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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Inspiring stuff for Ilkley - and Headingley

Sally Bavage writes:
Osmondthorpe and Headingley Writers work their magic again

Saturday night at the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe and two groups who collaborated to put on a fantastic performance at the Headingley LitFest in March joined together once again to reprise some of their work and add in a few new pieces.  Inspiring stuff – despite that you were sometimes holding your breath with admiration and awe as feelings and effort were laid bare.

The groups were first brought together early in January 2014 by a partnership between the WEA and Headingley LitFest, supported by a grant from Jimbo’s Fund.  LitFest commissioned local author and WEA tutor Alison Taft to provide significant additional tuition to wannabe writers and poets from the Osmondthorpe Resource Centre.  The new creative writing tutor at the ORC, Maria Preston, did her group proud as compere, with strong technical support from centre manager David Fletcher. Their belief in their writers shone out, and it was wonderful to see the self-belief developing in our performers, despite the shaking hand-held papers and quavering voices.

The groups have produced a heartwarming 48-page anthology of their writing and poems, available for only £2 from the Osmondthorpe Centre.

Contact for further information.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Grim Tales from the War

 – but love, laughs and life too.          Tuesday 14 October

Gail Alvarez writes:

Richard Wilcocks, Secretary of Headingley LitFest, treated a large and supportive audience at the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe in the Ilkley Playhouse to an absorbing selection of anecdotes from a wide range of sources.  The medical practitioners – the VADs, matron, staff nurses, RAMC surgeons – and the patients all had a representative in the book to tell their tale.  Medical care and practice in WW1 had many surprises: for examples the team of privately-sponsored masseuses (yes, really), smoking in bed as the norm, a singular lack of pain relief or antibiotics and the surgery that rebuilt faces and shattered lives.

His extensive interviews with surviving relatives in the Yorkshire region had provided accounts based on personal memorabilia and recollections and Stories from the War Hospital, first published in March 2014 by Headingley LitFest, details life at the 2nd Northern Military Hospital in Headingley, known at the time as Beckett Park Hospital.  Two years went into the research and the writing, exemplified tonight by the extraordinary true tales of Private Robert Bass and VAD Nurse Dorothy Wilkinson, just two from the dozens in the book. 

Richard is an entertaining speaker/performer, with a talk illustrated by snatches of song, poetry and racy gossip as well as some of the starker statistics about the close to 60,000 patients who passed through the doors of the former City of Leeds Training College for teachers.  He has a knack for exploring the grim and the grime, to find the laugh, the life and even the love story. For more on the book go to its website at

Richard is available for Powerpoint-illustrated talks and storytelling sessions based on his book, and is also offering teaching sessions and drama workshops in schools. Get in touch by emailing

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Mimika Theatre - Small Worlds

The internationally renowned Mimika Theatre returns to HEART with 'Small Worlds' an enchanting new show for Leeds.

Mimika's performances, which use immersive soundtracks, puppetry, digital animation and miniature landscapes, are presented in a beautiful white tent where children and adults alike experience an intimate and atmospheric show full of magical and poetic imagery.

This is an ideal half term treat for all the family. 

or at Heart - see poster for details.

A Headingley LitFest event:

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe - COMING UP

Richard Wilcocks writes:
The Ilkley Literature Festival is well underway now, and I would guess that quite a few of you will be going. This year, no less than three of its Fringe events first took place in Headingley, in March. If you missed any of them, or just want to turn up in solidarity, here they are in date order:

Tuesday 14 October – War Hospital Stories – event 149

The wartime hospital at Beckett Park was the setting for extraordinary scenes a hundred years ago. I will not be giving a straight reading from the book which was launched in the New Headingley Club, but telling true stories, illustrated on screen by a number of old, rare photographs and drawings. It will be as dramatic as I can make it.

See the book’s website at

Ilkley Playhouse, Wildman Theatre, 9 – 10pm  FREE

Thursday 16 October – Tibet: an Accidental Pilgrimage – event 168

Ivan Cooper read from his book in Headingley Library, and the audience response was extremely positive. The book is occasionally scary – but there are comic passages as well. Join him on a trip through the remote and hardly-visited regions of Tibet.

YouTube publisher’s video here -,

Ilkley Playhouse, Wildman Theatre, 9 – 10pm  FREE

Saturday 18 October – Surviving – event 197

Expect to be moved, surprised and entertained as writers from Osmondthorpe Hub perform short stories, poetry and plays on the theme of surviving, bridging words and worlds. Did you see them in the Heart Centre?

Church House, 7.30pm – 8.30pm  FREE

The LitFest committee is beavering away for 2015, and we’ll have something more to tell you soon!

All best

Richard Wilcocks

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Save Red Ladder

The radical, political and provocative Red Ladder Theatre Company has been part of the Leeds cultural (and political) scene for forty-six years and it is booked to join us on Saturday 7 March for We’re Not Going Back, which is more or less about the miners’ strike of 1984, which if you remember was what David Peace was dealing with when he told us about his docu-novel GB84.
Paul Heaton and Phill Jupitus

Now there is a campaign to save the company because it has lost its Arts Council funding. This has so far succeeded in raising well over £6000, but there’s a lot more needed. Comedian Phill Jupitus and musician Paul Heaton are prominent supporters. Phill was in Big Society in 2012. Did you see it at City Varieties?

We need the awkward squad in the world of theatre, especially these days. Red Ladder is brilliant at being awkward, entertaining and popular. It still gets £5000 in an annual grant from Leeds City Council, but that’s to keep the company ticking over at a very basic level.

Their campaign is at

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hungary dumps democracy

Richard Wilcocks writes:
George Szirtes
I've just been looking up George Szirtes again, the poet with Hungarian origins (he got out of Budapest in 1956) who was at the Headingley LitFest in March 2013. He is very concerned (obviously?) with Hungary's departure from democracy towards a kind of fascism, ruled by the political party Fidesz - and I remember when he was at our house before the reading, telling us at length about the strong anti-semitic currents which are now flowing (officially encouraged and promoted) back in Budapest. Pretty worrying, but you don't read much about it in the press here. You can read his blog at

Monday, 4 August 2014

From college to hospital at Beckett Park

The efficient James F Dobson
On this day exactly one hundred years ago, James Faulkner Dobson, surgeon at the Leeds General Infirmary and Lieutenant-Colonel in the RAMC (T) (Royal Army Medical Corps, Territorial), swung into dynamic action. He had realised back in 1912 that existing plans to base a wartime hospital in the city centre would be pathetically inadequate and unworkable, and had his eyes on the brand new buildings for the City of Leeds Training College up at Beckett Park in Headingley.

He was efficiency itself: he had made detailed plans to equip the college in case of mobilisation. Now, his orders came through, to coincide with the declaration of war on Germany and the Central Powers. Beds appeared in the Great Hall and the library within a week, barbed wire fencing was put up in the Acre and flat roofs were designated as open-air wards. A week after that, six hundred beds were available with ninety-two nurses prepared to take duty.

The declaration of war had come as a shock and surprise to many, even after years of forebodings. Who would have thought that a teenage Gavrilo Princip with a group of amateurish Bosnian suicide bombers (they carried cyanide capsules) could have triggered off so much by killing an archduke and his wife in the faraway Balkans? The feelings of surprise did not last long at Beckett Park...

STORIES FROM THE WAR HOSPITAL, written and compiled by Richard Wilcocks, was launched at a Headingley LitFest event with a play based on some of its contents on 21 March. Get your copy by contacting