Tag results

You are searching documents tagged with "Usa"

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Tony Wright 2

     

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Ready to go then.

     

    INTERVIEWER – MARTIN JONES:

    Yeah.  Well first of all, hello.

     

    TW:

    Hello.

     

    INTERVIEWER – Martin Jones:

    What I want to speak to you about today Tony if it’s okay is……being an artist, where you get your inspiration from and does it tie in with you, politically or personally, or the way you live, and what inspired you around the time to become an artist, so I’ll start off with….I think, when did you first make the transition to becoming an artist or deciding you were gonna be an artist?

     

    TW:

    …..deciding I wanted to get into art and be an artist…….started about when I was….I don’t know……twelve….ten, eleven, twelve, somewhere around that age.  I think…..I mean it’s something I always liked to do.  I have a memory of doing finger painting at nursery while the other children were taking naps and I just carried on, and the teacher didn’t notice, and then I heard my name called out and they’d all got up, got dressed and were standing in the queue ready to leave, and I was still….there was paint all over my shirt and my hands

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So nothing’s changed then!

     

    TW:

    No nothing’s changed, this is true, so I mean I have memories of really being into it when I was little, but…..and I always enjoyed doing it, but I think I went to….a reasonable school, a Catholic school in Omaha in Nebraska and we had to do a kind of…..IQ and some other sort of tests, and out of those tests they said I was the artistic type, and I thought ‘oh really, oh that’s interesting’ and I think it probably held true because there were questions like ‘what would you like to do with a typewriter – write a story, fix it if it broke, sell it to somebody’ and it went on like that, and I guess from doing that they sort of thought I was artistic, so once I’d kind of got it in my head that I was that way inclined, I…..and I think I must have had it naturally anyway, I went for it and I just started doing all these art classes and I loved it, and I just never really stopped.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Did you have a lot of encouragement from school and family?  Did they see the potential that was in you to become an artist…..

    TW:

    My family did I think.  I think both my parents were frustrated creative people.  I think my father wanted to be a drummer, he wanted to be a musician really and he….we always had music in the house and that’s what he really wanted to be, and my mother was….she used to design her own clothes when she was young and make them up, but they all got on the, you know, the nine-to-five treadmill thing…..and neither of them really ever did anything, but I think they saw the potential in me and then…..they didn’t push me, they…..if that’s what I wanted to do they supported me in whatever it is I wanted to do really

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Did you actually go to art college?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Whereabouts?

     

    TW:

    I did a foundation year in St Helens and then I did a degree in Epsom in Surrey, and later on I did an MA at Leeds.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So is it a case of……you’ve got pretty hefty qualifications, but do you think your art would have remained…..as it is if you hadn’t gone for the qualifications, or do you think that inspired you at all, all that sort of thing… 

     

    TW:

    Oh, I think it totally changed me.  Before I’d done…..any…..before I’d completed any of my formal education shall we say, I was….I used to read about art all the time and try and do it, and I’d actually done some correspondence courses as well….and it was very much…I was a Vincent van Gogh man, Vincent van Gogh, he was like my….sort of hero.  I read everything about him and tried to paint like him, but I used to read about….I liked Rembrandt and Goya and different kinds of artists like that, I used to read about them a lot

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you looked at the classical artists really

     

    TW:

    Yeah, at that time, yeah, definitely, yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you relate to any modern artists at all?  Is it something you liked to see or

     

    TW:

    What now, or then?

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Well now really.

     

    TW:

    Now…..these days…..the only contemporary artist that I probably have any kind of interest in are the ones that do things to do with nature really.  I like Andy Goldsworthy, or that type of person really…..mainly because I’ve just got fed up with the art world as being….so insular and so narrow minded that I’ve kind of rejected a lot of it – it’s not so much I’ve rejected the artists, it’s just I’ve rejected the subject almost, and so I don’t keep up with it as I used to; I used to read – I used to know about everybody and knew everything that was going on.  These days my knowledge is somewhat limited, so I’m not really against it

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you find that those artists who were against the grain, maybe talking late sixties, early seventies, who were considered to be outsiders in the art world, are now those who are running it and…..decide what’s art and what’s not

     

    TW:

    I don’t think artists really have much say in running anything much; I’m sure some do, it’s agents and gallery owners and critics and the likes of them that dictate what goes on and what gets known.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So it’s actually more….the actual freedom of art is always gonna be there because people… 

     

    TW:

    Well most people who are into art, they’re not gonna be bothered with all of that side of it.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    But it is becoming a very……what’s the word for it I’m looking for……a very business orientated…..

     

    TW:

    It’s a very Saatchi kind of mentality….I mean if that’s what you want then fair enough go for it, but……it’s not what I was ever into, and never have been into making money really, unfortunately – I’ve been very successful at that – not making money! [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I think you should be proud of that to be honest. [laughing]  What artist apart from van Gogh – do you think van Gogh is championed by so many people because he is so…..the mad man with bright colours I suppose…..was he one of your main inspirations when you were a teenager?

     

    TW:

    Well when I was a teenager, after that, I suppose the Blue Rider movement – Paul Klee and Kandinskey and Macke and Marc and that…..that became very important for me, which later sort of turned into the Bauhaus movement, but all of that period from the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, that whole period I find fascinating really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Is that the German Bauhaus movement?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    As in the furniture and everything?

     

    TW:

    Well it was also…..I mean Gropius….Walter Gropius was an architect but it was also about furniture, but it was about everything cos what it was supposed to be, they taught the principles of design, of colour and this and that and the other, and that was supposed to be included into everyday life, that was part of the whole ethos which I really kind of went for in a big way really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Where do you see yourself now as an artist?

     

    TW:

    Well  don’t….well I do and I don’t…..I haven’t painted in about ten years really.  What I have been doing during the last ten years is been thinking about it a lot…..and when I actually stopped painting I was becoming more and more involved with using words as part of the image, and I suppose…..in my head I’m still there somewhere…..but what I’ve been doing is I’ve been doing……I have made some things out in nature, just do things that don’t even get photographed, they just get left and they disappear, but also I’ve been developing story telling as a kind of alternative creative activity.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So the art that you’ve…..you’ve just….the art’s still there but you’ve just changed lanes in a way.  Does that make sense?

