|Barbara Hepworth at work|
The "county towns" of Yorkshire's three ancient "ridings" were Beverley (East Riding), Northallerton (North Riding) and Wakefield (West Riding). It was from these three towns that local government in Yorkshire was administered and even today all three places still serve important bureaucratic functions in relation to highways, education and social work for example.
I hadn't been into Wakefield for years and years. The last time I was there, the surrounding coal industry was still strong and the people of Wakefield were as tough and as thoroughly Yorkshire as their rugby league team - Wakefield Trinity. Today it was different. I was starting to think I had developed a hearing complaint because I kept noticing snatches of Eastern European languages - Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Lithuanian. And as I looked at these passing white people, I realised that they didn't even look Yorkshireish any more - their facial features, even their clothes. As our American friend Mr Brague might remark - I'm just saying.
My main reason for driving up to Wakefield was to visit The Hepworth. It's a new art gallery by the River Calder. It mainly celebrates the artistic legacy of the city's most famous daughter - the sculptress Barbara Hepworth. Born in 1903, she revealed her artistic talent at a precociously early age but the idea of devoting her life to sculpture took several years to germinate. Nearly all photographs of Barbara Hepworth show her "at work" - mostly in her St Ives studio. She died in 1975.
Apart from prime examples of her work, there were displays of her tools, her old work bench, preparatory sketches and plaster models, how her massive abstract bronzes were forged and after sliding out one secret drawer I looked down on various beach pebbles she had gathered. Of them, she said that people like collecting sea-worn stones because they remind us of the timelessness of nature and help us to reconnect to it. This is something that has become a habit for me too. For example, I have a perfectly circular beach stone that I found on Birdlings Flat beach in New Zealand. Her words helped me to understand my own urge to collect stones as souvenirs.
|Black and white view to Wakefield Cathedral|
|The Hepworth by the River Calder|