JUDAS Launch Video

Clinton Heylin talks with Ian Clayton at the book launch for JUDAS!.

The launch was held in conjunction with Classic Album Thursdays. After the Q&A, Clinton introduces the original ‘Royal Albert Hall’ bootleg recording of the Bob Dylan and the Hawks gig at Free Trade Hall, Manchester in May 1966 and tells the story of how came to own the original tapes.

The event took place at Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, on the day that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ian Clayton is the author of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’
www.ianclaytoninfo.wordpress.com

BUY BOOK

judas-clintonheylin

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more JUDAS! content visit www.dylanjudas.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Ian Clayton | Bringing It All Back Home Interview

ianc-biabh-outtake

As Ian Clayton’s Bringing It All Back Home approaches its tenth anniversary, and we prepare to mark the occasion at the Pontefract Festival of Stories, here is an interview Ian conducted about the book in 2006, prior to publication. In ten years, the book has been on a journey of its own, and with each person who has read it, and every review written, something new has been brought to its essence. This then, an interview conducted before the book entered the world, gives insight into its conception and original intent.


Ian Clayton answers questions about Bringing It All Back Home in a public house in the Castleford Potteries, a traditional drinking hole adjacent to a dilapidated old tin hut which was once home to a school where a young Henry Moore began his education.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to write this book?

A: It’s just some stories that I’ve been telling for years and never written down. Most stories circulate in their own neighbourhood, you might call this a gang of stories bursting out of where they are from.

Q: The book is essentially about music, but in it you do talk a lot about the value of the stories and the power of storytelling.

A: It starts with sounds really. If you enjoy music it’s because you’ve enjoyed sounds as a kid. The sounds can be anything, from listening to birds whistling in the morning to listening to the sounds of the street where you live, to listening to arguments. In my case I listened to a lot of arguments because I grew up in a house full of them. I listened to what people were shouting to each other about. And it’s a learning thing then. Because I tried to understand what the arguments were about and in trying to understand what arguments are about I get an understanding of what people are about. So that’s the first part of it, listening to sounds, listening to noises. I always enjoyed listening to what was going on, it could be my old grandad telling stories, could be old neighbours telling ancient stories about what their lives were about and what entertained them.

I listened to a lot of radio when I was a kid, so that’s a really big memory for me. Radio Luxemburg in my case, sometimes the pirate radio stations I got to hear. The few records that we had I enjoyed and on top of that are the stories that children tell each other at schools, and I always got something out of that; playground games, rhymes, songs that kids were singing in playgrounds, stories that kids were telling in playgrounds.

Then above that I grew up in a place where working men’s clubs were strong; they always had entertainment at weekends and I’d hear songs coming out of those places. These songs were contemporary in a way because the songs that turns were singing in working men’s clubs were up to date, but also old fashioned because they were presented in a way that entertainment to working people had been presented for a hundred years, right back to the music halls. And although I didn’t know it when I was a kid, thirty years later I would become fascinated by music hall and I think the fascination is because that was the music I was hearing as a kid. The songs that my relatives and friends and neighbours were singing coming out of working men’s clubs wasn’t much different to what people had been listening to for a hundred years or more. So that’s the starting point really. The starting point isn’t pop music, rock music or folk music or any kind of music, it’s sounds; sounds of my neighbourhood, my street, my school playground, my family home and places of entertainment, which was working men’s clubs.

Q: You’re saying that fascination with stories and the fascination with music is inseparable. So your pursuit of music which is outlined in this book, is that a pursuit of stories and other places?

A: I can’t separate anything, I never have been able to. It’s what is usually wrapped up as culture by better educated, more culturally aware people. They will say that conversation, music, art, creativity, reading, stories, dance, however we choose to express ourselves creatively, is culture. I never got the opportunity to see anything beyond the confines of my town where I lived until I was a young man, so for the first sixteen years of my life my culture was wrapped up in my environment and what that means. So anything that is coming to me is synthesised really. If I hear a record that is on Radio 1, I don’t hear it on Radio 1, I hear it in my kitchen on a wireless. And so it means something because of that.  Therefore when I hear The Kinks singing ‘Lola’, I don’t think of it as a band that is recording in London as part of a 1960s, early 1970s pop culture, I hear it as part of an everyday occurrence coming from a wireless or a record in my house. I don’t recognise the pop music industry as a separate entity to my everyday life, it’s just another part of what I’m listening to or experiencing.  To be precise when I think of ‘Lola’ it makes me recall a caravan holiday at Withernsea on the Yorkshire coast, which is a long way from ‘old Soho where they drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola’.