     

    TW:

    Well….that’s right, that is right, although I don’t do much.  I plan to get back to doing it……just exactly when I don’t know.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Did you have a……an anti-epiphany I suppose, when you decided to stop painting, or was it just something that stopped, you weren’t getting that creative urge… 

     

    TW:

    I made a conscious decision because of……my personal life……I got divorced and had to get a job, a nine-to-five sort of job to earn a lot of money to pay off my wife, my ex wife…..and I knew that if I was gonna continue being an artist, cos when I do I just get so immersed in it that I don’t do anything else, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold down a proper job if I carried on thinking about it, so I had to focus on earning the money bit, which is what I did, and in fact it’s what I’m still doing, although what I do now gives me a lot more scope, a lot of free time shall we say, and it’s……collecting oral history which is what I do, is a creative activity in itself really, or I look at it in that way.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you get as much satisfaction, I mean, that thing that you do, with seeing people and getting their life down on film and tape, is fantastic, I think it’s such a positive thing to know the history of individuals as well as a society if you like.  Do you get as much satisfaction out of doing this as you did when you were….when you were painting and drawing or

     

    TW:

    It’s a difficult one that…….because what immediately runs through my head…..how do you…..how do you balance them up, how do you judge this against that, and I guess I used to get satisfaction from both of them and also get very frustrated from both of them, but in very very different ways……I think if I won the lottery tomorrow I would set up a trust and I would sit on the committee that ran Wild Rose interviewing people, although I’d still like to be involved by interviewing people but I’d have other people do all the rest of the work and I would probably just paint as much as I could, or create things out in nature.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you’d know this was still carrying on and you’d have an oversight?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.  I have a kind of…..thing about it, that it’s…..which I shouldn’t do really, because I started it and I’ve…..done it for nine years now…..I’m getting to the point where it’s no longer just the way I make a living, it’s….it’s become

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Part of your life

     

    TW:

    It’s starting to become – it is a big part of my life – but it’s actually starting to become what my original vision for it was, which was creating this archive over a period of time and looking at one small place, Hebden Bridge, but on all different levels so that there’s a whole…..it would probably be for other people to go through it all and work out what was really going on here…..over the past ten years or over the next ten years as well.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Is that how long…..I mean has this got time structure?  Have you decided there will be a cut off…..like painting, have you decided, will there be a cut off point ‘I’m going back to painting’ or will you decide to carry on with the nature sculptures, or will you go in a completely different direction that says things that you haven’t done that you want to do now, regarding your artistic…..artistic-ness?

     

    TW:

    Yeah well there is, I mean there are….I have ideas of like not so much making films as in big Hollywood productions or even low budget feature films, but I would like to maybe use video more, and use it almost as if it were a painting, and create layers of things and use….again, use words with it, but…..incorporate images of nature as well as humanity, and the use of words, be it just sound and talking or actual visual words that….you know, and create like montage kind of things in film, so I can see myself going that way really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So that would be getting many different pieces of film and editing them together

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That sort of thing

     

    TW:

    That sort of idea.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I want to go back a bit.  When you were……first getting into art….as a teenager, as a young man, was the political……change that was going on, would it be the late sixties? Is that right? 

     

    TW:

    Late sixties yeah, I mean I started art school in……well I went to university in ’69 in the States but I wasn’t studying art, although I did study art but it wasn’t at an art school, and the political side of things….it was very much….it was a very big part of my life…..because there was all the Civil Rights and anti Vietnam and stuff, and I was really…..like the autobiography of Malcolm X, but I was also listening to…..pop music – rock ‘n’ roll

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That was an amazing time to be around.

     

    TW:

    People, you know, with kind of revolutionary ideas and….but also lifestyle choices and just talking about, you know, it doesn’t all have to be the way they tell you it has to be

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    They’re throwing questions at you and it’s up to you to make your own answers to them I suppose, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    When…..we were going back but we’ll come forward….when did you come to Hebden Bridge?

     

    TW:

    I moved to Hebden Bridge in 1987.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Had you been living in the UK before that or had you

     

    TW:

    Yeah, I’d been living here since 1970.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    And…..I’ve been to the United States, I loved the place – the weather was better – what made you actually connect with the UK and want to make you stay here?

     

    TW:

    Because I thought it was a place…..it was freer, it was a place where the word freedom meant something.  In America I felt that everything was…..controlled is the word about America, everything was trying to be controlled……and……my father was American and my mother was English, and the whole idea…..I mean the National Health Service as an idea I thought was brilliant, you know, for a start, but also it seemed to be a much freer place where you could say what you wanted to say…..without getting hit over the head with it.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Well there’s time to change. [laughing]

     

    TW:

    It has changed a lot since.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    When you moved over, was it at a time when you……you started…..painting straight away or was it something you fell back into or was it something you continued from

     

    TW:

    When I came here?

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    I came here to go to art school.  I moved to Liverpool; I lived with my grandparents…..and got into a foundation course in St Helens which was, again, their course was based on this Bauhaus idea in a sense….their foundation, it was a rotating….you did a week worth of…..well 2D, so there was design and painting and all that sort of stuff and a week of 3D, so we worked with clay and wood and glass and metal and all that, and then a week of what they used to call graphics which was much more to do with the commercial side of art, and then the fourth week you were back to the other one, but every week you always did life drawing, photography, art history and what they used to call complementary studies, which was to do with a little bit of sociology and a little bit of literature and what have you.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Have you ever thought about going into teaching art yourself?

     

    TW:

    Yeah yeah, I have done.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Was that in Hebden or

     

    TW:

    It was in…….well, you say teaching, I was…..I actually worked as a community artist for a lot of years and I started doing that in Kent.  I lived in…..in Folkestone.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Someone’s got to! [laughing]

     

    TW:

    ……and actually began doing that in….the early eighties, then I went off; I came to Manchester and did a course, did a qualification in community arts which wasn’t just painting and art, it was also, I did music and theatre as well, and public speaking and things like that…..and then I worked in Salford, in youth clubs in Salford and I was part of a circus group……and did all sorts of things for a year or two there, then I moved to Hebden in………again, I started teaching in adult education and in further education, and did that for part-time, while I did community arts I also did teaching and I was painting and I had…..used to have exhibitions in various parts of the country and I had a gallery in London and showed some of my work.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you’re quite a successful artist really aren’t you?

     

    TW:

    Oh, I don’t think successful’s the word [laughing] but I’ve done a lot!

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Oh I don’t mean to say it in a monetary way, I mean you certainly haven’t……you’ve been there and you’ve pushed the boundaries out for certain you know, you’ve done the galleries, you’ve done the….but I’ve got to go back to the circus troupe….tell me about this.

     

    TW:

    It came about in a very weird kind of way.  When I was doing the community arts course, every term you had to do a placement and I’d been living in London before I moved up here, and I had a friend there who had a girlfriend who had a friend who lived in Eccles and worked for a community magazine, and he used to work with a youth worker who ran this…..community centre, well he didn’t run it, but he ran the activities in it, and so through that long line of things I got hooked up with him to help him work in this community centre, and I did a term doing that…..and then I did a term with Horse and Bamboo doing large puppets and stuff like that, and then…..I started working with this guy because he wanted to learn circus skills because we were working with kids that were unemployed, kids over eighteen, or were they over sixteen…..I think they might have been over sixteen and under twenty-five who were out of work, and he decided one way to get them engaged was to teach them circus skills, so there was a group called Manchester Circus…..Skills something or other, I can’t remember exactly what they were called

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    What sort of time period was this?

     

    TW:

    This was ‘80……must have been early…..late ’85…..’86

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Cos there would have still been high unemployment then in the north

     

    TW:

    Yes.  So we…..you know, we had to learn it and then we…..you know we learnt it off the proper people and then we taught it to the kids and we had a thing during the week in the evening, and then a kind of Saturday club thing that we did with them, and we did….you know, juggling, clowning, unicycle riding, stilt walking, you know, all that kind of basic stuff…..and then we used to go and do little performances in working men’s clubs, like rugby clubs; we went in with the kids and various places like that [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    You say you moved to Hebden Bridge about ’87.

