On joining the University of Leeds we were seeking an attractive location to live accessible for Sheila and myself to reach the University and for our then teenage daughters to go to a good school and get around safely on their own. A Victorian house very close to Ilkley town centre so that everywhere was reachable on foot was our delightful family home.
I was recommended by the University of Leeds to be a Governor of the very old Public School in North Yorkshire at Giggleswick. I undertook this role for some 18 years, met some very good fellow Governors, Head Masters, Staff and Students. It was a very rewarding experience. The School was changing by introducing girls for the first time and with a developing programme of new building. In addition I was able to help in commissioning artifacts for the Arts & Crafts Chapel.
In the early 90s when I had the opportunity to retire from the University of Leeds, I was asked to conduct courses at Southampton University. We decided to downsize house within Ilkley and at the same time buy a ‘Cottage’ in New Zealand. We were therefore able to spend Winters in the New Zealand summer and among friends and relations there.
When travel became tiresome and the investment of time in preparations to depart and arrive too demanding we decided to locate in our home in England, Yorkshire and Ilkley.
The consequence of this enabled us fully to participate in the extensive cultural life of this remarkably endowed town at the south edge of the Dales. Firstly the Ilkley Literature Festival and seen two local poets grow to national stature, Simon Armitage and Blake Morrison. Now celebrating 40 years and attracting writers such as Hilary Mantel, Melvyn Bragg, Jenny Uglow and many other talented participants young and old. Now completing three years is the Ilkley Art Trail inspired by Lorna Bird and in which I have helped with increasing standards, venues and numbers of artists and visitors. The logo is derived from a brooch commisioned by me from Jeweller Adèle Taylor based on Bronze Age Ilkley Moor rock carvings.
My principal involvement has been with Ilkley U3A now with over a thousand members and a huge number of groups drawn from the extraordinary rich human resources of the town. Myself and Alan East, a fellow Architect, produce studies in Architecture. I started a Railways Group with Robin Leleux which is thriving and attend a Poetry Exchange. The thing I enjoy most is a series of Summer Schools putting together presentations of Art, Architecture, Literature and Music successively of the 18th, 19th, 20th centuries and into the 21st century. Modern technology enables written and spoken words, images and sounds to be put together, something I have wanted to do for years.
Myself, Fiona Williams and Mandy Sutter started a poetry writing group now much expanded into the Wharfedale Poets.
My great regret is that I have not yet been able encourage the Town worthies to create a constructive and practical Vision for Ilkley’s future evolution. Alas there is not much understanding as to how to go about formulating such a plan. It is such an attractive town in its location, in desirable living conditions and in splendid scenery that to manage the complex outcomes of future pressures, there needs to be Vision, Imagination, Practicality and Innovation.
The understanding that a positive and constructive approach presents many opportunities for better environments has not yet been grasped. Nor the idea that quality design and implementation can improve a growth situation been understood. To use a upbeat phrase from ‘Earthsong’ in Auckland NZ, ‘Yes!, in my front yard!’