Q: There are many journeys in the book, lots of starting points that lead you to other stories; finding a blues record in a second hand shop in Cornwall leads you to Bessie Smith’s deathbed; listening to the wireless leads on to you being on the wireless, to making radio. Have you educated yourself through these things?

A: It’s utilising experience. I didn’t think this when I was younger, I’m not even sure I’m completely aware of what I’m doing now, but I think that if the metaphor for life is the journey, then part of that metaphor is experiences.  If life’s journey is about experiences that you have in life, then it necessarily follows that one experience must lead to another and that if you can enjoy and learn from those experiences then your natural and instinctive inquisitiveness leads you from one experience to the next. I don’t have any qualms about making the leap from the general hubbub of noise in my backyard to the concert hall where I go to see my first opera.

Q: The world is awash with music and we get it pumped at us on a regular basis. How do you discern, what is it that interests you in a piece of music? How do you make your steps?

A: You’re touching on taste there. I think authenticity is the word. If with expression – whether it be musical, storytelling or however you choose to express yourself – if you are doing that with sincerity then it necessarily follows that it is an authentic experience of who you are, where you are from, what you are aiming towards and what you are trying to understand in order to transfer that understanding to somebody else. If you take an old music hall song that my grandad used to sing, I think that’s a great thing because it’s the popular music of that time and it’s meant something to his life and therefore meant something to mine because I’m part of him. If you take a Blue Note jazz record by Ike Quebec or Art Blakey it’s completely out of my experience in real terms but I can see what they are doing, expressing something which is dear to them or near to them, so that’s important. I’ve listened to African music, I’ve never been to West Africa or Central Africa, but I enjoy the music of Congo and Mali because I can see what they are doing, that they are expressing something which is close to them, meaningful and authentic.

Q: As you’ve travelled through your life and you’ve made journeys and connections, as you’ve moved from one thing to another there is a sense in the book of collecting and hoarding as you go along and you fill your house. There is this talk of your ‘head being your house and your house being your head’. What is this instinct about? You may hear the hubbub of a playground, but that is a transient and passes by, why is it you feel the need to collect music and artefacts?

A: I think it might be primitive. Most human beings who have nothing try to acquire and once they’ve acquired they try to keep.  Here again I don’t separate the collections in my house from the collections in my head.  Playground hubbub is transient, but even though it doesn’t sit on a shelf in my house it is filed somewhere in my head.

I don’t want to make a big sociological argument for this book, but I think working-class people like to acquire things that they haven’t got and they hold them. My record collection is pristine and I don’t want to hurt it, I want it be as good as it was when I got it. There is a passage in this book that is very important to me and that is when I was a little boy I liked to collect things because I didn’t want them to be lost. I used to collect things that were washed up from the sea at the seaside because it seemed to me they were very lonely; pieces of wood with bits of writing on that were once crates for fruit or vegetables, once were boxes that had things in them and now were destroyed and tossed about on the waters. I saved stuff like that because it seemed to me that it was more important to render them not lost. I don’t know if that connects. I think it probably does actually, if you render something not lost anymore it connects to something that’s been created, so something that’s found is as important as something that is made. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few years, while creativity is a good thing for all human beings to be involved in – and I have been involved in a lot of creativity in my life – I think that finding things is just as important and what you can do with things that you find is great.

Q: There are lots of references in the book to your desire as a young man to make maps. You had this very early, almost romantic fascination about foreign places and wanting to create maps. Is your library and record collection and your trinkets some kind of map of your life?

A: Yes they are, they are places on a map, it’s a progressive route. I also think that I’m very romantically and sentimentally attached to my hometown and I want it to be as important as other people’s hometowns. I’ve been upset over the years that there are certain northern English working class towns that don’t get the recognition that they deserve. I’ve sophisticated this idea over the years – I didn’t know this when I started to think about it – but it seems to me that my hometown is as important as anybody else’s hometown anywhere in the world. So, if I can find something from another place and compare it to something that’s from where I’m from and share the comparisons and draw the significances, then it lifts my hometown up to their level, or the level that they perceive themselves to be at. It’s a way of drawing maps and drawing lines between places. This is what I’ve heard from your place, now listen to something coming from mine.