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Was it a place that you….cos it took me a year to get used to the place.  It is a very…very eclectic…..very open minded artistic place.  Did you grab that vibe straight away or did it take a while to

     

    TW:

    Fairly quickly I think……I mean we moved here…..the reason we moved here…..was….we were going to Scotland on holiday and the car broke down, and we couldn’t get it fixed for three days so we stayed here and we decided we liked it, and at that time I was working at the University, well the Polytechnic as it was then, of Manchester in the Art History department and my wife had just gotten onto her Social Worker course in Leeds Poly and it just…..because we happened to break down here, we realised it was half way in between the two and we thought ‘right, well that’s’….and we just sort of liked the whole place, there was….you know, the park and the smallness of the shops and….because we’d lived in London together then we’d lived in the south side of Manchester together and we were gradually going from you know, big cities to smaller and smaller and this just seemed like a natural progression and we liked it, and as soon as we were here, after about two weeks we found out she was pregnant, so I started plugging into….thinking ahead because we bought this particular house so that I could have a studio here, of course with a child we couldn’t do that so I started looking around for studio space and found…..and helped found North Light originally, and also helped found the….the nursery - it was NAG – Nursery Action Group, I became part of that and we did it at the bottom of Moss Lane and once I’d got it up and running after about a year and a half, two years, I just turned it over to the people who got employed and they’ve taken it on leaps and bounds, bought Crossley Mill and they’ve turned it into a really good thing, so I realised there was a lot of people doing all sorts.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you find that Hebden Bridge has changed since you came here?

     

    TW:

    Oh yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    For the better or for worse?

     

    TW:

    ……

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Or a little bit of both?

     

    TW:

    …….well I suppose both in a sense.  I mean change is pretty inevitable really…..it’s a lot busier now than it used to be.  There’s more traffic……there’s more people, there’s even more, I mean it used….they wanted it to be a tourist town and it has definitely become a tourist town, and when I moved here there were lots of like junk shops and antique shops and now there’ll all cafés 

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    It’s got a very European vibe to it – do you find that?

     

    TW:

    Yes, I mean they have things out on the street, I mean that would never have been known back in the eighties……that whole idea was….anathema I think to people in Hebden Bridge.  There are less born and bred locals now than there used to be I think, because….of an older generation, well a lot of them have died basically and people….people who are here and have made some money, they’ve….a lot of gone to France or Spain or Portugal and that sort of thing to kind of retire because it’s nicer and the weather’s supposed to be nicer and it’s cheaper to live I think, or it used to be.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Where do you see yourself as an artist in five years’ time?  Where do you….have you ideas and goals that you want to go towards or do you just take it as a feeling ‘I’ll do it when I feel like it’ or do you have set….. ‘right we’re gonna start doing this then, that then’

     

    TW:

    I don’t…..think I have any goals as such….I just want to….between now and in five years’ time I just want to be able to start doing more artistic work, so I suppose it’s a goal to do more I suppose, and where that leads me I’ll have to find out

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    An adventure.

     

    TW:

    It is a bit, yeah.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I’m sort of running out of questions and stuff. [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Okay. 

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I’ll have to frame this right.  Do you regard yourself, or have you always regarded yourself as someone who likes to create or to put yourself in that bracket, like ‘I am an artist and that’s…..there are’…..do you see what I’m trying to say?

     

    TW:

    Do I see…do I….my identity

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    As an artist

     

    TW:

    is as an artist, yes, I mean I think I’m a human being before I’m anything else…..but definitely I feel as if I am an artist, even though I’m in a hibernation period at the minute [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That’s not a bad thing

     

    TW:

    Well it’s not really because I’ve…..like I said I was so fed up with the art world and its bitchiness basically and I just turned off from it all…..I’ve got to a point now where it doesn’t bother me any more because I can, I can laugh at it, I can…

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    You can see the irony in it I suppose really.

     

    TW:

    Well there’s some irony yes, definitely, and it just…..it’s like water off a duck’s back now I think

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Do you…..being your own artist, you have the ability to do your own thing and keep that foot out, one foot in the art world and one foot out, so you can step either way if you want to, so you don’t have to, I suppose tolerate the bitchiness and you, you can just do your own thing.  Is that something you’re aiming towards, or have you got already?

     

    TW:

    Well I don’t even have one foot in, I haven’t even hardly….I haven’t got a little toe in at the minute, apart from….just my own tiny little bubble when I do odd things every once in a while…..

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    You say you’re…..you’re doing stuff with nature now which I really love.  I like that…that principle of building something that’s gonna decay over time because it’s….everything decays but I think it’s got a certain beauty to it……why have you decided just…..or you’re aiming it towards nature.  Is that something that you’ve wanted to do for ages or

     

    TW:

    Well I always have….I mean I trained basically as a landscape painter, although I wildly veered off that into doing……people but I did used to do a lot of drawing of….animals and plants, so I suppose that’s part of nature, but it was a very kind of realistic type of artwork, but I used to experiment with….you know, collect mud and bits of leaves and pine needles and all that and make pictures out of those sort of things….just experimenting with…..rather than, you know, human made found objects, nature objects, and I used to create things that used to hang, you know, I used to spend hours sewing together seed pods and all sorts of weird and wonderful things, seaweed and feathers and God knows what, and they’d be like sculptures but they’d be hanging things, so I’ve always been involved in……in nature and using it in some kind of way…..and now because of….I suppose my….my beliefs; I’m very anti…..religion shall we say, or authority I suppose is another word for it

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    A man after my own heart. [laughing]

     

    TW:

    I want to…..have options of looking at things without being a member if you know what I mean.  If I want to look at you know…..the Christian religion, I want to look at it for what it is, not….I don’t want to be part of it, I don’t want to be a true believer and all the rest of it; I’ll look at it and see the good and the bad in it, and observe it and say ‘right, that part of it’s crap and that part of it’s really quite good actually’ and the same with political movements and……sort of keep my mind open

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So you’re almost like a social commentator; you’re an independent…

     

    TW:

    Well, not so much a commentator, but an observer that I can then use into my own….little world and some people I suppose would say ‘right then you have a message to tell to others’ but it isn’t a message as such except for the fact that….you know, I want to have an open mind and observe this stuff and try and put it together creatively and then when you wanna look at it, I want you to be the same; I want you to be open minded and get out of it or not get out of it whatever you can

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Again it’s putting something there and saying ‘right, I’m not telling you what to think.  You’ve got to make your own decisions and get what you want out of it’.

     

    TW:

    That sort of thing.  I mean the last big art piece I ever made way back was…..it was a series…..it was a whole series of images attached to a series of words, and the first word was ‘artist’ and I looked it up in the dictionary and I typed it all out, and then within that meaning of what the word ‘artist’ meant, I underlined one of those words, and the second word became, the word that was underlined, and I typed out its meaning, and I underlined one of the words in its meaning and so forth, and it led from artist to viewer through a series of about twenty-five or thirty words, and each had a different picture associated with it, and some were by me, and some were by little children that I’d worked with in school – there was a whole series of images – and that’s the kind of way I think about it, is that you know, what happened…..you know, from the artist to the viewer, a whole series of processes take shape and if you did it reverse-wise it would work the same really

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So it’s one feeds back to the other isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Well in a way yeah, so

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    If you do decide to start painting again, or sculptures, would you……would you…..would you want to show them, would you want to get them in galleries again or is it just for you, or is it……just for that satisfaction

     

    TW:

    No, really, I mean it’s…..I think I’d probably like to show them somewhere; I’m not exactly sure where…..I know like…..the Zen Masters used to, you know do their calligraphy, with wonderful calligraphy on scrolls and roll them up and keep them in drawers, but they’d only bring them out every blue moon to show another master – ‘oh see what I did eight years ago, isn’t that pretty good yeah?’

