Have you seen Brother Recession yet? Have you not? You’ll like him. He’s just like Father Christmas. Big jolly face, laughs a lot, pops down your chimney and everything. I suppose that’s where the similarity ends, though. St. Nick flies through the clouds in his sleigh, the Brother slays people from his cloud of flies. And the jolly face is more of a mask, really – a jolly piggy mask with sharp tusks; there to keep you safe and sound.
One of the souls our dear Brother has not yet supped from is the FREE Huddersfield Festival of Light. If you’re going to be cynical about it, it’s one of those council-led schemes to get everyone to spendspendspend for Christmas to boost the local economy. I think this is to hide just how many libraries they sold to Tesco. Whereas in most town centres this translates to a halb-arscht German Weihnachtsmarkt, Huddersfield have surreally and commendably – in this hell-portal we exist in – devoted that stimulus instead to a three-evening festival of theatre, music and LIGHT. Pretty Huddersfield becomes a stage for fifty-odd acts and fringe-events.
As – in between flaying whippets and lathering all your stuff with lard – a Yorkshireman’s prime hobby is talking up Yorkshire, I’ll qualify the ‘pretty’ with facts; your scorn is unbearable. They’re the bits in bold, to help you.
On the main stage outside the station Sir John Betjeman called a “stately home for trains”, the council representative asked the 10,000-strong crowd to give a warm Huddersfield welcome to the main act, the Spanish/Argentinian troupe ¡Grupo Puja!. Huddersfield greeted this with a round of chuntering, until the smoke machines fought with the ice-rain to create an air of mYsTeRy. In this, the troupe attached themselves to a sphere-cage (hiya, ITV’s Gladiators), their band ramped up the guitars and to the sounds of electric-Wagner, they ascended into the sky. Spot-lit with a batman-silhouette against the sky, the sleet glittering around them, they bungeed, span and pirouetted 80m above St. George’s Square until the fireworks 40 minutes later felt like an anti-climax. But why did the lady singer need to wail?
Later, walking through the light garden, I recalled Friedrich Engels exclaiming that Huddersfield was “the handsomest by far of all the factory towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire”, and futher on, Jigantics’ 16ft tulips made a good fist of enlivening the sad Piazza. Sadly, down the side of the stripped classical modernist library and art gallery, Retourment, a strangely dreary one-person vertical ballet in front of a projection of a Windows 95 screensaver, only served to confirm suspicions about the French, causing a throng to abandon her for the altogether better Art Market inside.
While I will never forgive myself for not taking the steampunk Flycycle through the Food and Drink Market (the Flycycle!), the warmth of the three-storey victorian Byram Arcade amongst the late-opening independent shopkeepers, beer in my hand, was where I found my joy. The unbridled pleasure I got in leering suggestively at beautiful ladies in tight clothes – legal and above board thank you – because it is art and they were doing dances on aerial silks.
Obvs, Huddersfield is not Durham; is not a UNESCO world heritage site and thus is not the Lottery-funded high-art ejaculation on the River Wear this year’s Lumiere was. But the Huddersfield Festival of Light is still a solid, enjoyable event of rare exposure for performance art, street theatre and installation art to the general public in an intellectually unthreatening and modest setting (FACT: there are also some shit parts of Huddersfield). It’s great to see streets full of people who aren’t drunks or raiding Viking hordes come to cut out our tongues and take us for their wives.
Therefore, we must pray, for Brother Recession stalks the land, spreading the venereal rash of spending cuts and…darkness.
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