Friday, 30 November 2018

Abstract


If I don't feel like reading and there's nothing on TV, I often sit with my iPad in the evening, just playing and experimenting with photos. I've been playing with a new app called 'Enlight'. It has lots of functions, including some excellent processing tools and presets, but perhaps the most interesting and fun element is its ability to combine and blend layers easily, much as you can in Photoshop but rather more quickly and intuitively. It's a bit addictive!

The abstract above started off as a photo of a boat's prow against a brick wall. Don't ask me how I did it though. I was just playing. Unike Photoshop, the app doesn't record your actions and you can't easily go back and undo any but the last action. Still, it's an entertaining tool for an idle moment.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Smoke stacks


Looking over Shipley from the heights of Northcliffe Park, I was struck by the array of chimney pots on the Victorian terraced houses in the foreground. The roofs of the more modern dwellings beyond look plain in comparison. The blackened stonework that can still be seen on some buildings locally is a reminder of how unhealthy the air must have been when all those chimneys (not to forget the mill chimneys too) were belching out coal smoke. Nowadays we have to be fearful of more hidden pollutants from our vehicles. This area is still a pollution blackspot.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Over my dead body


My habitual local walks are mostly in the valley bottom along the canal and river, or on the north side up towards Baildon Moor. There are two main roads between me and the south side of the valley. Once those are negotiated, however, there are some equally pleasant walks to be had. Some of the area is known as Northcliffe Park: land that was gifted in 1920 by Henry Norman Rae MP to be used as a public park 'in perpetuity' by the people of Shipley. It has gardens, allotments, a plateau of open grassland and a steep-sided wooded valley - varied terrain that makes it rewarding to explore.

My favourite bits are the long tree-lined walk (above) and the path down into and through the woods. That end of the park adjoins a golf course. Golfers cross the ravine on the metal bridge in the picture below.


The news that Northcliffe Park is on a list of potential sites for a new crematorium has caused considerable consternation locally. There have been petitions, demonstrations and many people being very vocal, saying that the park was specifically gifted for recreation and a crematorium would breach that pledge.
"A new crematorium? ... Over my dead body!"

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Christmas shopping?


I had to move fast to catch him, and it's only a phone pic, but look who was at the Peace and Crafts Fair at Saltaire's Victoria Hall. (Clue: It's not Sir Titus Salt, despite the luxuriant beard.) Do you think he was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping?

Monday, 26 November 2018

Salt beard


When I wrote a post about the Salt Beer Factory last month, John commented that 'salt' and 'beer' don't seem to go well together. I wonder what he thinks about 'Salt' and 'beard'?  Every depiction I've seen (statues, busts, paintings) of Sir Titus Salt, Saltaire's Victorian founder, show him with a magnificent, luxurious beard. The gallery in Salts Mill that houses some information about the mill's history holds this interesting portrait. From a distance, it's a not unfamiliar portrayal of the man. Take a closer look though and you will find that it is made of textiles, ripped and teased to suggest the portrait. Rather clever, I thought, since he presided over one of the largest textile manufacturing enterprises in the area.



























When I first started writing this blog, so many years ago now, I included a lot more information about Saltaire and the amazing story of its creation and creator. I don't want to repeat old stuff but for more recent readers, suffice to say that Sir Titus Salt was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who ran a large textile business in the city of Bradford in the early 1800s. Concerned about living conditions in the crowded and insanitary city, he consolidated all his businesses by building a huge textile mill, Salts Mill, on a greenfield site with canal and rail links, outside the city. It opened in 1853. He then proceeded over the next twenty years to build a model village around the mill, with homes and superb facilities (dining hall, schools, church, recreation) for his workforce, far superior to anything else that existed locally. He called it Saltaire, combining his own name with that of the river Aire that runs beside the mill.

The mill ceased textile production in 1986, after which it was bough by another visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist, the late Jonathan Silver. He turned it into a thriving hub: a mix of manufacturing, business, retail outlets, art gallery space and restaurants. The village around continues as a modern community with a thriving creative ethos. Click the 'About Saltaire' tab at the top of my blog for more info.



