At first I thought that this was one of the hundreds of lost and abandoned old photographs that I provide a home for. They live in boxes and cases, they hang in filing cabinets and folders; they create a hazard to anyone trying to navigate their way through my office. Every so often I reach into one of the boxes and pull a photograph out, scan it, and then file it away with a title such as “Unknown Girl No 573“.
But with this one, something stopped me and it wasn’t just the quality of the picture and the eye-catching look. I suddenly saw my wife of 47 years. Clearly it is not actually her, but the resemblance is sufficient to make me think it might be a close relative. It wouldn’t be the first time such relatives had turned up in one of my lost and abandoned files. Rather than dash downstairs to see if she recognises the person in the photograph, I shall leave it here for her to discover when she looks at my blog later. So message to my wife: who is it?
We all have different ways of occupying ourselves during the Great Lockdown; things we can do that will take our minds off the challenges and dangers that lurk outside the confines of our own houses. As will be obvious to anyone who visits these pages on a regular basis, my own particular approach is to dive deep into my photographic archives and rediscover the places and people of several decades ago.
Back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s I would process my own monochrome films and, after developing, cut them into strips for easy storage. 35mm films would be cut into strips of 6; medium format films would be cut into strips of 3. Perhaps they were once filed in some logical order – strips from the same film next to each other – but any such order has been lost over decades of moving house and changing filing cabinets. The only context that remains is the context of the single strip – it is a fair assumption that neighbouring shots were taken around the same time and place.
The strip of negatives I am working on at the moment features shots taken during the parade at the annual Halifax Charity Gala. The date, I suspect, was the summer of 1967. I was on the point of leaving school and starting a job as a press photographer on the local newspaper. I was out to get some practice in before the start of my working life. I followed the Charity Gala parade as it made its way through the streets of Halifax to its destination in a local park. As I took the photographs, I assumed that my occupational destination would be as certain as that of the parade; but I was very much mistaken. That, however, is another story.
Over the next few days I will add the rescanned photographs from this strip of negatives as I process them, and as I progress through the day of the parade.
THE START OF THE PARADE : The parade started in the streets below Woolshops. Clustered around the Parish Church, these streets were once the centre of the town, but by the late 1960s they had become the home of demolished mills and cindered car parks.
SADDLE SORE : The parade moves on to the top of Woolshops, and if you can divert your eyes for a moment from the Mixenden Gala Queen, you will see the splendid Saddle Hotel at the corner of Russel Street and Market Street in the background. The demolition of this fine building and its replacement with the concrete monstrosity that is there today must be one of the greatest architectural crimes ever committed in Halifax.
TRAMPS AND THIEVES : The floats wind their way through the centre of Halifax, and half-familiar buildings provide a backdrop to a series of animated displays. The subjects reflect the cultural hotpot that was the middle of the twentieth century: some look back at familiar nursery rhymes, some look forward to the television shows that were increasingly dominating our lives.
THE HOLY TRINITY : All civilisations have their sacred troikas, whether they be Father, Son and Holy Ghost or Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. For a lad growing up in Halifax in the mid sixties it had to be the three brewers: Websters, Whitakers and Ramsdens. Here, the parade passes Ramsdens Stone Trough Brewery just months before it was demolished to make way for that new twentieth century temple – a bank headquarters.