Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Theatre: Big Bad Wolf Shot in Halifax

A BBC production of Three Little Pigs was filmed at Victoria Theatre, Halifax, this week and featured children from schools in Calderdale.

Produced in collaboration with Northern Ballet, the retelling of this classic children’s story will be aired on the BBC’s channel for young children, CBeebies over Easter.

Three Little Pigs follows on from the BBC and Northern Ballet’s award-winning production of The Ugly Duckling from last year.

CBeebies star Ben Faulks, who plays Mr Bloom in Three Little Pigs, said: “It’s been brilliant. The kids have been fantastic - they really bring the story to life.”

Mr Bloom helps the pigs to build the best house to protect them from the Big Bad Wolf.

Last year, the crew filmed The Ugly Duckling at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre, continuing support for the region’s theatres.

Ben said: “The Victoria Theatre is a fantastic space - it’s very ornate and it’s been a fantastic experience filming here.”

Ben is best known for his role on the popular CBeebies show Mr Bloom’s Nursery which teaches children that fruit and vegetables can be fun.

Working with Northern Ballet has given been an inspiring process for Ben, he said: “They’re amazing dancers, so it’s been great to watch them in their element.

“The Ugly Duckling was very successful, and this one has been great, so I imagine that a third production would be great.”

This article was published by the Halifax Courier on February 21, 2014.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Politics: Unions will fight 'tooth and nail' against sick pay proposals

Unions have vowed to fight ‘tooth and nail’ against Liberal Democrat and Conservative plans to restrict council workers’ sick pay.

The measures will curb sick pay for most council employees for the first three days of any sickness absence, and are part of amended budget proposals which could be passed at tomorrow’s annual budget meeting at Halifax Town Hall.

Leader of Conservative group Stephen Baines (Northowram and Shelf) said council workers in Calderdale take an average of 9.1 sick days per year - almost double the private sector average.

He said: “We think that’s fundamentally wrong and we have to take steps to take control.

“Some employees feel that it is part of their benefits to have time off for sickness.”

The changes will reward staff who take no sick leave overin a year by giving them an extra holiday day the following year.

Council leader Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said an agreement was made by all parties last year about the best way to manage sickness absence.

He said: “All parties agreed that it wasn’t a good idea, so why they’ve changed their minds now I don’t know - I don’t think they’ve thought it through.

“We agree that sick pay needs to be a lot better managed, but sickness levels are lower now than when Councillor Baines was leading the council.

“We’ve been clear with managers over the past year about managing sickness, but if people aren’t fit to come into work, they shouldn’t be in work.

“When this was discussed by all three parties, there was agreement that this wasn’t the way to go and wasn’t about using crude financial sticks and carrots.

“There will be uproar from the unions and we’ll spend the next year in industrial disputes if they push this through - it’s completely unworkable.”

Councillor Colin Stout (Ind, Brighouse), said Calderdale Council already has the lowest levels of sick pay of any West Yorkshire local authority and criticised the way the coalition added the plans to an amended budget.

He said: “If they’ve got proposals, they should have put them out weeks ago - it shows complete contempt for the other councillors and the constituents in their ward “

If voted through, Coun Baines hopes to see the new rules come into effect in October.

Putting these proposals into practice, however, may not be as straightforward as the coalition hope as they will go up against stiff resistance from unions. Ted Ashman, branch secretary for Calderdale local government branch of UNISON which has 1,800 members working for Calderdale Council, criticised the plans as “cruel and counter-productive.”

He said: “There has been no consultation with the public that these parties were elected to represent, and absolutely none with UNISON.

“It is simply wrong to ignore our views and those of our members who we all rely on to deliver essential services every working day of their lives.

“UNISON will fight tooth and nail against these plans.”

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 23, 2014.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Politics: Anger at ‘secret' budget deal move

Labour and independent groups on Calderdale Council are furious over ‘secret' amendments made to the council's forthcoming annual budget.

The new measures were announced at a press conference at Halifax Town Hall on Wednesday by members of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups.

Labour council leader Tim Swit (Town) has issued an urgent call for the leaders of the Conservative and Lib Dem groups to publish the full details of their ‘secret' budget deal.

Coun Swift said: "While the Labour budget proposals have been published for more than four weeks and subject to a great deal of public consultation, the amendments have been put together behind closed doors and revealed tothe press only three daysbefore the annual budget meeting.

