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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve and Joanna Anderson

    [TRACK 1]

    TW:

    Okay it’s Tony Wright, it’s the 28th of April 2011 and I’m talking to Steve and Joanna at their home in Mytholmroyd.  In turn, can each of you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    STEPHEN ANDERSON:

    I’m Steven Anderson and I was born in 1961 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

     

    JOANNA CHRISTINA:

    And my name’s Joanna Christina and I was born in 1955 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

     

    TW:

    So you’re both from Newcastle.  Is that where you met?

     

    SA:

    No we met in Leeds.

     

    TW:

    So how did you get to Leeds?

     

    SA:

    I came to Leeds having met somebody who was working in Leeds in 1981.

     

    TW:

    What work was that?

     

    SA:

    It was theatre and I was working at Newcastle Theatre Royal and met somebody who was working for Opera North in Leeds, and moved down at that time.

     

    TW:

    Did you work at Opera North then?

     

    SA:

    Opera North I worked for and Leeds Grand Theatre, and some other theatre, for the City Varieties and the Civic occasionally at that time.  I think the Civic’s still going in Leeds, and I still maintain contact with Leeds Grand; up until a few weeks ago I was working for them

     

    TW:

    What kind of work do you do there?

     

    SA:

    These days it’s stage work; in the earlier days it was electrics – lighting and sound, but having then trained as a joiner in Leeds in 1987, I tend to be on the stage side of things these days, doing sets.

     

    TW:

    And how did you come to be in Leeds then?

     

    JC:

    Well, although I was born in Newcastle a couple of hundred yards from where Stephen was later to live, funnily enough,  my parents moved to London. My father was a Civil Servant, a very clever man, so I was brought up in the south-east and Dad worked at Whitehall, and funnily enough, had just been promoted to come back to Newcastle when he died, so we stayed in the south-east for ages. And then in the eighties I got a bit cheesed off with the political situation in the south-east and decided to move to a Labour area, and I applied for a job as a teacher in Halifax. So I came to Halifax in ’87 and……decided, because I was used to London, decided that I needed to live in a big city and bought a house in Leeds, and that’s eventually how we met, by a long route, although we both happened to start in Newcastle.

     

    TW:

    So were you a teacher in the south before you moved to Leeds?

     

    JC:

    I’d just trained

     

    TW:

    And what had you done previous to being a teacher?

     

    JC:

    Oh gosh, well a lot of things….I was working abroad for a couple of years for Oxfam in Sudan in the famine, and while I was there decided that I would teach so I came back from there and trained…..before that, umpteen things, usually to do with children in various contexts.

     

    TW:

    Well, I’d like to get onto the business that you do together which is ‘I Spice’….how did that come about?

     

    SA:

    …….it had been in the background ever since Jo and I lived together, which is twenty….twenty one years or so, because so often when people have come to eat, they’ve told us to open a restaurant….and it was a sort of standing family joke really “when we opened the restaurant,” but…I was teaching, training to teach at Leeds College of Building and…. was travelling from here to Leeds every day which was a very long day, you know, working with….pre-sixteen children who were…

     

    JC:

    Reluctant

     

    SA:

    Yes, reluctant students [laughing], so twelve hour days, five days a week and also having to train to teach within the work day as well….I became exhausted really…to the point where I took some time off, and in that time off from teaching which was, you know, I really benefited from in many ways……there came up this idea to do something different.  While I was deciding what we should do, ‘I Spice’ was born out of that, and the name ‘I Spice’ was another family joke; it was “I Spice with my pan fry,” which was coined at the dinner table one night and we decided to give it a go and it rapidly took over really; it moved from a casual sort of idea about having seen how it went, to becoming a bona-fide business in a matter of weeks, you know, with the insurance and…..the people that come into the kitchen….Environmental Health…..and all these implications presented themselves, and it became a real business.  It still seems extraordinary that we are managing to create an income from four rings in the kitchen.

     

    JC:

    I mean initially we were just going to see how it went weren’t we?  Put our toe in the water, and so the idea of basket food. But it was so popular, in fact somebody said to us, a customer said to us ‘why don’t you do a curry night?’ I think in about the second week or something, it was very early, and so it snowballed very very quickly, and because we were open to see what would happen, we tried it and it’s been good.

     

    SA:

    And also I think, I don’t know if it’s simply a Hebden Bridge thing that there was an awful lot of support from publicans and customers, which is very encouraging and it still remains very encouraging

     

    JC:

    People are very welcoming, yes that’s true

     

    SA:

    Which is…..confirms this thing that people have been saying for so long when they come to dinner, “Steve you should open a restaurant.” It seems to have a similar context that may be true.

