Top Twenty

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Morley press photographer  Leslie Overend’s death. I’ve been sent a Press Release from Stephen White, custodian of the collection.

Twenty more pictures illustrating the work of the late Morley photographer Leslie Overend will be added to his website this week to mark the 20th anniversary of his death.

Leslie worked as a freelance photographer for the Morley Observer and other newspapers in the old West Riding of Yorkshire for almost 60 years.

His work and travels around the area made him one of the best-known people in the town.

Born in Eccleshill, Bradford, in 1905, Leslie took his first published photograph in 1918. After learning his trade working for two Bradford daily newspapers, Leslie and his father, a former teacher, set up the Overend Press Agency – freelancing for newspapers all over the country.

Leslie took his first pictures in Morley in 1926 when he visited the town to cover the mayor-making ceremony of Alderman T A Buttery. That event was to be the first of 46 such mayor-making ceremonies that Leslie was to cover in the town.

In 1955, Leslie married the former Doris Morse – the owner of the Rendezvous Café in Town Hall Buildings, Queen Street.

The couple made their home in the former Dinky Dyson’s chemist’s shop, also in Queen Street, which they ran as a newsagent’s. Doris died in 1960.

Although Leslie moved to live in Dewsbury soon after Doris’s death, he retained his close ties with Morley and the surrounding area, taking tens of thousands of pictures in a varied career that continued until ill-health forced his reluctant retirement in 1983. 

When he died, on May 16, 1989, Leslie left his archive of negatives to a former Morley Observer colleague, Stephen White.

Stephen, now deputy editor at the Bristol-based Western Daily Press, is keen to keep Leslie’s work in the public eye.

He said: “When Leslie died and I inherited a huge pile of old boxes full of glass and film negatives I thought I should try to do something with them. It seemed a real shame that they would otherwise have just remained in boxes, perhaps lost to the people of Morley for ever.

“In 1992, I published a book of 100 pictures from the 1960s, then last Christmas released a book of pictures from the 1970s. In between, I archived Les’s negatives and set up a website in his name (www.leslieoverend.com).

You can view the pictures by logging on to www.leslieoverend.com

“To mark the 20th anniversary of his death, I thought it would be a good idea to post another 20 pictures from his archive on to the website, displaying a variety of his work in and around Morley.

“Choosing 20 pictures from such a vast archive was an almost impossible task, but I hope the ones I settled for will bring back some welcome memories for people who have lived in the town for some time.”

He included these two.

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Floor 34, where are you?

Yesterday’s teaser photo is the view of a lift. There are two things somewhat unusual about this lift. The first is the speeed. It is 1,400 feet per minute, which is pretty nifty for a lift, although it sounds a bit lame when it is expressed in Miles per Hour- 15.9MPH. However, your average lift is generally less than half this. Of course, having a fast lift isn’t much use in a not very tall building, as simply moving a few floors will rarely give the opportunity to reach full speed. This lift spends most of its time going between the ground and the 34th floor (in 20 seconds) and is aerodynamically streamlined above and below the car in the shaft to achieve its full potential. Also, unusually, the car is connected to the counterweight both above and below using a second set of ropes to maximise stability.

The other unusual thing about this lift is the height- there is practically as much height above the door lintel as there is below it. A 12′ high lift car outside of a factory is very unusual. The height is for the occasional transportation of equipment, or as the bosses usd to call it- “Apperatus”.

(As an aside, when I used to live in Coventry I had friends who lived in a Council block of flats. One of the two lift cars was bigger than the other- but only by way of a 2’6″ high 18″ deep full width recess at the bottom of the back wall. This was for the benefit of furniture movers- and undertakers. It was known locally as “the coffin lift”. On wondering why they didn’t make the pair of the lifts the same size rather than fit a false wall in one and a boxed-in upper level in the other, it appeared to be that tenants don’t pay any attention to weight limits, just how much square footage of floor is still available. It was a regular occurrence for firemen to rescue substantial numbers of people on occasions…)

Now as can be seen by the designer glass & fibre optic lighting, this is not the sort of elevator that is going to smell of piss and have needles in the corner. That is because this is a showcase location that BT reserve for trying to impress the senior management of the business world, along with the nation on comic relief day. This is the South Lift in London’s Iconic BT tower. (In case you are interested, it is one of the *wow* trilogy, the other two being the research establishment at Martlesham (near Ipswich, now known as Adastral Park) and their Network Operations Control Centre in Oswestry)

Built in the 60s as a crucial hub of the Post Office (Telephones) microwave backbone infrastructure, it became somewhat obsolete when fibre optic backhauls came along and creamed it for capacity. It remains very much in use however, for television broadcast links. (Not transmission to receivers, rather backhaul links to the transmitters and between providers).

