Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Visiting the 'villages' Part 1 : Summer makes me feel better:

Summer makes me feel better.

Summer does make me feel better, it's true. And on top of the usual sense of seasonal discouragement I've had a lot of family misery to deal with in the past 18 months. Not to mention the dreadful goings-on in the wider world.

But getting out in the winter months is often an unattractive prospect, and has to be done for sanity's sake as much as anything, so when I choose a place to visit or shop it needs to have something warm and cheery about it.

I've been going to Haworth quite a lot. A mild winter made the moors bearable most weekends, and I've followed many a trek up to Top Withins with a visit to The Wuthering Heights pub in Stanbury or Cobbles & Clay in Main Street. Two places which always serve something I can eat (I live on a fairly restricted diet) and offer a cosy atmosphere to warm up and dry out.

I've also been poking around Thornton. Last Summer I did a Bronte heritage walk around the village with a local expert so I learnt a more about the Bronte family, St James' Church, the Bronte Bell Chapel, and the Bronte Birthplace on Market Street (now Emily's Italian cafe & deli). It was so interesting that I've been drawn back several times. Recently I called into South Square Centre to see the Cliffe Castle Curiosity Shop exhibition. (By the way, their new cafe, Plenty at the Square, opens soon, so another reason to visit!)

Then last weekend I walked the section of the Great Northern Railway Trail (and part of the National Cycle Network) between Thornton and Queensbury. Parked in Thornton on a lovely Saturday morning, walked the two and a half miles to Queensbury, over Thornton viaduct, up the old station road into Queensbury, After exploring the village and the Mills, I walked back to Thornton.
It turned into a Grand Day Out!

Bronte Bridge near Stanbury

Paperbird Haworth Poster

Thornton Viaduct

Paperbird Bradford villages & districts Tshirt

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Middle-aged misery or pragmatic observer?

We all know that Bradford's an exciting and diverse city, full of challenges with a young population.
For the past 18 years I've loved getting stuck into a lot of what it has to offer.
But I'm no longer young.
I have less energy and admittedly I feel a bit jaded by years of hard work in the city.
Visiting the City centre now requires a massive effort of emotional energy. It's dirty and run down and I don't want a trip out that makes me feel miserable; I want to feel that I've had a 'nice' morning or afternoon out.
Much of current thinking, and therefore the council's emphasis, is about 'offerings' and 'destinations' and to be fair, where possible they've done their best to encourage start-ups and new business.
(I should say here, that in terms of the actual shops, I've never had any trouble finding what I wanted in Bradford, Broadway or no Broadway.)
But the point is that at a time in my life when I have more time and more money, the idea of dragging myself through the vile traffic or waiting for a grubby train (don't even mention buses) fills me with dread.
I no longer like going into town!
It's just where I find myself at this time in my life and most of my peer group feel the same. We feel discouraged (we're no longer young), dispirited (we don't really connect with new bars, or a massive Superdry), tired (we've given our best years in the hope of change) and now we're choosing to spend our money elsewhere.
And on top of this major lack of spend, our children, who are now young adults in their first jobs, don't connect with their hometown as well as the youth of other cities because while they were finding their younger feet, Bradford had so little to offer them that they found other places to go.
So folks, my conclusion is: If you're looking to see young people out enjoying themselves in their home town again and their parents spending their spare dosh in Debenhams, Sunbridgewells etc, be prepared for a long wait ... I'd suggest at least one more generation, and with the looming nightmare of Brexit, maybe two.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Eastleigh, Hampshire

We have a fondness for railway towns so here's some interesting facts about one such place: Eastleigh.

Eastleigh is a railway town in Hampshire, about 5 miles north of Southampton.

There's been a settlement at Eastleigh since at least 932, although its name has changed slightly in more recent times. In 1868 local benefactor, Charlotte Mary Yonge, was asked to choose a name for the newly merged parishes of Eastley and Barton. She chose Eastley, but with a more modern spelling.

It's on a Roman road, in fact important routes have always passed through Eastleigh. 

Eastleigh's industry has been all about clearing a way to maintain and develop those routes, whether that's on the river, roads, rail or in the air. 
It could be said to have been making the way since 932...

Many related industries have brought travellers and settlers who have made it what it is today.

Eastleigh FC are nicknamed 'The Spitfires' because according to the club's website, 'Southampton International Airport (previously known as Eastleigh Airport) was home for the assembly of the Supermarine Type F37/34 Spitfire once the aircraft had been built in nearby Woolston. The F37/34’s maiden flight, piloted by ‘Mutt’ Summers’ and watched by designer R.J. Mitchell, took place at Eastleigh Airport on 5th March 1936.'

A neighbourhood of Nairobi in East Africa is also named Eastleigh. According to the newspaper 'Nairobi News', "due to Kenya's colonization by the British, some of its officials are said to have been using the airstrip [coming from England] Eastleigh in Hampshire. Hence the name Eastleigh was easily coined to refer to the (Nairobi) neighbourhood."

More information on Eastleigh's history:

Tim Lambert's local history
Eastleigh Museum
Eastleigh Civic Heritage
Eastleigh FC Club History

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Real 'Northern Powerhouse': Bradford's Riches

In Bradford some of us have been harassed for years for remaining positive about our city, especially throughout its clearly obvious desperate decline in the 1990s and early 21st century. As the proprietor of a small business, designing and producing souvenirs for the city, I've often been on the receiving end of negative criticism.
It's well known that the infamous 'hole' (where there now stands a shiny new shopping centre) became a symbol of us townspeople's desperation and for over 10 years we suffered it.
But although a shiny new shopping centre is fab, it isn't everything. Bradford is still in the doldrums economically. The Council is obliged to continue cutting back on much of what we hold dear. Our Media Museum, our Jewel in the Crown, is once again under threat from external sources. And it's hardly surprising that the once grand Darley Street has fallen by the wayside since Broadway opened.

