West Yorkshire: Two in One!

Well, it was only a matter of time before we were back in Brontë country!

After a very early start, we found ourselves in the lovely little town of Morley, in the very well-kept and well-attended library. Our thanks go to Simon Zonenblick, who offered us the opportunity to take the readings there. Simon is currently working on a documentary film about Branwell Brontë’s time on the Manchester to Leeds railway at Sowerby Bridge and Luddenden Foot, so please keep your eye out for it! Visit the website here or follow @CaterpillarPoet on Twitter for updates.

The audience filtered in – a chatty, upbeat lot who helped themselves to tea and coffee and seemed very much up for a morning of entertainment! The event went swimmingly, and the ladies and gentlemen in attendance didn’t make it easy for us to leave afterwards, indulging Caroline’s penchant for being quizzed in Brontë trivia to the point where she had to be virtually dragged away when it was time to go! Interest certainly seemed to be piqued by the biographical side of the talk, and we enjoyed giving recommendations for various books on the Brontë family. Our sincerest thanks go to the staff of Morley library who rounded up such a superb crowd and really made us feel at home. It’s definitely not goodbye forever!

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Alas, however, we did have to go, and our next destination was a famous one. We travelled along the Thornton Road to Haworth, retracing the route Caroline took on her 130 mile walk three months ago and doubtlessly the one taken by the young Brontës when they moved to the town in 1820. We were starving upon arrival, but that was easily and comprehensively fixed by a brief trip to Cobbles and Clay, the wonderful art cafe that hosted one of our readings in June. Tuscan Bean Stew, Bean Burritos and an absolutely divine warm sticky apple cake were very much enjoyed!

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After that, we paid a visit to the always atmospheric and affecting Parsonage Museum, examined the original bullet holes blasted by Patrick “If I Hit Anyone In The Churchyard They’ll Already Be Dead” Brontë in his own church tower, and paid a quiet little visit to the memorial above the Brontë crypt. After all, it was quite a special day.

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A faint rainbow ends on the moors.

24th September, 1848, marked the sad day of Branwell Brontë’s death at the age of 31. 167 years later, we were on our way to read work by himself and his famous sisters at Ponden Hall, one of their favourite childhood haunts and the site of some of their happiest memories and most intense inspiration. It is likely to be one of the properties that inspired Emily’s Wuthering Heights as well as the probable template for Darkwall, an affluent home mentioned multiple times in the Brontë children’s Angrian saga.

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The evening was beautiful and calm, and the house was warm and homely. We were safely shut away from the ghosts that many say wander its grounds. (We’ll be reading there on Halloween though – let’s see what happens then!) We were very pleased to see that the Collections Manager from the Brontë Parsonage, Ann Dinsdale, had come along to see what we were up to! Again, we really enjoyed performing the readings, but what turned a fun night into an excellent one was the exemplary spread laid out by Ponden resident and owner, Julie Akhurst. No fewer than FOUR cakes – including a traditional Victorian “seed cake” flavoured wonderfully with caraway, as well as scones, sandwiches and tea brewed the proper Yorkshire way graced the table and the guests tucked in heartily! However, the evening was not over, and Julie then took us on a tour of the ancient house. Utterly spoiled, we were treated to a glimpse of the famous “Box Bed” room from Wuthering Heights and the library that allowed the young Brontës to further develop their love of reading.

Another fabulous day sharing the works of the Brontë family with other enthusiasts had certainly worn us out, but it’s not over yet! We’re at Scarborough Library on Thursday 1st October, then we’ll retrace our steps to Cowan Bridge to perform a Jane Eyre-themed reading in the famous Clergy Daughters’ Schoolhouse – the template for Lowood School in Charlotte’s classic novel – on Wednesday 21st October, and finally we’ll be back at Ponden Hall for our eerie Halloween event!

Watch this space for more information, and take a moment to remember poor tragic Branwell, 200 years old in 2017. See our original production about the end of his life in Salford and Haworth this November.

West Yorkshire: Two in One!

A Few Big Days

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(Images courtesy of Ian Howard)

There’s been a flurry of activity over the last couple of weeks, despite the fact that the production itself won’t launch until November! The cast all met at Contact on Oxford Road on 15th April for our first table-reading of the revised script, which ran to just under two hours. It was also a chance to meet our new director, Helen Parry, and discuss what was to come. Everyone left very tired but extremely enthused about the coming months. A few months previously, after seeing an invitation on Facebook, producer Caroline leapt at the chance to sign the whole company up to a mysterious foray into the unknown wilderness of the Yorkshire Moors, to assist Ian, the man behind Wuthering Hikes, and Oliver of gVisions media in the filming of an Ask The Locals documentary about the locations that inspired the Brontës. See the trailer below!

The day started with a bit of an honour – we met at the Black Bull pub, where the staff kindly brought down the chair that is reputed to have been Branwell Brontë’s favourite. Still in visibly good nick but apparently rather fragile-feeling when sat on, the cast and crew of the shoot were allowed to use it for a brief few moments before it was whisked away again (see the shots of “Branwell” in front of the stained glass window in the video above.)

We shot a scene in the pub, then were whisked along a winding road to the reservoir and up past Ponden Hall, the grand house the young Brontës used to visit, home to a well-stocked library that they famously used. Up and up we went, scrambling up jagged stone steps and over boggy moorland for what seemed like millions of miles to those who are used to the uninspiring grey concrete of Manchester. But what a reward! The scenery was utterly stunning, and Oliver, who was operating the camera, captured some absolutely gorgeous pieces of footage in a location that was like no other on earth.

We shot a further scene at the Alcomden stones, near to the site of a near-disastrous bog-burst that almost claimed the lives of the young Brontës, then wandered back down via the fairy cave (see the clip of the three women in the video above) and past Ponden Hall again, where the residents kindly granted the crew permission to film a couple of scenes in the garden. With aching legs and buzzing spirits, the company headed back into Haworth, where we enjoyed a delicious meal and a cheeky drink at The Fleece Inn, then set off for home. We’re now eagerly awaiting the release date of the documentary, which, we’re told, will organically develop with each shoot, but will focus on some unusual secrets hidden around the moors that may suggest Druid activity in Haworth at the time, as well as elements of the Brontës books that may cryptically hint towards Masonic inspiration. Keep an eye on gVisions media for more! As a final update, the company’s funding bid has now whizzed off to the Arts Council, complete with superb supporting documents provided by The Brontë Parsonage Museum, Bradford City Council, Salford Community Leisure and Two Yolks Theatre as well as the lovely feedback we received from our sharing in January. Here’s hoping!

A Few Big Days