With money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Getty Foundation and other contributors, we set up a project in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, called ‘Beyond Graffiti’ to introduce 100 young people to stone and carving in the local landscape - including milestones and other waymarkers generally - with five events:
- A visit to Shibden Hall in Halifax, to discover the history of ways and waymarking, the ancient carriages, to walk a turnpike and see a milestone then to spend time with a Master Waller trying dry stone walling;
- A day of carving motifs for waymarkers for the Dewsbury and Oakwell Country Parks and the Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail, under the guidance of local sculptors;
- A visit to Johnson’s Quarry and workshops to see Yorkstone Flags being hand-cut and also the very latest in NC machinery;
- A second day of carving waymarkers;
- A walk around the centre of Huddersfield, viewing the magnificent buildings and the public artworks
Marshalls donated stone from their Howley Park Quarry and Kirklees College offered its facilities for stone carving workshops to be run by local sculptors Melanie Wilks and Dave Bradbury.
The programme ran from September 2013 – November 2014. The Kirklees College Digital Media students made a documentary about the project as part of their course and this can be found on YouTube as well as the Beyond Graffiti website.
The participants were tasked to record their experiences on the project’s facebook page and many did so; others added comments to the project’s website blog.
As a result of our involvement at Shibden Hall, we were approached by the tutors of the National Young Peoples Service in Halifax and we ran a programme for them in the Easter holidays; the participants collaborated on a relief carving of the Lister Lion to a design by Melanie Wilks. This now forms the centrepiece for the maze at Shibden Hall and will become part of their proposed sculpture trail.
We also ran sets of themed creative workshops for over 60 young people. The Community workers at Ravensthorpe requested ten sessions for their Greenwood Centre Saturday afternoon multicultural audience aged from 6 – 16, plus a scattering of parents! So Tollkeeper Meg told them about our travel history and they were fascinated by handling Victorian pennies and a fellie gauge; Julian Jordan’s sessions inspired some splendidly creative poems about milestones (gathered into a presentation folder at the Centre) and Melanie Wilks worked with them to model their own waymakers which she baked so they could be vividly decorated. These will be used to mark the way to the nearby Dewsbury Country Park on special occasions.
The North Huddersfield Trust School in Fartown were also keen to take part, wanting to link the waymarking timeline to their WW1 activities. So Tollkeeper Meg and Melanie Wilks organised themed creative workshops for the Year 7s and sculpting sessions carving poppy waymarkers for the Year 9s. The waymarkers are a colourful reminder in the school grounds.
The Beyond Graffiti project was featured in the Kirklees College website and magazine: the Construction Department had an HMI inspection during one of the carving sessions and the Inspector was greatly interested in the activities, reporting very favourably. It was also featured in the NHTS magazine.
Throughout July 2014, exhibitions were held at Oakwell Hall and the Packhorse Gallery Huddersfield ‘Celebrating Stone in the Landscape’.Kirklees Council staff produced the artwork for our leaftlet; five thousand copies were distributed. Local artists and photographers were invited to contribute and the works of Chrissy Eastwood, Ian Kennedy, Dave Booth and the West Riding Woodcarvers in particular were highly commended. We even had a ‘Dick Whittington corner’ for younger visitors, who enjoyed learning about Dick’s medieval travels (and the Highgate Milestone!) as well as dressing up for photos.
A grant from Kirklees Council’s Arts in the Neighbourhood fund enabled us to run events every weekend in the Courtyard at Oakwell Hall; the Highwayman ‘Swift Nicks’ Nevison was particularly popular. Hade Edge Jazz Band kept its audience enthralled despite pouring rain. The Minstrel’s HurdyGurdy, the Southowram Community Singers, the Folkdance Band, Performance Poetry and Mel’s hands-on stone carving workshops provided great entertainment while Meg and Innkeeper Colin explained and interpreted the exhibits. There were also four walks associated with the project, around the milestones of Marsden, Huddersfield town centre and around the vicinity of Oakwell Hall, all led by Milestone Society members and all well-attended.
Our grateful thanks go to the many people who contributed to the success of the Beyond Graffiti project, those who provided the funding, Kirklees College, the staff at all the venues we visited, the minibus and taxi drivers, walk leaders David Garside, Margaret Hill, Paul & Chris Horbury, Colin Parry our audio visual technician and Maggie Kennedy our website developer.
Why is the project called ‘Beyond Graffiti’ ? Because graffiti is ephemeral – carved stone lasts for generations….
What is the legacy?
Many young people who participated in the programme and the hundreds of visitors to the events are now more aware of the travel and transport heritage that shaped the commercial activities of the West Riding – they also learned about the role of the guide stoops and milestones that are a feature of our landscape.
A hundred young people gained hands on skills and experience of stone working, drystone walling and stone masonry, to enhance their work prospects in the future.
And if at some time they are demolishing a wall with a milestone adjacent, they might recall this programme and understand the historic significance of the milestone – and not chuck it in the skip!
The waymarkers they created will be a lasting memorial to their work (many could not believe that they were making something that could last for generations – our grandchildren could see these?!) in Dewsbury Country Park, Oakwell Country Park and on the Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail in the Yorkshire Colne Valley.
Other legacy outcomes?
A set of stone-carving tools will be left with Kirklees College; the students have already made their mark by the entrance to Brunel House. They were asked to carve a WW1 memorial stone for Stainland which they accomplished under Dave Bradbury’s guidance. At Oakwell Hall, the local Dry Stone Walling Association rebuilt a wall in a public demonstration, as a result of links established by the project.
But one consequence has been gaining credibility with various departments at Kirklees Council and with Community groups. In spring 2014, the Walkers are Welcome groups in the Colne Valley suggested collaboration to improve various footpaths which already formed parts of the Milestone Society’s Heritage Walk between Slaithwaite and Marsden; as the formal Beyond Graffiti project has drawn to a close, we are in the process of upgrading this walk to a recognised Heritage Trail called ‘Crossing the Pennines’. This will tell comers in and residents alike about our travel and transport history and attract sustainable tourism to the valley’s welcoming shops, cafes and galleries. In November 2015, we won £49,200 from the Big Lottery’s Peoples Millions, to restore authentically part of the ancient packhorse route from Halifax to Oldham, which will incorporate opportunities for skills development in young people.
But that’s another story : see www.CrossingthePennines.co.uk