Friday, 9 December 2011

David Hockney: The Tourist Trail Starts Here

David Hockney, the godfather of British art, is about to start work in a new medium that he has been famously dismissive of in the past. Tourism.

Bridlington-based Hockney is in the process of creating an official tourist trail to a number of sites across his home county of Yorkshire, with a particular focus on those places he has painted in his beloved Yorkshire Wolds as part of his Royal Academy exhibition which opens in January.

It represents a change of heart by Hockney who has been reluctant to promote Yorkshire in the past as he famously does not like crowds of people. This is one of the reasons he settled in Los Angeles, because of the lack of celebrity chasing that he experienced in Britain and then Paris in the 1970s.

Even at the press conference to launch next year’s Royal Academy exhibition he expressed concern that his paintings might result in an influx of people to the Wolds altering its atmosphere and appeal, especially to him.

However, he is a pragmatist too and he recognises that the David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture exhibition will put the Yorkshire Wolds on the global map for artists as well as tourists as the bulk of the landscape and film works being exhibited were done in this quiet corner of East Yorkshire.

It is already being talked about as Hockney Country in the art world, just as Suffolk is recognised as Constable Country.

So Britain’s greatest living artist has agreed to work with the county’s tourist board, Welcome to Yorkshire, to create an official tourist trail, rather than allow unofficial versions or websites to incorrectly identify the sites at which he has worked.

It is not yet known whether he will actively promote the trail himself or just lend his name and copyright to it.

Sites likely to be featured would include the village of Warter where he painted Bigger Trees (which were subsequently chopped down) and Bigger Trees Near Warter (which still exist). Although it is not part of the Royal Academy exhibition it remains one of his most famous works from the Wolds, a giant painting made up of 50 canvases measuring 40 feet in width.

Other areas which are likely to be included would be Garrowby Hill and Sledmere, both of which are re-imagined workings of the landscapes he knows so well, rather than painted en plein air like those in Warter.

Thixendale, where he has painted three trees through the seasons might also be included as well as Woldgate Woods, outside the village of Kilham, both of which feature in the new Royal Academy exhibition.

However, Bridlington, where he now spends most of his time rather than in Los Angeles, might not be featured, just in case the trail creates Hockney Hunters intent on finding the ultimate spot on the Hockney Trail, his studio.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Its a Dog's Life in Yorkshire

Yorkshire is about to become a dog’s best friend as the county’s latest luxury hotel unveils plans to open the UK's first dedicated dog hotel and spa.

Raithwaite Hall in Sandsend, North Yorkshire, a £30m refurbished country house retreat, opened its doors to human customers two weeks ago but its plans are to extend its luxury offering to pampered pooches across the world allowing owners and pets to holiday together.
A new 28-room dog hotel will be built on the 80-acre site with dedicated spa facilities and luxury extras for their canine guests, including hydrotherapy pool, grooming, obedience classes, kennelling and even a luxury food menu for their owners to choose from.

Guests staying in the separate house, called The Keep [pictured], due to open next autumn, will enjoy the same luxurious standard of fixtures and fittings as the main hotel, but each room will include a special area for dogs to sleep in, allowing man’s best friend to holiday with their owners rather than being left behind in kennels or with family or friends.

Paul Ellis MD of the Skelwith Group, owners of the Raithwaite Hall estate explained: "We have now opened a fantastic hotel for humans and want to be able to offer the same guest experience to dogs too.  When people are choosing hotels it is often easier to find venues that cater for their children but not their dog. Dogs are often a massive part of the family so we want to cater for these travellers too."

Skelwith is part of US firm West Paces Hotel Group and it was a business decision to make provision for a dog hotel as dog holidays are well catered for in America. The firm plans to market heavily in the US to attract an established audience. 
The market for dog holidays is relativley untapped in the UK as many places do not allow them to stay with their owners. That is changing but the potential for holidaymakers to take their dog on holiday could be a rich new source of income for savvy hotelliers and guesthouse owners. Pets are a billion pound industry with pet food alone worth £1.8bn in Britain, without taking into account vet costs, toys and other pet-related paraphernalia.

And the momentum is definitely with dogs. The number of households with dogs has overtaken cats for the first time in the last five years with an estimated 8.3million dogs in the UK and almost a quarter of homeowners sharing their life with a dog in 2010 (22.9%: Source: Mintel for Pet Food Manufacturers' Association). It is predicted that dogs will outnumber cats in the UK for the first time too during the course of 2011.

Raithwaite Hall, once the retreat of a former shipping magnate, backs onto public footpaths which lead to the beach as well as inland towards the moors so there is plenty for dogs and their owners to explore and f
or those wishing to recreate an iconic canine moment they can take the short walk from Sandsend to Whitby where in Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Count Dracula first set foot on English soil, disguised, rather appropriately, as a dog.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Mancini and Michelin, Manchester's Dream Team

Think back to Manchester in 1975. City were top dogs in the footballing world as United competed in the old second division, relegated a year before by an infamous Denis Law backheel. They were very different times, hard for young fans from both clubs to imagine now. Remarkably, it was also the last time Manchester, the city, had a Michelin Star restaurant. Again, hard to imagine.