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    So it’s more of a personal journey

     

    TW:

    But that’s still showing it to your own audience, you know, your Zen Master audience right, well I’m not in that category but…..it seems, I mean I can sit and write poems, you know, or write stories or…..or dance around my living room all the time and no-one would ever know I did any of that

     

    INTERVIEWER:

     

    Please tell me you do.

     

    TW:

    I do dance around my living room, but that’s beside the point!  But if you’re creating something physical, it seems to me as if……are you gonna just stack it in the corner and…..and then it gathers dust and…..I suppose that’s just as valid and eventually it just rots away and that’s the end of it and so what?  It’s just like human beings, we’ll kill ourselves off or the ants will take over and we’ll be like the dinosaurs, we’ll be gone, and the earth will continue for more millions and billions of years, and artwork’s similar really, but I….I kind of have this idea of, well, if I go to the trouble of making it, maybe I ought to share it you know

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That’s what I think  you….if you are going to create again, judging by your paintings and that, they deserve to be shown, me and Sam, we love the black and white stuff.  I love the stuff……where is it…..I love these with the trees, I just think they’re amazing

     

    TW:

    They’re trees of life

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Yeah they’re absolutely amazing, and again dug the Peruvian… 

     

    TW:

    Well that one….I did a series of birth, life and death.  That’s the death one actually [laughing]

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    That style of…..of painting is….is…..it’s…I don’t know how to put it…..it’s sort of real and not real if you know what I mean; it’s got that……the longer you look at it the more you see, the more it gets you thinking about what’s actually in there; that’s…..at a quick glance it’s just a bloke, but it’s not, there’s more there.  You look at the expressions on the face….yeah, I really think you should display your paintings mate to be honest.

     

    TW:

    Well maybe I will…..maybe I’ll take up your…..advice and try and

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    Don’t take my advice – you’re damned if you do! [laughing].  I’m taking responsibility for nothing!  Just one more last question really for me.  Do you think that your art has been influenced by living in Hebden Bridge?  Your thoughts….your creative juice, has it got it flowing again……so if you’ve been here since ’87….cos it’s quite insular, Hebden Bridge, it’s different from the towns down the road – it’s just got this vibe to it, and that…..has that played any….

     

    TW:

    Well in a wider sense, yes……because of the landscape really, but not just that, I mean a lot of my pictures…..when I first lived in Hebden were to do with…..partly to do with the birth of my son, and I’ve always been inspired by mythology and….a kind of…..a spirituality I suppose, whether it is a kind of wiccan thing or a cultish sort of thing, so I have created…..pictures to do with those kinds of stories, and lots of mythological stories are about what they would call a hero, but usually heroes are a child who then progresses through into manhood, so I painted pictures or I…..created things that were to do with those kinds of stories, and I saw Hebden Bridge as the stage where all that happened, cos I used to do a lot of walking and you can go up and see Mesolithic stuff and Neolithic stuff and Bronze Age stuff on the tops, and then as you kind of like walk down to the bottoms you just get closer and closer to contemporary times, so I see this small little place as a kind of…..age, an epic, a place where, you know, all kinds of things can go on

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    And have gone on…

     

    TW:

    Yeah, so it’s inspired me…..in thinking, reinforcing the stuff that I was into….and finding little spots all over different parts of the valley where I can identify then with certain stages of these stories and therefore try to create pictures…..that had to do with those really, and music has always been a part of my life so I started trying to draw music into it……so I did a whole series of pictures about musicians and there is a lot of music goes on in Hebden Bridge…..so really…..Hebden Bridge has a big influence because of the way that it is, and because I’ve been living here and I’m just reacting to my environment really.

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    It seems to be not only a beautiful place, it seems to be…a smelting pot for….for….I used the word widely….people with artistic inspiration and talent, it’s….there are a lot of people here and that must influence you because you’re not only…..not only….mixing with the countryside, you’re also mixing with the people that are here, and it’s quite inspirational

     

    TW:

    Yeah there’s a lot of creative people so you can have very weird and wonderful conversations about….just about anything really

     

    INTERVIEWER:

    I’ve seen you a lot in the pub – I’ve seen lots of weird and wonderful conversations. [laughing]  That’s it for me Tony.

     

    TW:

    Okay that’s fine, that’s fine.  Finished now?

     

    [END OF TRACK ONE]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Tony Wright (1)

    [TRACK 1]

    I’m Craig Fees, it’s the fifth of October 2006, I’m in Hebden Bridge at the Mill, Linden Mill, talking to Tony Wright, going to get a sense of who he is and his experience of Hebden Bridge. I guess the easiest thing really is just to literally start at the beginning and make one’s way up to the present; we may not get there – who knows?

    Well, ask away!

    Well – when were you born, where were you born?

    I was born twenty-ninth of December 1951 in Roswell, New Mexico. My father was in the Air Force and – but I was only there for nine months, and then we moved to Maine and I we were only there for nine months, and I can’t remember either of them really.

    Before you went to Roswell, where were your parents stationed?

    In England – my father had – he was from Virginia and his father wasn’t very nice really, quite a violent man and a drunk so I believe and he ran away from home when he was fifteen and ran away to an aunt went in Ohio and worked in the coal mines for two years, and when he became seventeen I think he lied about his age and he got into the US army, and this would have been about 1935, 36, that sort of time, and so he was in the army and when the Second World War came along, so he was an experienced soldier, he’d been in five or six years, when Pearl Harbour happened he was a radio operator, he did Morse code, he was a sergeant and he got shipped and worked with the English so he was in Burma for four years as a radio operator working for them and when the war finished he…well he actually got out but because he hadn’t any education as such he found it very difficult to get work so he joined up again and they sent him to England, and he was based at Burtonwood near Liverpool and my mum’s from Liverpool and they met and they got married, and…he left the Air Force again, bur couldn’t – he got a job working for the Post Office over here? over here in England, but then he wasn’t allowed to work because the immigration laws then were such that he had to be from the Commonwealth to be able to come to this country and of course America isn’t, so he was out of a job, so he joined up again – the Air Force – and was stationed in Fakenham in Norfolk which is where I was conceived, and then at seven months that’s when they decided to ship him off to Roswell, so I was born there.

    I hate to keep taking you back, but I mean the Burma campaign – was he part of what one hears about – do you know?

    Yes, yes – he was in the front lines, he got wounded, he got hit in the leg with a bit of grenade. He was in a team; they had teams of a Corporal, a Sergeant and a Lieutenant that were communications groups and they had about fifty of these groups, all Americans, who were handed over to the British so to speak because they were short of those types of people apparently, so he did four years in Burma and yeh, he was in that fight, yeh. He has a medal for it, I’ve still got it. He really learnt to like the English at that time I think is what happened – he liked the British and…so when he did join up again he wanted to be stationed here, but after Maine he went to Korea and so me and my mother came and lived with her parents in Liverpool, and my first memories are of Liverpool – sixty-seven Lewisham Road; between Norris Green and West Derby it is. The house – the last time I saw the house it was all boarded up, I think it’s probably knocked down now.

