A Model Councillor

Now this is nothing personal, even given the ludicrous campaign to get cctv in the town to protect the new Christmas lights, but what is happening to Cllr Marshall?

Both his official twitter and his facebook page now have him resident in London, as his modelling career takes off. The official council list still has him in Rupert Rd, but that's clearly not the case. What's his attendance record like? Is it possible to be a long-distance 'local' councillor? And why is someone living in Ruper Road a councillor for *south* Ilkley?

Ironically, the next time we see him might be as Ilkley's only living celebrity, turning on the Christmas lights he organized and installed.

In Bradford we Trust

So, Bradford CC's finances have got so bad that they need to consider closing Ilkley Museum. And Cllr Hawkesworth (now, honest to goodness, an independent) has stepped in. Let's ignore the obvious point that for people to start screaming and running about now doing a Chicken Little is ridiculously silly; this move has been on the cards since 2011, and lots of other authorities have taken exactly the same route. A bit of forward planning might have been helpful.

However, to look at the history, a few years back Bradford suggested something similar. At least, they looked into putting the historic properties across the city into a single trust. This would have passed the assets to the 'usual suspects' (Carillion, Mapeley, etc) and then paid those companies to manage them. Thankfully, it was stopped before it went too far. And a few years after that, there was a suggestion that went into some detail (led this time by Cllr Hawkesworth) to put the Moor and other assets into a Trust. Officially, this was to take advantage of cash from Natural England, though it was proposed with unseemly haste. Again, the proposal fell (this blog fought it on the basis that the Middleton settlement had handed the moor to the people of Ilkley, and not to Bradford CC), though the sale of Silver Well Cottage took place to raise some money that apparently went towards upkeep of the moor, and the 'Friends of Ilkley Moor' was created to try and drive a two lane by-pass across our wild land, judging by their paving work. 

This proposal is slightly different. Not least in that this site finds itself broadly on the same side as Ms Hawkesworth. For a start, it will happen in some form, and I doubt, given the nature of future funding cuts, that many of the other Bradford museums will survive the next half-decade themselves. The method of the council is all wrong, however, as Cllr Hawkesworth points out. Trying to pass off the museum to the Cockshott cabal would mean the same as simply closing it. Well-meaning amateurs will not (as John Cockshott himself concedes) be able to run the place. Which is not to say that some amateurs couldn't help. Ilkley is home to one of the country's leading arts PR companies and one of its leading museum exhibition designers. Not to mention a few curators. 

But it's not going to be open on the same basis as it would as an LA museum. Two days a week perhaps? Is there any need for more? Perhaps a decent compromise would see reduced council funding and an increased drive for commerciality. But... Ilkley is no longer the tourist draw it once was. It's now a commuter town. Even the vaunted receipts of the town's car parks (a sure sign the prices should go up) come from commuters, not tourists. The Manor House should be seen as a community centre and nothing more. 

However, the whole debate returns us to the governance of the town once more. With Bradford withdrawing, at what point does the argument for secession gather pace? Let's keep our car park receipts, and pay for our museum. Let's keep our council tax too, and use it for the benefit of our town. And let's take back our moor and the lands given in the Middleton settlement too. 

Mind you, if we can't find people to run a museum, how on earth would we run that? 

Incidentally, this image is from one of the benches at the Manor house. The plaque was removed in 2005=ish, and never replaced. Would be nice, don't you think? It's a lovely sentiment. 

Once upon a time

...there was a blog. Let's call it, I don't know, Ilkley Rocks, for ease. Back in 2003 or 4 it was (hard to remember). So I moved to Ilkley, and started writing. At the time, after doing some searching, it seemed that only a blog in Malmesbury was doing something similar. Long before the word 'hyperlocal' was invented, Ilkley Rocks was it. 