     

    TW:

    How did you come to choose the sort of, the Asian food that you cook other than anything else?

     

    SA:

    Well…..I’ve always had a fondness for it, for the area I’m from in Newcastle which has a strong Asian community; lots of Asians in the street and an Asian supermarket at the end of the street which I became familiar with, an Asian take away, which is now very well known in the area:  Brighton Halal Tandoori, because of its quality and ]it’s got a really long standing nature, people all know of it, and that was my introduction to cooking. When I started cooking for myself I gave up meat in a very standard English cuisine household, and it was the Asian stuff that I started cooking,  which maintained my interest because it was very tasty.

     

    JC:

    But it’s fair to say that introduced you to spices.  We’re doing the Asian stuff at the moment for two reasons.  One, I think the spicy stuff goes well in the basket but really the curry night, because a ‘curry night’ is a concept that works in a pub, and the pub has been our venue. You know, we’ve been looking for premises, in which case our offer would change completely and we would have World food because Stephen’s very good with Middle Eastern, Chinese and Thai. So spices is the theme rather than Indian.

     

    TW:

    Oh right, I see, yeah.

     

    JC:

    But that’s what you see at the moment [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So a kind of, a place of your own to actually start a restaurant; that’s your vision of where it would go?

     

    SA:

    I think we remain open to what comes along really.  It’s……we present as very well formed in what we’re doing because of the way Jo has presented it, people see it as this is what this is, it’s very convincing.  The….in the back of my mind what we’re doing remains quite open and we’ll just see how it goes, rather than ‘this is what we’re doing’

     

    JC:

    Having said that, we have pursued a premise so that was an idea at one point.  It hasn’t materialised.

     

    SA:

    There’s no fixed idea about what we’re going to do in a premise. If a premise came along. we would do what felt pertinent to that location, that’s…..as a craftsperson, coz I’m a joiner and I’ve also worked with special needs which was fantastic…..it really opens your view of yourself and people; for me it’s a way of being receptive to what is actually happening rather than having a fixed idea of anything, so creativity is what I would like to feel is the starting point of anything that we do, and see how we can best respond to a premise, or a particular location, or working with a particular group of people to get the….what was correct for that situation.

     

    TW:

    What had been the drawbacks to finding a premise then?  A premises should I say, because you’re just looking in Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge.  Have you looked further a field or is it the cost, the business rates, what stopped you from doing that?

     

    SA:

    Well there’s those factors you’ve mentioned, there’s….the nature of the food we present….which is without meat or dairy stuff

     

    JC:

    Which ties us to Hebden Bridge, really.

     

    SA:

    It dictates a client group, it seems, although we still remain open to other ideas, but…..along the lines of what I was saying about going into somewhere and feeling you would do what was important for that location, there was also going into a place and feeling ‘well we could do something with this’ which…..when we were looking for a house in the area, we looked at dozens of houses and we never thought we’d be in a brick bungalow, but coming into it, we thought,  ‘we could do something with it’

     

    TW:

    So you picked this house because you thought you could develop it and add to it and change it, and turn it into a home, the kind of place you’d like to live?

     

    SA:

    Yeah.  There was potential, to do something and scope for the creativity that we have, for my skills as a craftsperson.  Jo’s very complementary skills and vision of things. We work very well together at the things we approach together. I have the practical skills and Jo has a much more…..integrated vision of how things could be.

     

    TW:

    So this vision that you possess, when you look at this house….how did you look at it?  What did you envisage then of it becoming

     

    JC:

    Well, it’s a bungalow but it had an attic space that was tall enough to stand in, and it has a cellar, so two huge empty spaces.  We’ve converted the attic space and we may yet do the cellar, although practical things always take longer than you think, and we’ll see, we’ll see….but I think to answer the question about what stopped us getting premises, we have seriously pursued a place for some months, and it turned out that….let’s say…the state of the property wasn’t adequate for us to invest our energy and our monies in that, and as something else came up, the planning wouldn’t have it you know, so at the moment it’s not obvious how that will transpire.

     

    TW:

    It seems how you do curry nights in pubs, and pubs are closing down, would it not perhaps be an idea to look at buying a pub where you cold actually live as well as have your business, or would that be too constraining do you think, or too expensive?

