So part of Cat’s degree course requires her to write a short essay on an exhibition she has seen. With this in mind, yesterday me and her drove to Ilkley, where (the DigYorkshire website informed us) the Manor House Art Gallery & Museum was displaying a series of Hockney etchings.
Sadly, there was no sign of them in the Gallery, and a blue-haired woman told us that no, there was no such exhibition, hadn’t been for years, and was unlikely to be one in the foreseeable. Ilkley Fail 1. After an hour’s hot drive (which included waiting at a level crossing for the longest, slowest train in history to cross), and now realising that we had to find something else for Cat to write about, we were a bit cross. Grrrr.
As we left, intending to kick Bluehair’s archway in revenge, she did say “You’ll find some Hockney in Saltaire though. You know where that is?” “Of course I do, you daft blue-topped bint!” were my thoughts, although I actually said (in my opinion quite wittily) “Yes thanks”, before realising I had no idea what she was talking about.
Saltaire? Hadn’t Mary told me about that before? Hmmm, where could I find a map…? Tourist Info Office, they’d have maps aplenty! And could we find the Tourist Info Office? Could we heck-as-like, even following the nicely mounted town centre street plan. Ilkley Fail 2. It began to look like the backup plan of visiting the Pre-Raphaelites in Manchester would have to be used, despite Cat wanting to avoid such an obvious subject. Also, if we went there, I might have to brave the nightmare horrors of the Button Exhibition.
But then, Ilkley began to redeem itself. First, Cat was given a free milkshake by a bonny lass outside Café Nerd (“Gorgeous”, apparently. I’m assuming Cat meant the shake, although one can never be certain of these things). Then I spotted a big old lower case ‘i’ outside the Library: Tourist Info! Maps! Also a leaflet about Salts Mill, but the instructions on how to find the place were “get a train or bus”. On the road map, getting to Saltaire seemed a bit complicated, but with Cat helping to remember some of the road numbers, we set off for an “Adventure Into The Unknown” (actually, it was more “Adventure Into Bradford”, but that doesn’t sound so cool).
Despite my attempt at one point to take us into a scrapyard (“No Dad, left! LEFT!”), we found the place OK, and even managed to park out of the sun under a tree. We still didn’t really have an idea what to expect, although walking to the Mill we passed “The Early Music Shop”, which was a cool room of musical delights and unusual instruments galore. I could have just spent hours in there, thank you very much.
However, Cat dragged me onward, and we entered an unprepossessing small doorway at the base of the huge stone edifice of what was once the largest textile mill in the world. First thoughts on entering the vast ground floor? WOW! What an exhibition space! The light was incredible, due in no small part to the cheerful sunshine pouring through the blinds. There were Hockney works everywhere, and scattered up and down the mill were vases of large flowers, art materials for purchase, and fascinating objects such as beat up old chairs. Chamber music rippled through the air.
“Oh yes, Dad, this’ll do nicely” was Cat’s opinion, and she wandered off to make notes for her essay. For myself, I discovered many exciting surprises. I hadn’t realised Hockney was so varied in style, and oh my God so prolific! After an hour in that place, I began to appreciate him so much more than I had in Ilkley.
Upstairs from the Hockneys, the mill is also home to a mighty fine bookshop, a restaurant serving what appears to be really tasty and imaginative (though bloody expensive) food, a fashion exhibition, and an extensive antique shop (Forties clothes – win!). We had a marvellous time.
As many of you will know already, the mill was built by one Titus Salt, a man of mighty beard and many children, who also built the village of Saltaire for his workers. We had a quick wander round the village, where good old Titus had named the streets after his children. Not for the first time in my life, I was delighted to find myself going up Fanny Street.
We finished our day with a treat from the bakery – proper Yorkshire parkin for Cat, and a real traditional Yorkshire delicacy for me – a curry pastie. If you do end up going to Saltaire, which I urge you to do, don’t pay upwards of a tenner for a meal in the Salts Mill caff – get thee to the bakery for a proper pastie.
You can find out more about the mill at the Official Site.