Tuesday, 11 October 2011

There's Culture Up North

Call me a biased, London-centric Southerner (or something stronger...), but I imagined an inevitable side effect of moving to rural Lancashire would be less culture. So far, I'm happy to say, I've been proven wrong. Culture is definitely here, if you're prepared to look for it. In fact just across our farmyard there's an arrow for the Bronte Circular Walk.

So we begin with the Brontes. They lived within walking distance (in the hard-core, 19th-Century sense of the phrase). We've read the Usborne illustrated retelling of Wuthering Heights and we've had tea at Wycoller. Now we're off to Halifax's Viaduct Theatre - part of a massive mill re-development in Halifax - for the world premiere of Blake Morrison's We Are Three Sisters. It's a beautiful, haunting evocation of daily life in Haworth parsonage, as brother Branwell falls to pieces and the three Bronte sisters discover they each have a publisher. The soundtrack of wind whistling through the moors is barely necessary, as a storm whips around the building and water leaks through the dark vaulted ceiling. We can't resist taking the rural route home, up the cobbled streets of Haworth and straight past the parsonage itself.

The following weekend finds Rosa and me taking the train into central Bradford for the matinee of Joseph at the Alhambra theatre, the West End production now starring the runner-up from the TV series Any Dream Will Do. We were both enchanted and sang all the way home. 

Just a week later, the lesser-known Yorkshire village of Glusburn has its inaugural arts festival: Fall Fest. It's an ambitious weekend of talks, concerts, exhibitions and children's activities. I have the dubious pleasure of reading a few of my books to a small gathering of under fives, and the daunting privilege of interviewing Simon Beaufoy (Oscar-winning screenplay writer) in front of a paying audience. Gulp. Thankfully he was chatty and charming and the audience chipped in with questions much more intelligent than mine, so the event was a success.

Then, just when we thought culture could go no higher, we are invited to Rosa's Harvest Festival Assembly. Years 1 and 2 group together to chant seasonal classics including:
- Big, Red, Combine Harvester
- Pumpkin Head
- Don't Go Pecking in the Cornfields
(the words and actions are indelibly marked on my memory).

We manage to position ourselves directly in front of our daughter, much to her embarrassment. She feigns ignorance throughout, until the rapturous applause at the end, when she lets slip a wry smile as she spies her teddy cat Kitty sitting on her Dad's lap, waving a little paw.

We're looking forward to seeing what the Hippodrome Theatre in our local town Colne has to offer. It's entirely run by volunteers and beautifully renovated inside. Rosa's school will perform there this Christmas, so we'd better book our front row tickets now...


  1. Do you mean "the lesser-known Lancashire village of Glusburn"? ;-)

  2. Well, this sounds very culturally rich m'dear! Am very interested to know how your Under 5s sesh went.

    But wait 'til you hear what Hackney as on offer this weekend; you're about to miss Apple Day on Butterfield Green. Plus A Big Draw event in Abney Park cemetery...
    Hmmn. My guess is they'll not be a patch on Fall Fest Jx