     

    SA:

    It’s something that we considered, but the…..we discuss these things

     

    JC:

    On a regular basis [laughing]

     

    SA:

    It feels as though when something’s correct, like coming here, “Oh yes, this is worthwhile putting some effort into,” and there are other times when we’ve thought ‘we could have a go at that.’ And we got this other property that Jo was talking about, and we went along the way, being open-minded about it, and then it came to the point where we thought ‘no this isn’t going to work’ and…

     

    JC:

    And that’s how we do it, and that’s fun, it’s fun to do things that way, and because you know, you re-design your offer and you think ‘well what can I do in this space as opposed to the other space’ and that’s kind of fun, because you’re renewing your thoughts all the time, which alters how you then continue with the thing that you’re doing, so it informs that very small thing that we’re doing now which is lovely. But this space is great and we have a family, and we have Steve’s dad living with us so it’s not obvious that we’d move from here, it’s more of a question of how we can extend what we’re doing in a different way, and a premises may not materialise; it may be that we support other pubs, or, you know…we’ll see.

     

    SA:

    Well, like you’re saying about pubs closing down, it’s quite a painful process to witness that, and at the moment what we’re doing, it feels as though has been supportive to pubs in us going in; no commitment for the pub, we’ve done what we’ve done, taken it in, and pulled some extra people in who wouldn’t have gone in otherwise, so it feels like a supportive thing to be doing for the local pubs.

     

    JC:

    And working together is great, I mean getting to know people and working together with businesses that are here already is perhaps what we should be doing, but we’ll just wait and see.

     

    SA:

    And there’s lots and lots of thing that, you know, in our discussions we get lots of ideas that could enhance that.

     

    JC:

    Local suppliers, that’s another thing you see, using local business and that’s something that we’re beginning to go down now, is to use local suppliers so we really want to make it a local thing, and the premises is just one option.

     

    TW:

    So you’ve been in contact with farmers around and about?

     

    JC:

    Yes, and we have a supplier which will be able to provide some of what we use, and that’s really positive.

     

    SA:

    It’s very good stuff and not a conglomerate. 

     

    TW:

    I’ve got a sort of mixed question really.  Some pubs are closing down, but other pubs are actually turning more into restaurants rather than pubs, and partly it’s sort of…how does that affect the kind of thing that you do – going into pubs, bringing food into pubs; pubs that already have a  kind of menu as it were.  Presumably they’re not the sort of places that you would go to, and therefore which pubs have you been to – I mean would your rather say that or not say that

     

    SA:

    Well, we can refer to the nature of the pub without naming the pubs.  We’ve been in three pubs which have food offers themselves,

     

    JC:

    We’re in our fourth.

     

    SA:

    and they’ve been happy for us to go in because what we do is rather different, very different to what they’re offering, and I think the quality of what we do has been recognised, it’s quite distinct, so it’s not an issue.

     

    JC:

    I think the other thing is….that it seems that taking our food into a pub brings into the pub people who otherwise would not go to a pub, or that pub, and that kind of slightly changes the nature of the place you know, which I think is probably a good thing, as pubs are struggling to find their identity and their purpose.

     

    TW:

    I mean so, apart from you have the curry nights in pubs, but you also take a basket round and so for the finger food I suppose, in larger variety of pubs I should imagine.  How do those two things balance up within your sort of distance plan or kind of you know, venues that you go to, what sort of balance is there between the two?

     

    JC:

    I think it’s rather….there’s an overlap of clientele, but they are a bit different as well.  I mean obviously I’m selling finger food to many many more people, and it’s the late night crowd, it’s the people who are choosing to go to those venues anyway. Some of those people then come to the curry, but the curry being early evening, the people are coming for that usually, rather than just in the pub ‘oh and there’s a curry’ whereas they’re in the pub already for the basket food, it’s very much more revellers and party atmosphere with the basket food, and gorgeous food though it is and surprised though people are by the quality of it you know, as they are with the curries, they’re not necessarily making that choice in the way that they are to come and eat a meal. So it’s slightly different although there’s the link because you know, people get turned on by the finger food.

     

    TW:

    Well there is a tradition – there was a chap called Sammy Pie – I don’t know if you’ve heard of him

     

    JC:

    Not a particular individual, no.

     

    TW:

    He had a pie shop up Heptonstall Road and obviously he sold from the shop, but one of the main things that he did was take his pies all around the different pubs

     

    JC:

    In a basket?