Sunday, 25 November 2018

Salts Mill artefacts


It's rather tucked away on the third floor of Salts Mill, at the back, but there is a 'People and Process' gallery that holds some items relevant to the mill's history. It has some of the original boardroom furniture, and some crockery that was used at the grand opening banquet in 1853. It has the model of Salts Mill shown above. It holds some pattern books and samples of the textiles the mill produced. There are baskets, bobbins and spools, an old fire engine handcart and some of the mill's machinery on display. It's all very interesting, though I can't help thinking that, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, much more could be done to bring the history of the village and the mill to life, to entertain and educate visitors.



Saturday, 24 November 2018

Judy Woods


I have some friends who live at the other side of the city, in south Bradford. We had long planned to visit their local beauty spot of Judy Woods, so despite it being a damp, dull and rather misty day we went for a walk. It's a large area of ancient woodland (in fact several different areas of woodland) now surrounded by the city suburbs. Its present tranquillity gives little hint of its history as a coal and ironstone mining area in the 18th and 19th century. Careful exploration reveals the remains of bell pits and waggon trackways, as well as packhorse routes that crisscross the area. The nearby Low Moor Ironworks, founded in the 1780s (and now closed), produced high quality iron. They manufactured cannons that were used in the Battle of Waterloo (as well as the two now in Saltaire's Roberts Park - see HERE) and later their iron was used for rail locomotive wheels.


The woods have been known by many names. Their present title of Judy Woods refers to a lady called Judy North, whose husband ran a 'pleasure garden' in part of the woods in the 1850s and 60s. She sold 'sweetmeats' including parkin pigs (a kind of gingerbread biscuit), sticks of spice and ginger beer, for the refreshment of their customers. There is an interesting history of Judy Woods HERE,  on the Friends of Judy Woods website.



























We had a peaceful ramble, only slightly disturbed by the 'giant squid monster' we passed part way round!




Friday, 23 November 2018

Night lights


More photos from Salford Quays in Greater Manchester. (See also yesterday) The weird building above (another example of 'Deconstructivist' architecture?) is The Lowry theatre and gallery complex, named after Manchester's famous painter, L S Lowry, and holding some of his work. It was designed by Michael Wilford and opened in 1999. Shops, offices and restaurants surround it. 

Below: a detail of The Lowry, with coloured walls, lights and reflections combining to remind me of stained glass. 


Below: it was that pop of red that attracted me, stark amid the green and yellow colouring of a modern, glass office block.


Thursday, 22 November 2018

Salford Quays


Across the water from the Imperial War Museum (see yesterday) is an area called Salford Quays. It used to be docks beside the Manchester Ship Canal. In the 1980s, a huge urban regeneration project transformed it into a vibrant area that combines residential property, commercial, cultural and retail space. It is home to The Lowry theatre complex and across the dock from that is the huge Media City, where the BBC, ITV and other creative enterprises have offices and studios.

It's a wonderful place to explore at dusk when the lights come on, reflected in the water. We camera club members were all very happy!


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Imperial War Museum North


A few more from my recent trip to Manchester :
One of five museums across the UK specifically recording and showcasing (their word) experiences of modern conflict, the Imperial War Museum North has a commanding site on the waterfront at Trafford Park in Greater Manchester. Opened in 2002, it was designed by Daniel Libeskind and is (apparently) a prime example of Deconstructivist architecture. It has three interlocking shards: an imagined globe shattered by conflict.

I only stayed inside for about an hour, so there was lots I didn't see, but I explored an exhibition called 'Lest We Forget', all about the First World War. It had many photographs and artefacts, some heartbreaking mementoes such as telegrams received by families whose menfolk were missing or killed in action, diaries kept by men on the front line, war poetry and paintings. There's also a huge gallery that holds a timeline of information about conflicts from WWI to the present day. It was all unbearably moving, not least seeing some twisted girders from New York's World Trade Centre. It doesn't glorify war but you could not help but reflect that things haven't got a lot better in the hundred years or so that was documented.



Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Getting old?


I had to smile when I saw this juxtaposition of signs - but then I sighed. I think I'm definitely getting old... More or less every day these days I seem to think 'what on earth is that?' or 'what is the world coming to?'.

