hebden bridge…it’s not grim up north


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i’d only vaguely heard of hebden bridge cause edwyn collins played a show up there in the trades [union] club..that’s all i knew,but as we turned off the motorway in west yorkshire,it soon became apparent we were entering a place of great beauty… i should have already been aware of this,but my only interest was to see a favourite band ‘the tiger lillies’.it was perfect english summer weather…the hills were high rolling,and maybe it’s just cause i’m old now that this sort of thing is beginning to floor me, cause it doesn’t feel so long ago when the idea of greenery, trees, and old mills would have bored me ridged.

we arrived five minutes before the tiger lillies sailed on to the stage…they were endlessly funny,highly musical,and a true assault on the senses…they always are…this little clip doesn’t do them justice..you have to hear the full range of their songs.

we checked into our hotel round midnight starving for food..the kitchens were closed but the night receptionist waved her magic wand and conjured up the freshest softest sandwiches,flanked by the hugest pot of yorkshire tea to our room within minutes,where we lay on a bed,shoes off,stuffing our rabid faces….the following morning over a full english breakfast,we learn we’re in the hotel used for that david jacobi telly series ‘last tango in halifax’.venturing away from the breakfast table,and heading back into hebden bridge,i’m puzzled at how such a small remote village could be so groovy…the trades union club i mentioned earlier is tiny,yet patti smith[?!] played there recently…dexys midnight runners…it’s a totally humble scene,yet here are these folk who can fill the albert hall keen to play there….and then there’s all these dapper vegetarian restaurants…thomas casually sensed there might be a lot of lesbians living up there,and i scoffed at him for swallowing the parody of all lezzers being vegetarians n’all…but maybe he was right,cause when i got back home two days later,i googled,and it came up’hebden bridge..lesbian capitol of england’…i dandered into a neat little hybrid vinyl record shop/cafe,where they were playing mott the hoople records,and got talking to a long haired groover who’s lived there all his life … i was asking him how come a village has patti smith and the likes playing here in a tiny room,and how come it’s just so great,and he said they’re fiercely independent up here,and that there’s no macdonalds…no starbucks…no costas…it’s all local…he also said they’re getting a lot of white guardian readers moving in….white guardian readers… we both laughed at that i said yeah.. it’s easy to buy a bloody guardian…still… a white guardian reader has got to be a load better than a white sun reader. he talked about how the old mills are being converted into apartments,and mixed feelings of that sent my head spinning…..i mean..it’s great when a place flourishes…i just hope the local folk always benefit from it.. those newly upholstered old mills made me think of those old crumbling breweries in the east end of london now morphed into million pound apartments.

i loved hebden bridge…the yorkshire folk are good to talk with…they’ve got that lovely country feel about them without being rednecks…londoners are great too,but they’re speedy and tightly wound,probably because they have to be…but with me being older now,yet still a bit of kid with crayons,hebden bridge fits like a glove…it’s no wonder david hockney returned to his home nearby to paint those hills and breath that clean air…even the water’s nice and soft.

there’s that saying ‘it’s grim up north’…i believe it can be grim anywhere depending on your own private situation,and no doubt hebden bridge has its own particular darkness in the winter months…but if life deals out a workable hand of cards,the north to me isn’t so grim…it feels like a great place for artists…writers…songwriters…film makers…you could surely blossom up there.

all my loving…mary of many a wilderness.

west yorkshire

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7 Responses to hebden bridge…it’s not grim up north

  1. Tiger Lillies are cool! Wish there were more places with great music shows, vegetarian restaurants everywhere, and no McDonalds.

    • hi jenny…maybe there will be more places like that one day…
      they’ll maybe call it the *post-mcdonalds era*.
      here’s another great tiger lillies song…i love this lyric.

  2. Lovely, I’ve never been out of Australia, but there are places which are rather similar, and I prefer those to the cities. If I went over to the UK, I’d quite enjoy being in a place like this.

  3. Tony Lawson says:

    Those two words “Hebden Bridge” just popped out of the screen and into my memory banks! In my college daze in London we did a one week photographic trip to Hebden Bridge and I still have (over thirty years on) hundreds of slides from that amazing week! It was winter (February if I remember well) and there was snow and frost and just the most amazing scenery ever. It was a wild and wonderful week of the kind that etch themselves deep in the soul and make their home there forever. Thanks for the story and for the memory jog!

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