Thirty-six years later the wait continues as the new Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland launched for 2012 and revealed Manchester had once again failed to secure a Star.

The historic French restaurant in the Midland Hotel on Peter Street was the last holder of a Michelin Star in the city. They were heady days, as The French was the also the first restaurant in the UK to be awarded a star. The dearth of Michelin mentions for the city ever since has been deafening.

The news doesn’t get any better if the restaurant radar is expanded outside the city centre to include Greater Manchester in 2012. There are still no stars.

The nearest Manchester has to a star are Simon Radley at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester and Nigel Haworth’s Northcote in Blackburn. To add insult to Manchester’s emotional injury, both are long standing Michelin star holders, in an elite group of just 11 chefs who have held their stars for the past 14 years. Crucially though for the city, they are both more than 30 miles from centre.

For the 7 million people who live in and around the UK's second city the lack of a first class eatery in the city centre continues to surprise and disappoint.

The silver lining to the culinary cloud is that Greater Manchester’s Waggon in Bury and The White Hart Inn in Oldham are included in the Bib Gourmand category 2012, awarded to restaurants considered, “good food at moderate prices” and slightly further afield The Wizard in Alderley Edge is included too.

But another year passes and the city's search for a Star continues. What would be the chances of Manchester City's return to the footballing summit coinciding with the city's return to the guide? Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Saucy Postcards Titilating a New Audience

Henpecked husbands and buxom blondes are being brought back to life as the saucy postcards that epitomised trips to the seaside in the heyday of summer holidays are being re-launched for a modern audience.

The world famous designs, some of which were banned in their pomp for breaching obscenity rules, were created in West Yorkshire by the firm Bamforth & Co and are now being reproduced under a new licence, shortly to appear on greeting cards, sweets, fridge magnets and, perhaps appropriately, underwear.

The history of the postcards dates back to 1870 when James Bamforth, a portrait photographer opened an eponymous business in Holmfirth initially specialising in lantern slides, however it was the launch of saucy postcards in 1910 that changed the firm’s direction. They proved so popular that shortly after the First World War 20 million postcards were being sold every year and by 1960 Bamforth was the world's largest publisher of comic postcards. 

Leeds-based businessman Ian Wallace, who kept the company in Yorkshire after buying it from Scarborough printing firm Dennis when it collapsed in 2001 is behind the drive to reacquaint the public with what became a British institution.

He said: “The 40,000 images are known the world over and vie with the old Carry On films in popularity. The future is very bright for a company that looked doomed a few years ago.”

The designs are definitely from an era before political correctness became popular. One typical scene shows a couple trying to put up a windbreak on the beach. The wife says to her husband: “It’s too soft Fred, it won’t stay in, shall I hit it with the mallet?” The innuendo implied is obvious.

Wallace added: “They’re just a bit of fun, 99% of people who read them and look at them enjoy them.”

Another postcard shows a scene typical of a Bamforth postcard and one with was richly mined over the years, the nudist colony. A man at a barbecue says to a lady, “Watch out which bloody sausages you’re pricking missus!”

The appeal of postcards belongs to a different age now, with email, smartphones, social networking and tablets replacing the need to send a card from our holidays. However, the appeal of the designs that titillated British seasiders for generations has not diminished judging by the number of licensees who will be working with Bamforths going forward.

So prepare your sense and sensibilities for another Bamforth boom only this time blushing vicars, knowing wives and nudists will appear on beer glasses, mugs, coasters, bookmarks, t-shirts, pyjamas and even metal signs.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Lakes and Dales 500sq mile Expansion

Visitors to two of England’s finest national parks are a step closer to having more to explore after recommendations to extend the boundaries of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales - which will increase their combined area by nearly 500sq kms - have been passed to Government for approval.

If the Secretary of State confirms the changes being recommended by Natural England it will represent the most significant addition to England’s National Parks since the confirmation of the South Downs in 2009.

After years of face-to-face and online consultations communities either side of the M6 artery that have until now sat outside both boundaries are a step closer to joining their near neighbours after over two thirds of those surveyed said were in favour of extending the National Parks.

The proposed variation to the Yorkshire Dales National Park will include:

to the north, parts of the Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang; and
to the west, Barbon, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells, the River Lune and, part of Firbank Fell and other fells to the west of the river.

The proposed variation to the Lake District National Park will include:

to the east, an area from Birkbeck Fells Common to Whinfell Common; and
to the south an area from Helsington Barrows to Sizergh Fell, and part of the Lyth Valley.

David Butterworth, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chief executive, added: “The farmers and landowners who, for generations, have lived and worked in these places have helped create the great natural beauty and many special qualities that visitors enjoy today – and that make the areas worthy of National Park status. 

“We believe these areas have many unifying features and characteristics such as the Settle Carlisle line, limestone pavements and hay meadows, as well as similar community issues such as affordable housing, access to services and sustainable communities – issues that resonate with the existing National Park.   