It was still a bit of a wild time on the British web. Clamps hadn't been tightened. And I took the freedom to abuse, mislead, lie and spin stories. I remember (and the evidence is still here) suggesting that Cllr Mike Gibbons was watching the residents of the town through secret cameras, that Ilkley Golf Club was the scene of a coven controlling the town, that, well...it's all still up here. I was clear that I never alleged corruption, or crime, just allowed some rants to ramble and decline to obscenity. 

Frankly, I doubt I'd get away with it now. 

There was a campaign against CCTV, mostly led by others, but documented here. You won't find much sign of it, after a threat of legal action against our host. You see, I always said I was a coward and would remove anything if asked. But, hey, we won. And the impact of that campaign meant we won again recently.

But, as people got to know more about blogs, it became somehow less interesting. Though entertaining for me when Cllr Hawkesworth started debating directly with me on the blog, even while being abused (for which she rose much higher in my esteem), 

Things have changed. We've got some independent councillors in the town for a start. Albeit not massively bright ones. We've got some new xmas lights. And the money keeps flowing in. My particular bete noire, the Bradford council archaeologist, is still in post, and still claiming the Panorama Stones are a recent forgery. And the Ilkley Gazette died and then was re-born when people stopped buying its successor. Oh, and then twitter came along. And a few new sites.

But I thought, 'I've rested long enough, time to write again'. Not for commercial reasons, our host won't allow that, but to see how long it is till I get bored once more. 

Warne's last bowl

Not strictly Ilkley, but just up the road. According to the new Wisden, Shane Warne's last match in England (assuming he stays fit) will be for Hampshire vs Yorkshire at Headingley, Sep 19-22. As Engel puts it, something to tell the grand-children about.

The caring face of conservatism

Hmm, so Cameron visits Keighley (not really prime Tory country, but one assumes the news reports meant the constituency.) and gets a story on Newsnight out of it. Unfortunately, not the one they wanted. What have we here? Seriously un-Cameron-like behaviour from our local grande dame Mrs Hawkesworth's consort, John. An email calling opponents 'reptiles'? 'Cripples'? Now I'm not much of a hypocrite, and I've abused enough people on this blog so I'm not in a position to criticise. Course, if I start flinging around terms of abuse about the blessed Anne now, its going to be a tad harder for her or her husband to complain. But its not exactly that new face of conservatism that Tory Boy has been promoting is it--and one assumes the Labour spin doctors will be keeping it running to keep the arrest of one of their aides for perjury out of the public eye ? (btw, the recipient of this email, Kris Hopkins, who is seeking to appear whiter than white (a Jade Goody reference there), is of course only leader of Bradford Council because of a rather sordid power-sharing deal with the LibDems after the voters comprehensively trounced his party in the 2006 local elections, is also now the local Tory candidate for the constituency (and will need the Hawkesworths' help if he's to stand any chance against t'other Ann), and was heavily involved in the scandal over the failed sell-off and leaseback of public buildings, protecting Simon Cooke over his 'interesting gestures', the scandal of Bradford's failing schools, etc....) The email runs--
"My brother Peter met the Cripple (our unPC name for Mark Taylor) this afternoon, and he, the Cripple, was pumping Peter about the selection for the PPC. "I would trust that reptile less than a barrel of monkeys."
One wonders whether that 'our' includes the less-than-sainted Anne? (btw, love the image used to accomoany the piece at politics.co.uk--is that really Mr Hawkesworth? Hope he hasn't got one of those exploding Sony batteries)

