Saltaire Arts Trail and creative legacy of the Bradford mills

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.


On the trail of art through Leeds

Good day following a trail of art through Leeds.  No matter how much we try virtual on-line spaces can be no match for people coming together and creating physical works in real spaces.  

Walking to the new Tetley Gallery, through a much renovated area of Leeds, the building canal side looked great. Below is the back of The Tetley which is rather more functional than the smart looking front. They have an exhibition called “reversal” (picture above)


Ten minutes away at The Monro Gallery and adjoining cafe there was a packed exhibition of print works as part of the Leeds Print Festival. A brilliant atmosphere of enthusiastic visitors – you’d not get quite the same atmosphere on Facebook, would you? The Monro is just across the way from the bus station.

Three months ago we borrowed a picture by Edwin La Dell from the Leeds Art Gallery under their lending scheme. We went back today and got another one by Denis O’Sullivan, a large black and white drawing of a room in Earls Court.  We went with a friend and between we came away with quite a few.  Melissa, our friend, took a nice Martin Parr photo.  £6 to borrow a respected work of art for three months, not bad.

Now home and looking for some wall space. 






Day out in Harrogate

Lovely day spent in Harrogate today with Mrs W. We thought we’d be tourists and plan the visit using trip advisor which recommended the Mercer Gallery and Valley Gardens. Amazingly I have never walked through Valley Gardens before and what a delight it is. Harrogate is very fortunate to have such a beautiful park with so many recreational activities available, every town should have one of these.

The Mercer Gallery has an exhibition of young artists’ work, New Lights. It’s a biennial exhibition to showcase work by young artists from Northern England with some top notch sponsors. Really well worth a visit with such a range of brave and innovative ideas. It runs until the 17th November.

This piece is by Josie Jenkins winner of the Valeria Sykes Prize – £10,000 and support to develop as a professional artist.  This from The Independent

There was also this piece by Sarah Harris who was one of the artists exhibiting in the Ilkley Art Trail

Art, Photography

Addingham Moorside

Addingham Moorside
Addingham Moorside

What a great couple of days we’ve had.  Yesterday we went to see some friends who have recently moved into a farmhouse on Addingham Moorside, an absolutely superb spot.  From there we walked up to Windgate Nick and it really looked like we were in the Alps.

Today we went to the Hockney exhibition at Cartwright Hall in Bradford – highly recommended with some work I hadn’t seen before.   There’s a great photo of a young DH appearing in a Methodist Church play as a robot. He has a box on his head so I trust it was him.

Cartwright Hall


Art, Photography

Window, Salts Mill

This is a shot of one of my favourite places, Salts Mill.  I love the Victorian atmosphere which evokes something of the stern and solid convictions about community life imposed by Titus.  The community of Saltaire once included a poet, James Waddington, who may well be an ancestor.  Saltaire is an incredibly creative place oozing with artists and comfortable little cafes.  On this occasion we were there for the Saltaire Arts Trail.

The photograph I like because it gives an impression of scale of the mill from the inside.

Salts Mill Window


Art in the Pen

I do like Skipton's Art in the Pen. For a start, it's a great idea – holding an exhibition in a livestock auction mart. A space normally bustling with farmers and animals becomes space to eye up the work of local artists.

The variety of art is one of its great features. One of the great fears I have when visiting local art shows is having to look at yet more chocolate box pictures of bridges, gates and rose clad cottages. This is not the case at Art in the Pen. There were about sixty artists work on show, all quite individual.


Some of the work in wood was impressive, none more so than David Gross's huge and arresting wood sculptures (above).


A particular favorite was Mark Laycock's wood pieces. People have commented on his Gaudi like style, but what impressed me most was his passion for the wood itself and the ideas he has. He told me that he's be happy simply put a piece of wood on the wall and look at it. His deep respect for the material and his knowledge of why it looks as it does is wonderful. 


Another eye catching display was by Duncan Pearson from Huddersfield. His colourful and humorous paintings had a dark twist to them. He explained that he'd spent a hard time in a rough area of Manchester. One picture featured a man with a ridiculous mustache – the manchester mustache – who he explained was a horrible character in a horrible pub. His work is raw and personal.