The Post Office Tower was recognised as likely to be a tourist attraction on opening, with three floors of viewing galleries (the bottom one open to the elements with mesh instead of glazing) topped by a restaurant that revolved at a stately 2.5 revolutions per hour. I visited the viewing galleries with my Mum and Dad back in the late 60’s (possibly 1970) coming away with a souvenier brochure, a cardboard cutout model and a vivid impression. The lifts then ran at 1,000 feet per minute and there were coin-slot seaside binoculars for taking a closer look at all London had to offer. I also remember that there were toilets on the lowest of the three levels and that it was rather windy up there!

The tower closed to the public in 1971 after a bomb went off in the toilets and whilst the Restaurant eventually re-opened, the viewing galleries did not. The Restaurant kept going until 1980 but the lease (to Billy Butlin) was not extended and it was abandoned.

Eventually, BT capitalised on the setting by transforming it into a showcase area. At ground level, the former gift shop space is now a comfortable lecture theatre with full AV facilities and streaming video functionality. (Major product launches and announcements are often made from here).

Meanwhile, up on the 34th floor, the Restaurant is now a flexible doughnut shaped space generally used for Corporate entertainment. The views are stunning on a clear day, especially if you go up there just before dusk and watch one of the world’s most famous cities light up below you like a giant model village.

I went there roughly ten years ago, for a major product launch. (Featurenet Embark, if you are interested- it sucked.) Afterwards we were transported skywards at teatime and treated to the most spectacular background I have ever seen for Wine and Canapes. (2nd in my personal favourite list was something similar in the Natural History Museum). On leaving, I was presented with a long thin envelope, containing a souvenir brochure and a certificate nicely written in calligraphy.

Yesterday, it wasn’t actually a BT event, it was for a user group of a Contact Centre product that BT are huge Customers (& providers) of. It was a day of presentations, with lunch up the tower. Disappointingly, it was a misty day so the views were a bit dull. The fixed explanatory panels in the tower had been refreshed, as had the floor 35 toilets.   The ground floor areas looked a littled jaded in places though and the taps in the toilets were worn. (The integral soap dispensers were all empty and standalone soap pumps looked rather incongruous in the otherwise smart loos).

At the end of the day, we were rewarded with a colourful cardboard tube complete with a (larger) tower history booklet and a panorama commemorative certificate, printed name this time & designed to look as though it had been personally signed by the chairman. (As another aside, we have a genuinely signed certificate by former Chairman Sir Ian Vallance hanging in our downstairs loo).

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with BT and they have given me plenty of reasons to get vexed with them over the years. I have been to a number of high profile visits with them over the years, more so on the basis of trying to retain my business that acquire it. I’ve now done the Tower three times in my life and had a trip to Oswestry. Adastral Park awaits…

The view of the tower from a nearby street.The view from across the road

Go away, we don't want you here...The lecture theatre near the base of the towerLooking up in the lift just after the doors have closed. The height is for being able to transport large equipment racksThe 34th floorLooking towards the buffet tablesThe view straight down to the street belowLooking towards Regents ParkA cleared site with a rather incongruous church-like building carefully preservedDetail of one of the explanatory panels. This doesn't move as the ceiling is fixed.Another general view of the floorThe Gents designer loos on the 35th floor.A view of the tower- it is collared to the main building for added rigidity.The stairs going up to 35 and down to 31, the fire assembly area. I didn't bother Urbexing, I'm sure the off-limits areas are all alarmed and CCTV'd.The landing floor indicator panel.

Here are two very short Youtube movies showing that it does indeed revolve.

And this old footage shows how it works!

A mystery photo

I’ve deliberately obscured a blatant clue as to where this picture was taken, all will be revealed shortly but feel free to guess.

1400 feet per minute

Nuns on the run

n59804986576_9155Last night, we went to St. Georges Hall in Bradford to see Rowetta and the London Community Gospel Choir do a platform performance of songs from the sister Act movies.

We saw the LCGC two years ago and I was blown away. Last night, the emphasis was less on Gospel and more on Soul, Motown style. The event was slightly cheesy with a cod preacher cajoling the crowd into a frenzy (with a somewhat partial success) but with an excellent six piece band and ten singers with amazing voices along with some superb music, it was hard not to love it. My favourite song of the evening was “Say a little prayer for you” in the Aretha Franklin style, closely followed by “Oh happy day” in the style of back in the habit, Sister Act II, where it started off weak then built in strength, complete with arpeggios. “Joyful Joyful we adore thee” sung to the tune of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony Ode to Joy was also a huge crord pleaser, with Rowetta solemnly singing the first verse then the cast exploding onto the stage in a riot of colour and dance in the high energy 2nd verse. It quirkily included a couple of lines from the Janet Jackson song “what have you done for me lately” (with Him substituted for me, as per the movie).

Here is a Telly teaser I found on the LCGC website, if you enjoy watching this and find yourself within 100 miles of any of the tour venues over the next six weeks or so, I’d highly recommend you go and see it. If you really want to have fun, dress as a Nun and get a front stalls seat near the aisle so you can get up and dance.

