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

Monday, 4 August 2014

Beckett Park Headingley was once the 2nd Northern General Hospital

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