Town’s tribute to a busking legend

Remembered: Tom during his fund-raising for the Pakistan flood appeal in 2010
Remembered: Tom during his fund-raising for the Pakistan flood appeal in 2010

A “UNIQUE” busker who brightened the day of many who passed by has been remembered by his friends, six months after he died.

Tom Houlden, 62, was a familiar face to people in Hebden Bridge until his untimely death just before Christmas.

He played guitar and sang Bob Dylan classics and was most often spotted near the bridge and in the town square.

He died on December 21 – the winter solstice – and now his friends have rallied round to hold an art exhibition in his memory.

They transformed Holme Street Arts Centre into an exhibition space for the duration of the Arts Festival.

In August 2010, Tom teamed up with friend Anne Knight to raise £700 for the Pakistan flood appeal in town-centre displays involving costumes and stilts.

“Everyone knew Tom the Busker,” said Anne.

“He was quite a man, very much missed by us all,” she said.

“He was unique,” she added.

The exhibition was their second event which runs under the name “Tomfoolery”.

Anne said: “A lot of us in the group are people who have never shown before and quite a lot of us have mental-health issues and find art as a way to help ourselves and others.”

First-time artists included Claire Kunzler and Tom’s widow, Helen, who is currently in her second year of a fine-art course at Todmorden College.

Anne said: “He’d definitely be proud of it.

“Tomfoolery events will continue happening.

“We’ll find ways to carry on supporting people and helping ourselves.”

They raised awareness of the art show – and a few smiles – by parading through the town centre singing Michael Jackson’s Blame It On The Boogie.

“It was hilarious. We’re not the most beautiful dancers but it was great fun and everyone had such a blast,” said artist Alice Mill.

They returned to the arts centre where a cafe had been set up.

Alice said: “We had singing, art, dressing up – it was a really nice afternoon, all talking about Tom.”

The exhibition’s last day was marked with a lunch and all money raised was split between the Simon on the Streets charity, which supports homeless people, and the arts centre.