It’s not often the sun shines on a bank holiday weekend. Ilkley was as busy as ever today with crowds flocking to the riverside carnival. The woods were quiet which was surprising as the Bluebells are at their best.
Taking pictures of Bluebells is quite tricky. Often the blue is wrong or they are so small in the picture it’s hard to see them. The colours change through the day with the softening afternoon sun making them a richer shade of blue.
Today we went to the Saltaire Arts Trail. The arts trail is wonderful and captures the spirit of creativity and craft skills on which the city of Bradford was built. The houses are opened up as art galleries and organised as a trail. This event is deeply associated with the identity and history of Saltaire.
If you don’t know, Saltaire is in Bradford West Yorkshire and was a village built in the mid 1800s by Titus Salt. Around the mill he constructed housing for the mill workers along with a school, chapel and hospital. Salt took care of the needs of hundreds of workers and managers who were dedicated to the manufacture of textiles – including a worker and poet named James Waddington. Titus Salt imposed strict moral standard in his domain including the prohibition of alcohol.
I really can’t imagine what life was like being so dependent on the vision and benevolence of a single mill owner but it does seem to follow a pattern of paternalistic landowners and industrialists who generated their wealth by owning the lives of the working class.
Up the road at Samuel Cunliffe-Lister’s mill there was a different approach. He was one of the richest people in England but had a reputation for treating his workforce poorly. Through a period of unrest at Lister’s mill the roots of the trades unions and labour party began to form – quite a legacy! My entire family history is tied up with this industry. My mother’s side is linked to the Lister empire and my dad’s dad was co-owner at Dean Clough mill in Halifax. My great, great grandfather is on the far right of this photo, John Dean Waddington.
I was talking yesterday about a home being a place of memories and belonging. Here in my home town of Ilkley, memories were made today as people gathered for the Tour de Yorkshire. Cycling has become a growth enterprise in Yorkshire and the success of events like these are are helping many small communities feel good about themselves.
I hope the route of the Tour de Yorkshire can be varied in future to bring in some of our communities that have lower levels of wealth and commercial appeal. Perhaps the event could run through a council estate or an urban area in need of cheering up?
The value Welcome to Yorkshire has brought through the success of the Tour de France is hugh and it’s not primarily about cycling but about the pride people have in where they live and the excitement generated through shared celebrations. People enjoy being welcoming and the pride they have in the quality of that welcome is not hidden or modest but exuberant and joyful.
This will be a positive memory which will live on and be recalled through photographs and videos. Just as important will be the legacy of new relationships formed as people come together and participate in all sorts of different ways.
I am sitting in the beautiful little church of Stonegate in the heart of historic York. I don’t have a camera with me so you will just have to imagine. Ancient architecture darkened with time but enriched with a sense of history. Outside there is a busker sininging ave maria operatic style. It is a creative place where memories unfold into the present day multi dimensional culture.
My meeting at York University ended about thirty minutes ago. We have been talking about how we serve people at the most deprived end of the UK’s social scale, specifically the homeless.
The aim of the conversation was to determine what kind of change steps are needed to ensure those vulnerable to homelessness find a pathway offering hope. Financial security, food, shelter, safe spaces are the basics but what then?
We discussed the concept of “home” and whether this needs to be a much richer concept than simply having a place to go or a family to belong. We imagine home as a place where memories are made and celebrations are held. The walls of a home, like this church in Stonegate, tell the family story which is constantly being retold and enriched. When you find yourself at home your history and culture will change the fabric of the place and new layers of memory laid down.
Going from being homeless to being at home is a profound thing. We felt that deep listening was a good place to start – without the ability to listen. individually and as a society, we will all be poor. When we listen we are doing so in order to allow others to be heard. We are saying let’s appreciate who you are, we want you to be part of us – and more than that we want to be changed by you.
I love the mood of the late afternoon when there’s no-one around. Everyone has gone home and the light is fading. It becomes a private space for slowing down and taking notice of the smallest detail. The pool of light in the sky and the soft shadows in the snow, the gently muted colours.
