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Bars and Stars....

New openings in Hebden Bridge and a fascinating tour recalling Halifax's musical past....

I went over to Hebden Bridge this weekend to check out the brand new Vocation and Co bar that had just opened. I took the train from Brighouse, and when I arrived I noticed that the Old Parcel Office summer weekend pop-up bar had changed to the Pig and Barrel. And instead of majoring on cider like its predecessor, it was focussing on beer and gin. There is one hand pump and a couple of taps, and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the sunshine at one of the outside tables drinking a pint of X-Panda from the excellent Brew York brewery before making my way into town.

The new Vocation bar is on the main road and based in what was part of the old Moyles Hotel which closed a year or two ago following flooding. It is very shiny, with white walls, a longish bar, and big chalkboard listing the beers and cider on offer. It is actually a joint venture between Vocation and the people behind the Old Gate, also in Hebden Bridge, and the Firehouse in Sowerby Bridge. This is a different beast to either, with plenty of beer on offer that will appeal to the hipsters. The name Vocation and Co was chosen because the aim is to feature some Vocation beers alongside other breweries. And so, there are 20 listings on the board (though one was the increasingly popular Pulp cider), and of the 19 beers, there were 4 cask and 15 keg beers on tap. I enjoyed a pint of Heart and Soul on cask, and then tried a pint of the remarkable 3.2% Table Beer from Kernel. I had only had this in bottle previously, but the amazing depth of flavour for such a low gravity beer shone through in this draught version. In general, I liked the place, the staff were very friendly(although the fact they called me 'sir' grated slightly). And I did wonder why, in a place that is virtually guaranteed to be a popular venue, there were only two unisex toilets. And it has set me thinking, too. I wonder, given the prominence of keg (albeit it was an impressive menu) if that is ultimately the direction that Vocation will go, following the likes of Cloudwater and Buxton? This is a subject I will be returning to another time.

Moving on and changing the subject, I went next to the ever-dependable Calan's where I had some lovely Roosters beer and the obligatory pork pie. The place was busy with, as ever, Janet and Stacey providing the usual friendly and efficient service from behind the bar. I sat out in the sunshine and munched my pie. It is incredible how many times I visit Calan's and bump into people I know. This time it was a friend who plays in a brass band, and I asked her when the annual Brighouse Band Festival was taking place, she told me it was next day, but due to prior engagements I couldn't make it! Still, there's always next year....

I then decided to go to Nido's, 5 minutes walk away as it was months since I'd last been in. This is a lovely cafe bar, which also serves home-cooked food with a good reputation. I had an enjoyable chat with Nadine, who runs the place, over a glass of Ginnel, an enjoyable 3.5% blonde ale beer from Keighley brewers, Wishbone. Nido's is fairly easy to miss, but it is just past the Old Gate, on Market Street, and doesn't open every day, but is well worth calling in when it is. Sadly, though, according to its Facebook page, it is due to close imminently, with its lease up for sale.

Virtually across the road is Drink!, which is another place I have visited regularly in the past. It was pretty busy, with a good teatime crowd including, I would guess, many regulars. I had a good pint, enjoyed the atmosphere, and bought a can of Brew York X-Parrot from the beer shop to take out. This is another place that deserves a visit.

My final port of call was another fairly new bar, Nightjar, situated beside the Hebden Bridge Picture House. This bar is run by the Slightly Foxed Brewery, who have been in the area for a few years but are now based just down the road in Mytholmroyd. I have to say I am not really a fan of their beers, but I liked this place. It is not big, but it was quite lively with a friendly vibe. And there was a nice Raw beer on too!

So a snapshot of what's going on in Hebden Bridge at the moment, which, on balance, has a lot of positives. And as it turns out, it looks now like I'll be back again this weekend....
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The other Sunday, I went on a most enjoyable afternoon on the Halifax Musical Heritage Trail. One of the organisers is Trevor Simpson, former Football League referee and author of a number of music-themed books, including books on the music scene in Halifax when he was growing up, and Elvis Presley. The other is Michael Ainsworth, owner of the Grayston Unity bar and Doghouse Promotions. Over 30 of us gathered at the Grayston before visiting a number of sites in the town which had been musical venues over the years. What was amazing was the number of top stars who had visited the town in those pre-stadium days. Over the years, artists such as the Kinks, Herman's Hermits, Rod Stewart, The Jacksons, Cilla Black, Little Richard, Joy Division, The Cure, Pulp, and Roxy Music, to name just a few, visited the town, some prior to, some on the cusp of, and some as fame arrived. We were treated to some amazing stories and anecdotes; Dusty Springfield made her first solo appearance in the town, when the Shadows backed Cliff Richard they had nowhere to stay, so they caught the last bus back with a fan and stayed at his mum's house, the blues musician Champion Jack Dupree settled in the town following a remarkable journey from the American Deep South. We heard that Brian Epstein wanted too much for the Beatles that the promoters, the Crabtree brothers, wouldn't take them on. It was all fascinating stuff, brought to life in a most engaging way by Trevor and Michael. We visited a number of long-gone sites in the town harking back over the years; venues like the Marlborough Hall, the Plebians Club, Clarences, the Princess Ballroom, and several more. We heard about promoters, various characters, and some of the problems of putting on live music.It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and if you have any interest in music, or social history, or in the town, I would urge you to visit. The tours only happen once or twice a year, with the next one scheduled for September 10th.
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Finally, I must mention my old mate Harry Goode. who would have loved that tour. Sadly Harry passed away last week after several months of illness. He was born in Halifax, but had moved to Brighouse, where for many years he was well known as a postman. He was also steward at the long-gone Bailiff Bridge Club for a number of years. He loved people and always had a cheery word for everyone. He loved pubs, he loved the craic, and was always life and soul of the party, in a very friendly and welcoming way. He was actually born Harry Haley, but had adopted the surname Goode, he used to say, when he knocked around with a mate whose surname was Norfolk. But I was never quite sure if it was just one of his tales! I had got to know Harry not long after I moved to Brighouse. He was coming to the end of his Post Office career, but then got a job at the the town's bingo hall (which is now the Calder). He was big mates with journalist John Gray, who edited the pub and beer paper 'Innspeak', which in those days was owned by the 'Courier' newspaper. When 'Innspeak' ceased publication, John immediately set up his own paper, 'Pubspeak', (to which I later contributed) which featured listings, pub reviews, jokes, and a popular 'Star at the Bar' profile. Harry had his own column, 'Goode's Daze Out', which would basically be details of which pubs he'd visited recently, plus at least one of the terrible jokes that he came out with on a regular basis. He loved meeting new people, I always used to say, because it gave him a new audience(or unsuspecting victim) on which to inflict his jokes. He was always up for a trip out, and was a regular companion to many of the places I have written about in my blogs. He was a lovely bloke, and will be missed greatly by his family, friends, and many of the other people he met over the years. No doubt he will be causing mayhem wherever he is now. As he always used to say, it's all a bit of fun. RIP, mate....

Vocation and Co, new to Hebden Bridge







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