Discussion Forum

Changing face of Hebden Bridge

Posted by Richard
Tuesday, 2 January 2007

How do I see HB? As a place where stereotypes are confounded, mainly, and long may that continue.

It is one of the unique characteristics of the area that we constantly find our expectations trashed - the Tory councillor who gives a hitch-hiker a lift; the trendy-lefty-greeny who opposes low-cost rented housing in their back yard; the off-cumden southern bank manager who supports workers' co-operatives; the 4X4 school-run mum who lives in a lesbian co-housing scheme; the canal-barge dweller trying to get other bargees evicted; etc, etc.

But this creates considerable tensions, because it is difficult to abandon stereotypical images and expectations.

For instance, I've noticed more and more people commuting INTO HB station in the mornings - I presume they're coming into HB to work in one of the shops or cleaning and service jobs, where wages are low. They work here, but cannot afford to live here. That is unsustainable. A priority for the town must be affordable housing.

Another instance:- when we see youths hanging around on street corners us older folk assume the worst, we expect them to be 'up to no good' - and that of course makes it more likely that the worse will happen as they sense our suspicion. Improving facilities for teenagers is another priority.

These are a wee bit more important than the colour of cobble-stones!!

Season's Greetings.

From Jonathan Timbers
Wednesday, 3 January 2007

I agree with Richard - affordable housing, low pay and teenage disaffection are issues which should be better addressed in town. I also think that we should go beyond town boundaries and look at some of the issues which affect Halifax, Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden etc. as well. These include the pressures of the social services budget, low pay in care homes, providing better care for looked-after children, amongst others. As Richard points out, too often we are interested in the colour of cobblestones rather than social inclusion.

As to Hebden's changing identity, then it is true to say that there is more money in town than there used to be. However, most people who live here are pretty 'straight' and work full-time and have done so certainly since I arrived in the early 90's. Perhaps there used to be more social workers and teachers per head of population before than now, but most of the newer off-comers are relatively 'liberal' in their outlook too. The idea that most people were hippies or radical environmentalists was always false, there's just more than normal. There are probably more poets and artists in town now than when I first arrived and hopefully there are less cottage drug dealers. Also, there are significantly less 'local' people around than when I came, and there weren't that many of them then. These days some people call themselves 'local' if they've been around for a decade.

If anything, there's an increased 'boho' feel to Hebden, but it's an insular and self-indulgent one. People are very concerned with social position and I believe that a lot of the alternativey-'boho' stuff is basically about gaining social prestige, hence the lack of interest in 'boring' issues like low pay and equality.

One thing that has definitely changed has been the shops. There used to be 3 second-hand bookshops (more in fact) in Hebden Bridge, soon there will be none. They've been replaced by specialist craft shops selling luxury hand-made items. Whilst I wish all small ventures well (starting up a business is not something I'd do, it's very hard work), I do feel sad that Hebden Bridge appears to value material consumption more than intellectual consumption these days.

Nevertheless, the area's many voluntary groups from our different communities - religious, cultural, interest or location based - make this place entertaining, supportive and vigorous. It's good to have lived here for long enough to see the place evolve.

From Andrew Hall
Thursday, 4 January 2007

Both Richard and Jonathan make good points. There are many social issues that are worthy of our attention and discussion. However, surely the 'serious' stuff and the slightly 'lighter' contributions are not mutually exclusive. They can quite easily co-exist on a site such as HebWeb.

The last thing we want is for people to stop posting because they feel that their contributions lack gravitas or verge on the trivial. The coloured cobbles are a case in question; yes, it doesn't really matter what colour the cobbles are (although there are questions as to why a basic commodity such as stone should be shipped half way round the world); yes, there are many more serious topics worthy of our attention. But, judging by the thread on HebWeb, it's something that people are interested in. And of coures if you anren't interested in certain threads, then skip them!

So let's hope that people will keep on posting everything and anything, both serious and light hearted. I'm sure the Webmaster has enough space for anything we throw at him!

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year.

From Anthony Rae
Sunday, 7 January 2007

Whilst I have followed the debate about the traffic review on HebWeb I have chosen not to participate, principally because of the abusive nature of some of the communications - a characteristic shared with the correspondence in the Hebden Bridge Times. But I'll make an exception.

I was reflecting on a second letter sent by an Andrew Hall to the HBT, and whether it was worth the reply. Those of you who have followed the extended correspondence in the paper will know that, in his first letter (7th December) this Mr Hall made a series of ill-advised, probably libellous and quite inaccurate insinuations concerning the involvement of the Steering Group, and me by name, in the procurement exercise for the traffic review works. In my reply, I pointed out, accurately, that decisions about 'how tenders were let, who selected artists, and how the money has been spent' were in fact taken by Calderdale Council, not by the Steering Group. Because I am of a forgiving nature, I corresponded privately with the editor of the paper about the probable defamatory nature of the remarks and we left it there.

