Letter: Calderland shows heritage to wider world

Rehearsals for Calderland, which was a great show, says Christine Gibson. Photo by Sarah Mason
Rehearsals for Calderland, which was a great show, says Christine Gibson. Photo by Sarah Mason

Congratulations to all who were involved in the creating and production of ‘Calderland’, a love song to the Calder Valley and all who live in it. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this when we saw it at Halifax Piece Hall on Sunday, October 3.

The orchestra and choir, consisting of local primary schoolchildren and adults plus stunning digital backdrops enabled us to clearly visualise the historical background of Calderdale with its rise from cottage weaving of pieces to the industrial factory system.

Daniel Defoe’s account of Halifax in his journey throughout the British Isles was read by an actor describing how all were gainfully employed. A photo screen image poignantly depicted a small boy whose cruel mistreatment by an overseer resulted in the boy’s death.

Rain, rivers, water linked the history, bringing the story to 2015 when sirens alerted the people of the Calder Valley to the impending flooding. I was impressed by the way descriptions of the effects of the flooding taken from local, personal experiences were woven into the songs and projected on to the screens.

Representational images of rain on glass windscreens, the terrible debris, household objects in incongruous places, a forlorn wet teddy bear, wrapping paper; it was Boxing Day.

Of course we remembered it, my husband and I, but in Northowram we were spared the immediate horrors. We read and heard first hand personal accounts, of how everybody, anybody, moved in with mops and buckets. Asian mobile canteens came, handing out curries and, as the song went in that Piece Hall, “They came without the need of trumpets and handed out a thousand crumpets”.

It was 7.30pm and dark. The balconies were lit by soft lighting, the spire of Square Chapel gradually came into view; subtle illumination, blue and lilac shone against the backdrop of Beacon Hill where once the coiners and those from the gibbet had been displayed.

I looked up to the balconies and the people surrounding us. It was a pleasure to see so many and their rapt attention, almost unaware that dark clouds were gathering above the Piece Hall. Would be beat the rain? Just. Reference had been made to climate change and that world-wide flooding was on the increase.

Like Romans my husband and I sat on the stone terrace steps. Unlike the majority we had come without cushions or blankets.

A man was handing some out, there was no collection point so I assumed there was no charge.

There was no charge either for this electrifying and memorable performance.

Some are understandably fearful of what may happen when the lottery money runs out, and this certainly needs addressing.

Meanwhile the architects and all those involved with the renovation and development of the Piece Hall and other heritage buildings, particularly the new library, deserve congratulating. Perhaps there is need for more foliage and the warm-coloured Yorkshire flagstones are missed but columns ruined by acid cleaning have been tastefully restored.

Quality shops are opening around the arena and how pleasing it is to see people of Halifax and visitors enjoying this environment.

At last there appears to be some on Calderdale Council prepared to find creative ways to attract visitors and show our heritage to a wider world.