Mytholmroyd - A Place Which People Do Things To?
Posted by Pete Keal
Sunday, December 7, 2003
A stone with carvings of birds, animals and trees has recently appeared near Mytholmroyd Library. Now I have no problem with a new piece of public art in the village - I like the piece - I think its certainly more aesthetically pleasing than the other piece of so-called art that has sprung up in Mytholmroyd in the last couple of years. Where I do have a problem, is the fact that the carving seems to have been erected with a total lack of publicity, let alone any attempt at community consultation or involvement. And this isn't the first time!
Last year a new stone sign for Mytholmroyd was erected at Hawksclough. Now I understand that the Mytholmroyd Business Initiative was behind this and that they publicised their proposals for signs for Mytholmroyd about two years previously. At the time I didn't know this though - the first I knew about it was when I saw the ground being cleared. Some publicity nearer the time would have been helpful and a bit of community consultation might have led to the inscription being rather more literate!
In the summer of last year, the Gorilla family carved in wood appeared a bit further along the road at Horse Clough. Again there was no community consultation and I only found out some background from an odd leaflet at the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival Box Office! It transpires that blame for the gorillas rests with Calderdale Leisure Services. The council fells trees that are damaged and diseased and gives them to a sculptor, who as well as being responsible for the Mytholmroyd beasts, can be blamed for a kingfisher in Eastwood and a trail of pieces in Todmorden and Portsmouth. Now, a sculpture trail is an idea with a lot of merit - but it would be more interesting if it had pieces by a variety of sculptors - there are certainly other local woodcarvers besides gorilla man! And a sculpture trail would probably be valued and appreciated more if there had been some community involvement in its creation.
Returning to Mytholmroyd, seeing these things suddenly appear here with a dearth of publicity or community involvement leads me to think the powers that be regard Mytholmroyd as a place to simply 'do things to'. The consultation over the plans for the Ted Hughes Centre that took place a while ago seems to confirm this approach - the publicity material looked abysmal, which probably led to a low response rate, and that probably led to the organisers of the consultation to conclude wrongly that Mytholmroyd people weren't interested! Mytholmroyd deserves better than all this. While the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance process is not without flaws, it has at least made a concerted attempt to involve local people in determining the future of the valley. If regeneration is going to succeed, the local community needs to be involved in shaping and carrying through the process. In Mytholmroyd especially, this is something that the departments of Calderdale Council, the Town Council and public-private partnerships such as Royd Regeneration need to learn fast - its high time this approach of 'doing things to' our village is consigned to the dustbin.