Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Where is it set?

One of my books, The Gentle Wind's Caress, is set in an area of Yorkshire known as Calderdale. The villages that feature in the book are Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall.

Hebden Bridge is the little bustling village that the heroine of the book, Isabelle, visits to shop and sell her wares on a market stall, but it is the farming countryside around Heptonstall, high up on the moors above Hebden Bride, where Isabelle lives on a run down farm which she tries to keep from going under despite the odds being against her.

Hebden Bridge

The area is naturally beautiful and running through the valley is the Calder River. This part of Yorkshire, like most areas, is steeped in history, and you can enjoy many local attractions, whether that be sipping coffee in Hebden Bridge, hiking along the many walking trails throughout the valley, learning the villages' history at places like Gibson's Mill (this is also Isabelle's surname, as I've made her a fictional distant relative of the mill owners), or visiting natural beauty spots like Hardcastle Crags.

For more information on Hebden Bridge:
For more information on Heptonstall:

A snippet from The Gentle Wind's Caress:

The cartwheel fell into a hole, jerking her back to the present. She forced herself to relax. Yes, she had married a stranger, but what had been the alternative? Living on the streets would have been much worse and she had to think of Hughie’s future too.
Isabelle raised her chin and concentrated on her surroundings. They’d left Halifax immediately after the wedding tea and driven straight to Hebden Bridge, where Len stopped to purchase goods, which for some reason, he grumbled about. Now, they drove up the steep, winding Heptonstall Road and her new husband had barely spoken to them. She couldn’t blame him really. Obviously, the situation wasn’t easy for him either. She expected that men become equally nervous as women when they married.
Craning to look past Hughie, Isabelle marvelled at the magnificent scenery of the valley below. The grey stone terrace houses of Hebden Bridge hugged the slopes as though they had been hewn from the valley sides. The silver ribbon of the River Calder coiled through the town like a lazy snake. Beside it, caught in glimpses between trees and buildings, lay the Rochdale Canal.
Familiar names in a new and unfamiliar life.  
The muted noise of the small village of Heptonstall greeted them like a soft caress on the wind. The narrow, quiet streets reflected the lateness of the day; many would be inside enjoying their tea. Isabelle took eager interest in the Old Church and Weaver’s Square, and counted seven public houses, but all too soon they left the stone thoroughfare of Towngate and headed northwest on Smithwell Lane and out of the village. She would have to investigate the village properly at a later date.
Isabelle stifled a yawn, she had been awake since before dawn. The day’s toll flagged her strength. She still couldn’t believe she was now married. Opening her eyes wide to keep alert, she surveyed the countryside as it opened up on both sides of the road. The higher they rose, the cooler the weather became and the bleaker their environment. This was moor country. The crisp autumn air awoke her senses. Her gaze lingered on the hues of the heather covered moor. How beautiful it is. Maybe being married and living in the country would be an enjoyable experience. Surely, nothing could be worse than living by Matron’s rules and spending her time hiding from Neville?

To learn more about The Gentle Wind's Caress, which is available in paperback and ebook, visit online sellers such as Amazon, and my Facebook author page.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Great War and Theatre

Vesta Tilley
World War One caused a boom in theatre going, but not necessarily to see plays. Many serious plays had to be withdrawn as they lost money. Most companies broke up on the backs of theatre-manager’s greed. These men often lacked the paternal care exhibited by the old actor-managers. They were far more ruthless and would quickly call a halt to a tour if audiences began to dip, and rising rents were a nightmare.

The war naturally brought a new surge in patriotism, both in drama and cinema. There were plays written about the suffering, but the emphasis was more on the humorous to attract the masses. There were many songs about the war, even women dressed as soldiers (Vesta Tilley) as well as drama that was hostile to Germany. Soldiers on leave flocked to the theatres with their sweethearts, eager to be amused and entertained.

Chu Chin Chow was a huge success. Starting out as a pantomime it ran for over 2,000 performances at His Majesty’s. A Little Bit of Fluff, a popular farce, ran for three years at the Criterion. Critics were vociferous against this kind of ‘vulgarity’ as they termed it. Others would complain there was too much Shakespeare and time for a change.

One of the famous names at this time was Lilian Baylis at the Old Vic, who persisted in presenting Shakespeare. She also started a fine repertory company and established a permanent company for ballet. Miss Horniman, who ran The Old Gaiety Theatre in Manchester, transformed it into a modern repertory theatre and continued to do plays of a high quality, but it was not easy with so many of the ‘stars’ being taken away to go on tour. She had a reputation as a caring employer, anxious to achieve a good reputation for her actors. She even considered a trade union would be of benefit to enforce managers to provide clean and safe theatres, and pay for rehearsals. In 1913 one theatre in Manchester carried a notice which read “this theatre is perfectly ventilated, cleaned daily by the vacuum process and disinfected with Jeyes Fluid.” But on the whole, repertory companies suffered badly, largely because they persisted in presenting the same old Victorian melodramas, perpetuating the myth that anything was good enough for the provinces.

Films were the new popular treat, both at home and with troops in France, Charlie Chaplin’s in particular. It was estimated that by 1917 half the population went to the Cinema at least once a week as it was cheaper than a night out at the pub. Newsreels and propaganda films were also common. Performers would often entertain cinema audiences between films. Queues too would be entertained by performing dogs or a man playing a banjo or accordion. Then a collection would be taken up for the soldiers and sailors.

Benefit performances were held to raise money to entertain wounded soldiers; just as there were Tank Weeks, or fund raising for an ambulance. Matinees too would be held to buy x-ray or other first aid equipment.

The greatest rival to cinema was the music hall with concert parties and visits from famous artists to the camps and rest areas. Harry Lauder was a great favourite of the troops as he tirelessly toured France, getting as close to the front line as possible after his only son was killed there in 1916.

Having been involved in amateur dramatics all my life I love the theatre, and have collected many books on the history of it, famous actors and so on, so I love to write about it and have touched on this theme in other books.

But it was Harry Lauder’s story, and that of Miss Horniman, and also reading an old book called Travelling Players by Eleanor Elder, published in 1939, which gave me the inspiration to write Kitty Little.

I based the LTP’s on Eleanor Elder’s story, whose great wish was to bring the Arts to the masses, and on that of the old Blue Box, otherwise known as the Century Theatre. This was a collection of mobile blue vans that trundled around northern towns until the number of trailers grew so big and cumbersome that it parked up by the lake at Keswick, and stayed there. Now it has gone, replaced by the beautiful Theatre by the Lake, pleasing locals and tourists alike.

I hope I have done justice to the enthusiasm and pleasure these wonderful people have brought to their own audiences in my fictional tale. I’d like to think that Kitty is there in spirit, acting on that wonderful stage.

Katherine Terry is fleeing from a marriage her ambitious mother has arranged for her, as well as a scandal that threatens to wreck her own life and the happiness of those she loves. 

Charlotte Gilpin can have any man she wants, and she wants Archie - whoever is standing in her way. 

Esme Bield is weary of a life filled with the placid duty she has known as a parson’s daughter; but can the quiet, trusting girl cope with the reality of a wider world? 

Against the theatrical backdrop of the Lakes, a real-life drama is played out: One that threatens to destroy the very dream that brought them together, and the close friendship they once enjoyed. Three girls seeking escape. Each captivated by the idea of a travelling theatre. Each pretending to be someone she is not. All are in love with the same man . . .