Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Jan 12: One of the greatest art exhibitions is about to end. Jaume Plensa's amazing work is on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park until January 22.

Huge heads are cast in stone, plastic and wire. The eyes usually closed. Are they asleep or dead?

The stone figures look like they are made of marble and are beautifully lit - they look as though they are about to move so it's hard to move away.

The plastic ones appear equally restful but have words like 'stress' on them. Perhaps they represent people putting on a front to hide the chaos of their lives. Plensa also uses sound - gongs and tinkling lines of poetry, the latter utterly complelling to look at and to listen to.

The wire sculptures meanwhile are postioned so they look different from different angles. This is one of the most memorable exhibitions I've ever seen. Don't miss it.

Feb 11: I recently bought Robert Haines' remarkable book, Once Upon a Time in Wales, featuring photos he took in 1971 of the people in the village of Heolgerrig and nearby Merthyr Tydfil.

The book features superb black and white photos, mainly of men aged 40 plus, with mini-bios of each person. They look wistful and intense and, judging by their faces, their hard lives have taken their toll.

Some of them ('Moses the Mouth Organ') remind me of characters in Under Milk Wood.

Some of the houses look as though they haven't been changed in over 100 years and Haines captures the village as it was about to change. Houses and pubs were swept away in the years that followed.

My dad knew the Merthyr area well as a kid and maybe I can some of him in some of the faces in the book.

Once Upon a Time in Wales was published by Dewi Lewis Publishing of the UK and is available to order from all bookshops ISBN: 978-1-904587-57-6

Thanks to Robert for allowing me to use the pics.

I'm about to become a Flickr 'amateur' again. I paid to be a 'pro' for a year but I think the only advantage of this is a ranking system for most popular pics. Also, I've slightly lost interest in Flickr.

There are too many pics are praised for the way they've been done up afterwards. A good pic for me is what you see there and then, otherwise the scenes lack truth.

And there are too many earnest blokes trying to outdo each other for camera kit and making up petty rules for their various photo categories.

Also I just haven't got the time to flick through all the Grim Up North pics every day

So I decided to list most popular photos now while I have the chance. Would it be one of my many sunset pics perhaps? No - it's Michael Foot's Donkey Jacket, with 351 views in 10 months. A quickly taken snap in a museum on my phone that appears to be popular on Google images.

Here are my top 10 with blurb:
1 Michael Foot's Donkey Jacket (351 views. Taken March 2010)
Michael Foot's 'donkey jacket'
This is the 'donkey jacket' that Michael Foot wore at a Remembrance Day service in the early 80s. It was bought in Harrods.

It's slightly galling that he was so villified then and has been almost universally praised since he died.

His manifesto of 1983 - dubbed the longest suicide note by Gerald Kaufman (the man who claimed £8,865 for a TV on expenses) - included policies to set up a national investment bank, the scrapping nuclear weapons and the sale of council houses, restoring the link to pensions and earnings, reversing nationalisation of British Telecom, introduction of a minimum wage and stopping hunting. Mmm..sounds reasonable now.

Michael Foot's coat is among the artefacts on show at the People's History Museum in Manchester. RIP Mr Foot.

2 Best pub in Leeds 221 views, June 2008
Best pub in Leeds

One room reminds me of Great Aunty Mary's lounge, with its tasselled lamps and armchair, another room has wooden seats which give me pins and needles in my balls, yet another room has a wood-burning fire and a cashpoint machine, and the fourth is a concert room where old men sing older folk songs.

The Highland Terrier with the Hannibal Lecter mask appears to have passed on, but John the landlord who occasionally looks hangdog is still there and so are the pints of Moorhouses, Elland and other good beers.

Shake a fist at the monstrous offices which hem it in and prevent the pub festival from taking place. I saw the great Mik Artistik here, drawing portraits on paper bags and singing a blues song about his daughter selling shoes.

The Grove is a great boozer and is a former Leeds Camra pub of the year.

3 Ilkley Beer Festival (187 views, March 2008)
Ilkley beer festival
The First Ilkley Beer Festival, in the Kings Hall, with its lovely wedding-cake-icing balconies. Old Spot is a brewery from Cullingworth, Bradford

Beer Festival review:

4 Vomit at the Royal Festival Hall (180 views, October 2007)
Vomit at the Royal Festival Hall
Klaus Weber’s sculpture The Big Giving outside the Royal Festival Hall in London.