“As part of this process, Natural England has undertaken extensive consultation and we are delighted that it shows that the majority of residents who responded are enthusiastic about the proposals and recognise the many and varied benefits that designation will bring.

“It’s a real victory for common sense in looking at National Park boundaries in terms of the quality of the landscape rather than outmoded and short-term administrative or political issues.”

Poul Christensen, Chair of Natural England said: “The Board’s decision to proceed towards the designation of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks is the result of many years of detailed assessment work and public consultation. It represents an important opportunity to ensure that these special landscapes are looked after for future generations to enjoy.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Picasso and Da Vinci in residence to regenerate Rotherham

Picasso and pals to star in Rotherham

Rotherham, whose recent headline grabbing initiatives include mums defying Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating regime by selling fast food through the school railings, is shrugging off its junk food associations and moving into the art world by re-launching itself as an open air gallery.

The south Yorkshire town is undergoing a visual transformation as over 60 pieces of artwork by local, national and world renowned artists are being reproduced on a grand scale – some 4m by 8m – and displayed on the side of buildings in over 35 town centre locations. Plans are for the gallery to be in place for a number of years with art trails being distributed in the local tourism information centre.

The initiative is the brainchild of the local business community who wanted to encourage more visitors to Rotherham to help regenerate the town centre and drive the local economy. A similar scheme ran in York a few years ago to critical acclaim.

The first installations from local artists have been going up this week and will sit alongside famous works by Picasso, Da Vinci, Cezanne, Castleford's-own Henry Moore, Van Gogh and Rousseau as well as works by local schools.

Nick Cragg, local entrepreneur and chair of the Rotherham Economy Board, who is spearheading the project, said: “Rotherham will be one of the first towns in the UK to have its own open air art gallery which is fantastic news and will help to play an important part in its regeneration and further economic growth. The pieces have been carefully selected so that we could exhibit works of world renowned masters, whilst providing a platform for Rotherham’s own artists, as well as local young people to display their work.”

He added: “Like all good galleries, this one will evolve and we hope to add new artwork in spring next year, with the project having secured funding to run for at least 18 months. We are hoping further private sponsorship will mean it can run for many years to come.”

The organisers have already partnered with some heavyweight art allies, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Gallery up the road in neighbouring Bretton and Wakefield as well as the National Gallery and will consult with the public on what other pieces of artwork local people would like to see reproduced when the display is reviewed and updated in spring next year.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Yorkshire prepares to reclaim Hockney

Hockney's six canvas Woldgate Woods in East Yorkshire

Bradford-born David Hockney is synonymous with Los Angeles and sunny California but all that is about to change as a new exhibition of his landscape paintings reclaims him for the county of his birth, Yorkshire.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture opens in January at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Hockney hopes the collection of new work, the majority of which has been painted in East Yorkshire where he lives when he is not in the Hollywood Hills, will be as iconic for Yorkshire as his infamous swimming pool paintings were for Los Angeles in the 1960s.

He said: “It’s a landscape I know from my childhood, it has meaning to me, but I never thought of it as a subject matter until 10 years ago when I realised, for me at my age, it was a terrific subject, a marvellous place.”

Adding: “It’s a lovely bit of England still, not spoilt very much.”

Over 150 works will be shown across the Royal Academy’s Main Galleries, including sketches, ipad drawings, video installations and giant paintings that span the width of the walls.

Such has been quality of the body of work produced that one of that exhibition’s curators Edith Devaney from the Royal Academy predicts Hockney will become forever associated with East Yorkshire just as fellow painter John Constable is with Suffolk.

Hockney makes for an unlikely tourism ambassador. He shot to fame as a leading light in the British Pop Art movement in the 1960s and moved to southern California shortly afterwards. He doesn’t like crowds of people, which is why the solitude of the Yorkshire Wolds is so appealing to him. The thought of a surge of tourists heading to Yorkshire to see the places depicted in his paintings fills him with a slight dread and yet the global attention this exhibition is bound to generate is almost guaranteed to attract art lovers from across the world to discover Hockney’s Yorkshire.

They’d be advised to set aside a few days as his influence spans the width of the county. He was born in the west and studied art at Bradford; Salts Mill in Saltaire still houses one of the finest collections of his work in the world, one he constantly adds to and updates. In the east, locations in the Yorkshire Wolds such as Kilham, Garrowby Hill and Thixendale are about to put on the map by the new exhibition, as will Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast, where he lives when he is not in California, and of which he said:

“I’ve been going to Bridlington for a long time I’ve spent over 30 Christmasses there [at the home of his mother and sister] and I never stayed in the winter that much as I thought it was too cold and too dark but the first time I did, I realised how beautiful the winter was, it was not black or white, it was not grey, in fact sometimes there was more colour than the summer.”

Hockney said he hoped that when the exhibition opened in January it would open people’s eyes to the beauty of spring and encourage people to look more at their changing surroundings. He might not like it very much but the exhibition might also result in him having to share his beloved East Yorkshire with more people than he is used to as the county reclaims one of its most famous sons.

The exhibition will run at the Royal Academy from 21 January 2012 to 9 April 2012.