"They should publish their full plans so they are open to as much scrutiny as possible in the short time thatremains before the budget has to be decided.

"It's a bit ironic that the Lib Dems have been complaining about there not being enough consultation and they cook this up behind closed doors.

"So far, all we've seen is the video on the Halifax Courier website - local people have the right to know just what is being proposed."

The alternative budget has been denounced as a cynical moveby members of the Labour cabinet.

Cabinet member Daniel Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said: "The Lib Dems will jump into bed with anyone - for them it'snot about principles, it's about power.

"They always claim that local government is secretive, but this simply isn't true - it's a line they always fall back on."

It is not just Labour who are frustrated with the proposed amendments, independent councillor Colin Stout (Brighouse) has raised concerns that the coalition can pass the amendments unchallenged.

He said: "It's disgusting and childish the way they've been playing party politics with this.

"The council have been working for months to draw up a budget, and now this coalition has added in their own measures without any consultation - they've shown that they can't be trusted."

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 21, 2014.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Politics: Calderdale council staff could lose sick pay

Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors on Calderdale are set to unite against the ruling Labour group to overturn the forthcoming budget.

The coalition has produced an alternative budget for the district which includes a measure to restrict sick pay for all council staff.

The amendment will mean most council employees will not be paid for the first three days of any sickness absence.

Councillor Stephen Baines (Northowram/Shelf), Conservative leader, said: “In the private sector, the average sickness absence is five days a year, for Calderdale Council staff it’s almost double.

“We think that is fundamentally wrong and steps need to be taken to take control of this.”

Councillor Janet Battye (Calder), the Liberal Democrat group leader, added: “What we like to see is that people who have no sick leave get an additional day’s holiday in the following year.”

The coalition plan to freeze council tax rates until 2016 and will pay for this by dipping into council reserves.

The proposals also include measures to reverse recent changes to car parking charges and make more funding available for street cleaning.

The amendments are to be put forward at the annual budget meeting on February 24 at Halifax Town Hall - and could go through as a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition will wield a majority vote over Labour.

Coun Baines said: “We are extremely confident that our budget proposals will be accepted and the Labour proposals will fall.

“They will be required to deliver the services within the confines of the Conservative/Lib Dem budget.”

The amended budget has been seen by the Courier, but has not been released to opponents in the council.

It could spell great upheaval in the political make-up of Calderdale Council with the power shifting from the Labour group which has 21 councillors compared to the combined 28 of a Tory/Lib Dem alliance.

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 21, 2014.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Reportage: Classmates have had open heart surgery

Two children in the same class at a Halifax school have both had major heart surgery.

Alfie Howell, four, and Libby Cotton, five, who both attend Whitehill Community Academy, Illingworth, have both had two heart operations since they were born.

The school took part in a Wear Red Day to support the Children’s Heart Unit at Leeds General Infirmary where they are being treated.

Alfie’s mum Anna Goldston, 30, from Halifax said that doctors spotted a hole in Alfie’s heart during a routine scan during pregnancy.

Investigations at the Children’s Heart Unit found that the main artery from his heart to his lungs constantly grew muscle mass, severely limiting his blood-flow.

He was operated on at five weeks and again at 18 months - he is on the waiting list for what doctors hope will be his final operation.

Anna said: “It’s not something they can ever repair, but the procedures help to give Alfie a better quality of life.

“He’s doing really well - he loves reading, he loves maths - he’s won the prize in school this week for his maths.

“He loves school - he’s like any other normal child.”

Libby’s dad Wayne Cotton, 45, from Bradshaw, Halifax, said doctors noticed Libby had a heart murmur a few weeks after her birth.

She was was operated on at four months and again last September.

Wayne said: “The recent operation has gone exceptionally well, so we’re hoping it could be the last one.

“It was quite stressful for the family with her going back into hospital.

“She loves art and writing and has won writer of the week at school about three times already this term.”

Anna and her partner Michael and Wayne and his wife Kirsty have praised the the Children’s Heart Unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

“They’ve been really supportive,” said Anna. “We feel like a part of the family there.

“Alfie really struggles with people being in his space, but he;s tried really hard.

“He takes his little talking tom cat teddy with him who gets a heart scan at the same time.”

Wayne said staff at the Children’s Heart Unit put children and families at ease at a very stressful time, he said: “They tried to make it as easy as possible for Libby.