    So we spent a year there and then when he came back from Korea we went to France and we were in France for four years, so we lived in Nancy for a year and then we went on to the air base, Toulrossiere it was called, and then when de Gaulle kicked all the Americans out of France we went back to America, and we went to Texas – Wichita Falls, but we were only there for a short time and then we were in a car accident; he was being re-trained at the time, my father, so we had to drive down to Biloxi from Texas? yeh. That’s a fair drive. Yeh. An artic, a big tractor trailer hit us and I had a fractured skull, and had Bell’s palsy for a few weeks or a month or two I think; nothing happened to my sister, mum got a cut and my father had three broken ribs and his eye I think broken so he was in hospital for a while and while he was in hospital we went to Virginia and lived with his parents on a farm in Wytheville which is…I suppose Roanoke is the nearest big town but very near the west Virginia border, in the sort of south-western part of Virginia so I went to school there and then once he got well we lived in Biloxi for about…I don’t know – six months or nine months maybe.

    So were you about twelve years old by this time?

    I wasn’t that old no, I was eight – eight or nine I think, and then we went to Nebraska; he was re-trained from being a radio operator, and what he was re-trained as in Biloxi was interpreting the spy photographs that they used to take of Cuba and everywhere else, of course we didn’t know this at the time and it wasn’t allowed – even after he’d retired he would never tell us until it got to a I don’t know – a certain fifteen year period or something and then he actually told us what he did, so we were at Offutt SAC (Strategic Air Command) headquarters in Omaha and we lived there for six years, but in that six years I think I went to seven and eight different houses so we moved about a lot – that’s the history of our family, is moving about.

    In particular, why around Omaha – why so many moves there?

    Because…well a couple of reasons really. He wasn’t really well paid, I think that was part of it but also after we’d been there about a year or he had a heart attack quite early when he was in his early forties, my dad, and basically the Air Force kicked him out, got rid of him. He was on an extremely reduced pension and he had to really fight it to get his pension, but even then it wasn’t a lot of money and he found it difficult to get work so my mother started working. It was also partly because of us – my other sister was five years younger than me and they were always trying to find a house where we could have friends and near a good school and all that so we moved about a fair bit because of all those reasons.

    What did your mother do when she took up work?

    She – well she did a business training course and then, well she worked in a big hotel called The Blackstone Hotel and she worked in the restaurant, she was – I don’t know what they’d it, there is a name for it, but she used to seat the people and basically make sure everything was kind of okay. She wasn’t the manager as such but she organised all the shifts for the waitresses and for the cooks and the barman and all that sort of thing. She did that for a few years but it was shift work so she used to have to work all kinds of peculiar hours, and then she got a job working behind the bar right across the street from that, and there was a chap called Peter Kiewit and at the time he was the seventh richest man in America [laughing] and he built this tower block, and on the top of it he built a kind of bar, restaurant and sort of club for all of his rich friends and everything, and she worked behind the bar and got paid extremely well but again it was shift work, so we moved so we could be close to that where she worked because she doesn’t drive. She only has one arm my mum so she could never drive, so she could walk to work from there. She actually made enough money for us to…move to Connecticut which is what we did, because the idea was always of us to get back to England really because they both really like England so we wanted to get back.

    What was your dad doing all that time?

    Well he was trying to get work; I mean some of the time he looked after us, but he got a job working as a barman in this hotel…and that didn’t really work out very well, I don’t think he…I don’t think he liked the pressure and the stress involved in all that side of it really because it was like a service bar so it was like non-stop all the time, and he hadn’t quite got over his illness, in fact he never really did get that well again although he did work later on when we moved to Connecticut.

    Was your mother’s eye always that way?

    She got it when she was about ten or eleven…it’s called – glaucoma I think it’s called – it’s a growth behind the eye and they might be able to remove them these days, but in those days they had to take the eye out so they did, so she’s had one eye since that age really.

    Well you got to Connecticut obviously and that’s physically closer to England

    Yes, well it was cheaper to travel over if we wanted to visit, or send things even I think. It was I think sort of a…whether it was reality or not I don’t know, but the fact that is was 2000 miles closer just seemed to make it a lot easier that when we decided to move then we could do, in fact we tried twice – once we – we came and stayed in Mararoneck in New York with the parents of a friend of my father’s who he was in service with. We looked all around – they looked all around for somewhere to live to either rent or buy that they could afford and they couldn’t really, so we had to go back to Omaha for another year and in that year they saved up a bit and we bought a little trailer, and so we travelled in that because we thought we could live in that until we found somewhere that we could really afford. My father at the time was raising parakeets as a way of making money [laughing], you know raising these parakeets and flogging ‘em on, and we also had a St Bernard dog with us [laughing] so it was crowded – it was only a small little one.

    But anyway we got there and all around New York it’s – New Jersey we could afford but they didn’t really like New Jersey and in The Bronx they found somewhere but they didn’t like The Bronx so much so we just started going into Connecticut and of course Southern Connecticut is very rich, and by the time we got half way up towards New Haven they found somewhere, in fact we stopped to have a cup of tea in this little café sort of shop that sold all sorts really, and across the road there was this kid watering the garden with a hose and he started spraying our car with it, and his mother came out and started shouting at him and my mum was standing there and they got talking; she was American but she was an Irish woman, Mary her name was, Mary Ryan was her maiden name, and she said ‘right – stay with us’ so we parked our trailer in their garden and we sort of lived in and out of their house for about two or three months until we found somewhere, and then once they’d kind of found somewhere it was easier to…kind of settle in and find work and all that, and then she did – she found – she started working on one of these motorway, these posh motorway, not the dine motorway ones, the posh motorway ones miles away down in Westport so my father drove her there every day – he drove here there for the morning shift and collected her, then she had about a four hour wait then he drove her back for the night shift and they did that for a while so that was a bit difficult.

    But eventually he got a job with the VA (Veterans Association). There was a big hospital in West Haven for all veterans and he got a job there as a guard and he did that for another thirteen years and working on the switchboard there as well, doing both, so he sort of found his little niche; he did alright out of that really, and she got a job in a different restaurant as a manageress of the floor in a Jewish restaurant and did very well in that, and they bought a house finally when I was eighteen and moved away [laughing] …well we lived there – well they lived there for…I guess it was oh quite a long time really, thirteen or fourteen years I think they were in Connecticut; I was only there for about…four really – the last three years at high school, which again we had two or three different houses in those three years, and then when I left – I went off , I went to Providence College to study to be an accountant but I soon realised that wasn’t what I was gonna be! But I did get some good education because Brownwood University is also in Providence and they had an art teacher who used to come to Providence College and do art classes so I did that and really really loved that and said ‘right, that’s for me’ and…so I only went there a term really from September to Christmas and realised I wanted to go to art school so I quit the college and got a job in a restaurant and earned money to save because I applied to these art schools and I’d gotten into one in Connecticut and I’d gotten into one in Liverpool as well, and I decided Liverpool was the best because it was the height of the Vietnam War and I didn’t really want to get drafted so I went off, and when I’d finished art school the war was over really.

    So we’re talking 1969, 70?

    Yeh, I finished high school in May sixty-nine, went to Providence at Christmas, finished at Christmas and so I worked through seventy – well came here in September seventy to go to first year at art school.

    You worked in Providence and stayed there?