     

    TW:

    Yes, at the end of the day

     

    JC:

    Oh interesting.  I haven’t heard that at all.  I’ve heard of the fish man

     

    TW:

    Yeah the fish man was cockles etc, but that was slightly later, so you’re carrying on a grand tradition really

     

    JC:

    How interesting

     

    TW:

    Which I think is a fascinating way of looking at it, so you have a pie man, a fish man and now

     

    JC:

    Spicy

     

    TW:

    And now a spicy one

     

    SA:

    …….there was a chap in Leeds that gave us…..something of the idea of going round the pubs, because he would go round a few pubs in Leeds late at night…..I don’t know if he had a basket or what he had, but onion bahjis and samosas…..so he was doing it in the mid eighties

     

    JC:

    It’s interesting you say that though because one of the pubs that we approached to start doing the basket food in Halifax…..initially the landlady said of her husband,  ‘oh no he doesn’t like food in the pub’ but when we spoke to him and explained how we did it with a basket and so forth, he bought it because it was a traditional image and his is a traditional pub absolutely. So we are the only food that goes into that pub, which is quite an honour really because it looks traditional, although obviously what we’re doing is not. So that’s quite interesting that you’re saying that.

     

    TW:

    Yeah.   I wanna get a bit more on to how you worked on the house and the different kinds of skills that you both have in bringing it together, so, joinery work and stone work or the sort of alternative energy that you’ve tried to incorporate.  Has that been a kind of slow progress of things, or how have you managed to do it really?

     

    SA:

    Well the skills that I have, have been accumulated over the last…..thirty years I suppose, you know, working in the theatre to start with and then training as a joiner….then I worked with a restoration builder in Herefordshire on green oak buildings, with the green oak construction and then…..I worked for another joiner within the Camphill scene– do you know Camphill?

     

    TW:

    I don’t, no

     

    SA:

    It’s for special needs which is a world-wide facility, Rudolf Steiner is the underlying philosophy and there was a joiner that I worked for on a project at Bottom Village, which is the largest Camphill in Britain and that was a very interesting renovation of a barn…..thirteen bedrooms, but that Camphill which is fantastic

     

    JC:

    Although our children always went to Rudolf Steiner schools when they were young, but this was the Camp Hill bit, it is a kind of the way we were thinking already.

     

    SA:

    And then we moved from North Yorkshire to Aberdeen and I worked with another builder there who was also…(I only just realised the connection here actually) that he was working for a Camphill as well, but then…..an association came about with this particular Camphill and they were looking for somebody to occupy a workshop and that…..again it was one of those opportunities, I thought ‘that’s worth having a go at, I could do something with that’ but I’d no idea what it was.  I went in and set the workshop up and was producing a lot of bespoke stuff, I had license to produce anything I wanted to with special needs people, so long as it was the special needs people that were actually doing the work, so I was guiding them, which was a great enhancement of my quite traditional training, that I was able to…..put but also  a way that I could... use my own ingenuity and creativity to produce ways for special needs people, some with very few motor skills, to produce some work, by making jigs and changing the process so people could actually make something. So all of that has, I would say, has manifested here in the skills I’ve employed to…..and also the green side of things and sustainability has been quite prevalent in Camphill, so again there’s been some knowledge I’ve gained there.

     

    TW:

    Can you elaborate a bit more on that green side of things?  When you talk about….you know, using wood…..what green issues are there about the types of wood that you use, or this sort of thing, what is part of your philosophy on that, on materials?

     

    SA:

    Well I’ve re-used much of the wood that was taken out of the roof because……rafters and purlins and joists and so on that were taken out of the roof, I’ve re-used all of that wherever I could, the roof latts off the tiles when I re-roofed it, as well as introducing quite high specification insulation…..just reducing waste. On a building site there’s no doubt policies in place to try and do this but it’s very difficult to do that when you’ve got the foreman saying ‘have you done that yet?’  Here I’ve taken it very slowly, but done it in a way that feels more comfortable with how I think it should be done, which is again built on this…..five years that I had in special needs workshop where there was no time constraint and I produced the best quality work I’ve ever produced, because I thought ‘well if it’s not going to be done in this situation, that just negates the thing having been set up to be able to be sensitive to the person and to the materials. I felt a profound obligation to produce the highest quality work I knew how to produce, which was a joyful experience, and that translates now to everything I do.

     

    TW:

    And what’s your take on that then, you know, recycling and not creating waste.  Does that philosophy go through not just the house but in your vision of what it should become, or what it could become for the family?