Q: The title Bringing It All Back Home is in many ways about a dialogue. Exactly what you have just described, a dialogue between what you have, what you can bring to it and what you can export as well.

A: I don’t think there is any point in making any journey whatsoever if you are not going to take anything with you as well as bring something back. I despise the idea of being a cultural tourist; I don’t want to be one. That means to say that the only thing you will ever do is go to somewhere to see what you can get from it. I’d rather take something with me and then it works both ways.

Q: If this book represents your journey so far, where do you go from here? What is interesting you now, what musical journeys do you expect to embark on?

A: I’ll carry on doing what I do. It’s undefined. We talk about maps, we talk about compass directions, we talk about journeys, and journeys always suggest that there is a start and a middle bit and that you come to some kind of end. This book doesn’t work in that way because it goes round and round. Time isn’t accounted for, geographical location isn’t accounted for, except to say that there are certain places and comparisons that I have made. I think that there are towns in America and Eastern Europe and Asia that have got more in common with where I’m from than places in the south of this country.

The hardest thing of all to deal with has been the terrible family tragedy that befell us.  As I was coming to the end of this book my daughter Billie died in a canoeing accident.  My partner Heather encouraged me to write about this and include it in the book. Billie’s death has ended many journeys for me. A lot of my life now, both professionally and personally, is going to be trying to work out how to restart the journey. I don’t want to make a big thing about it, but it just seems that a lot of endings have come all at the same time; working on a book that’s finished, having a child in your family that has died, doing some cathartic thing like getting a lot of stories out of you means that they’re not in you anymore. There’s a lot of endings that have come all at once.

Q: On the idea of time and how things connect to each other across all different sorts of levels, there’s a section in the book called ‘A Seed Doesn’t Stay in the Ground Forever’, do you see that there are seeds in the book that are part of that continuum, is there stuff in there that you will relate to and bring round again.

A: Of course there is. Nothing ever ends in that sense. There are resonances in this book coming from hundreds of years ago, which means that there will be echoes in years to come. It’s finding that ear for both resonance and echo and I’ll do it. At the moment I’m a bit lost with that, I’m not quite sure what a lot of things mean anymore and I’m not sure what is going to be important anymore. I’ll just find it, it’ll happen. I’ve never planned, it’s always been quite an anarchic journey, sometimes I think the harder I try to make the maps the more I throw them away.

Bringing-it-all-back-home-300

>>Pontefract Festival of Stories
>>Bringing It All Back Home
>>Ian Clayton Website

 

 

 

Pontefract Festival of Stories 2016 | Bringing It All Back Home

When world music magazine Songlines reviewed Ian Clayton’s book Bringing It All Back Home they declared the reading experience to be ‘The literary equivalent of a great evening in the pub’.  In the ten years since publication, Bringing It All Back Home has fast established itself as a modern classic of music writing. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, the inaugural Pontefract Festival of Stories made literal the Songlines review with a series of events over ten days that reflected the content of the book, incorporating music, film and good conversation. Ian Clayton hosted guests throughout the week. All events will took place in the intimate theatre setting behind the curtain at the Tap & Barrel, Pontefract. All tickets £5 and carried a £5 voucher to be cashed in at the Route bookshop on the night.

Run the playlist above or click here to see it in YouTube

Festival programme below.

Friday 23 September, 9pm
Northern Town
Glass Caves + Toria Garbutt

pfs2016-toria  pfs2016-glasseddie

‘That summer someone organises a Rock Against Racism benefit at Pontefract Town Hall. Topping the bill are the Leeds Marxist intellectual rockers Gang of Four. Bottom of the bill are our local punk band, The Thrust, named after a chain of petrol stations. Every punk in Pontefract is present. The Thrust have Mick Griffiths on brand new Rickenbacker, swinging his arm like Pete Townshend, and Pete on vocals. He hangs off the microphone stand like a wounded scarecrow and spits out his songs with mighty venom: ‘I’m a victim of the system, a proper little twat. I’m an ordinary member of society, society, so…ciety!’ And the immortal ‘Northern Town’. ‘You’re living in a northern town. Pit stacks t’only scenery you’ve got.’