“Rather than marching her into a well-lit room they made a bit of game of things so it wasn’t quite as daunting for her - even though it was traumatic for us, the fact that Libby wasn’t upset made it a little easier.”

Finding out another child in the same class has gone through the same experience has been a source of support for both families.

“We weren’t aware of each other until recently and it’s really nice to know that you’ve got someone else who knows what you go through day to day,” said Anna.

Wayne said: “To speak to someone who’s been through a similiar experience is really good - people can empathise, but you can’t really know what it’s like until you’ve gone through it.”

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 14, 2014.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Reportage: Queensbury Tunnel plans get MP backing

The campaign by cycling enthusiasts in Calderdale to transform the mile-and-a-half long Queensbury Tunnel into an cycleway has come one step closer after Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax, pledged her support.

The MP has raised the issue with Calderdale Council, she said: “I am fully supportive of this cycle route plan, and I will offer any support I can.”

Built in the 1880s, the Queensbury Tunnel provided a link between Queensbury and Bradford, but has been closed since the 1960s.

An online petition was launched by the Queensbury Community Heritage Partnership, a group worried that repairs to the tunnel will see it permantly blocked to cyclists and horseriders.

National charity Sustrans have been the lead organisation in the development of the Great Northern Railway Trail and is backing the campaign and has seen successes with a similiar project in Bath and Earlsheaton near Dewsbury.

If successful, the tunnel will be one one of the longest underground cycle paths in Europe and will provide a clear cycle route for commuters between Halifax and Bradford.

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 14, 2014.

Politics: Halifax Ukranian community support protests

The Ukrainian community in Halifax has voiced its concerns over the current protests in Ukraine.

The committee at the Halifax Ukrainian Club has passed a motion which supports the current protests in the Ukraine.

The protests began in November 2013 when the country’s president Yanukovych made the decision not to sign a partnership deal with the European Union, instead favouring closer ties with Russia.

Since the Ukraine won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has been led by a succession of increasingly powerful and corrupt governments.

Strengthening ties with Russia is seen by many Ukrainians as a backwards step.

The Halifax Ukrainian Club has pledged their support for all peaceful protests and are calling for free elections in the country.

Darka Pratt, cultural secretary at the Halifax Ukrainian Club, said: “The president has far too many powers and it has become very dictatorial - they want him to go, that’s what they’re calling for.

“He’s let them down so many times.

“Instead of signing with the EU, he’s signed up with Russia instead - it was the last straw for a lot of people, and that’s why they’ve flooded out onto the streets.

“They’re tired of how the government are doing things.”

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 14, 2014.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

News feature: A Landscape of Giant Turbines

Giant wind turbines have come into operation at moorland sites just over the Lancashire border near Todmorden.

With the planned installation of similiar super wind turbines on Ovenden Moor later this year, it’s a sign of things to come.

A group of nine 375ft (115m) turbines will be a new addition to the Halifax landscape.

We look at the arguments for and against the expansion of wind farms in Calderdale.

Few issues are as divisive as the installation of wind farms.

With plans to erect nine 375ft (115m) high super wind turbines taking place on Ovenden Moor overlooking Halifax, it’s an issue that won’t go away.

The turbines will replace the 23 existing 161ft (48.9m) high turbines on the Ovenden Moor site.

The giant turbines will be visible from 35 miles away on a clear day and will cast a permanent shadow over Halifax and surrounding areas.

“We’re already living in a wind farm landscape, and the turbines currently installed on Ovenden Moor are actually classed as small turbines now - they’re not classed as industrial anymore,” said Anthea Orchard, 35, co-ordinator of the Thornton Moor Wind Farm Action Group, a campaign group that opposed the Ovenden Moor proposals.

“The turbines they want to replace them with are more than double the size.”

Mrs Orchard lives almost two miles away from the current site and can hear them from her home.

She said: “People have got used to the ones that are there at the moment, but they haven’t thought about the implications of the construction.

“I can see the 23 turbines through my conservatory window, and when the sun goes down shadows flicker and that’s only going to get worse with bigger turbines because we only really see the tips at the moment.

“I don’t object to all wind farms, but politicians need to be aware of how they affect people - they need to look at the bigger picture.”

Steve Kusyj, 56, successfully campaigned against the installation of a wind turbine near his home at Mount Tabor in January and is concerned that the super wind farm will be visible from his house.

Mr Kusyj said that many of the arguments in support of wind farms simply don’t add up, and that energy companies should focus on more reliable methods for generating electricity.