There are two spaces for contemplation – the place and the memory. What I actually I saw and felt at the time and the later recollection. This image helps me re-connect with that experience; it is not perfect or transferable (you will see something different), but in time it will become more precious as the time and place become more distant.
There’s been a lot written about seeing. On the face of it the act of seeing seems quite straight forward, but the state of mind that allows us to actually notice what’s in front of us is the point of interest.
The discipline of Contemplative Photography draws on the idea that we can see both conceptually and perceptually. The conceptual mind sees categories of things and is preoccupied with ideas, while the perceptual way of seeing is to register what is actually in front of us.
To be perceptive is to suspend our preconceived ideas about what we might see, what we want to see, or any kind of thing that has a label or tricks us; We are not looking for someting.
How does this idea relate to the prejudices we have? Can we suspend our conditioned way of looking at things? Imagine if the filters can be removed and we begin to really see?
Everyone needs a place to think. For me it us usually walking on the moor or in the woods. At other times we need to interact with those around us, in which case the office in Leeds is a good place.
However, doing admin and getting it done there’s no better place that here. I don’t like doing admin so the fewer distractions the better. Having nearly finished it I am rewarding myself with a sandwich on the sofa looking at my desk in the office at home.
This is an image I like. In took it at St Augustine’s in Bradford as The Bread Church was setting up. This is a small congregation made up of local people some of whom don’t have any other connection with the church. There I met Ann Challenger who led the group and has since died. Ann was like a mother figure to the group and each week would oversee the making of bread and the shared meal.
The group was in the process of changing its name to One Table and although the group was not made up of regular worshippers necessarily, this was a group living in a way inspired by the faith of its leader. These everyday activities – making bread, setting the table, eating together – are rituals which can help connect people into the meaning and values of the Christian faith in a way that some church formats struggle.
It was deeply moved by Ann’s little church and the conversations that went on over bread and soup.
We live in an apparently divided and competitive world. Our leaders are vulnerable human beings within a prevailing culture which separates the winners from the losers, the strong from the weak.
We build our towers as high as we can. We build so that we can impress our neighbours not in order to serve them; upwards not outwards.
The world economy is one in which we compete to influence what people think, feel and believe. It is a tough and often brutal economy of ideas.
The important trading routes are no longer international shipping lanes but the optic fibres and satellites uploading and downloading ideas; each trying to corner the market.
God has given us a different reality. It is not a product that can be bought or sold, not a lifestyle choice or the next big idea. You can’t buy shares in the God’s reality. God’s reality is the world made as he/she intended. And it is here, if we look for it. Surprisingly nearby.
God’s world is one in which we are able to live together, share ideas and work towards communities without fear, free from poverty and injustice; where all people are valued for who they are and have a place at the table. It is not a divided world and doesn’t separate the winners from the losers.
This world is the real world because God came to make it real.
Jesus was and is a real person who engages with people at a personal and intimate level. He is the everyday messiah. He is divine and yet takes an interest in people as they go about their daily lives without favouritism. He brings hope to the worst of us. The early church with its examples of hospitality and community living has endured and is important to us now.
How can we choose God’s vision in the everydayness of our lives? What does it mean to model God’s reality in the way we live and work together? Is it enough to trade ideas and win arguments – or do we first need to quietly and modestly become the idea? Living differently.
Wellsprings Together Bradford and Welfare Reform Impact Bradford are local organisation (or which I’m a part) help inspire and coordinate poverty responses among the faith groups. Twice a year they put on an event called Hope on the Edge at Bradford Cathedral which aims to bring together those working to alleviate poverty and transform communities.
On Sunday May the 7th our gathering this time will focus on HOPE for our Bradford Episcopal Area. Representatives of churches, groups and organisations from across the district are invited for a time of creative reflection and prayer.
You will be able to engage with a range of varied prayer styles – explore stillness; reflect through art and music; pray corporately, urgently and creatively. Listen to Stories of Hope emerging in Bradford – seeds that indicate the new potential in times of adversity and disappointment.
Join us for an evening of creative prayer in Bradford Cathedral on Sunday May 7th from 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm.