The recession is over – petersham says so

Bonds of Farsley, a riot of colour!

Bonds of Farsley, a riot of colour!

That’s what I want from my local haberdashery. Everything on my list, plus things I didn’t know I needed but had to buy immediately, gossip galore, and to be told with good authority that one of my purchases signified the end of the recession.

No-one who enters Bonds of Farsley ever comes away the same. It’s an assault on the eyesight, but in a good way, as if all the colours in the world have come together, had a meeting about how they could mix better, clashed, then done their own thing before coming back and doing it all over again.

Never in my life have I seen so many bobbins, buttons, netting, needles, ribbons and ric-rac braid. And there’s two floors and a landing of it, every square inch of space (there’s none of those new-fangled centimetres here) is taken up with stock, piled high and spilling over, little treasures everywhere.

But the best treasure of all isn’t the shop itself, with its higgledy piggledy floors, walls and stairs, it’s the staff. Warm and welcoming, interesting and interested and what they don’t know about local life isn’t worth a button. Every time I’ve been, and I have lost count, though my over-full sewing basket is a bit of a clue, I’ve been warmly welcomed, and treated to tall tales and good-natured gossip. On my first visit to buy a length of wide red ribbon, I was told of a man who’d bought a whole batch of the stuff to tie a bow around the car he’d bought for his wife, I couldn’t help wondering what she’d done with it afterwards and if there was any chance I could have it, but the moment had passed.

This time I was on a mission, I wanted to test out my new camera on the riot of colour, shapes and textures… and hear the latest gossip of course. Linda, who’s been in the business set up by her mum and dad in 1964 for more than 40 years, was very happy to oblige. There’s a stream of photographers and students drawn to Farsley, they are never disappointed, and as with everyone who comes through the door is welcomed.

We got talking. She asked if I was doing a degree like the many photography students who visited regularly. No, I said, just someone with rather too much time on my hands in these times of joblessness, and wanting to keep my spirits up by doing something creative. I then went on to make my purchase, three zips (one is never enough), a yard and a bit of interfacing and a few feet of petersham, a stiff ribbon used in waistbands.

Linda smiled as she measured out the ribbon and informed me that the recession was on its way out. I asked how she knew that, she replied it was simple.

“When people start buying petersham again, like you are, they are sewing again and that meant the economy was on the mend.”

I guess that having seen a fair number of recessions over the years, she knows what she’s talking about. In the meantime, she said, if the whole lack of work thing was getting me down, I was welcome to just go down there and hang out, which is an offer I’d be daft to refuse!

My photos are on Flickr

Live recording is no trouble at t’mill

Barbara Taylor Bradford and Alan Bennett sat down on a bench overlooking their childhood town of Armley, sharing memories of their old school and thanking their lucky stars that their writing talents had done them very nicely, thank you.

They didn’t really. There’s no evidence that they’ve ever met up or shared a bench in Armley or anywhere else, except maybe when they were both in the same class at Christ Church C of E School. But if they had, their conversation could have gone something like the play performed yesterday in an old mill just down the road.

Barbara and Alan was one of six 15-minute radio plays recorded live at Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley in a return visit from the I Love West Leeds Arts Festival. Festival Director Jane Earnshaw had commissioned Objects and Curious Tales, a series of images and and performances about treasured objects belonging to local people, setting it in an old part of the mill. Wow, said Jane, how atmospheric. Wouldn’t it be great to come back here and record radio plays? Yes, we all agreed it would. And so it turned out to be.

Barbara and Alan was written by Boff Whalley, lead guitarist with the band Chumbawumba who was also there as part of the house band for the other five plays.

In front of a sold out – er – house, or rather mill floor surrounded by decades of dust and debris, punctuated with creaky floors and wobbly chairs, the Slung Low theatre company performed the specially-commissioned plays, all with the West Leeds connection.

For a mere £5 a head we were treated to an afternoon of quality writing, excellent acting, fascinating sound effects and great cake. Noel, who isn’t one to emote, in fact his email signature is ‘I don’t emote’, felt the need to tell the caterers that the carrot cake was the best he had ever tasted. Praise indeed, I suggested to them they had a plaque made, the Noel Mark of Approval.

The plays, once edited, will be transferred to CD and given to local communities and added to the I Love West Leeds website for everyone to enjoy, free.

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Short stories in an old mill

Buttons galore

A sweet tin, a tarnished medal, a video tape, a faded old photograph, an old firestone and buttons galore. Sounds like junk, maybe, but to their owners, they are little treasures, part of the story of their lives.

Musical memory

These everyday objects and their stories were collected by artists Jane Morland and Phil Moody for the I Love West Leeds Arts Festival’s Objects and Curious Tales installation in a disused part of Sunny Bank Mill, Farsley.

There were stories within stories as Jane and Phil spoke to local people, visited local schools and interviewed the mill owners, William and John Gaunt, who told how the former 19th century textile mill went from boom to bust to boom to bust to rebirth as a 21st century business centre.

The voices were recorded and objects or their photographs placed in an upstairs room at the mill, displayed side by side with artifacts from the mill itself, including the old boardroom table, which had witnessed many dramas over the years.

Hang on, lads. I've got a great idea!

The objects and their stories made a script for Jane and Phil to perform, watched by many of the local people who had told their tales including the Gaunts who heard their own words tell the story of the mill and its former glory.

It was a very moving experience, hearing ordinary and extraordinary snippets from people’s lives. The setting of the mill made it somehow all the more touching, maybe it was the old stone walls maybe it was the creaky old wooden floor, or the flaking paint on the window frames, of the light crisscrossing the room. Whatever it was, everyone felt it and went away feeling somehow richer and wondering what story we would tell and which object we would bring.


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