A celebration of leading-light, home-grown talent. With live music from the sensational Pontefract 5-piece, Glass Caves, and stunning poetry from the rising star of the UK Performance Poetry scene, Knottler’s very own Toria Garbutt.

Saturday 24 September, 7:30pm
Young Man Blues
Juke Joint Night

pfs2016-jukejoint

‘My home town is full of ghosts. It is also a blues town. Like all blues towns, Featherstone thrives on shadows and echoes of what once was. Featherstone, like the first two lines of a blues song, likes to repeat itself. Featherstone is the most remote of the blues towns, a long way from the Mississippi Delta, yet if you drew a line between New Orleans and Memphis you might find Featherstone on that line. Somewhere between Rolling Fork where Muddy Waters was born and Clarksdale, the birth town of John Lee Hooker, is Featherstone.’

The Tap & Barrel transforms into a juke joint with a night of blues, live and on vinyl records. Live music from Ben Buddy Slack.

Sunday 25 September, 6pm
One World
Global Threads + Chris ‘The Man in the Hat’ Martin

pfs2016-global   pfs2016-chris-martin2

‘Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Pakistani ghazal singer had a voice that went right through me. A bloke in a restaurant in Bradford called The Kashmir put me on to him. He gave me a cassette of a live concert in Paris. Then I saw him in the green fields at Glastonbury. He was magnificent. After Glastonbury I saw a snapshot of him pinned to the wall at the back of the till in a curry house in Pontefract, next to one of Imran Khan. The owner told me that he’d been in there for a meal. A story in the Big Bill Broonzy at Castleford mould.’

Ian Clayton presents his Global Threads world music session, spinning vinyl records from around the world. We come all the way back home with live music and hollering from the great Yorkshire bluesman Chris Martin aka ‘The Man In The Hat’ with fingered-picked and slide blues guitar.

Monday 26 September, 7:30pm
Freedom’s Just Another Word
Dave Downs with Steve Ely

pfs2016-davedowns   pfs2016-steve-ely

‘I’m replaying in my mind something that happened in Wakefield Prison some years before when making the Jailhouse Opera. On the day of the performance, one of the soloists decided that he didn’t want to perform his song accompanied by his own guitar that he’d been trying to perfect all week. He played a slightly out of tune guitar to the Kris Kristofferson song made famous by Janis Joplin, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. It is the last song he learned before coming into prison. The song that seemed to have kept him going for the nearly twenty years he’d been inside. The refrain ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ never sounded any sadder. I cried at the end of that performance. When I got home I took out my Kris Kristofferson Greatest Hits and played that song about fifteen times one after the other.’

Dave Downs in conversation with writer Steve Ely about his astonishing life: growing up on the mean streets of Featherstone, the violence and dark-side of ‘the doors’, the brutality, despair and humour of prison and his unlikely redemption. A Dissonant Voices special.

Tuesday 27 September, 7:30pm
Local Interest
Quiz + Jess Gardham

pfs2016-jess

‘When my grandad told me that I should never work down the pit, he never really told me what else I might do. Well, what he actually said was, ‘If I ever see thee near that pit I’ll give thee a bloody good hiding!’ When I asked him what he thought I ought to do he said, ‘Read books, lad!’ I used the maroon leather-bound dictionary that my Auntie Alice won for occasional reference; my word hoard improved dramatically. I got a bollocking at the age of sixteen for knowing too many “posh” words. Then there was my maps. And where did they get me?’

A specially curated cultural quiz, with a Yorkshire theme. Live music from York singer-songwriter Jess Gardham, with a distinctive mix of pop, soul and acoustic sounds. Richard Hawley was a surprise guest, and played 3 songs in the break between the quiz questions and answers.

Wednesday 28 September, 7:30pm
Knocked Down By a Feather
Allan Agar + 1983 Challenge Cup Final Screening

pfs2016-rovers-lift

‘In 1983 Rovers reached Wembley and were to play Hull, a millionaire club. Against all the odds, the Rovers with ten miners from the same colliery in their thirteen, triumphed. Jürgen Bredebusch stood on the terraces with me. He still talks about it today. “Mighty Hull knocked down by a Feather.” He quotes the headline on the back of The Observer newspaper from the day after. In Berlin just before they knocked down the wall I once saw sprayed in foot-high navy blue letters, Featherstone Rovers 14 Hull 12.’