“The fact is that we can’t live off renewable energy - wind turbines need to be subsidised by other forms of power,” he said.

“The directors of these wind farm companies aren’t going to be ones living in the shadow of these turbines.”

Although wind farms have their critics, there is also a strong need to keep up with our ever-increasing demand for energy.

With the planned closure of coal powered plants over the next few years, the need to plug in the energy gap is an urgent one.

Professor Andrew Heyes, professor of energy technology and environment at the University of Leeds said: “Over the next few years the margin between capacity and demand is getting smaller.

“One of the ways to fix this is with the installation of new wind turbines - and unfortunately they’ve got to go somewhere.

“You’d think that the most important argument for wind farms would be for environmental or green reasons, but in reality they’re necessary to keep up with our increasing demand for electricity.”

The new breed of super wind turbines can generate up to seven times the amount of electricity than those currently on Ovenden Moor.

For supporters, they are preferable to coal powered plants, nuclear power and even solar farms which occupy acres of land.

Susan Thomas of Calderdale Green Party said: “What objectors to wind farms need to consider is the comparative potential harmful effects of both nuclear and in particular fracking.

“We must all play our part in the generation of energy just as we all enjoy the use of it.

“Large, efficient turbines effectively sited on windy hillsides would seem to be one of Calderdale’s best opportunities to contribute it’s share of this.”

Gary Coombs, director of Yorkshire Wind Power Ltd - the company behind the super wind farms - disagrees with critics who say that wind turbines are inefficient. He said: “We would not be investing in a project of this type if it was inefficient - we’re a business at the end of the day.”

Responding to local concerns that the wind farm will be intrusive, Mr Coombs said: “We are sympathetic to local concerns, but we have to get the balance right. Unfortunately you can’t satisfy people 100 per cent of the time, especially when it comes to renewables.”

This article was published in the Halifax Courier on February 14, 2014.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Reportage: Campaign to save Queensbury Tunnel gathers pace

Cycling enthusiasts in the district are calling for a mile-and-a-half long derelict train tunnel to be transformed into Europe’s longest underground cycleway.

Built in the 1880s, the Queensbury Tunnel provided a link between Queensbury and Bradford, but has been closed since the 1960s.

An online petition has been launched by the Queensbury Community Heritage Partnership, a group worried that planned repairs to the tunnel will see it permantly blocked to cyclists and horseriders.

Norah McWilliam hopes the petition will pursuade the Highways Agency to change their plans, she said: “They will put the tunnel out of use as a throughway.

“All we’re asking is that the repairs are done with concrete sleeves rather than pillars so as to leave a passage through.

“We’re not asking for anything like surfacing or lighting, which it would need eventually, but we don’t want them to scupper it for future generations - if we don’t act now, it will be too late.”

National charity Sustrans have been the lead organisation in the development of the Great Northern Railway Trail and are backing the campaign and have seen successes with a similiar project in Bath and Earlsheaton near Dewsbury. .

David Hall, Sustrans regional director for Yorkshire and Humber, said: “Queensbury Tunnel is currently the subject of extensive planned maintenance which may result in closing off any opportunity in the future to provide public access through the tunnel to the Great Northern Railway Trail from Calderdale.

“This may seem over ambitious but there are a growing number of examples in Britain where former railway tunnels have been surfaced, lit and re-opened as part of the National Cycle Network.”

The online petition can be found HERE.

This article was published in the Halifax Courier February 7, 2014.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Music: Interview with Warpaint

Formed in 2004, it took Los Angeles-based four piece Warpaint over four years of playing and writing together before the recording their first EP Exquisite Corpse under the watchful eye of former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante.

“When we were younger and just starting out, we just wanted to lock ourselves up in our garage and learn how to play music together,” says Emily Kokal.

“Nobody was rushing to show anything because we wanted to build a nice repertoire of music.

“We lived in a house together and travelled, so when we made the EP, we had songs that we’d been working on since the beginning of the band,” she says.

The EP was mixed by Frusciante, who at the time was in a relationship with Kokal.

“He was a big fan,” she says. “You can hear his touch in the mix of the EP.”

When Frisciante and Kokal broke up shortly afterwards, Stella Mozgawa joined the band as their permanent drummer just in time to record Warpaint’s 2010 debut album, The Fool.

“When Stella joined that’s when the band changed and really got going,” she says.

