Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival this weekend

Hebden Bridge Rooftops

By Leg1ndyoll at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival is on this weekend, but where on earth is Hebden Bridge and what makes this town so special?

Hebden Bridge formed along the pack-horse route from Halifax in West Yorkshire, to Burnley in Lancashire. It is around 8 miles west of Halifax in the Upper Calder Valley and it is largely due to the steep sides of the valley that Hebden Bridge was the ideal place for weaving mills exploiting water-powered industrial processes in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Hebden Bridge was not only a market town but became a mill town due to the industrial revolution producing large amounts of clothing.

During World War 2, Hebden Bridge was designated as “reception area” for evacuated children from cities. The rural setting must have presented quite a contrast to the young arrivals as they stepped off the train.

During the 1970s, there was a “cultural gold rush” to the town, Artists, Musicians, Writers, Photographers, Environmental and New Age people flocked to the town which in turn, created a mini-boom time. This influx may account for the large amount of independently owned shops within the town and whilst national brands play a very secondary role. This ensures a unique shopping experience for resident and visitor alike, with locally own businesses enjoying an intensely loyal patronage from their locally based customers. This has ensured the homogenised high-street so familiar in towns and cities across the country has yet to reach the town.

Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge

By Poliphilo (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Like many other pubs across the country, The Fox and Goose pub on  Heptonstall Road was struggling in 2012. The owner did not want the pub to be absorbed into a national chain and become yet another theme pub. Neither did the community the pub served. Locals valued the unique character of the pub and not wanting to see it close, or entering into a change of use, they set about raising the money to buy it for themselves. (I’m sure there’s an Ealing type film in that!) Largely due to the determination of the local community, 2014 saw The Fox and Goose become West Yorkshire’s first Co-operative owned pub and sells quality real ales from micro-breweries.

When it comes to TV, Hebden Bridge has punched above its weight, providing locations in and around the town for series such as Happy Valley. In fact, sometimes it seems unusual not to bump into a film crew when visiting.

These days, tourism plays a big part in Hebden life and this small town with its population of 4,500 has a range of tearooms, cafes, restaurants and pubs.

If you travel up the hill to Heptonstall, you will find the grave of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath in the grounds of St Thomas’ church. Whilst her husband and former Poet Laureate, Ted Hughe’s old house on Lumb Bank is now a centre for creative writing operated by the Arvon Foundation.

So on top of all of that, there will be music, performances and workshops across multiple venues around the town this weekend. If you haven’t got your ticket already, why not grab one now?

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