Former Rovers coach Allan Agar in conversation with Ian Clayton about the glorious day in 1983 when Featherstone Rovers beat Hull to win the Challenge Cup at Wembley. Followed by screening of that 1983 final in full.

Thursday 29 September, 7:30pm
Subterranean, Homesick and Blue
Andy Kershaw Presents Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home*
(*Andy couldn’t make the event, but rescheduled to present Highway 61 Revisited)

pfs2016-bd-biabh   pfs2016-ak

‘I have spent a lot of time following signs out of my home town. And another part of my life trying to get back in again. Bob Dylan was the first man to pull me out of here and my gran and grandad had a bigger pull to draw me back.’

‘Our Ian went to see Bob Dylan and he’s never been the same lad since he came home.’ – Hilda Fletcher (Ian’s gran)
In association with The CAT Club (Classic Album Thursdays), legendary broadcaster Andy Kershaw presents Bob Dylan’s classic album Bringing It All Back Home in full and on vinyl. With Q&A.

Friday 30 September, 7:30pm
Bringing It All Back Home
Ian Clayton with Heath Common + Edward Clayton

pfs2016-ian-clayton  pfs2016-heath  pfs2016-eddie

‘Everything reminds me of something. I have filled my house and my head with things: books, records, paintings, stories; souvenirs that have no meaning except to me. Sometimes I think my house is my head and my head has become my house.’

Ian Clayton discusses his life and work in conversation with Heath Common, with Edward Clayton on piano.

Saturday 1 October, 7:30pm
One For My Baby (and One More For The Road)
Jazz Night with The Meg Holch Quintet

pfs2016-megholch

‘It’s a long way from the sleazy bars of New York and at the same time I’m sitting right in it. I’m listening to Billie Holiday pouring out a story to a tired barman, yet I’m nowhere near. What is it that? Why in some moments do I feel more akin to a black jazz singer from America than I do to my own Auntie Alice? I could say that Auntie Alice informs me about who I am and where I’m from. Billie Holiday takes me to places that I’d like to be from. Too simple minded that, though.’

A night of jazz on vinyl and live. The Meg Holch Quintet will serve up a mixture of some classic jazz standards with soul and funk fusion songs.

Sunday 2 October, 7:30pm
No Particular Place To Go
Kevin ‘Rev’ Reynolds

pfs2016-reynolds

‘Prince Keeyama, the Chicken Man, King of Bourbon Street, Miracle of the French Quarter and Master of Martial Arts is sitting outside a shop called House of Voodoo surveying upper Rampart Street from a tattered deckchair, like my grandad surveyed the beach at Blackpool. He starts to tell his stories. “The chicken is wise and alert. He’ll run and run. He wiser than an owl. He give you energy and knowledge. If you bite his head off, he give you knowledge too.”’

Kevin ‘Rev’ Reynolds in conversation about a musical odyssey to America’s Deep South he took with Ian Clayton and some friends from Pontefract. Ian was armed with pen, Kevin with camera. With photographic exhibition. Live music from Scott Wainwright.

Your £5 Book Token
Cash in at the Route Bookshop

pfs2016-routestall

Throughout the 10 days of the festival, Pontefract publisher Route will have a bookshop in the theatre. Each £5* ticket purchased for the festival includes a £5 book token that can be cashed in at the stall on the night of the event.

The list of books on sale was tailored to each individual event, but the mix each night will included four of Ian Clayton’s memoirs, plus other Route titles, including a selection of books on offer for £5. For these titles, tokens were directly exchanged for a book.

See Route’s full booklist: www.route-online.com

Tap & Barrel
Your Home of Cultural Events in Pontefract

pfs2016-candle

All events of the inaugural Pontefract Festival of Stories took place in the intimate theatre setting behind the curtain at the Tap & Barrel, Front Street, Pontefract. The festival is part of the ongoing cultural programme at the theatre, which hosts a regular series of events and sessions throughout the year, with live music, conversations, cinema and vinyl records. All events take place in a warm, friendly atmosphere, with the best stocked bar in the district, that includes a selection of artisan beers, wines and spirits, as well an exclusive range of fine Pontefract ales.

