The other week I was in Castleford, West Yorkshire, for a Rugby League* game. It was a Sunday afternoon and, unlike the retail Sodom and Gomorrah that is the South of England, there were very few shops open in Castleford’s High Street.
Apparently this is due to local Sunday trading laws, although the betting shops and slot machine arcades seem to have found a way around them. Still, I suppose they aren’t actually selling anything, apart from broken dreams.
Acerbic social comment aside, it did seem very strange to see a still and shuttered High Street in daylight, especially these days. The only signs of any movement were the cans of strong cider being waved at me by several local drunks enjoying the cocktail hour.
With sod all else to do before kick-off, I thought I’d while away the hours by locating what were bound to be the town’s many tributes to its most famous son, the internationally famous artist Henry Moore.
Using my mobile phone I eagerly googled what there might be in his home town; maybe a museum, a gallery, a blue plaque above his birthplace or even a statue? I couldn’t find anything. You’d think there would be at least a statue, wouldn’t you? He was a sculptor after all. Come on, Castleford Council, surely that’s a no-brainer.
The only reference I could find was that somewhere there was a ‘Henry Moore Square’, although google maps hadn’t heard of it. So I asked a few passers-by where it was. They all shrugged their shoulders. I got the distinct impression they’d never even heard of Henry Moore, never mind his square.
I did eventually come across it, more by luck than judgement. It is half-way down the High Street. Indeed it was right where my drunken friends were enjoying their al-fresco cider. The square is nothing to shout about; unpleasant looking street furniture and grey granite paving slabs, but mostly the remnants of the previous evening’s kebabs and fried chicken (see main picture).
Fair enough, Henry Moore probably didn’t hang around in Castleford once he’d started earning a few quid with his hammer and chisel. However, The Beatles buggered off to Surrey, Kent and Los Angeles as quick as they could, but that hasn’t stopped Liverpool cashing in on them for ever more. Even Wakefield, just down the road from Castleford, has opened a gallery dedicated to Barbara Hepworth who was born in the town. And, let’s face it, Babs nicked most of Henry’s ideas.
So, why would Castleford be ignoring its good luck in having one of the world’s preeminent artists being born within its civic boundaries? Why hasn’t it has exploited Moore’s connection with a gallery or museum to attract the tourist dollar?
I can only think that Moore did something heinous to indelibly blot his copybook with Castleford for all time. Maybe he said something he shouldn’t have done. Maybe it was, “Castleford is a shit-hole and be buggered if I going back there”.
It is a sentiment that I could sympathise with, especially as their rugby league side hammered mine. Or maybe he popped back there once and threw a very public strop because he couldn’t even get a Greggs’ pasty on a Sunday lunchtime.
Despite Castleford’s obvious reluctance to mention Moore’s name in polite company, the artist did donate a sculpture to the town six years before he died. Maybe the bad blood started then, when the Council thought fit to locate it outside the extremely ugly and brutalist concrete block of a Civic Centre. The sculpture isn’t there now, by the way. To avoid scrap merchant’s nicking it and melting it down they moved it to inside the Centre. Which isn’t open on Sundays. Just like Greggs*.
*For overseas readers:
Rugby League is a more exciting version of Rugby Union, where you are actually encouraged to score tries.
Greggs are a nationwide peddler of cheap sausage rolls, pastys and other pastry encased comestibles. Their customer demographic are typically those on low budgets that are aiming to achieve Type 2 Diabetes whilst still in their teenage years. Having said that, they do a cracking Cheese and Onion Bake.