James Corrigan was ahead of his time

Well done Batley History Group. If you ever thought history was something just for the classroom, think again.

Last January the group coordinated the ‘Protect Batley Library’ campaign and their first Batley Town Hall meeting of 2014 (Batley Variety Club memories) broke the news of the potential redevelopment of the Frontier. There’s only one Malcolm Haigh!

The news of the potential development of the site by Sarah Battye is surely good news for Batley alongside Richard Binks at Blakeridge Mills. Both are renowned for innovative and high quality regeneration initiatives in the town.

Talk of a contemporary reworking of the Batley Variety story is welcome.

James Corrigan saw an opportunity to bring the big stars to Batley because (seems incredible today!) you couldn’t see them in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield etc.

A man ahead of his time.

Since then culture, arts and regeneration have become economic drivers throughout the world – just look at brand Leeds over the last quarter of a century. Batley may have missed out. Possibly it’s a bit of confusion over the Kirklees name. (my view, as per Humberside) but other reasons too no doubt.

The coming of the Arts Council England £2 million Creative People and Places Programme to Batley and Dewsbury (2014-2016) presents an opportunity to engage in the arts and, hopefully, for the programme to act as a catalyst for developing Batley’s cultural assets.

The story of the Variety Club is one such asset. It is the stories told by the folk that went there that will make for living history: let’s hear their voices.

All around West Yorkshire interactive museums and attractions have been built shouting, ‘come and visit our town and spend some money’. If you’ve visited Zucchini Restaurant you’ll have seen how well a tribute to the Variety Club can be done.

I believe Batley today possesses a unique cultural, artistic and creative diversity for such a small (big to us Batley folk!) town.

Where else can boast the Yorkshire Dialect Group and the Gujarati Writers Forum?

But too much of this is achieved through volunteering. Let’s hope that when the Lawrence Batley Theatre launch the Creative People and Places Programme this year there’s room for local people to get involved on a paid basis as well as volunteers. Then we’ll see some sustainable arts activity that also stimulates the local economy.

Well done Batley History Group, keep it up!

MARK GRIFFIN

Osborne Terrace

Batley