The shop in Shipley, selling e-cigarettes, was open for barely a year. There's a message on their FB page saying 'lack of trade and large overheads' made it unviable. I'm pretty sure (although it means nothing to me as I'm neither a smoker nor a 'vaper') that there are at least two other dedicated 'vaping' outlets in Shipley's small town centre anyway.

I'm sad for so many reasons. Sad (and bemused) that I find it harder lately to keep up to speed with modern developments (technology, as well as things like vaping). Sad for the future, as every positive advance seems to be matched with a dozen seemingly less positive ones. Sad that large overheads seem to make so many businesses in our town centres unviable; sad that our small town centres hold little more these days than charity shops, betting shops and vaping shops; sad for the people wandering round in such poor shape and for whom drugs, smoking, vaping, drinking are all part of trying to make life a little better. I'm sad - and then I'm angry too.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Looking sheepish


I spotted these two characters, looking rather sheepish, in a window of an apparently empty block in Bradford. I've no idea what they are, what they were doing there or why. But anyway, they come with love from me to ewe. (I'll get my coat...)

Sunday, 18 November 2018

City Park at night


It was pitch dark by the time I arrived in Bradford city centre to photograph the Remembrance installation projected onto City Hall. (See HERE if you missed that.) You're supposed to take night shots when there is still some light in the sky, so I failed miserably on that score. The sky was an inky black. Nevertheless, the lights in the City Park area around City Hall were so attractive that I decided I'd take some photos anyway. The fountains were lit red, to coincide with Remembrance I guess. I don't think they are usually red. Behind the mirror pool, on the right you can see The Alhambra theatre all lit up and to the left is the Science and Media Museum, advertising its giant IMAX screen, one of its key attractions. (It's worth clicking on the photo to get a larger view so you can see more detail.)

Saturday, 17 November 2018

ICM in the woods


Just lately, I've been intentionally practising with the manual controls on my camera, trying to improve my technical skills. I usually use Aperture priority mode and I've rarely gone fully manual. So I've been experimenting with setting shutter speed, aperture, ISO and manual focus... with varying degrees of success, it has to be said. I'm happy enough using the 'modes' but I decided I wanted to be more comfortable with all the controls.

One day I got bored with taking 'proper' photos and decided to try some ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). I've had some fun with this technique with a slow shutter app on my phone but I have found that it often doesn't work in my DSLR camera without a filter, as it needs a slow shutter speed. It was, however, a relatively dull day so I set a low ISO (100), a slow shutter speed (1/1.3), a narrow aperture (f 25), defocussed the lens and slowly moved the camera. I got a couple of images of trees that I thought were quite pleasing in colour and texture (even if not very original).


Friday, 16 November 2018

Going up, coming down


I walked up through the woods beside the Shipley Glen Tramway one recent Sunday, when the tramway was in operation. All was quiet and then suddenly there was a rushing, clanking sort of noise as the cable mechanism started to roll. There are two cars, one going up and one coming down, passing halfway along the track. It took me slightly by surprise but I did manage to snap a photo.

The Glen Tramway has been in existence since 1895, and is now run by volunteers through a charitable trust. It operates at weekends, taking people from Saltaire up to the top of Shipley Glen. In Victorian/ Edwardian times there were many fairground attractions up there. Nowadays it is just a pleasant, open area of rocks and heathland, with paths through the woods leading down into the valley and access routes to the higher moorland above.

Seeing the cars pass reminded me of the 1912 silent film clip that is held by the Yorkshire Film Archive, which always makes me crack up. There's a bit where the tramcar passes ... and then nothing... and then the tramcar passes the other way... and so on.  It's HERE if you want to watch it - and I do recommend it. The tramway bit is from 1 minute in, but the rest is interesting too, showing the old fairground rides and the crowds. At about 3 minutes, there is footage of crowds on Victoria Road in Saltaire, and the pleasure boat on the river by the Boathouse in the park.

The photo below (taken at a different time) shows the bottom terminus, where there is a ticket office and a small museum full of old photos, artefacts and information.


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Autumn trees


Autumn is not my favourite season. I prefer late Spring, bluebell time, when everywhere seems full of new life and promise, with the colours soft, fresh and clean. But Autumn sometimes wins photographically. The richness of the russet leaves and the zing of the golden ones can lift my spirits, even as the evenings draw in and the air grows chill. 


