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Close Up North on Hebden Bridge

Posted by Richard Hull, Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Hi Jackie, I'm sorry I'll be away when you're filming, but just thought I'd add my thoughts. As a sociologist, my judgement would be that the reason HB continues to attract people interested in alternative lifestyles is neither to do with the Upper Valley's history of non-conformism (if that were true then Todmorden would be a more likely venue) nor to do with economics (why would such people continue to come to an area with something like a 50% premium on house prices compared with neighboring places?).

I have been here 14 years, my partner 31 years (she was one of the first 'new arrivals' in 1970), and I think we would both say that the main reason is that there are many people living here who work very hard to ensure that the possibilities for alternative lifestyles are maintained. That means working very hard to help people, when needed; to maintain places and avenues for them to meet (especially for instance the Trades Club, the activities of the Hebden Bridge web-site and Pennine Pens, the people working at Suma wholefoods co-op and other co-ops, the pubs and shops which display posters and host meetings; the annual Arts Festival; the many various community activities; etc).

A second major reason is sheer beauty - it is just so pleasing to the eyes and all other senses.

If you read any standard text on the socio-economic processes of 'gentrification' - whereby a run-down area goes from squatters, to artists/writers and other bohemians, to salaried ex-bohemians who've become teachers, social workers, etc, to people working in the media and non-profit organisations, and finally to the green-welly brigade with their superfluous 4X4's - if you read those accounts of any other area, then HB should long ago have succumbed to the final incumbents, the green-welly, 4X4-driving accountants, lawyers, doctors etc. But it hasn't, and the reason it hasn't is that so many of the early pioneers precisely knew what the usual process of gentrification entailed, and were determined it wouldn't happen here. It is their hard work that has kept it wonderful, and moved it on to it's current stage.

To my mind HB is the archetypical 'post-modern community' - however one defines that term.

Good luck with the program.

Richard Hull, BSc, MSc, PhD
Sociology, Department of Human Sciences
And Centre for Research on Innovation, Culture and Technology (CRICT)
Brunel University,