     

    JC:

    Well I’m much more wasteful than Stephen.  I straddle the two worlds of consumerism and ecology much more than Stephen does.  I think Stephen, you’d be quite happy to live in a shoe box in the middle of a field wouldn’t you really? I like things to be comfortable…..but at the same time having worked abroad and understanding…..through my connections with various countries and so forth and foreign students when I was at university, the obligation that we have in the Western developed world, how we live at the expense of others…..you know, one cannot ignore the need to consider the implications of everything one does, and everything that one chooses, and everything that one consumes.  So I’m not without that understanding, and so it’s been….between both of us we’ve created a very comfortable house, it’s a very beautiful house.  It’s very woody because of Stephen, being wood conscious, so the floors are wooden and so on, and it’s highly insulated; insulation was the number one thing, to conserve our use of energy and it’s great to have the solar panels and we’re hoping to have put up some on the garage flat roof, and being south facing, a photovoltaic facility will help put energy into the grid. So these are all things that’s it’s great to be able to do

     

    TW:

    That last word that you said there, I don’t quite know what it means

     

    JC:

    [to Stephen] Do you know what it means dear? [in a funny voice]

     

    SA:

    Which is that?

     

    JC:

    Photovoltaic

     

    SA:

    It turns sunlight into electricity.

     

    TW:

    Oh, so it’s a solar panel, but it’s a different sort of solar panel is it?

     

    SA:

    Yeah, it collects the sunlight and turns it into electricity rather than just heat. 

     

    TW:

    Do you use that electricity for your own home or does it just get put into the grid

     

    SA:

    You do, if you’re not using it, and if there’s still electricity being produced it goes into the grid. I’m not sure how that works, it seems extraordinary! 

     

    JC:

    What a fantastic idea, isn’t it great!  You know, we’ve got the sunlight, we’re in a position to be able to set that up, so I think it’s just wonderful to be able to do that.  So yes, I mean as people, as we grow and understand as people, in time, in your life, it’s wonderful to be able to do small things like use the local producers, you know, into our business; it’s making real what are ideas and that is great.

     

    TW:

    So it’s sort of like a philosophy that you’re actually living and trying

     

    JC:

    One tries…..one tries, yeah, you know, one tries, but it’s hard, it’s very hard, and with children coming in and wanting everything that everybody else has got, you know, it is… it’s tough.

     

    TW:

    Well how does that tie in then – your children, what do they think about this philosophy?  I mean if they went to Steiner schools they must have had that sort of creative attitude.  How does that actually tie in with this sort of ecological

     

    SA:

    We’re delighted that we got them through the early years in Steiner schools.  None of them went to the…….got them through the second seven years,  although they all started the second seven years.

     

    TW:

    I know a bit about it, yeah

     

    SA:

    There are three seven year cycles basically and we’re delighted we got them through the first seven, because that’s the…..

     

    JC:

    The formative stuff

     

    SA:

    Learning without the formal education

     

    JC:

    Wonderful

     

    SA:

    So they do have that in their background and in their thinking, somewhere, but as Jo says, it’s difficult to maintain that way of thinking when the culture is as it is, so all pervading in a consumerist way.

     

    JC:

    It was very much easier in Camphill.  We were both involved in Camphill and the children were around that a lot, and when they went to the Waldorf School, the Steiner School, it was much easier because their whole social world was orientated you know, towards more or less the same thing and although the children at certain ages everywhere go through rebellions, you know, they were still contained within that general world.  The difficulty then arises when they started going to mainstream schools and it’s a very different culture, so then there’s that clash, but you know, each of the children is going through their own life process, and so they’ve been through total rejection of everything Rudolf Steiner, and I think our son who’s now twenty one this year understands, you know, that who he is, is built on these things that we have tried to share with him. And the other two girls who are younger are…..although I would say our older daughter who is nineteen next month, begins, now that she is thinking of having children herself, of having her own children at some point, begins to realise, you know, what we did, and the choices that we made and why. Now whether they will replicate that I don’t know, but they understand it more, whereas our thirteen year old is still full on – no this is rubbish, I want to consume, you know! [laughing]

     

    SA:

    I don’t know if I considered it like this before, but I think they do, but the background that they’ve been given in those early years does, later on, present as a choice – they can choose themselves then in a way that…it’s difficult to judge other people’s……

     

    JC:

    And we shouldn’t

     

    SA:

    And we shouldn’t but it’s very difficult not to when you see people moving about it seems the idea of choice – the market would be very happy to removed that idea of choice

     

    JC:

    And you are saying that we can

     

    SA:

    Well choice is the word – the buzz word – it’s…..all you can do is choose to consume, and it’s not the case

     

    TW:

    Do you think living in this area, this Upper Calder Valley area….I mean, why did you come here?  Was it because of….it was a bit more open-minded to your ideas or was it by accident?