Now (HBT 4th January) the same Mr Hall twists my reply to imply that I was saying that the Steering Group 'had little or nothing to do with any of the decisions regarding the re-ordering of the square'. This is obviously a considerable misrepresentation of what I wrote, but then that Mr Hall is very good when it comes to misrepresenting the facts.

For some reason, I'm reminded of something an Andrew Hall posted on this site on 17th November. "Is it better to be totally honest and speak your mind or should you lie, just because your opinions might offend somebody? I firmly believe in the former, but in our anodyne and oh-so-sensitive world, I know I'm in the minority".

Quite the fearless champion of the moral perspective, but I do wish the Andrew Hall who believes in being 'totally honest' would have a word with the Andrew Hall who can't check his facts, but doesn't let that stand in the way of the opportunity to repeatedly smear somebody's reputation in public. Maybe the first Andrew Hall could instruct the second in how to conduct a public debate with both accuracy and civility.

From Andrew Hall
Monday, 8 January 2007

I'm sorry Mr Rae found my recent letter to the HBT offensive/provocative. It was not intended to be. I was trying to draw a line under the whole affair in the last paragraph - I obviously need to brush up on my communication skills. (Additionally, I rather wish the HBT were quicker off the mark - the last letter was sent to them nearly a month ago).

The tone of both letters may have something to do with the exasperation many people feel about the re-ordering of the Square and Bridge Lanes, and the lack of clarity about who made what decisions and when. My comments merely reflect what is being said by many people in pubs, clubs and social gatherings all around the valley. Lack of certainty and clarity is an unhealthy breeding ground for gossip and rumour, and as one of the few people brave enough to publicly identify himself with the project, it is not surprising that Mr Rae may feel that he has been unfairly vilified. We now know, from the letter copied to Hebweb and dated 21st December, the extent of the involvement of Calderdale Council in the whole affair. What a pity that the information contained therein wasn't publicised earlier.

There's a lesson here for us all.

From Jonathan Timbers
Monday, 8 January 2007

Oh please, this started out as a thread about the changing face of Hebden Bridge. Let's not suffer yet more about the conspiracy of Blair and Bush to place yellow cobbles from China along Bridgegate, thus adding to global warming and bringing the end of the world ever closer! Obviously it would be better to have local stone! I propose opening up the old quarries at the back of the area where Andrew and I live. I'm sure we wouldn't mind 24 hour quarrying if it served the local good!

As for Anthony Rae, well, I sympathise with his plight. He's done his best for the town and got it in the neck. That's why the Liberal Dem's allowed him to be chair of the Transport Working Party in the first place. They may be averse to taking real decisions but they do know how to win elections by getting somebody else to take controversial decisions! However, did he have to lay into Andrew on the Hebweb for something Anthony believes Andrew was saying in the HBT? I enjoy reading what Andrew posts on this site, individual gripes should be sorted out privately or in the publication in question. Entertaining reading, though, Anthony, well done! But I'm not in a position to comment on their relationship with reality, not having read the original letters!

Anyway, Andrew urged me (amongst others) to be lighthearted in his last but one posting. Ok, this may be a little leaden-footed, Andrew, but will this do?

Incidentally, I think deep down most people don't give a flying f**t about the street furniture on the square, but some people do like grumbling about it, especially after a few pints! Others will probably learn to live with it and hopefully we'll all learn to love them in time!

From Allan Kitching
Saturday, 20 January 2007

I used to live in Hebden Bridge, and left the area in 1970. I still visit the area as I have relatives in the area. I have seen many changes in the area since I left.

The tourist label that Hebden Bridge now has, this has increased the amount of traffic year on year so now when I visit I bypass the centre as there in no parking in the town. This is a annoyance that the local people are unable to find a place to park either.

My biggest disappointment in the area is the Canal. I used to live in Oxford Street at Stubbing Holme, close to Canal and river. The canal is a mess with boats moored all the way along not a pretty sight as quite a lot are run down. When I lived there you could see the fish swimming in the canal now it's just a turned up muddy mess.

I think that Hebden has lost a lot of its charm in the pursuit of commerce; it's a shame as the area has quite a lot to offer if it's managed tastefully.

Just another comment, I have travelled all round the country and the world and eaten in many restaurants and pubs, Hebden is definitely lacking in good food establishments, and seem to just cater for the day tripper who will not be returning, so come on Hebden, let's improve and build on what you have.

From Andy M
Sunday, 21 January 2007

Agree with you about lacking really good eateries - it seems odd that HB can't seem to sustain a couple of decent ones (the Thai is OK but the rest are unremarkable at best). The Robin Hood in Cragg Vales is better than any in HB imo.

I would have thought however that the town is much improved since its grimy 1970s appearance and the recent pedestrianisation makes it even better.

From Jacob
Monday, 22 January 2007

The food in Kitties is excellent. Moyles is very good - and good value, specially if you eat there early evening. Nelson's is excellent for cheap, wholesome and imaginative food. Not bad for a small town? Somewhere like Mill Bank (highly recommended) would be nice - but then Mill Bank isn't that far!