Tim Fowler from Leicester featured some very confident and beautiful urban scenes many of which were of West London. Evidence that there's a good range of influences at Art in the Pen, not confined to gates, bridges and cottages. You'd need to come to Ilkley for that!


A place for art in the church

At All Saints Church in Ilkley we are currently debating the future of our church development. The conversations are inevitably fueled by the cost and the awareness that the church is about people and not primarily buildings. So what we need is a clear connection between the building and something deeper.

I was inspired to remember (thanks to Jonny's links) that church buildings have been places where faith is expressed through art. But it seems that in many churches art has become fossilized – you can see the glass windows, the paintings and the hear the music, but it has somehow become trapped in the past, museum like. Hardly anyone is inspired or changed by walking into a church building these days.

The outside world is experiencing an explosion of creative expression. It's a multi-media, multi-coloured world where ideas and fragments of people's lives are shared and presented in wonderfully imaginative ways. 

St Paul's Cathedral has commissioned two permanent plasma screen alterpieces by artist Bill Viola.

Leftbank Leeds has reworked a church building to become the focus for a community of artists.

In Brighton the church is engaging the whole community in The Brighton Passion 

You might like to read this article in the guardian which notes that 1.8 million people visit the Tate Modern every year while church attendance declines.

Art can help people reconnect with great themes such as life, death and suffering. "The aim of art is to reveal, inspire and question. It is a tragedy that many do not know or cannot accept that belief shares these aims"  

It's not just about providing a space to hang art, but a place for people to dig deeper into their soul and worship God in ways that they are being denied by the church. 

So let's put art into the vision for our church development and particularly make the spaces flexible and open to the participation of creative people. 


Hidden Keighley discovery day

We completed the Hidden Keighley discovery day yesterday. Six schools trekking around the town in search of boxes which had been transformed by the children. My role has been to organise the film making element in collaboration with artist Amy Heild.

The process of making a film is a fantastic way for the children to learn so many skills and build their confidence, even a simple interview has so many elements to it. Deciding on the most relevant location to film the story, observing  & planning the shots, managing the equipment, problem solving, engaging with the interviewee are only a few skills needed.  It's particularly rewarding to pick shy children to work in front of the camera or take a leadership role and see them rise to the challenge. 

The brilliant thing about video is that you can re-take if things go wrong.  We've had some wonderful conversations about the value of being able to learn from mistakes. At first the children get embarrassed when they make a mistake but soon they're able to have a laugh about it and move on to an improved attempt.

Bringing professionalism to the way the video is filmed and edited can be a huge boost to many children. They imagine that professional film makers have none of the problems they face  – being nervous, tripping over their lines, wobbly shots and so on.  Once they realise that there are some simple techniques to achieving impressive results they begin to feel so much more confident.

We've had a lot of discussion about whether the process is more important than the outcome – i.e. that a poor quality film is OK provided that the children learn something in the process.  I'm sure that the end product is vitally important – especially for a product designed for public showing.  The buzz the children get from achieving a film that looks like something they would see on TV or at the cinema is something they can be proud of and will remember for a long time.


This is  the model of Keighley Picture House. Inside is a screen on
which interviews about of the old cinema play. Next week all the films
will be shown at the real cinema at a red carpet event  for 300 children.


This is from the film Box of Sounds in which we take this animated Victorian girl to re-visit one of the local mills.

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Magic from an Ilkley potting shed


An animated short film made in a potting shed in Ilkley (according to Screen Yorkshire) has been nominated for the 'Public Choice' in the  British Animation Awards

The film has been produced by Duchy Parade Films based in Harrogate.

The National Media Museum in Bradford will be showing the animation on Saturday 27th February. And there'll be sets and models from The Astronomer’s Sun in the museum’s Animation Gallery from 23rd February.

The Astronomer’s Sun tells the story of a young man, accompanied by a mysterious mechanical bear, who visits an abandoned observatory to confront memories of his past and follow his father on a journey into the unknown. A magical journey about relationships and what it is to be human.

Click here for the Astronomer's Sun blog