    No I went back to Connecticut because I was like – I could live at home and save the money up I earned really, because we didn’t really have any money as such, but it was an awful lot cheaper to go to college over here than it was in the States, and the accident that I’d had when I was about eight, whenever it was, they’d gotten a few thousand pounds – well a few thousand dollars and it had sat in the bank all those years, and that’s what they used for me to go to college on. [answering phone]

    So you’ve left the country, which is quite a substantial move really

    Well I lived with my grandparents in Liverpool for the first year; they were both in their mid to late seventies at that time and had very interesting lives really, both of them, but my grandfather loved to talk and very often I would just sit in the front room with him and he would just tell me all these tales – how to dismantle and engine nut by bolt and how to put it back together again and all things like that really; I think that’s where I first got my inclination to tell stories and listen to people talking about their lives and what they did really.

    How did they compare to your father’s parents that you spent that time with?

    Well they were very different. When we were in Virginia…my father’s mother died when he was two and his father re-married her sister so she it was his step-mum and they had quite a large extended family throughout Virginia into West Virginia and up into Ohio, and they were Seventh Day Adventists most of ‘em so they were very kind of fundamentally religious and all like that really, very calm and peaceful sort of people, whereas my mother’s side of the family were very loud, talkative and drank a lot! [laughing] – so it was like chalk and cheese really!

    My father’s lot were farmers really and then they’d become mechanics as well, so they fixed farm machinery and they had their own garage at one point. My grandfather, he was a lorry driver; he came from a very rich family. He was the oldest and…when the First World War came along I think he was about fifteen and his parents wanted him to become an electrician and had him signed up for a seven year apprenticeship at Lewis’s the store there, and he did it for a bit and didn’t like it but then what he did was he faked his age as well and he went to sea, and he joined a ship called the Bengaria which was a German ship in 1914 and he sailed round the world, so he went to South Africa and they went to India, I think Hong Kong, Singapore, various islands, Samoa; I have a gold watch that he gave my father and my father gave to me which he won in a poker game in Samoa from a German officer. [laughing] and I’ve still got that, and he had to smuggle it on board ship stuck inside a guitar because you weren’t allowed to do things like that apparently, so that watch has a bit of a tale to it, and he went to the I think the Suez Canal – not the Suez, sorry, the Panama Canal had been built then so he went through that and he was in Galveston for a long time then he went up to New York, and in New York was when that the Americans joined the First World War in 1917. Because he was on a German ship it was impounded so he lived for eighteen months in New York, and he lived in a boarding house with an Irish woman and her eight daughters; he had the job of making sure they didn’t get into trouble, so what he did was he palled up with the local Irish police and used to drink a lot of whisky and play a lot of cards I think, which is mostly what he did for eighteen months because he was still getting paid! [laughing] and what the woman of this house did, who ran the house, she used to write his love letters for him to this girl that he knew back in Liverpool and through the post they decided to get married, and when eventually the war ended and he got back to Liverpool, he married her but she was a Catholic and his family weren’t – they were Church of England I think, and that wasn’t like – that wasn’t a good thing.

    But like I say, his family were very rich but his father was a purser on board a ship and his mother was with him and they were sunk, so they were killed some time in 1916, 17 – something like that, so by the time he got back he should have inherited like this they had….so his mother and grandmother were Welsh and they had greengrocers shops, and they had a haulage firm and a like a hotel and it had all been sold off and divvied up between them, and when he got back there was nothing, and when he got married they were shunned so he said ‘right, stick it’ and he just went off and made a life for himself with his wife – my grandmother.
    So I’ve inherited some of that I think.

    A neat place to wind up.

    Well, how do you mean neat – where, in England do you mean?

    Well with those folks – those people.

    It was good, and I got all this history was told to me all the time and at the time I probably wasn’t as interested in it as I should be, although I did find it fascinating, because now I try to remember some of what they said it’s just gone really, which made me realise the importance of recording things and documenting things really, so yeh – I suppose that’s the first inkling of my real interest in oral history I suppose.

    Is that reflecting back or is that something you think belonged to the time?

    I think reflecting back really – I mean I did have an interest in that sort of thing because when I finished art school and got my degree in painting I immediately decided what I really was interested in was archaeology and of course I didn’t have any money to do another degree, so I’ve just done that on my own, so I’ve read lots of books and visited lots of sites and talked to people about all kinds of things ever since really, but never really had the wherewithal to get it together until I actually moved to Hebden Bridge.

    Just before I moved to Hebden I was doing reminiscence work in Manchester and when I decided to live in Hebden I decided that I was gonna to stay somewhere for a long time to see just what it was like, because through my childhood we’d lived in all these different places and from 1970 to 1985 in England I had been the same. I’d gone to school in Liverpool and London, then I’d moved to Wales for a bit then I moved back to London, then I went back to the States for a year or so and then I went down to Folkestone, back to London and then to Manchester, and eventually I ended up in Hebden Bridge and I thought ‘right I’m gonna stay’ and the first thing I did, because I was doing Community Arts at the time and the first thing I did was to do a Reminiscence Project and…I got Yorkshire TV to lend me a video camera and did some training with them through York University, and I did a small project where I just did ten interviews but we did a lot of workshops in the schools where we did singing and dancing because the themes were toys, games and songs of childhood, so I interviewed the people about their childhood – the older people, about what kind of dances they did, what kind of songs they sang, and then went to the schools and did workshops with the kids based around those, and then we had a kind of big final celebration where we had…musicians playing songs and we got the people….we went into Old People’s Homes as well, neither of them which exist any more – Holme House and Linden House just over here; they were both places where elderly people lived when they couldn’t look after themselves, so we used to go in there and do sing-songs with them and then record them as well, and then we got them all into a local school – it was Central Street School – and they all came down on buses and everything, and we had people doing juggling, diablos and all that, and we had sing-songs and we had the kids doing dances for them, cakes, drinks and that sort of thing and I videoed all that, and that seemed like a very good thing to do so I thought ‘yes I like this, I’ll carry on doing this!

    **And that was 1985? **

    That was a bit later – it was eighty…eighty-eight, eighty-nine over that year.

    So you came to Hebden Bridge in eighty-five?

    No I came here in eighty-seven. I was doing the Reminiscence in Manchester; I came to Manchester in eighty-five and did this Community Arts course and then started practicing it and eventually I got a job doing reminiscence work with the Hospital Arts Team at the MRI, Manchester Royal Infirmary…and that actually led on – someone who was running that actually worked for Manchester Poly at the time, and I got a job in the History of Art Department…creating educational resource packs for schools and colleges and what have you, and I’d probably still be there today but my wife got pregnant, and this all happened right at one time; I was working there and she was a social worker but she’d never done the training but she’d gone into Leeds to get the social work training and what happened was that we’d gone to Scotland on holiday and the car broke down in Hebden Bridge. It was on a Saturday night and we couldn’t get the car fixed for about four days so over that four days we looked at a load of houses and decided tit was a really nice place to live – half way between Manchester and Leeds – and we bought a house. It went through in five weeks, and then about a fortnight later she found out she was pregnant so either she had to give up college or I had to give up work; I gave up work and…and I’ve been here ever since! [laughing] and that was eighty-seven we moved here.

