Sunday, 14 September 2014

Branwell at Luddendenfoot

Poet Simon Zonenblick (pictured) showed a preview of his new forty-five minute video about Branwell Brontë this afternoon, in Thornton. The upstairs room of the chic little vegetarian café in South Square was full of people who turned out to be terrifyingly knowledgeable about the young man who is often seen simply as a boozer who was fond of opium, but Zonenblick was not in any way daunted when he answered their questions afterwards. According to the video, which is mainly about his time as a railway clerk at Luddendenfoot, just up from recently-industrialised Sowerby Bridge, Branwell wrote plenty of tolerable verse when he was not busy with account books, and produced a number of  reasonably good paintings. We saw some of these - a Jacob's ladder with angels, reminiscent of Blake, a landscape in which it was not clear whether the sun was rising or setting, a moonlit scene with a bridge over a canal, a figure which could be from a dream or nightmare entitled The Lamplighter... according to one of the people interviewed by Zonenblick, Branwell's landscapes are ethereal, all about "the spaces between places". The poets of today who meet regularly in Calderdale pubs consider themselves to be Branwell's descendants, to some extent, and some of his poems were read by them with great respect, especially the ones dealing with death and burial.

Daphne du Maurier was mentioned (The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë) in relation to his fascination for the wild bargemen, and there is an amusing sequence where people in a pub attempt to write their name on a piece of paper with right and left hands simultaneously. None of them did very well, but Branwell earned drinks in The Black Bull when he wrote words down like that - Greek with the left and Latin with the right.

But enough! The video has yet to receive its final additions and subtractions, and what we saw was really work in progress. It will be more widely available in the new year. The event was organised by Angela Crow-Woods, who marshalled the audience to another café - Emily's. This is situated two hundred yards away in the house where Branwell was born, and it sells excellent coffee and Italian-style snacks. All the well-known portraits of the Brontës are there, and the customers sit at tables made from used school desks.

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