The blurb: 'A group of male and female figures are cast rising out of, or simultaneously sinking into volcanic-looking mounds of rock. Their heads and hands protrude from the stone and streams of water gush from a different body part on each figure. The title of the work, The Big Giving refers to the native North American potlatch ceremony, in which the host’s status increases the more he or she gives.'

5 You Get a Better Class of Graffiti in Huddersfield (161 views, July 2008)
You get a better class of graffiti in Huddersfield
Someone was scrawling this in the gents of the Star Inn, in Lockwood, Huddersfield, as I walked in during the splendid summer beer festival. I only know Leonard's Tower of Song LP. Was this from his real ale period? Cameraphone.

6 Former Courage Brewery (145 views, October 2007)
Former Courage brewery
The former Anchor Brewhouse, once owned by Courage, near Tower Bridge. Brewing started on this site in 1787, the building was turned into flats in 1985. Scottish and Newcastle sold Courage earlier this year to focus on lager brands (Sigh!)

7 Going Nowhere (135 views, May 2007)

Going nowhere
Hawes station on the old Wensleydale line, between Northallerton and Garsdale, that closed to passengers in 1954 (although the Hawes to Garsdale section remained open until 1959). A 17-mile stretch of the line has been reopened east of Hawes between Leeming Bar and Redmire and there are hopes of restoring the whole 40-mile line. The station is now a museum and tourist information centre and the tracks only run the length of the platform. Cameraphone pic

8 West Riding Refreshment Rooms (129 views, August 2008)
West Riding Refreshment Rooms
This splendid pub opened in 1994 in the former waiting rooms of Dewsbury Station.

The sign on the left is from Wilsons Brewery, from Manchester - chess board logo, nice beer. According to the quaffale website, the brewery closed in 1987 and the brand died out in 1998 (thought it was a lot sooner to be honest).

The black and white sign refers to Kirklees Camra's second beer festival, or real ale exhibition, as it was known then (not sure of year)

9 Spot the ball (118 views, January 2008)
Spot the ball
Richard and his dad watch Otley (in the black and white) beat Halifax at Illingworth, Halifax.

The winger (far touchline) wore trousers but he did kick some crucial touchline conversions and anyway, as Ripping Yarns fans know, it's not shorts that matter, it's what's INSIDE that matters!

10 Three Pigeons (108 views, May 2008)

Three Pigeons
The lovely Three Pigeons pub in Halifax, which won the national CAMRA/English Heritage Conservation award in 2007. Its art deco features and tiled fireplaces have been spruced up by Ossett Brewery who have kept the four-room structure.

Dec 09: One of the most talented and underrated landscape painters, Peter Brook, has died at the age of 81.

He was superb at capturing winter scenes of West and North Yorkshire - just the snow, the stone walls, a farmhouse and the wonderful light at this time of year. There is also usually a man in a flat cap with a collie dog in his pictures, depictions of Mr Brook and his dog. They are like his signature and usually raise a smile - the dog eager, the man hunched over against the elements.

His pictures are deceptively simple but beautifully observed.

Mr Brook was born in Scholes, west Yorkshire, and became a teacher in Rastrick, settling in Brighouse. He held his first show in Wakefield in 1960 and became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. His work was exhibited around the world.

I first came across his work in the AC Gallery in Byram St Huddersfield which sells his paintings, mugs, books and calendars (well worth getting this Christmas).

His paintings are also available to buy at his website

There is an exhibition of his paintings at Harrison Lord Gallery, in Bradford Road, Brighouse this month.

Sept 09: One of my pics is in a new collection of photographs by Flickr-ites in the Marsden area.

I know I'm biased but the book, Marsden Moods, is a stunning collection of photographs that capture the reservoirs, hills, mills, festivals and, of course, sheep in all their glory.

The project was developed by Flickr-ite docmattk, with the help of Blurb book producers.

While I'm one of the point-and-hope brigade, with my little digicamera, there's some talented people out there with 'proper' cameras who know what they're doing. It certainly shows in the book, which will be launched at Marsden Jazz Festival on October 10 and is also available here

Here are some of favourite photos in the book:

by Stuart Vidler

by Mint Imperial

by Nuala

by Stephen Walder

by AndyHolmfirth

by docmattk

And this is my photo, taken on my stag do, after supping at the Riverhead (these two weren't part of the stag do but they were very entertaining):