    It’s an interesting way to be introduced to a place

    Well we’d been once before. One of our family traditions is to drive out on Sundays; my parents always did it when we were young, and since my father died that’s what happens; my sister does it mostly now but in those days I did it and I think my mum had read about it somewhere so we came to Hebden Bridge and spent a day here – ‘yeh very nice, that’s good’ and then six months later my wife said ‘that was a nice place, can we go through there on the way to Scotland from Manchester?’ I said ‘it’s a roundabout route but yeh okay’ and then the car broke down and we realised it was just really really good, it was a really nice place, and quite convenient as well, and cheap at that time. The prices were going up then – it wasn’t really dead cheap, but it was cheap compared to in Manchester where we were.

    Where did you stay in those four days?

    We stayed at a bed and breakfast. You go up Oakville Road and that splits – if you take the down road it actually goes to the arches by where the Woodman Pub was; you probably won’t know it, but that’s where the car broke down under those arches and someone told us about this bed and breakfast. The woman who ran it worked for the local estate agent, so we’d go and look at houses and then talk we’d to her about them and she’d tell us if it was a good place or not such a good place, or if that was a decent price or not a decent price, so we were lucky to have that information at our fingertips really and it put us in good stead really.

    It’s a bit like the house where the boy was squirting you with the hose in a way isn’t it?

    Yes, it’s,,,I mean, it just sort of happens.

    Did I misunderstand you – did you say your mother heard about Hebden Bridge and thought it was a good idea to come here?
    Yes.

    So that sort of suggests she came over here.

    Oh yes, they retired in…when did they retire….1980 my father retired from the VA and of course he could combine that with his Air Force years so he was on like thirty-three years worth of pension so he got quite a good pension and they came over and unfortunately he died very soon afterwards; he had a stroke, in fact he had a series of strokes every six weeks almost like clockwork for fifteen months in which I took my mother to see him every day really- they lived in a little town called Manea in Cambridgeshire at that time…and ever since then my mother has followed me about really.

    So is she still with you?

    She’s not with me, she’s got her own house, but she lives in Hebden Bridge, yeh.

    And it sounded like your sister was still here too?

    My sister’s here now; she was married and living in London at the time and when my father died I was in a relationship and moved to London..and then to Folkestone so my mother moved to Folkestone, and then I got on this course – well I moved back to London; well I hurt my back is what really happened – I hurt my back and couldn’t work and my mother wanted to move to London so she did and I stayed with her for a bit, then when I got okay again I helped start up a housing co-op and an art studio and started doing all of that. As part of that process I found out about this Community Arts course in Manchester and got on it so I moved to Manchester to do for a year, so she sold up in London and moved up to Manchester, but her brother was nearby – her brother lived nearby and his kids lived nearby so it wasn’t just that I suppose. Then when I moved to Hebden Bridge she moved up here as well about a year later and shortly after that my sister came up because of everything that was going on; she’d got divorced and wanted a change of scene and everything so she moved as well and we’re all here now.

    She followed you over then – you came over, she’s five years behind you age wise, so she must have come over after high school?

    Well no, when she finished high school she got a kind of bursary grant sort of thing to become a horse master in a place in Minehead in Somerset to train horses and all that, which is what…she really loved horses because she’d had one in the States…Half way through that she met a friend of mine who had gone to art school with me. He’d gone over to the States to stay with a family on holiday and she’d actually met him then, but when she came over here they re-acquainted and they got married secretly, didn’t tell anyone [laughing]. They were together for…seven years or eight years maybe I don’t know, something like that, but it didn’t work out eventually.

    So that places you all in Hebden Bridge, I mean obviously a massive centre of gravity for you in various ways.

    Well it’s become that, yes.

    So what was the progression from the Manchester Reminiscence Project to you know – you broke down and all of that – how did you progress to where you are today?

    Well…let’s think how to explain it…when I first moved to Hebden I was still working at the Poly in the History of Art and when I gave that up…I was just painting really and exhibiting, not making a lot of money I must admit. I started doing community arts work and painting murals and a lot of that work was working with local communities and talking to them about their life and the place in which they lived, and how they wanted that reflected within a mural because quite often it was them helping to produce them; it wasn’t always just me doing it on my own, so an awful lot of what I did was talking to people about their lives and their communities and finding Then ways of using that in a mural that sort of decorated a sports hall, a community centre, a school or whatever it was. I did that for quite some years and it was fine, then I got divorced and I had to get a more ‘steady income’ I suppose is the word because I had to re-mortgage and all that sort of thing. I had a teaching qualification in FE but the work in FE is sometimes sporadic shall we say, so I did a training course in secondary education and I started teaching; I did that for five years, I did some primary as well but I never got a full-time position because they would either have to pay me the full wage because of my experience and qualifications and if they wanted someone of my age they wanted someone – I’d only been teaching for a few years; they wanted someone who had been teaching fifteen or twenty years, and if they wanted somebody new which I was relatively speaking, they could take someone straight out of teacher training college and pay them the lowest they could possibly pay ‘em so I was kind of stuck in the middle, so after five years of this I realised it was going nowhere and thought ‘right’. It got the end of this one summer term and I thought ‘what am I gonna do? I’ve had enough of this, it’s a waste of time’ and I thought back over all the things I’d done in my life and all the rest of it and I realised doing the reminiscence and the kind of oral history stuff – that side of things was something that I really enjoyed – and I thought I should do something like that, and of course jobs in that field are usually based on experience and it was a very much the same young and old sort of thing again, so I decided to start up my own really, if I could and I talked to a lot of people about it. I got a group of people who were willing to be a kind of committee, and I started a community group and realised if it was going to go anywhere it had to be a charity so we formed it into a charity, and we just started applying for funding and we got some from The Scarman Trust and some training from them as well, and there was a lot of training going for free really through the Voluntary Action and through WYCAS and various organisations that help people start things up, so I did it and did the oral history training as well…and then really just carried on from there and just really tried to keep going forward all the time because like I say I never really lived in one house for more than two years until I moved to Hebden Bridge and the fact that I was in one place, lived here all the time, knew a lot of people and talked about the history of the place and their lives really, it became my home and I became committed to here really and it just seemed the natural thing to do; to do something about it because…I used to go into the cafés or pubs and speak to the old people about the work they did and what it was like when it was all mills and it’s fascinating stuff.,

    Then I realised after a while that they’re all dieing off one by one and I thought ‘well really this should be collected’ and through realising that I also realised ‘what about my son?’ He was born here, he’s into his own thing – he’s not really into what I’m into that much but when he gets older he’ll probably think back to when he was little and growing up; having a record of what actually went on his youth would probably be a valuable thing, and it wouldn’t be just for him, it would be for anybody of his age or anybody that might move here, because this is one of the things about Hebden now; you get a lot of people moving here from somewhere else who are interested in the history of it but don’t know that much about it really, and I thought ‘this would be a valuable resource for the people how live here’ and the wider world really, so I started up Wild Rose Heritage and Arts; hopefully it will continue.

    When was the actual start up date?

    Well officially I think 2002 but I was thinking about it previously to that.