Bradfordians have every right to feel attacked on all sides.

Bradford couldn't be described as a wealthy place by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the statistics on the outcomes of the poverty here are frightening. And yet as I persevere with my little business I still argue that Bradford is rich.

So where do I see it?

Its richness lies in its history and geography: The Dale and the Beck gave birth to world beating industry which for centuries has drawn an international workforce, some of whom have become the movers and shakers of modern British society. Bradfordians have shown the way for generations in the virtues of tolerance, even love. Whenever an important social issue becomes headline news, the outside world looks to Bradford to see how we have already handled it. And usually we have already handled it.

Its because of this kind of richness that I still say Bradford is a place that can change you. If you let it.

This city's depth of strength is in its people. Many are themselves immigrants and many more are the second, third, fourth or fifth generation offspring of immigrants. We should remember our history. The city's population snowballed with new workers moving in during the growth of the wool industry. And Bradford continues to attract immigrants today because it has the necessary support in place. Many more deeply good people come to be part of the University and College. Some of them also stay and raise families.

All of our children are growing up in a unique place giving them an experience of childhood like no other. If they choose they can grow up equipped in both head and heart for the 'small' world which, like it or not, we all now inhabit.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Fountain Hall, Drewton Road

I've been aware of this derelict building ever since I arrived in Bradford in 1998. It's next to Westgate carpark, my usual parking spot. 

With a bit of research I discovered that it was the last remaining Georgian building in the vicinity of Fountain Street. The construction of Hamm Strasse, a multi-lane section of the inner ring road, completely changed the nature of the once elegant area. The much missed grand department store, Busby's, stood almost opposite at the bottom of Manningham Lane before it was destroyed by a fire in 1979. 

The black and white picture below shows the building in 1962, a still from a film made to commemorate a visit by Princess Margaret, the present Queen's sister. It was known then as Fountain Hall and was used as a function and ballroom. The other picture shows Fountain Hall's salvaged facade, as it remains today.

Image result for fountain hall bradford princess margaret 1962Image result for fountain hall bradford

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Fabric's Hand Made in Bradford

A few years ago while reading the local paper, I noticed an article about Fabric's  plans to open a pop up shop at 11 Tyrrel Street, a building which forms part of the original famous department store Brown Muff opened by Elizabeth Brown in 1814. 
In its heyday Brown Muff's was loved by locals and visitors alike as the place to go for everything from carpets and kitchens to beauty makeovers and funerals! At the height of its glory, Brown Muffs built a large glass advertisement case in the new Forster Square station to show off its glamorous and expensive outfits for the well to do woman about town. In those days Brown Muffs was known as the "Harrod's of the North".

Brown Muff lasted until 1970 when it was taken over by Rackham's which in turn lasted another 18 years until 1986. Since then the building has been divided into smaller units which currently house Caffe Nero and Boots, among others. The unit which had previously housed Virgin Megastore, followed by Zavvi, was leased to Fabric on a 'pop up' basis.

The fabulous location and the prospect of being involved in an arts charity's interesting new venture got my interest. Coincidentally I ran into an old friend who knew more about it and put me in touch with Fabric's director, Gideon Seymour. An inspiring open evening on site was what I needed to 'sign up'. 

Soon after that, Fabric's volunteers got stuck in painting walls, building counters and assembling shelves and Fabric's Creative Programme Manager Ann Rutherford (now at East Street Arts) began marketing the shop to local artists and makers. A name was decided and more volunteers delivered the branding. Hand Made in Bradford was up and running.

As well as displaying and selling the work of local artists and makers in the main shop, we used the huge space on the first floor for a wide variety of exhibitions and events. Part of this area was sectioned off for a collaborative project with Age UK, called the Picnic Parlour, run by Sarah Cartin. There was also a Children's Gallery curated by Lynne Dobson, a space set aside for emerging and amateur artists called the People's Gallery, and a tiny film studio.

Hand Made in Bradford moved from Tyrrel Street to Market Street where it ran until February 2015. It has now been incorporated into The Handmade Alternative by owners Jane Wynn & Steve Lewsley  and reopened at 49 Godwin Street .

Some facts and figures you may not know about the development and concept of City Park

Some facts and figures you may not know about the development and concept of City Park:
  • City Park contains the largest city centre water feature in the UK
  • The Mirror Pool measures 76m by 58m or 3648 square meters      
  • The pool contains 600 cubic metres of water and over 100 fountains. 
  • The central fountain can reach over 30m high making it the tallest in any UK city.
  • The water in the Mirror Pool is very shallow, up to a maximum of only 220mm. 
  • The fountains have an elaborate series of pre-set programmes which can change depending on the day, the weather and local events.
  • City Park incorporates a water treatment works, allowing the water to be re-circulated as well as a borehole and a rainwater capture system which can supplement the water supply
  • City Park's lighting installation is managed via a central lighting control system, which responds to both the rising and falling water levels and artistic requirements.
  • City Park stems from Will Alsop's masterplan which was drawn up in 2003 and introduced the idea of opening up the city centre and creating a new public space.  It centres on the Victorian City Hall and helps to set Bradford apart from other cities. Its design is based on three ideas:

  1. Hinterland, referencing the City's surrounding hills, countryside, towns and villages which all look inwards to the City while the City looks out
  2. Water, the source of Bradford’s industrial energy
  3. Mirror, an architectural mirror to the city centre, skies and weather. City Park has provided a new "postcard identity".

  • City Park was designed by Gillespies landscape architects and urban designers, Arup, Sturgeon North, Atoll and The Fountain Workshop