     

    SA:

    It was to do with a couple of things….we wanted to come back to Yorkshire; Aberdeen was too cold for Jo [laughing], and I had enjoyed my youth, my twenties in Yorkshire very much.  Jo had fond memories of the children’s young years when we were in Yorkshire, and at the time in Aberdeen it came to a particular point in the children’s education where there was a moment of ‘this is the time to go’ for the exams, type of thing, and the other two were also in vocational dance at the time, and we met somebody in this area who said there was a good department at Calder High which…

     

    JC:

    And a good vocational teacher

     

    SA:

    And a good vocational teacher, yes, at Hipperholme 

     

    JC:

    It wasn’t just that though, because when I first moved here, when I was a teacher in Halifax in the eighties, I very nearly bought a house in Cragg Vale. I loved this area – this was before I’d met Steve – and I loved this area, but decided, because I was used to London, to move to Leeds and so we used to come out from Leeds for day trips here, and you know, it is ravishingly beautiful….so I had always felt very drawn to this, you know, the hills and fields and the stone walls and the smallness of it all, and I knew Halifax and I loved working with the Asian kids which was what I was teaching at the time, so Leeds seemed too big.  When we were in Aberdeen, Leeds just seemed too big and too hectic and we thought ‘oh we’ll come here’ so we did, so there’s a connection.

     

    TW

    How long have you actually been here now?

     

    SA:

    ….2006 I think it was, nearly five years

     

    TW:

    And how have you found those years then?  The last say five years.

     

    SA:

    Well we’ve done a huge amount, I’ve trained to teach which was never something I thought I was gonna do, but it came about because of my teaching experience in the special needs place, and a friend who knew we were moving to the area sent me an advert for a job at Leeds College of Building, and I responded to that and ended up working there.  Which entailed learning to teach and then moving here, did all this work on the house and then starting this small business.  It’s been quite busy.  Now my father, who’s ninety three years old, has moved in with us, so one of the things that we’re conscious of is the size of the house and wanting to use it and see it used in a functional way rather than simple being a family home, so in some regard, that’s been achieved as well.

     

    TW:

    I know it’s pure speculation, but do you think your children will want to stay in this area, or do you think they’ll want to see the wider world and then move on or perhaps, then later on come back.  Have they spoken to you about any of their thoughts on that?

     

    JC:

    Our older daughter is I think very conscious of wanting to go back to Scotland, yeah.  She has some very good friends there and was very happy there.  I think it’s fair to say that educationally it’s not been a good move for them; it’s been hard….and I think she’d like to go back there, and our younger one is only thirteen so it’s very hard to say.  I would love to think that we could still be in touch with our children because having raised the children without parental support – my parents died, you know, very young, I would like to be around for my children’s children, but…..que sera….but I must say this area has brought….despite the education thing I just said, it has brought a lot of other gifts to my children, wouldn’t we say?  I mean it’s a very relaxed area which I think in some ways is very good for them

     

    TW:

    What other good aspects are there then?

     

    JC:

    Well I think education in Scotland is quite high pressure; it’s high achieving, it’s very ‘good’ in quotes, you know, kids achieve, but it’s high stress and it’s very relaxed round here, and there’s pros and cons to that, but…….the fact that it is relaxed, and generally people are very welcoming, it’s very informal, and our son particularly has found his niche here I would say; that’s been very good, you can’t have everything and I love this area.  The whole place is steeped in history; you go for walks and you see, the mill chimneys and the little ginnels and the donkey tracks on the hills, and how people have dealt with what in the previous years would have been a challenging environment – damp, the water, the hills, the stones in the soil, and the way that they’ve handled it, I think it’s fascinating to see and you can see that all the time; you’re very aware in this area of your place within history.

     

    TW:

    Do you think that’s important then?

     

    JC:

    Crucial.  It keeps you……like when you’re walking in a forest of old trees, it keeps things in perspective

     

    TW:

    Do you think the environment that you live in then, helps to form the personality and character of the person?

     

    JC:

    Absolutely….absolutely, I mean as incomers we bring things with us, but we carry with us the environment in which we have lived and grown, certainly, and the people we’ve met and the memories that we have and the dreams that we have, we all bring to this, and it’s a very eclectic area.  You have the people who’ve always been here and who always will be here I guess, who are sort of the bedrock in a way and you’ve got a different strata of people who come and go, and people who come and stay, so it’s enormously rich and when there is a general ‘mores of inclusion, it’s tremendous.  People can come and they’re welcomed……you know, it’s a very rich area.

     

    TW:

    I mean, building the house and doing the business the way you do; do you actually have time then to explore the landscape and look at the past

     

    JC:

    Not as much as I would like! [laughing] But that time will come…..it will

     

    SA:

    But there’s a consciousness of it, and the last five years have been…..there’s obviously been times when we’ve been able to do that, but I think more and more there’s a consciousness of the need to do that

     

    JC:

    Yes.  We’ve come almost to the end of the cycle of building…..and planning and so forth, you know, planting and so forth, so that’s….we’re going to jealously guard that space and perhaps do another cycle of building, we’ll wait and see, but yes, I think we need to really, really want to spend more time being here and enjoying what we’ve done, and not just create and create and create and build and build and build which we have been doing…..very successfully, but you know, hard work.

