Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Wartime Hospital at Beckett's Park

UPDATE - website for published book -

Headingley LitFest has been awarded a substantial grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project in 2013/2014 based on the military hospital which was at Beckett’s Park, Headingley, during the First World War.

The project will come to a climax in time for the seventh annual LitFest in March 2014 with the production of an illustrated publication and a dramatic performance based on its contents.

The City of Leeds Training College had been built there not long before hostilities started, and in 1914 it was established as the 2nd Northern General Hospital. Wounded soldiers replaced trainee teachers, and the Red Cross flag was hoisted above what is today the James Graham Building, part of Leeds Metropolitan University*.

“The news that we have the grant is really exciting!” said Headingley LitFest Secretary Richard Wilcocks, who wrote the bid last July. “We are particularly interested in personal stories. Thousands of men and women were involved with the hospital – soldiers of all ranks, doctors and surgeons (mostly from the RAMC), nurses and VADs – for the whole of the Great War and for several years afterwards.

We will be looking for letters, diaries and articles in newspapers, and we will also be trying to trace the descendants of people who were there – the grandchildren perhaps. We intend to put out appeals in print and online to find them, hoping that they have memories and photos to share. I would guess that they are scattered everywhere, because the patients were from far and wide, but some of them must live in Yorkshire.

If you can help, contact

Support and assistance is going to be given to us by those involved with the Legacies of War project at the University of Leeds.

All available archives are going to be searched – at Beckett’s Park, Leeds University, Leeds Library and Information Service, regimental museums, Imperial War Museum and so on – and anything which might be relevant and useful will be pulled out. We are very interested in photos with names associated with them, because they could be the beginnings of trails which lead to what we want.  There are plenty of neglected materials in various archives relating to the Beckett’s Park Hospital, and we are already excited by some of the things we have found in the last week or two:

For example, thanks to help from Keith Rowntree, from Archive and Special Collections which is part of Libraries and Learning Innovation at Leeds Metropolitan University, we have seen a most remarkable scrapbook of photographs compiled by a Sergeant George Sprittles, who was at the hospital in 1917, and pages from a kind of unofficial ‘signing-in book’ with the names of a number of patients who give the details of their wounds and where they were fighting, together with their answers to the question “What would you do with Kaiser Bill?”

We are going to share the results of our researches and compilations with local residents (the various audiences which we have built up over the years) through an attractive and interesting publication, which will be printed at the beginning of 2014. There will also be a dramatic production based on the publication, which will be part of Headingley LitFest in March, 2014. The results of our research will, of course, also be made available for descendants and families, regimental archives, the RAMC and the British Red Cross.

The men and women we are researching went through the most terrible experiences, and they should not be forgotten.”

*The first convoy of wounded, most of whom had been involved in the fighting at Mons, arrived at Leeds Midland Station on 17 September 1914, to be welcomed by the Lord Mayor, Sir Edward Brotherton. Packets of tobacco and cigarettes were thrown at the men by crowds of well-wishers. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

On Your Marks - audience responses

Here's the feedback for the event on 27 November:

Written comments after performance:

I never realised that sport could be so exciting! The young dancers in the section ‘Dancing on Together’ were an explosion of energy that took my breath away.
I also enjoyed the presentation by Palm where poetry and prose was sensitively presented, sometimes giving food for thought with a new take on sporting activity.

Really enjoyed this evening. Quality performances but with a touch of the personal too.
Fantastic. More please.

Excellent  well done everyone.

Great for its sustained intensity!

Very good and impressive performances by the group.

Enjoyed most of it –especially the choreographed movement.

Really, Really Really uplifting - very entertaining!

A great evening’s entertainment!

What an evening! I didn’t think anything sporty could be that entertaining.

Great level of performances and humour.

A grippingly entertaining performance- each different part was well-rehearsed, thoughtful and full of imagination.


Very entertaining if a little loud.

A very enjoyable varied programme. Not a dull moment.

Many thanks to all those who have worked for this absolutely wonderful event.  Great work! Keep it up.

An excellent evening - superb performance by all. Can we have more of these events please? Well done to all organisers.

What an entertaining and interesting evening.

Comments by email:

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed last night’s eclectic and very entertaining programme.                         I think I experienced nearly every emotion: which has to be a good test of an evening’s entertainment.

The Phoenix Dance piece was beautifully choreographed and Leeds Met MA Performance students’ performance was witty and clever.  A great evening.

Really good, high quality performances from all the performers.

Letter in Yorkshire Evening Post  30 November:
Dear Sir,

The great thing about Leeds is that it produces quality. Leeds United scored once on Tuesday evening November 27th at Elland Road but also a second time at St Chad’s Parish Hall in Headingley where nine young dancers from Phoenix Dance Theatre wearing Leeds United shirts gave a performance of ‘Score’ that would have made Neil Warnock proud. Along with their colleagues spirited performance of ‘Dancing with Rhinos’ the evening of sport and art with the title ‘On Your Marks’ got off to a rousing start. From the young to the slightly more mature we were royally entertained by Palm Ensemble, students and staff from the performing arts programme of Leeds Metropolitan University whose mixture of wit, poetry and song and professionalism has been recognised at festivals across Europe. There were also guest singers, John Kilburn, Maria Sandle and Phil Widger a local folk singer whose rendition of his own clever amusing work must surely require wider recognition. St. Chad would have been proud.