In both these images, I liked the way the tree trunks contrasted with the leaves.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Bradford remembers


One last Remembrance Sunday display: photographs projected onto the clock tower of Bradford City Hall to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the First World War. I'd read about this display so I popped into town to see it. It included photos of servicemen from across the Commonwealth, including some of the Bradford Pals (16th and 18th battalion, Yorkshire Regiment), interspersed with cascading poppies. It was conceived by Bradford artist Steve Manthorp, with support from Bradford Council and technical companies for the illumination.  


I didn't find it easy to photograph. It was a good test of my recent learning about the technicalities of shutter speed and so on. Because the projected photos were changing quite quickly and fading in and out, the shutter speed had to be quite fast to catch each image clearly. That meant I had to use a high ISO, with the result being a little bit grainy. All good practice though!

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

St Peter's poppies


I know I said I'm done with poppies but there was such a beautiful display in my church, St Peter's, on Remembrance Sunday that I felt like I wanted to record it here for posterity (or however long a blog will realistically live on...)

Church members designed and created every bit: the amazing flower arrangements (particularly appreciated by me as I can't even arrange daffodils in a jug!) created by Ann and the team who provide a similarly lovely display every single Sunday; the painting done by Christine, a skilful artist who has also created some of our stained glass in the church; and the poppy cascade, envisaged and crafted from cupcake cases by a visionary gentleman called Ian, with a little help from others in the actual making of them. 

The brass war memorial in the entrance lists the names of men in the Parish who died in WWI and the book underneath contains names from WWII and other conflicts.



Monday, 12 November 2018

The man with the haunting eyes


This haunting portrait is one of the paintings by the artist, educator and activist, David Tovey, that I saw in his exhibition in Salts Mill. (See also yesterday.) It's one of a series entitled 'Faces of the Abused', absolutely compelling studies that capture such pain and hardship.




I had a long, fascinating and ultimately very uplifting conversation with David, such a privilege to talk to the artist himself. Our conversation ranged over many things, from Sir Titus Salt's legacy to the current state of British politics, as well as homelessness and his own story.  He's an ex-serviceman himself and has battled with horrendous ill-health, that ultimately led to him becoming homeless and suicidal. You can read more of his story HERE; please do.

The painting above is in fact a self-portrait: 'Dark Days', of which he writes: 'Sometimes I wake up and the darkness is there to stay, sometimes for the day, other times for weeks. I feed my body and soul with medications every day just to stay alive. Sometimes it's a massive struggle even to move, from the pain and the strain my body has to go through. I have terminal illnesses that will never be cured. I live every day in constant pain, sometimes it's unbearable but I take my meds, put on a face and no-one then gets to see what I'm going through.'





The installation below is from 'Shelter Stories': a child's playhouse, with an eviction notice stuck across the door. It points out the fact that 'a shocking 128,000 children in Britain woke up homeless and in temporary accommodation over Christmas 2017'. That is one in every 110 children (and I think the situation is getting worse, not better.) How can we continue to ignore this?


The raw and authentic, newly opened gallery on Salts Mill's third floor seemed a fitting place for this powerful exhibition. Such a pity that it was only shown for one weekend but let's hope they invite David back - and continue to use the space for other such important and eye-opening work. 


Sunday, 11 November 2018

A Soldier's Story



I recently had the privilege of seeing an installation in Salts Mill by the artist David Tovey, which I found incredibly moving. Called 'A Soldier's Story', it had five mannequins dressed in desert camouflage, with their mouths taped. Written on the back of each one's jacket was the true story of an ex-serviceman who has become homeless.

To quote from the exhibition display:
'Ex-servicemen who become homeless account for a shockingly high number of people. David [the artist] was one of those soldiers. This installation depicts the stories of some of those people. Raw, uncompromising and sometimes brutal, there are deep questions sitting at the heart of these stories about how people who serve this country are treated. These stories attest to the struggles people face when they leave the armed forces. As the UK reflects on the centenary of the First World War with fields of poppies, grand exhibitions and flag-waving up and down the country, David's soldiers invite you to consider the legacy of those wars and the situation people find themselves in now.'


