Time on my hands

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Last week we visited the wonderful Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds. Don’t worry, I’m not going all Fred Dibnah on your ass but I will be singing the praises of industrial revolution heavy metal, incredible artistry and bygone age.

Armley Mills sits unassumingly on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool canal in a part of the city that has seen better days. Clearly it was once at the heart of the action, but things have moved on and the enormous mill complex still sits proudly, elegantly even; a potent symbol of the birth of the city that now exists: all modern and hoity toity, forgetful of its past.

This proud mill is home to an eclectic collection of industrial revolution evidence. Enormous weaving machines still trundle, doing the job they were designed to do over a century ago, solid printing presses stand frustratingly still, evidencing Leeds’ heritage in this industry. Huge iron beasts sit in their rust waiting patiently for their time to come again. Unknown histories dwell in the machinery, a lifetime away from the hustle and bustle of a city famous for forgetting its heritage as quickly as possible.

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This resting place is home to iron steam giants, locomotives built in the city by firms long gone: engineering ingenuity and brute strength forgotten and unvalued. Wandering around this engaging and lovingly curated assembly, the question at the front of my mind was can this collection of yesteryear tell us anything about the city we live in today? Leeds was at the forefront of invention and ambition and the sheer effort and intelligence required to build and develop this technology surely inspires the inventors and innovators of today. I think there’s no difference between software developers working on a life-changing iPhone app and a steam engineer refining one of his engines. Maybe I’m going off on one, but take a visit and see for yourself.

There’s also currently a lovely temporary exhibition in Armley Mills featuring renowned Leeds Clock maker Potts Clocks. The Leodiensian horologists (now I am going off on one) are famous for providing pretty much all of the public clocks in the city and across the country. Their distinctive ┬átrademark hour hand is easy to spot and there is much satisfaction to be gained spotting these elegant timepieces around Leeds. There is a melancholy but satisfying air to the ticking, whirring machinery, seconds and minutes marked off efficiently, as if they were insignificant, easy to retrieve.

Worth a visit, if you can find the time.

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Me and my owl

I went to the Get Stuffed exhibition at long last today and saw myself and my fellow Get Stuffed participants immortalised in photographs alongside their taxidermic companions. It really is a great project and on at Armley Mills until this Sunday – well worth a look if you’re in and around West Leeds this weekend.

It was quite odd to see myself large scale in an exhibition but thankfully I looked Ok on the photograph so no shame there!

Thanks to Jane Earnshaw for making it happen. It is an inspirational project and huge fun to take part in.

Get stuffed in West Leeds

As part of our local Festival I love West Leeds there was the opportunity to have a stuffed animal living with you in your home for a week. There was something about this idea that I liked and I when I saw the list of animals on offer, I really fancied the barn owl. So I applied to the Get Stuffed project and a couple of weeks later a barn owl was delivered to our house.

The lovely wife and difficult daughter were quite frankly weirded out by the whole thing and looked at me like I was deranged as I set him up in the conservatory, cruelly allowing him a view of the trees without actually screeching in them. He (we think he’s a he but not sure) is a magnificent specimen set in a beautiful pose showing off the size of his wings and his comparatively small body. I christened him Leodis – the old roman name for Leeds, a city that features owls prominently on its coat of arms.

I was determined to integrate him into my life and planned a few visits during the week that would create a nice story to tell as part of the project. There is an exhibition planned at the beginning of the festival in July – worth keeping an eye out for. In the meantime, here’s a few sneak peeks of what Leodis got up to during his stay…