“We went on tour for two years. We toured for so long that we’d never actually made music with Stella before, from the ground up, and that’s what this album is.

“From touring we learned a lot about playing together and we matured a lot as musicians so when we started writing this record, things happened a lot faster – there’s more maturity in the way that we write now,” she says.

From the time of the release of The Fool in 2010, the group have received plaudits from the British music press and even featured as part of the BBC’s Sound of 2011.

“It felt good to be appreciated and because we’d took so long, we were ready for it,” she says.

“That’s how the band operated. We worked until we were ready for all of these different stages. It wasn’t like overnight success. We all felt like it came at the right time.

“Because we live in California, and that kind of attention was happening in the UK, we’re not quite as aware of it because we’re not over there so that kind of protects us from the buzz and hype swirling around us.”

The group have made waves in the UK and Europe, but have found it difficult to capture the imagination of notoriously difficult American market.

“America has such a different design, especially as far as radio goes,” she says. “It’s like Radio 1 or nothing.”

“There are indie stations and we were played on those, but we weren’t getting that same kind of radio play because the radio stations are pop-centric, or alternative rock.

“It touched the UK really fast. We were really embraced. The UK embraces the non-conventionality, but the big businesses of the US don’t know what to do with us because we’re not producing a lot of hits. It’s unique that we’ve got to the point that we’ve got to because of how unorthodox our music is,” she says.

For their self-titled second album released on January 20, Warpaint utilised the talents of veteran music producer Flood who over the years has worked with artists including Nine Inch Nails, New Order and the Smashing Pumpkins.

The group honed their sound, simplifying their music and allowing the songs, in their own words, to feel sexier.

“On the new album there’s a lot more space and we’ve worked with a really great producer,” says Kokal.

“We’re becoming more of a cohesive unit which makes song-writing a little less muddy and a little bit more clear, open, direct and simplified without losing our sound and the relationship we have to each other.

“I think our sound will always continue to evolve, because the process of writing and playing together there’s a more cohesive experience going on and I think we’re becoming increasingly better at hitting the spot at what we want .

“We’re getting better at speaking each other’s language.”

A lot has been made in the media about the fact that Warpaint are an all-girl rock band – something which is still quite rare in mainstream music, but is thankfully becoming more of an accepted norm.

“In a certain sense, especially with the music we were making, that worked to our benefit,” says Kokal.

“For a while it was like ‘wow, these girls are really playing their guitars’ – we weren’t just a girl in front of a band of guys.

“There was a novelty to it initially, and if anything it’s a sign of our times that people are ready to embrace that.

“I think we were a welcome change to your usual four dude rock band that has dominated the scene.

“Women in rock was a big thing in the 90s. But a lot of those girl bands were riot girl, feminist bands that were making a stand or making a statement.

“Because there hadn’t been that kind of space made for them, they were making it themselves and I think we’ve arrived at a time when you don’t have to fight for that any more because that’s already been done for us – it’s a really great thing.”

This article was published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on February 6, 2014.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Reportage: Workman who discovered needles finds disposing of them isn't straightforward

A plumber working on a Todmorden property made a prickly discovery last week when he uncovered a few dozen used syringes behind a bathtub.

Luke Williams, 35, was working on renovating a house in Todmorden town centre when he made the discovery and found out that getting rid of needles was no simple task.

With the health risks surrounding used needles, Mr Williams contacted Calderdale Environmental Health Services hoping they would send someone to pick them up.

Instead, they offered to send a secure tub to dispose of the needles, but offered no assistance in handling them.

“I didn’t want to risk touching them,” said Mr Williams.

“You don’t know whether there’s HIV on them, or all sorts of other diseases - I just wanted someone to collect them.”

Calderdale Council’s Head of Housing and Environment, Mark Thompson, said: “We take the removal of sharps very seriously, and would like to stress that reports of this kind are very rare.

“If needles are discovered on private property, responsibility for removal would lie with the owner.

“However, public health is our priority and we will take whatever action is necessary to protect people’s safety.

“We will assess the risk, and if the owner has concerns we will assist with removal.

“The council’s Environmental Health Service would investigate this kind of incident and can be contacted via the council’s contact centre on 0845 245 6000.

“We are re-contacting the tradesman concerned here to speed up removal of the needles.”