    Yeh, nothing ever starts when you say it starts – there’s always a gestation process

    Like I say I started in May thinking about it…kind of had ideas about it through the summer then when September came along I was doing supply teaching and there wasn’t any, so I spent a month just phoning people up – all kinds of organisations and funding bodies, charities, foundations and all kinds of things. I spent a month on the phone talking to people and learned an awful lot. I applied for this grant from the Scarman Trust, they came and saw me and gave me money to buy a video camera…and bits and pieces, all things to go with it, so I started recording then I got an Awards for All to actually start recording people and set up a web site and so I started recording people and set it up and through that time we turned it into a charity and I have continued doing that. I had to get a job in between, being the Environmental Community Warden for Hebden Bridge which was a great job, I quite enjoyed it because it was really just walking around the streets looking for things that needed fixing for lack of a better word, or things that could improve it, so if the drains were blocked I could get them unblocked, if lights were out, if there was graffiti I could get it removed, if there were posters all over the place I could get those removed, but then I started getting paths like fixed for people; older people would say ‘between this road or that road the path’s all wobbly and we fall over in the winter’ so I could get that re-paved for them, then it was – we could put hanging baskets in the town to make it a nicer place. I planted a whole load, about ten thousand bulbs of crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils so that every spring there’s flowers all over the place and in that process I again met an awful lot of people…who would come to me about a problem, like ‘that light’s out – can you get it fixed?’ and that conversation would then turn into a bit of their life history and I would say ‘I also interview people about living in Hebden Bridge, would you mind if I came along?’ ‘oh that’s okay’ and it’s just become my life really, engaging with the people around here so I enjoy my work.

    There’s a huge amount here – I’m not going to do you a very good service here because we’re coming up towards the hour, but there’s a huge amount here that would be fantastic to get into – you mentioned earlier that you were part of Linden Arts – you founded that. You seem to have founded an awful lot of things one way and another – you’ve started a lot of things.

    I’ve helped – I can’t say it’s all me, but yeh in London, a housing co-op and art studio I was part of and then in Hebden I helped set up the nursery which is now – well there’s Moss Lane Nursery – it was just over here originally. There were people trying to do that for two or three years before I came along; they were just at the end of their tether and were going to pack it in. Me and my wife and one or two others came along and gave it new impetus and we weren’t even the main people in it. I was the Treasurer and I helped work out the figures side of it and what have you, but there were people doing other things that made it all happen. And again North Lights Arts Studio – I helped set that up, but again there were two or three people who had decided to do that but they needed others and so I was one of the first of the ‘others’ to come along.

    What was that?

    Again it was an artists’ studio and it’s still going now, although they’ve moved premises recently. I was in that for about…six years I think, then a few of us from there decided that we didn’t want to be there any more – we wanted to have our own separate studio so we came here and set up Linden Arts. As a group I think there were six or seven of us and that’s still going as well. There’s only one original member still, all the others are people that have come in after, which is the nature of art studios I think; lots of people come and go over the years and usually one or two stay over quite a long time. It’s just the way to get things done really.

    When I helped to set up the housing co-operative in London I didn’t know anything about any of this, and what I found is out that if you jump in with both feet in the deep end you either sink or swim and you soon learn how it works, and then if you have like-minded people with you, then you can get a lot of things done – not everything perhaps, but you can get an awful lot of things up and running and it’s beneficial not only to yourself and the other people that you’re working with but usually it extends to the wider community.

    A phrase you’ve used a number of times before we started recording and after, is ‘it’s still going now’ – I mean that’s…well it just stands out.

    Oh right – well the people who are involved now, I mean, it’s them that are keeping it going – it’s nothing to do with me, but I suppose if you set up something that’s reasonable in the first place it allows people to carry on. I think you do need serious people who are committed to whatever it is they are involved in for things to carry on; I haven’t been part of North Lights for twelve years or more, maybe fourteen years, no – about twelve I suppose, so in those years there’s somebody involved that has kept that going, so it’s all power to them.

    It’s the same with Linden – I haven’t been with them for seven or eight years and the people that are in that have kept that going. We have had good landlords I suppose is the word because both of these are in old mills and they’re hard to do anything with, so the fact that they get an income from artists having studios in their buildings means that the building doesn’t deteriorate, they get a regular income and it’s good for everybody all way round really and it keeps the buildings intact, they don’t get knocked down for a start or as the thing is now, they don’t get turned into supposedly modern flats at exorbitant prices.

    How did you recruit the folks – directors for this current project?

    Much of it through word of mouth. Initially it was to do with people who I thought…who I knew were interested in..’cos I talk about this sort of thing all the time, so I knew there was a kind of interest from people…and so I approached them and said you know ‘I have actually started a formal group – would you like to be on the committee?’ and they said yes. From that some people have approached us…and then they’ve sort of joined as it were…it’s as simple as that really, we haven’t advertised or anything, it’s been through people who knew people who wanted to get involved, so you usually get a fair amount of commitment when people get involved in that way I find, so I suppose that’s all there is to say about that.

    I am aware that I’m doing you a disservice because there’s a huge amount; I was expecting us to you know, more into the Hebden Bridge side of things, and if we were starting again, if we had the time to put another tape in, then – there’s a huge amount there that’s all part of the history of the place and part of the texture of your understanding of Hebden Bridge and all the rest of it, which would be great to record – maybe some other opportunity will arise, but do you mind if we wind up?

    No, no – I mean I’m here for you today basically, so if you wanna do more we can do more, but if you haven’t got the time, then that’s fine or if you’ve got other things that you have to get on with then that’s fine.

    That’s what I say – I’m doing you a disservice and I’m aware of it because it’s my time restraints we’re looking at now, not yours. I mean, how do you find that?

    That’s okay.

    I mean, how did you find this whole thing?

    Oh this whole thing – well I have quite enjoyed it really. I am one of these people who can talk forever, and there’s lots of stuff that I could have said that I didn’t say because there was a kind of time limit on it really, because the tapes only last an hour so I’ve cut some of it short [laughing] – it might not sound like it but I have, but I’ve enjoyed talking about this type of thing and it does make me think back; being on this side of the camera is quite different in a way and so it’s made me realise that when I’m on that side of the camera there are other ways I could go about interviewing people I suppose, so I’ve thought about that since I’ve been talking really…so I think it’s – I’ve really enjoyed it, put it that way. I don’t know if this will be of any use to anybody in the future, but it might be – you never know.

    Are there questions that you wished I’d asked that I haven’t asked?

    No, I didn’t have any notion of what it should or shouldn’t be; I was just gonna to be here and respond to your questions really.

    I suppose I should whip out a consent form now – do you have them readily available?

    They’re on the computer – I can print one out, no problem, yeh, and a release form, and an evaluation form if you want ‘em!

    Well I mean they’re all part of the project aren’t they? Seriously, that would be…

    Do you think that this should actually be as part of the project, not just for your evaluation purposes?

    I’m assuming that it’s recorded, and I’m assuming that it would be a useful thing to have in the archives, and there are parts of it that you might even find useful in your various compilations, because you’re part of all this in other ways as well. There’s some fascinating stuff, I mean just as the Environmental Warden – the whole world that you introduced there, you know – there’s a tremendous amount to be talked about you know, and included in all this – so yeh, it should be part of the project

    Okay – I’ll take your word for that! [laughing]

    Okay, thank you very much

    You’re quite welcome. Normally it turns itself off; it’s still recording.

    If you stop talking it turns itself off? [laughing]

    No, when it reaches its time limit it just buzzes and makes a noise and stops, but I’ll stop it now.

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

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
Contact Us