For several years now, I have not worn a poppy on Remembrance Day, a reaction to what (seems to me) to be an increasing tendency to sentimentalise our troops and wars, and the way patriotism gets blurred into nationalism. I know it raises charitable funds but it makes me extremely angry that ex-service personnel who are injured, often with life-changing results, or mentally scarred, are so often forced to rely on charity for the support that I believe should be forthcoming from their former employer, our government. Austerity bites, whilst we continue to supply arms to questionable regimes, avoid asking the difficult questions, ignore the plight of those who've given everything in what was touted as 'a noble cause', allow a society where they are further abused on top of the trauma they already carry. It is wrong.


'I spent 12 years as an all arms commando. Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone. I saw so much death, it's in my head forever. I left the Forces and started a business, got married and had a family. I would get angry and lash out for no reason. I couldn't sleep and I got severe depression. I got diagnosed PTSD. Then sadly my marriage fell apart and so did I. After a few months I lost my business and home and found myself living on the streets. My drinking was out of control and I started to abuse drugs. I became addicted to heroin and it's still in control of me. 
I joined the forces to protect this country and all who live in it but now I'm forgotten about. I wish I'd never joined the forces. Look what it's done for me.'

'After I left the Irish Guards I spent many years in the decorating industry. I'd help anyone and everyone. I volunteered with Crisis. I run the London Marathon many times for charity. I'm a lovable rogue but I struggled with my demon. I'm an alcoholic. When I'm drinking, I'm a different man. Because of alcohol I ended up on the streets and in rehab. Whilst in my last homeless shelter in 2013 I had a massive heart attack. I stopped drinking and started to look after myself but I got depressed and started to drink and smoke again. I cut all contact with family and friends. I stopped eating and solely survived on alcohol. Alcohol is in control of me. 
I died on 1/12/16 from a heart attack induced by malnutrition, aged 64.'

'I served in the 3rd Parachute Regiment and was part of Operation Telic in Iraq. The brigade lost eleven soldiers, during the campaign, six of whom were killed by a hostile mob. It was a bloody campaign. I was mentally damaged. I tried to adapt to civilian life after leaving the Forces. I got a job in security but ended up in jail for GBH as I couldn't control my temper. After jail, it was extremely difficult to get work and I had no choice but to become homeless. Since being homeless, I've been beaten, set on fire, urinated on, treated like human waste and I have no hope, no confidence and no soul left... I've seen death many times but all I want now is my death. For [?] years I've been homeless and I don't see that changing in the near future.' 

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Wave


Some of us from the camera club went across to Salford to see and photograph the poppy installation 'Wave' outside the Imperial War Museum North. It was one part of the huge artwork of ceramic flowers: 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, that was installed at the Tower of London in 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. (See HERE). Since then, key sculptural elements of the whole have been touring the UK. It seems a fitting way to mark the centenary of the end of that particular war, even if 'war' hasn't ended.

It's undoubtedly a powerful piece of art and poppies are a poignant symbol...but ... Frankly, I think as a global society we should now stop thinking back and start thinking forward, striving to reverse what seems to me the current slide into nationalism, hatred, fear-mongering, power-grabbing and intolerance, the very scourges that fuel wars. Not to forget, either, those who are still suffering the mental and physical effects of war, both military personnel and refugees. Let us be forthcoming with both respect and the help they actually need. I'm done with poppies and piety.




Friday, 9 November 2018

A sudden burst of energy


I was booked in for a health MOT at my gym, unreasonably early one morning. (Though perhaps timely given that one can't have breakfast beforehand). The sun was shining, the rush hour was in full swing and, with a sudden burst of energy, I decided I'd walk the two miles there and two miles back again, reasoning that walking might be as quick as driving in the morning traffic. Going, I took the shortest route along the canal and riverbank. Coming back, at a more leisurely pace, I walked up the Coach Road, so called, I guess, because it was the route carriages would have taken to get to all the mansions that the Victorian Salt family members built in the area: The Knoll, Ferniehurst and Milner Field. I don't often walk that way but it is worth it for the magnificent view you get of the huge bulk of Salts Mill. It looked a lot better in the sunshine than on that fateful day when the river (hidden in that line of trees) flooded. (See HERE).