This article was published in Todmorden News on February 5, 2014.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Books: Chris Goddard - Calderdale's answer to Wainwright

A Hebden Bridge author and rambling enthusiast has written and illustrated a book detailing some of West Yorkshire’s moorland walks.

Entitled The West Yorkshire Moors, the book is a hand-drawn guide to the county’s walking routes which were opened up with introduction of laws giving walkers the ‘right to roam’.

Author Chris Goddard, 35, said: “The moors weren’t well-mapped so I started making sketches of landmarks.

“There was nothing to guide people around the moors since they’ve been opened up, so I started putting this book together.”

The maps show dozens of routes and feature illustrations of landmarks - each detailing the history and folklore of the area.

Mr Goddard said: “It’s very easy to go out onto the moors and think that it’s empty, that it’s bleak, that there’s not a lot of interest - but when you explore the land and look into its history, it’s actually quite fascinating.

“There are standing stones that are thousands of years old - the more you explore, the more you realise how well-used these moors have been througout history.”

Mr Goddard works as a footpath and trails surveyor.. He said: “I have walked all of the paths in Calderdale for the council.

“I did a survey for them of all the public rights of way - that was after I started writing the book, but it was really useful to explore all of these different areas.”

Mr Goddard has already started work on his next book mapping out the county’s ancient woodland.

The West Yorkshire Moors is available in local bookshops.

The legend of the Two Lads

A map of Blake Moor details a local legend surrounding ‘The Two Lads’ - stone mounds balanced precariously on top of two similar sized boulders.

Goddard recalled the story of two lads transporting milk across the moor in winter. As a storm hit, the boys took shelter behind the stones but perished in the cold.

The stone cairns are believed to have been placed there in ancient times to commemorate the death of the two lads.

Although the story of the Two Lads may be little more than a legend, the story has existed in the area for hundreds of years and found in antique journals.

Mr Goddard said: “The Two Lads is my favourite spot - it’s a really evocative place.”

This article was originally published by the Halifax Courier on January 31, 2013.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Reportage: Gwenne nominated for autism award

A Halifax woman has been shortlisted for a national award in recognition of 37 years working in the field of autism care.

Gwenne Coltman, 54, has been nominated for a lifetime achievement award by the National Autism Society's Autism Professionals Awards.

The annual award recognises people and services who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of autism support, making a real difference to people living with the condition.

Ms Coltman works as an autism support development manager for Autism Support and Care and has worked in the field of autism on both a professional and voluntary basis.

"I'm the sort of person who just gets on with my job, so to be recognised for that has been incredibly humbling.

"It's not something that I would have expected - but there are other professionals out there who've recognised the work I've done.

"All I've tried to do is be a clear voice for autism, and it's something I've been passionate about since the age of 16."

She was nominated by Richard Ibbotson, the national director Scotland for Autism Initiatives, after 15 years together as members and consecutive Chairs of CoSPPA (Coalition of Senior Professionals Working with People with Autism).

This article was originally published by the Halifax Courier on January 31, 2013.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Reportage: Making friends through music

A new project in Halifax will provide young people and adults living with physical disabilities, learning difficulties and mental illness the opportunity to get involved in music, dance and drama.

Beat It is a series of workshops run by Imagineer Development based at Gibbet Street, Halifax.

Following on from similar events which ran in Bradford and Leeds, Beat It Halifax will help its participants to get involved with music, learn new skills, build confidence and make new friends.

The Beat It workshops will take place every Wednesday at 12.30-3.30pm from February 12.

Volunteer Amy Haswell, said: “It’s a really good way to get disabled people integrated into the community - there’s not many projects like this.”

Imagineer will also launch All Stars on February 27 to provide support sessions for the families and carers of people with disablities living in Halifax.

This article was originally published by the Halifax Courier on January 31, 2013.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Art: Artist whose new sculpture shocked Victorian audience

The art of Alfred Drury is currently on display at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. Jon Cronshaw looks back at one of Drury’s most important sculptural projects – his eight female lamp bearers on Leeds City Square.

Known for his elaborate public sculptures, Alfred Drury’s work can be seen in public squares across the UK including in London, Sheffield and Leeds.

“Leeds has probably got the biggest awareness of Alfred Drury, just in terms of him being in the background all over the city,” says Ben Thomas, curator of Studio 3 Gallery at the University of Kent and curator of Alfred Drury and the New Sculpture at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds.

His series of eight bronze lamp bearers around Leeds City Square is one of the first things that visitors to the city see when they leave the train station.