Panoramic epistles

Given the Gazette's refusal (well, okay, they've just ignored) to print my latest epistle, here it is. In response to the latest attempt to sell the 'Panorama Stones are modern inventions' line. Gavin Edwards has once again used your columns to promote his pet theory of the Victorian embellishment of the Panorama STone(s). The latest account (23 Nov) seems to provide no more evidence than the previous story (carried in July 2004). In the meantime, an exhibition at the Manor House has also promoted the theory. Are we to take it that this is now the official view of the Bradford Museums Service, and therefore is an explanation for the wilful neglect of these important carvings? Mr. Edwards' case rests on two pieces of evidence. Drawings given to the museum in 1880, and a lecture given in 1913. As yet, he has proved no date of completion for the drawings, so we are unable to say when they were done. What we do have, however, is the drawing of J. Romilly Allen accompanying his article of 1879 ('The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley'), and we also have Allen's and Dr. Call's account of the rocks. All of these point to the ladder motif being present. Allen was a fairly scrupulous draughtsman and was more prone to leaving elements out than including extra (see his drawing of the Badger Stone for instance). As to the lecture, he is taking as evidence the talk given by Gill in 1913, at which point Gill is 63, and talking of events forty years earlier. Against this we have the research and accounts of Allen, Dr. Call, J.H. Turner, and Dr. Little. All were researching and writing in the 1880s, all believe in the ladder motif and none mention any rumours or suspicion surrounding the markings. Indeed, Little worked with the Ilkley Local Board to relocate the stones at considerable expense and effort in 1890. Are we to assume that none of these people ever had a local wander up to them and mention that 'old Ambrose done those markings.'? Or is Mr. Edwards implying a massive conspiracy? Simply put, there is little evidence that these markings were added in late Victorian times. There is ample that the ladder motif was present in the 1870s. English Heritage continues to refer to the stone(s) as being, "one of the finest examples of rock art in the north of England, if not in the British Isles." So why does Mr. Edwards continue to press his line? Why the not-so-subtle campaign to downgrade the importance of the stones? Can it be anything to do with their wilful neglect, and the unwillingness (whatever they say) of anyone to move the stones to the Manor House? What has happened to the Dr. Little Heritage Group, and why have they not been quoted over this story? These might be rather more worthy of coverage than repetition of an interesting though completely unproved theory.

Just get her out 2

I said at the last election we should just get her out, but you lot didn't listen. The glaring hypocrisy of our MP was shown up on Wednesday. She signed the EDM on the conduct of the war in Iraq, demanding an enquiry. And then, when the chance came, she voted AGAINST. Way to go Ann. Nothing like consistency. (sorry, by way of that man over there)

The best solution

So, after all that, the Moor remains in Bradford's hands. But selling off Silver Well Cottage to finance improvements? Why? It smacks of selling off the family silver. What happens next time, in a few years, when Bradford still hasn't provided the money the moor requires? Retaining ownership is fine, as long as they start increasing the amount of money spent on it. Most cultural institutions over the past ten years have produced audits reflecting their impact in terms of cash, and other instrumental effects (help with social inclusion, etc.), in order to make their case for increased grants. Given the amount of tourist money the Moor brings into Bradford, the £10,000 per year provided by the Council was shameful. Given also the agenda around health, there are probably other funds and grants that can be applied for, without selling off local assets (and without re-introducing shooting without any consultation as happened last year). Actually, talking of other funds, our research elves dug up this story from a couple of years back--how the moor and other areas had received £850,000 of extra support back in 2003. So where's the moor's share of this money gone? Also note Danny Jackson suggesting the new group then created--SCOSPA--was the vehicle to receive a lot more money from European and other sources. So was the local trust ever needed?

Vaulting ambition

Ate at Ilkley Moor Vaults on SUnday. After one local contact said they had 'the best chips in Wharfedale'. Praise indeed. No chips are being served on Sundays though. Haven't been since the re-fit. The old urine-stinking bar seems to have been replaced by a lovely stone real ale parlour, and the upstairs Mr Q's by a London gastro pub. Great service, very helpful, excellently kept beer, and (according to she who knows such things) lamb to kill for. I had a sort of mess of puy lentils, courgettes and goats' cheese which possibly wasn't to everyone's taste, but made a very nice alternative to rissotto. Dealt with food queries very well. Only downside was a lengthy wait for the mains. Which, given they only had ten or so people in, was a little surprising. However, we will be re-visiting very soon. REcommended, seriously hope the new owners make a go of it.