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A Cracking Weekend....

What a superb weekend that was!

Not only did I see some fantastic music, drink some excellent beers, catch up with family and friends, but unusually for a bank holiday - and particularly the early May one - the weather was brilliant too!

Friday night, I rushed back from work, dropped the car off, and headed off to Halifax for the first of the weekend's gigs. It was a lovely sunny evening, and when I arrived at the Piece Hall, there was already bunting out and the odd yellow bicycle in advance of Sunday's start on the fourth and final day of the Tour de Yorkshire, which has become a massive event in the cycling calendar.

Preparing for le tour....

I decided to pop into Elder, the wine bar on the bottom side of the Hall. I hadn't been in since the opening week when I hadn't been too impressed, so I felt it deserved a second chance. I ordered a half of one of the 3 taps on offer, the always dependable Beavertown Gamma Ray, which was the first drink pulled by one of the friendly staff, and I took it outside to enjoy in the sun. Elder is still probably not a place I would linger, though, as it is more of a wine and foodie place, but OK for an emergency drink, especially when the sun is out.

It is yards from there to Square Chapel, where I was going to see Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow, whom I had last seen back in January 2017 up the road at the Alexandra. They were appearing in the Square's Copper Auditorium, which with a capacity of 140 was stadium-esque in comparison to the upstairs room from last time! As usual, with O'H&T, there was a story, they were playing there because they had seen a film in the room and thought it would be great to do a gig there! And so it happened, they were featuring their album 'Shadows', and I have to say it was the best gig I have ever seen from the Golcar-based folk duo, who are seriously underrated and who, whilst they have been nominated several times for awards, they are still not acknowledged as widely as they should be. If you like a good tune, a good tale, sprinkled with some amusing anecdotes, check them out. One of their best-loved songs is 'Gentleman Jack', which is about local landowner Anne Lister, who lived at nearby Shibden Hall, and who just happens to be the subject of an upcoming TV series of the  same name written by Sally Wainwright who wrote 'Happy Valley' and various other popular series. I did suggest to Heidi after the gig that they ought to use their song as the theme tune! And to make the evening even more enjoyable at the Square, there was Wylam Galatia on hand pump, which was excellent, as well as Jakehead, their 6.3% IPA on keg. So a good night was had at the Square....

Saturday day, I had a lovely catch up with family, and then enjoyed a couple of pints with my brother at the Hollins Mill (formerly the Works) in Sowerby Bridge. I enjoyed a couple of excellent pints of Phoenix Arizona, and it was very pleasant sat outside in the sunshine. The Hollins Mill is well worth a visit, on the 2 or 3 times I have visited in its current guise, the beer has always been excellent.

Saturday night, I went to see Baxter Dury at the Lantern in Halifax. I had first heard his latest album, 'Prince of Tears' during a leisurely afternoon at the Grayston Unity before Christmas, and when I found it he was appearing in the town, I bought a ticket as soon as possible. And so, I went to the Grayston to meet up, from where a group of us headed across town to the gig. I had seen Baxter's dad, Ian, 3 times, once back in 1975 when he was in Kilburn and the High Roads, and then a couple of times when he was with the Blockheads. So it was great to see Baxter, who my mate Daz told me, was the child stood next to Ian on the cover of his classic first album, 'New Boots and Panties'. It was an excellent gig, the band tight as a drum, and whilst Baxter has some similarities to his dad's vocal style, the music is contemporary, keyboard-based rock with a kind of Euro/Serge Gainsbourg feel.

Baxter Dury...chip off the old block

And so to Sunday. I headed over to the Grayston (again), where the beer of choice was Effortless from Red Willow, and with the sun beating down, it just hit the spot as we stood in what during the week is the car park for Halifax Town Hall but today was our viewing point for the music being served up in the rear courtyard of the Grayston. First on were Steve Adams and the French Drops. Steve was the lead singer in a band called the Broken Family Band, whose excellent album 'Please and Thank You' I came across in 2009/10, and not long before they split up! It was a shame, because I loved the band's jangly indie rock, and there were many echoes of it in the sound of Steve's current band. In true geek fashion, I had brought my CD along, and Steve kindly signed it, but with the dismissive message below....

Or, I have some excellent other stuff available to purchase....

I still think it's a brilliant album anyway!

I had missed the departure earlier in the day from the Piece Hall of the final day of the Tour De Yorkshire, but plenty of the folk at the Grayston had been there. Craig Fee, who was playing after Steve finished, had actually cycled one of the stages the day before, but in terms of distance this was nothing compared to the Galway to London trek he had done a few weeks earlier. Indeed, Craig, who is a music teacher, is a bit of a dab hand in lots of things, not only are his band very good, with shades of Nick Cave, Simone Felice, and various others,  but he has also just published a short collection of his lyrics, poems, blogs, and other writings. Well worth seeing if he is on near you.

We decided to move on after Craig and the band had finished, with our destination the excellent Victorian Craft Beer Cafe where Squawk Pavo was on superb form, and I ended up staying later than planned, as one set of friends headed home, our Tom and some other friends appeared.

So, a most enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend in Halifax with great music and some excellent beer, with the added bonus of some fantastic weather!
And finally, it has emerged this week that Alan and Alyson are leaving Calan's in Hebden Bridge this weekend, 3 years after opening up what was Calderdale's first ever micro pub which I wrote about here.

They had been trying to sell it for a few months, and whilst I don't have any details, it must have all gone through. I have always enjoyed my visits there, where Alan, Alyson, long-standing staff members Janet, Stacey, Steve, and more recently Nadine have always made everyone very welcome. Sadly I won't be able to get there this weekend, but I would like to just wish them well, and no doubt will bump into them at some point in one or other of our local pubs in the future. They will be greatly missed....


  1. Thank you Chris. We have been privileged to have met so many wonderful people in our time at Calan’s ( of course including yourself ). We are so lucky to have had such excellent quality and choices of ales from excellent breweries....over 1070 different ales from 260 different breweries to date! We will see you and all in coming months and years in the wonderful pubs that we all love. Cheers from Alan and Alyson xx

  2. Forgive me please as I should have introduced our successors. Nadine and Damian will be the new owners of Calan’s as from Monday 14th May. They are a wonderful couple and are well known locally. Best wishes to them both .

  3. You're welcome, Alan, always been a pleasure. Great news that Nadine and Damian are taking it on, 'keeping it in the family'! Good luck to them!


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