really, so.....there are representatives of business, representatives of community groups etc so I attend it as representative of the Transition Town group and there’ll be the other people there from for instance Colne Wildlife Trust type thingies and the police are represented on there and the local Council and.....Calderdale Council.

    TW:

    Are they an information trading thing or do they actually create activities in support of the town or discuss issues and then make laws or by-laws?

    SG: They don’t make law or bye-laws or anything like that, they don’t really have powers to do those things like that. I suppose we like to think we represent a good slice of the local community so we can have some influence, so the.....group might write to people for example to lobby for something to be done etc, but of course it’s a networking exercise as well you know, so the different groups that are represented there you know can draw support from each other to help them to develop and further the interest you know, like David Fletcher’s there representing Pennine Heritage and.....well that’s about all I can say about that sort of really you know. I don’t have too.....apart of going to the meetings you know, I don’t have a lot of involvement in the running of that group because there’s too much to do as well as trying to live a life of leisure, you know, my own leisure and time and earning some money as well to live.

    TW:

    Well, I’ll just ask one last question really, and it’s is there anything you would like to say yourself about Hebden Bridge or the area, or how you think the things that you are involved in can be kind of useful for other people? Is there anything that you would like to say that I haven’t asked about?

    SG: Well....my....to be honest I don’t think there is anything that I would like to add that you haven’t asked me on that sort of thing.....obviously I want Hebden Bridge to continue to grow as a place where people want to come and visit because of its beauty and its current culture.....I suppose I see it as potentially influential on other towns and from a sustainability point of view....our energy group is trying to start a project to become the greenest town in the country from an electricity supplier’s point of view where we want to get a project together to get as many people together to sign up as possible – everybody would be the ideal to sign up to energy suppliers that only produce electricity from renewables, so I mean if that comes about then that hopefully would have an enormous influence on the remainder of this country......but no, I just

    Steven Richard Gibson trans Page 15

    want to continue to try and live sustainably myself and encourage others to do that through the activities and groups I’m involved in.

    TW:

    Okay, great, well thank you very much

    SG: Pleasure.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Get in touch

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

Phone: 01422 844450
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