     

    SA:

    But there’s also…an aspect of the work that we’ve done, particularly with the small business, which has integrated us into the wider community in a way that we would have had no chance had we not done the small business, and the people that we’ve met and the support that we’ve had has been terrific, really lovely.

     

    TW:

    That’s very good.  I know it’s again speculation, but resourcing local suppliers…..that’s an aspect I’d just like to know a little bit more about

     

    JC:

    It’s great isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Well I think it’s something that a lot of people want to try and do.  How have you actually gone about that.  Have you just

     

    JC:

    Well it started with the Transition Day in Hebden Bridge last year.  We went along to that and Stephen was doing green woodworking, and people were very interested in that, and I went off to the food meeting – the first food meeting – and said ‘we have a small business, we’re looking for local suppliers’ and mostly local people are producing meat, so that really didn’t work terribly well, but having made that statement, that group carried on meeting which I wasn’t able to do because you know, with the business and other things, but having expressed my interest, and then that group has set up a programme called Heb Veg, which is contacting I think mostly it’s mostly a supplier at Hipperholme who is growing vegetables, and we started getting a box for the family, and we’ve found the supply to be consistent enough and the quality to be good enough for us now to introduce that into our menu. So from mid May when that project starts again, one of our five dishes on curry night is going to be exclusively Heb Veg, so we’re gonna call it Organic Heb Veg and then whatever the dish is as a way of promoting to our customers, this box system.

     

    TW:

    Right.  Are there any other suppliers that you would like to be in touch with do you think, or…..cos there’s the Organic Growers Society, Heb Veg, the apple people and they seem to have connections with all sorts of ecologically sound growing method’s and other suppliers.  It might be just slightly out of the area; I mean would you consider, you know, going down that route and looking slightly further a field?

     

    JC:

    Contacts are what we need and this is what’s presented itself, so we can use…..we can use, yeah, we can use contacts.  We’ve got on our web site ‘we’re looking to contact local suppliers’…the cost of our meals is not high, so we have to consider the cost of products obviously, but we’re gonna see how this Heb Veg goes and yeah we want to contact more people, definitely.

     

    TW:

    This green woodwork that you were doing for Transition Towns, I mean what were you actually doing – what did you actually do on that day?

     

    SA:

    I had this lathe, which is over here, which two people can work on.  I got some green wood from….the coppice people.

     

    JC:

    Treesponsibility

     

    SA:

    Treesponsibility…Knottwood Coppicers, they gave me some green wood and I demonstrated the process of how to turn the green wood several times throughout the two days; a small sort of demonstration splitting a log and describing the process to people and trying to produce bits throughout the process so people could see how things progressed, and then inviting people to have a go, so we had over twenty, perhaps as many as thirty people had a go over the two days and there was one or two people who took things……..you know, who were really keen, stayed for the best part of an hour and took some things from the log to the finished item, took it home with them which is lovely, it is, just fantastic.

     

    TW:

    Was that the first time you’d done that?

     

    SA:

    Well no, I came across green wood work while I was working with the special needs people in Aberdeen.  I saw a similar thing to what I did on that Transition Town day; I saw a demonstration in Aberdeen shopping centre, an outside place, and realised it would be a really good thing for special needs people to do.  It’s not a power tool, you have to peddle it yourself. so if you come across a difficult knot or something everything stops; there’s no tools thrown out of your hand; it is actually ideal for people with difficulty in picking skills up, but also of course, the thing that was revealed by the green wood work was how much skill could be developed over a period of time; I said earlier the lack of time limit in producing anything allows me to take the time to do the job and there was one chap I can think of in particular who produced some chess pieces…..and a chess set took maybe three years to make and he produced both the kings and one of the queens from start to finish, so

     

    JC:

    Great big things they were

     

    SA:

    He was a chap that had virtually no verbal communication at all…..but he had the

    co-ordination and the patience, and patience is…..a virtue that a lot of special needs people have that would be welcome to everyone.

     

    TW:

    Do you think there’s a broader educational use shall we say of showing people old skills and it would help people to understand the past more than the instant society we have today?

     

    SA:

    Absolutely.  It’s

     

    JC:

    And not just the past.  It connects people with their environment so much more doesn’t it?