Tap & Barrel, 13 Front St, Pontefract, WF8 1AN
www.tappontefract.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/Tapintothebarrel/

Dedicated to the memory of
Völker Bredebusch
(1960-2016)

pfs2016-ianvolk02

‘I first meet Völker one evening in a bar called The Optimum. He is guest harp blower with a blues band that Jörge Petersmann has got together called Black Cat Bone. Völker is Jürgen’s younger brother. He is about my age, similar height and built like a brick shithouse. He has some right shoulders on him, through years of training to be in the German butterfly swimming team. If only Germany hadn’t withdrawn from the Moscow Olympics in 1980 he might have built a career as a swimmer. Völker took up joinery and music promotion. He has organised tours in Europe for artists who he’s a fan of, Eddi Reader being one, but mainly his hero John Martyn. Völker is a walking encyclopaedia of English folk-rock, blues, jazz and Bob Dylan. At the last count I think he had over four hundred John Martyn live bootlegs on tape. Völker grew up in that peculiarly German 1970s tradition of political activism, street theatre and impromptu gig organising.’

May this be the first of many festivals to come.
Tickets exclusively available at the bar.
Tap in.

 

pontfestlogo

The Pontefract Festival of Stories is a fringe event for Wakefield Literature Festival:
www.wakefieldlitfest.org.uk

 

 

Red Shed Book | Stories Wanted

REDSHED

Route is working with Wakefield Labour Club to create a book to mark the 50th anniversary of The Red Shed, to celebrate its colourful history and its contribution, over the last 50 years, to the Labour and socialist movement and the wider community. And we’re looking for stories from as many people with connections to the Club as possible. If you would like to make your contribution to the history of the Shed, or you know someone who has connections with the Club and has a story to tell, we’d love to hear from you.

Story Telling Sessions
To get the ball rolling, we have organised a series of story-telling sessions, led by author Ian Clayton. These are scheduled to take place at The Red Shed on:

Thursday 8th September 6pm-10pm
Saturday 17th September from 11am onwards
Wednesday 21st September 11am onwards
Monday 26th September 7pm onwards

Every assistance will be given to those who attend to ensure that their memories are included. No previous experience is necessary!

Ian Clayton commented that the sessions would enable people to tell their own personal stories and to herald the involvement and achievements of past members and the struggles they were involved in. ‘We want this to be an enjoyable experience for all those who have been involved in the Red Shed over the decades.’

If you are in contact with anyone who you think may have a contribution to make, please pass on these dates and encourage them to attend.

If you have story to tell but can’t attend one of the workshops, you can email your story to redshedmemories@yahoo.com

50th Anniversary Celebrations
The book project coincides with a production of The Red Shed, produced by Mark Thomas and currently on a national tour, and the Club’s own half century celebrations at the end of September. Former Wakefield MP David Hinchliffe said, ‘The Club’s fiftieth birthday will be marked by a significant stage production, events in the Club itself and now a book devoted to a shed and its relevance in half a century of political and social change. This is a very exciting project and I hope as many people as possible come forward to be a part of it.’

If you’ve been involved with the Club in any way overt the last fifty years, we’d love to hear from you. Likewise, if you know someone who has been involved, please pass this link on to them.

If you have any queries please contact the Club Secretary, Richard Council on 07948 525204 or email rchrdcoun1@blueyonder.co.uk, alternatively bring in your submissions to the Club!

Red Shed Website: www.theredshed.org.uk
Red Shed Facebook: www.facebook.com/theredshedwakefield

My Express Column | Ian Clayton

IanC-PontefractFlyover

In the autumn of 2010, I was approached by the then editor of the Pontefract and Castleford Express, a lady called Rebecca Whittington, and asked if I might care to contribute a weekly column to the newspaper. We sat at my kitchen table and I asked, ‘What should it be about?’ Rebecca told me that I could write about local culture, but put an Ian Clayton twist on to it. I liked the idea, I have long been a supporter of the local press and advocate on its behalf at every opportunity.

