theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
Did you know just how many theatre people have come from Bradford and the surrounding area? Last night [04-05-06] on Channel 4 there was a dramatization (Bradford Riots) of the riots that besieged the 7th largest city in the UK during July 2001, an examination of the tensions that grew between the Asian community and far-right sympathisers that finally exploded in a night of appalling violence, as well as the consequent after-effects for the local population.
Places like Bradford are often dismissed because of these associated events but it’s time to look at some of the positive aspects since, whatever else, the area has produced some of our most interesting theatre people, past and present.
You might have known that J B Priestley (1894 – 1984) was a local lad – the university library is named in his honour, Bradford Playhouse is now the Priestley Centre for the Arts, and there’s statue overlooking the city – but did you know that he worked as a junior clerk for shipping firm Helm & Company in Swan Arcade and is buried at Hubberholme in the Yorkshire Dales, this man who ‘spoke for the common sense of the common man’?
And did you know, for instance, that the actor Wilfred Lawson (1901 – 1966) – about whom there is a fund of drink-related stories – was born in Harris Street (off Barkerend Road), the son of an artist-photographer who once allegedly employed the ‘notorious’ murderer, Charles Peace, to make picture frames?
Were you aware that Lawson was the first to fly home from Hollywood to offer his services when the Second World War broke out, or that he even appeared in an episode of the original series of The Likely Lads, playing the grandfather of Terry, played by James Bolam? Bolam’s co-star, Rodney Bewes, is also a Bradford boy.
These snippets, and much else besides, are to be gleaned from Derek A J Lister’s fascinating book, Bradford’s Own. And we’re not just talking theatre people like Marie Studholme (1875 – 1930), the gaiety girl and actress who was the pin-up of her day, or music hall and comedy actress Gertie Millar (1879 – 1952), but more recent names such as playwrights Andrea Dunbar and Francis Durbridge, director Tony Richardson, and actors John Duttine, Mollie Sugden, Billie Whitelaw, Edward Petherbridge, Duncan Preston, Adrian Edmondson and Timothy West, to name a few.
Throw in all the great, the good and the forgotten of Bradford, whether it’s the Brontës, David Hockney, Titus Salt, Frederick Delius or the late Richard Whiteley, and it says much for Bradford air!
Sarah Vernon © 2006
Adapted from an article originally published on R&V 05-05-06
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