They were commissioned by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Colonel Thomas Walter Harding, in 1897 to mark Leeds’ new status as a city.

The statues were arranged in a circle around the square in line with the points of a compass each representing Morn or Even.

The figures were joined by Thomas Brook’s The Black Prince, H. C. Fehr’s portraits of James Watt and John Harrison, F. W. Pomeroy’s Dr Walter Hook, and Alfred Drury’s Joseph Priestley.

“They are fabulous,” says Benedict Read, Senior Fellow in Fine Art at the University of Leeds and contributor to the exhibition’s catalogue. “In different lights they dazzle and the modelling of them as mature women is quite exceptional.”

When the sculptures were first unveiled in 1899, there was outcry in the pages of the Yorkshire Post as citizens voiced their concerns about the frank nudity of the statues.

“The Yorkshire Post ran a few letters at the time which disapproved of the nudity,” says Thomas.

“They're kind of sexy, and I guess you don't really expect that from Victorian sculpture,” he says.

“The paper ended up running a long article about how the sculptures were pure in spirit and how the morality of Leeds wouldn't be affected in any way by these works.”

Drury, along with George Frampton and William Thornycroft, became associated with the New Sculpture movement in Britain.

“There was a feeling in the 1890s that British sculpture until then had been very Greek in its inspiration – very classical in its style,” says Thomas.

“Nudes would have been idealised, but with Drury's figures you can see that they're based on real bodies and have things like knobbly knees, and this was quite a new thing back then – this is why you get the term New Sculpture.

“Although it doesn't seem new at all today, it was certainly a novelty at the time – it was quite shocking to a Victorian audience,” he says.

During the Second World War, Leeds City Square was damaged in bombing raids by the Luftwaffe.

By the 1960s, the circle of statues that surrounded the square had been rearranged into two rows of four statues.

“It was horrendous, but at least they didn't chuck them,” says Read. “They have layers of meaning – they represent the passage of time from dawn to evening. This is unique in public sculpture around the world – it's really quite staggering.”

But by the mid-90s the square was refurbished, and initial plans saw fit to remove Drury’s statues from the square.

“There was no appreciation of Victorian sculpture at all. People saw them as worthless, as useless, that they had no meaning – it's still a strong agenda that Victorian public art is rubbish,” says Read.

“There was a strong party in favour of getting rid of the statues, but a few people stuck up for them,” he says.

Read joined Leeds City Councillor Elizabeth Nash in a campaign to keep the statues on Leeds City Square and restore them to their original arrangement.

Leeds city architect John Thorp planned the new arrangement for the square and found a way to keep the statues and present them in a more meaningful way.

“He was the real hero of the hour,” says Read. “He could see the point of the statues and installed them in a three quarter circle as they are now.

“Even the Victorian Society thought that he had come up with a masterful solution,” he says.

Alfred Drury and the New Sculpture is on display at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds, until April 12.

This article was published by the Yorkshire Post on January 31, 2014.

Reportage: Pudding champ set for BBC

UK Yorkshire Pudding Champion Chris Blackburn will be serving up his prize-winning Yorkshire Puddings on BBC’s Mary Berry Cooks whch airs in March.

Filmed at The Fleece in Barkisland last October, Mr Blackburn put together a special three-course Yorkshire Pudding menu for the show.

“Some of the dishes were quite wacky,” said Chris.

“We made a rhubarb and custard Yorkshire Pudding - Mary Berry had never seen anything like it, but she was straight into it.”

Although Chris prefers his Yorkshire Puddings served with roast beef and crispy roast potatoes, he loves trying out unusual combinations.

“I’ve tried it with all sorts of things. I’ve tried then with Mars Bars, salted caramel, cherries and almonds, duck in hoisin sauce - you name it, I’ve done it,” he said.

This Sunday is Yorkshire Pudding Day and Chris believes that they are best when made from scratch.

He said: “I speak to so many people about Yorkshire Puddings and the majority of people tell me that they buy the frozen variety - it’s really sad.”

The secret to the perfect Yorkshire Pudding, according to Chris, is to use good quality beef dripping.

“With just flour, milk, salt and pepper, there’s not much flavour in there,” said Chris.

“You need something with some real flavour to give it a kick - that’s what the beef dripping ultimately does.”

For vegetarians, Chris recommends using rapeseed oil.

This article was published the Halifax Courier on January 30, 2014.