 I suspect so was Doug Sandle who had put so much effort not only into this event but also the one day conference on sport in art called Field of Vision at Headingley Carnegie Stadium. Accompanying that event is a splendid exhibition of ceramic sculptures of footballers, rugby players and athletes by Mandy Long displayed in the stadium café until December 6th. Yorkshire has so much to be proud of in this Olympic Year. I think I will have to pop down to the café to see if I can find an appropriate memento.

Yours sincerely

Jeffrey Sherwin (Dr)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Flamenco in Mint Café

Owner Marcos, who can be held responsible for all the superb food (try the Brazilian coxinhas) in Mint Café, says that drop-in poets will be welcome at the Flamenco Evening on Thursday 22 November. Just see him first if you want to read. It starts at 8.30pm.

Entry is £5, with a further £5 for the buffet. The four strong group is Flamenco Diez - guitarist, box drummer, singer and dancer.

For those new to Headingley, Mint Café is near the end of the row on North Lane, just a few yards further on from the Natural Food Shop.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Mimika - comments from the audience

All of the audience questionnaires collected after the Mimika performances at HEART last Saturday contained positive comments - and several drawings. Here are ten of them, and a penguin by Lizzie.

I liked it wen the monkey tried to steel the egg. Elsie

Wonderful! Really creative & moving. Loved the sound, the landscapes, the puppets and really special show Spellbinding Beautiful puppets.  Barba

Terrific show. It contained all the elements of theatre – magic, puppetry, a sense of wonder. Great stuff. Bill

A truly wonderful show bound to entertain & educate. As a model maker in another field I can truly appreciate the use of easily obtainable and inexpensive materials to make things. The thought that must have gone to put on this show, demonstrates  two very talented people Graham

Great we enjoyed it very much. My 2½ daughter liked the toucan best. “And the monkey and the snow falling down. ” “And the snake.” Ted

I liked the animals and the big tent especially the flamingo. Ella

Thankyou  for making this accessible to a local audience. It is stunning! Bravo Jenny & Bill. Wonderful light, movement, sound. Simply amazing Maggie

Please do have them again they are wonderful and great for any ages! Shirley

A magical show! Really absorbing for children and adults. Lovely. Helen

It was fantastic Erin age 8

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Spellbound by Mimika Children's Theatre

Sally Bavage writes:

Son et lumière in a tent erected in the HEART Centre, Headingley

Speechless!  Not just the mixed audience of adults and young children but the show itself.  A puppet show like no other, Mimika Theatre is a locally-based group that takes its audience on a worldwide trip from the desert to the rainforest to the South Pole. Not bad in an hour. The welcoming reassurance of Bill and Jenny, who have crafted a fabulous set of animals to accompany us on our travels, created a rising sense of anticipation before we set off - into the tent with mood music and lighting to help young and old alike suspend disbelief.  And this was after showing the younger members of the audience the scary snake fashioned from a vacuum cleaner hose and the snapping crocodile model head to allay any fears.

We set off to the desert to see a baby bird hatch, menaced by a swooping raptor over the audience. Looking up with rapt faces, open mouths, the children – and the adults – were completely absorbed.  Laughter at the antics of the meerkats, alarm at the scorpion, edgy absorption in the creatures that slithered, bit and met their fate before us.

‘Caws’ and effect – the scene and the soundtrack gave way to bird calls amongst the reflections from a tropical rainforest.  How delightful to see children interested in tweeting, not Tweeting.  We listened to howls and growls, buzzing and snarling, with music and monkey business helping to create the story in each of our heads. 

We then dived underwater to observe anemones wave and fish twirl to a Japanese-style soundtrack that bubbled along.  A jellyfish swam by and clownfish came out to play over our heads, along with seahorses, sea snakes and a turtle.  The audience was completely immersed itself in this watery world.

Within thirty seconds the scene iced up, snow was falling and we were watching as a penguin hatched its tiny baby from a carefully nestled egg, to oohs and aahs of sympathy and delight.  There was then a seal of approval for the audience from the watching mammal which popped up.  The End was nigh, but not quite yet.

Next came a puppet show – and tell.  Bill and Jenny allowed the audience members to choose their favourite puppets and showed how they are made and work. Lollipops and marbles, colanders and string have never looked so inventive, even on Blue Peter.  Especially the meerkats – simples!

Entitled ‘Spellbound in a tent’ -  it WAS magic!  Young people watching and enjoying an older form of artistic entertainment, taken on a journey before and behind their eyes.

I wonder how many of them will be thinking up stories about the puppets and their journeys over the coming days?

After the performance, members of the audience were invited to write down their thoughts on the LitFest's assessment forms.