     

    SA:

    Well something like this does – well, yes well, the green wood work is not the only skill learned in that way through a connection with what they call the Hiram Trust, Hiram being the name of a craftsman in the Bible, the Hiram Trust was set up by a Steiner School teacher and they look at pottery by digging clay up and processing it and making your own kiln, firing it which I’ve done.

     

    TW:

    I’ve done that

     

    SA:

    It’s fantastic isn’t it, but also using a pit forge and roasting….seeing ore crushed and roasted and turned into a bloom in a kiln that’s been made on site in the woods powered by leather bellows, but also skinning a deer and learning how to tan it, making things out of leather, and doing basket work.  These…..I would say are, as Jo’s suggested are crucial in making people realise that we live in an environment

     

    JC:

    I think the other thing as well isn’t it, because while those sorts of activities that are a bit ‘trendy’ and…I mean my children I would say are a bit arty-farty because they are children of a consumer age, what I think’s really important about those kinds of activities is not just they’re random ones, is they’re incredibly empowering, (there’s another trendy word) but if you understand that you can actually dig a hole in the ground and get a material, you can do that, you know, here, now, in this garden, get a material that you can then turn into something that is useful that you can live with for twenty years before it breaks, you know. Or you can take a piece of that tree and turn it into something you use, it’s an extraordinary realisation that you can survive, you know, you can survive as a human; you don’t have to go to a shopping mall to get what you need, you can actually do it yourself, and it is a liberation. And what we’ve got away from terribly you know, and a lot of the therapeutic…a lot of the re-educating aspects of those kind of activities for children – youth boys maybe mostly – who have lost it, whose behaviour has just fallen apart for whatever reasons, those kinds of activities are incredibly centring and bring the children back to a sense of meaning which most children don’t do because they don’t go that far away from their sort of central core; other things hold them in place, but those basic tactile environmental activities bring people back to themselves – it’s not the only way, you know, meditation and dance and so forth, but that is a way of healing, and so if we get rid of all those things…do we get ill?

     

    TW:

    Couldn’t those kind of activities be used in the mainstream for people who aren’t on the edges, shall we say, to make them rethink the consumerism that you were on about.

     

    SA:

    Absolutely.  Referring back to this special needs workshop I did, I had helpers –volunteer helpers – mainly young German lads that were from, well educated guys who were choosing to do Civil Service rather than Military Service because they still have.…not conscription?

     

    JC:

    National Service.

     

    SA:

    National Service, so they would come and volunteer for twelve months and have their own student that they looked after from seven in the morning till eleven till bedtime, six days a week

     

    JC:

    And during the night

     

    SA:

    And during the night. But what you’re saying about the benefits for traditional craft for mainstream people – the….realisations that were witnessable in some of these very well educated young lads was tangible – what they got from it; realising that you could do….you could make something out of what was just around you, and it’s a revelation, and a great liberation, and to realise this, how it should be.  When I was doing teaching at Leeds College of Building  I took, pole laithe in twice, once to show the lecturers, and they thought it was fantastic, and once as a Christmas activity to a set of students – sixteen, seventeen year old lads and they just thought it was marvellous, and it is.   You pedal and you….turn a piece of wood.

     

    JC:

    And yes, it’s a crucial antidote really in education where so much is dependant on the computer programme or the targets that have, you know, been handed out from on high.  The idea that children can, or people can, create something out of nothing themselves in a very simple way…yeah, powerful stuff

     

    TW:

    I totally agree with that; I think it’s the sort of thing that should be introduced into schools as part of the curriculum, and you mentioned the whole variety of activities from you know, leather and pottery to woodworking and the rest, and that wouldn’t mean that you’d have to set up a craft school but you could introduce them….

     

    SA:

    Well you can because the materials that you need are almost negligible; the tools you need are very few for felting or basketwork, and it opens up

     

    TW:

     It opens up the mind, I think

     

    SA:

    But it also…when we were cooking on Tuesday, the water went off for an hour and we just..,.I consider myself fairly conscious of the comfort in which we live, but it is hard when the water goes off. I was fairly relaxed and fairly confident it was gonna come back on, why I mention it is the….like you were saying a minute ago about the…is it helpful to do the traditional stuff, because  unless you understand how it was, you can’t appreciate how it is – it’s not possible.

     

    TW:

    That’s an interesting way of looking at it. …..I think we’re on our last ten seconds, so I’d like to thank you both for this, and I think we’ll probably call it an end there if that’s alright, unless there is anything else that you really wanted to say that I haven’t asked you about

     

    JC:

    We’re led by you Tony [laughing]

     

    SA:

    Don’t vote Tory.

     

     [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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