West Yorkshire in a nutshell (no, in a triangle!)
+ more on the 4th Psychogeo. Congress 2017!
This time around, i.e. on this trip, West Yorkshire revealed itself as a triangle to me! This is because I only went to a small area, and it was an alliterated one at that! The alliteration was: H, the triangle was: Huddersfield, Halifax, Hebden Bridge! So that’s not all of West Yorks by any means, or any Leeds, but it was a nice triple-destined journey.
When you look on the map, you find it’s not a regular triangle, it has two little sides between Hudders and Hali, and Hali and Heb, and then a long side between Hudders and Heb, so Hali is kind of in the middle! So that’s as far as the shape goes! This long-triangle shape then, acquired a tail as well, of which I will tell: the Todmorden-tail.
From shape to text! The text behind the ‘H-code’ was this: to visit and present at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, staying overnight in Halifax, and then going out to visit Hebden Bridge. And here, on my last Heb-leg, I added another excursion: Todmorden – not an H, but fitting into the trip-logic, because it’s a kind of ‘twin town’ to Hebden Bridge, as it has the same character of being an community/alternative/ecological/arty/feministy town, turned into this, along with Hebden Bridge, in the 1970s and 80s by hippies and feminists, seeking a kind of self-organised space.
It started with the Psychogeography Congress! But then it started everywhere, because on the 7th September, as I was travelling up, I went to Halifax first, to my B and B, and as I arrived there early, and I had the rest of the day to myself, I did a little trip to Hebden Bridge right there and then! As soon as you arrive, you might get initiated, as I did, in the ‘project’ of Hebden Bridge: to be cuddly, friendly town, with ecological awareness and an alternative to consumerism-capitalism. It’s great that this exists, a community built around caring and commitment! I know, this is not the only ‘text of the town’, but it’s bigger than it is in other towns. It’s kind of centre-stage here, and that feels liberating.
Then, arriving back at Halifax, I loved it as well, and admired the woolly Piece Hall, telling of sheep- and weaving history and industry, with a Spanish outlook! – the Piece Hall is a massive building, where woven pieces used to be sold, it’s a three-story building, including a square inside, and somehow looks like a Spanish bull-ring, with the only difference that the circular bullring built has been ‘reproduced’ as a square. How to square the circle!
Now the Psychogeography Congress. That was happening for the next 3 magic days. It was amazing, ground-breaking, eye-opening, net-working. Drifting, radical walking, interesting presentations. Everything was inspiring and had revolutionary potential (or actuality), and what especially resonated with me, was the presentation before mine, about the simulation solar system in West Yorkshire! That was ‘Walking at the Speed of Light’ by Annie Watson, which I loved, and which recreated distances between the Sun, Mercury, Venus, our Earth, and so on, around Sheffield. Because it’s so interesting, it has been re-created at the Documenta festival in Kassel as well! The only thing that’s missing in the project, I think, is Pluto -I know Pluto was temporarily contested, but it has a whopping five moons!
There were lots of interesting discussions too. And the next-most fascinating thing I remember was – and I don’t know if it was a presentation or a discussion (I thought it was a presentation but now can’t find it on the conference programme!) – the walk around the twin-towns! That was Graeme Murrell, who linked West Yorks with the Ruhr Valley in Germany, because Leeds is twinned with Dortmund, and Huddersfield is twinned with Unna. So there’s an echo there, and it’s an equivalent echo at that because the distance between Leeds and Huddersfield equals the distance between Dortmund and Unna.
I like these transpositions and positions, this town- , path- and landscape-twinning, because they remind me of my own! I have similar things around language-symmetry, and map/geography-language co-relations, or triangulations. They have a (mutual) purpose, as they enhance adventures in (inter/cultural) translations, and thereby enhance understanding, friendship and exchange – discovering similarities and possibilities for synchronicity between and amongst us.
I also like these kind of transpositioning things, because my favourite field within maths at school was geometry: the idea of joining dots and coming up with producing shapes and outlines, always appealed to me.
And here I was, hearing about Murrell’s Leeds-Huddersfield, corresponded with the Dortmund-Unna walk, whilst relishing my own West Yorks triangle of HHH: Huddersfield, Halifax and Hebden Bridge (should we add here: Hamburg, Helsinki, Haifa, Hebron, Harare, Hull, Halle, Hammerfest…).
There is still more to write about that land-mark (well, literally land-marking!) Psychogeography Congress, but I’ll do this in stages. Conceptually, after all, this was more than a triangle, but a shape with so many angles that I wouldn’t know what to call it! If you have any ideas, let me know.
Huddersfield itself is beautifully sided by the mountainous Castle Hill, a bit like Halifax is beautifully sided by the mountainous Beacon Hill – both of them town-side hills, which could almost be mountains!
Huddersfield also excels with its missing platform number 7 at the railway station. I think my train, ironically, took the place of number 7, because it was always the second train on platform 6! So actually I think I can say that my train was the ‘missing platform train’.
After the conference, and before home, I came back to Hebden Bridge, with the additional excursion to Todmorden. I then twinned Heb and Tod in my mind, as they both underlie the same ethos of ecology, art and revolution. A lot of this is communicated on public noticeboards, and it made me realise, how important noticeboards are for a sense of both community and revolution. The idea of communicating not just privately on social media, but publicly, physically, out in the open, is much more participatory and immediate! And then again, this corresponds with a psychogeographic method as well: the idea in the psychogeo. classic: ‘The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem centres on communication and participation as well! For me, there were echoes of the old feminist Silvermoon Bookshop in London too, as I remember this as containing lots of notices, as you made your way from the ground floor to the first floor.
Keep going up!
As a postscriptum I came up with yet another figure when back in London: Hebden Bridge also reminded me of what arty alternative Walthamstow would be if it was outside London (or had more space!), and the surrounding city replaced by hills. Todmorden, then, would become Leytonstone (due to its nearby location and similar arty/alternative life!) and Mytholmroyd would become Blackhorse Rd, because it is hardly separate from Walthamstow, but has its own tube station on the same line – just like the ‘real’ Mytholmroyd is hardly separate from Hebden Bridge, but has its own train station on the same line.
This also makes Heb., Tod. and Myth. (!), another triangle, echoed by the Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Blackhorse Rd triangle.
Ok I’ll stop here for now, I think the next text from here could take up Mytholmroyd as a site for mythogeography (a branch of psychogeography)!