We drank a second cup of tea and then Rebecca said, ‘We can’t pay you, but feel free to advertise any of your projects or books in your piece.’ I felt a bit deflated by this and so said, ‘If you think I’m worth having, you should pay me and you’ll get a good professional job, because after all, I make my living from writing.’ After some thought she offered me £25 per article. I declined that, so she went to forty pounds. I said, ‘If you can make it £50, you’ll get a good value piece of writing and plenty of thought put into it.’ She said that she would have to have a word with her boss, so we left it at that. A few days later, she phoned me and said, ‘Yes we agree that we will pay you fifty pounds, start this week and if you let us have a column every Monday morning it will appear each Thursday.’

So, I did and within a few weeks I started getting lovely letters from readers, all positive and telling me that it was great to be reading something interesting. After a couple of years, Rebecca decided that the column’s popularity deserved a bigger spread, so the little column became a headed page, with my name and a photo of me at the top. I think to reflect this they increased my fee to £75 and then after a couple more years to £100. For my part I decided to put more effort into my piece. Some weeks I would send perhaps a day travelling around researching and thinking about a story and another half a day writing up my notes. I’ve never been a greedy lad for money, so I always thought that for the effort I put in, the paper was getting good value. I have never claimed any expenses in all the time I have written the piece, beyond the fee. All bus and train fares and theatre tickets and purchase of books and music have always come out of my own pocket.

Rebecca moved on a couple of years ago and I then corresponded and sent my pieces to a lady called Hannah Thaxter, who has been kind and supportive about what I write, indeed, when we decided to collect the best of my pieces together and publish them in book form, Hannah was good enough to write the preface for me. She wrote, ‘At the heart of every local paper are the stories and memories, the pride and the achievements of those who live there. We have been privileged at the Pontefract and Castleford Express to share with our readers such musings from local lad Ian Clayton. His column is a favourite amongst our readers.’ I’m very proud of that book and prouder still to say that it was a local best seller, in a district that doesn’t have book shops.

At the back end of February this year. I received an email from a man called John Kenealy. He is the editor of the Pontefract and Castleford Express, but his office is in Halifax. He wrote:

Dear Ian

I am writing to thank you for your excellent contributions to the Pontefract and Castleford Express over the years. Your column is highly regarded and has given an added bonus to Express readers.

However, you will know how challenging it is to publish newspapers in a digital age and a time of great economic uncertainty. Most of the revenue on which we depend comes from advertisers and in tough times it is more important than ever that we live within our means.

As a result, very sadly, we will no longer be able to pay for contributions such as those provided by yourself.

At the end of the letter, John asked me to contact him if I needed to talk. I phoned him. I asked him to tell me why, if the column was popular and enjoyed by readers, they didn’t want it anymore. He said the decision was made purely on economical grounds and that all freelance writers were being laid off, apart from the ones who were willing to write for free. He hinted that I could continue doing the column if I was prepared to work free of charge. Writing is my job, I will not do it for free. I also told him that I thought the economical argument was a poor one; if readership decreases as a result then they have saved nothing. I also asked for a month’s notice, which he agreed to. Today, 24 March 2016, my penultimate column has appeared in the Pontefract and Castleford Express. I have written about aspects of local culture that disappear while you are not looking. I have also tried to let readers know that I will not be writing for the paper anymore. The Express have published my piece, but they have decided to leave out an important sentence. Here is the sentence they have left out.

‘Changes are on the horizon for this paper and I’m sorry that the decision makers have decided that my work here is no longer required.’

I really don’t know the extent of the changes and I have even less clue about who makes the decisions, John Kenealy told me that the decision to sack me was his. I suspect that he was told from someone above and that these people above have no idea of what makes this area tick. I will continue to be a supporter of local papers, but only if they remain loyal to the locality. I do not want to see my local paper, that I buy every week from the Post Office on Church Lane near where I live, become some kind of generic newsletter for big companies trying to sell stuff. I love writing for the Express and I know, because of all the feedback I receive that readers round here like what I put. If the purpose of a local press is to celebrate and uplift local life and culture, who then are these people in management positions who interfere with good things? We often hear that old saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ these days. I’m more than happy to carry on doing something for localness, I want to carry on writing for the paper, but I won’t allow people I don’t know and who don’t know this locality to tell me that I must work for free in order to do it. I’m not that simple!

>>See ‘Just Saying’ Ian’s blog in response to the support he received after this post
>> Ian Clayton’s Website