The old school tie

Out of the blue, Karen (BloggerWife) received a phone call from an old school friend of hers. They had been to a reunion in the late 90s and agreed to keep in touch…!

The reason for her call was that their old High School was celebrating it’s 80th birthday and they were inviting as many former pupils as possible.

Now Karen’s old school is surprisingly famous. No, it isn’t Eton, or Harrow, or even Rodean. It is Levenshume High School, otherwise known as Weatherfield Comp as it is regularly used by Granada TV for filming as part of Britain’s longest running Soap opera, Coronation Street. (Karen comments that the Wikipedia entry is spherically, plurally, incorrect, although the other school mentioned may have been the case some time back).

Karen keenly follows Corry and as I generally surf with a laptop on my lap in the lounge (or more accurately with a laptop on my belly) I am peripherally exposed to the Soap. Being a Mancunian by upbringing, she would regularly point out any OB scene that she recognised. The shots of the school intregued me as it looked somewhat like a grand old 19th century Arts and Crafts Country House.

Anyway, David and I came along to keep her company. She had told us a bit about the school- how it was an E shaped building with classrooms in the wings and the hall in the central strut along with Gyms beyond. She told us it had a posh entrance down the end of a long driveway that the pupils weren’t allowed to use. She recounted her three years there in the 3rd, 4th and 5th forms, pranks that had gone on and punishments, including her class being banished to a corridor for form registration for the entire 5th year. There had been a lower school in another building further down the road, now long gone.

On arrival at the school, marshalls directed us down the elegant tree lined drive and along the front of the building, past the dining hall onto the tennis courts. (“Hah! These were the netball courts”, interjected Karen.) The school is indeed still “E” shaped, but with much tweaking and extending so that there are various lumps and bumps on the structure, including some low grade 50s buildings and a brand new energy efficient community use sports facility called the Energy Box. (I christened it the sweat box).

When we arrived, we went into the main hall, where there were various displays about the school history and the future. There were extensive archive photographs as well as some old documents through the ages. (Apparently most of this was pulled together for the 75th anniversary celebrations five years ago so it was comparatively easy to restage).

Now a school that has no direct memories for me is relatively academic for interest so I was more attentive to the spatial arrangements and how it had evolved over the years. It turned out that this school had been built in 1928, officially opening in 1929. It had always been a Girls school and indeed had been a selective Grammar school until such time as the Trotskyists in the LEA abolished such elitism in the pursuit of mediocracy.

The building was light and spacious (apart from the basement), but not overly disabled friendly, being on three main levels (with a lift) and a few rooms on landings due to some of the quirky extensions built over the years. The original Gym block looked as though it had been built in the 60s with exposed concrete columns and window walls whilst the main building style was not too far removed from Victorian. The dining hall also looked like it dated from the 60s with exposed ceiling zig zag steel trusses and weetabix ceilings, all now painted shocking shades of green and yellow.

The main entrance area near the hall was smartly painted with extensive wall and floor tiling, although most other areas were rather utilitarian, with the original staircase blocks looking like their brickwork had been simply glossed over. I didn’t even see any of that local authority surface mainstay, speckled texture paint.

One striking thing in the main hall was the light fittings- very large and deep circular shades with translucent infills and sides in school green. Smaller matching shades were also found in the entrance hall and vestibule, whilst everywhere else florry lights (or CFL fittings) were the norm. The hall also had some additional decorative lighting- aircraft-like PAR fittings lit the bases of the ceiling beams as well with some wall up/downlighters on the stage proscenium. A neat little lighting controller at the back of the hall integrated the tungsten and discharge lighting for assembly and performance use.

Looking at the older photographs, they had quite a few whole-school panorama shots, some outside, some inside. The indoor ones were in the hall and I noticed that the original lighting fittings were large open bottomed circular frosted glass shades, one of which was missing, exposing the 500 Watt GES (Goliath Edison Screw)  GLS (General Lighting Service) clear lamp to view. A later photo showed that the original open bottom shades had been replaced with large spherical shades and yet again there was one missing. (My own school had flying saucer shades and two were missing in the main hall, an occupational hazard of either allowing sports in the hall, or possibly the precarious practice of relamping on large wobbly wooden ladders by the caretakers).

Whilst Karen enjoyed looking around, she felt that the event had not been as successful as my recent school trip, mainly because we were left to ourselves and there wasn’t any obvious programme. However, we were excellently fed with a huge buffet in the dining hall and many of the pupils acting as ambassadors kept bringing  trays into the main building.   There may have been speeches towards the end but we only stayed for the first couple of hours. The children were putting on various forms of entertainment on the stage but nobody was introduced or anything like that.

As for the uniform, we assumed it was still bottle green but most of the kids had a white T shirt on with some form of stylised picture, possibly of the school. We did see an old lady with a school scarf though, impressive that she saved it for forty years or so since she attended. (I still have my school prefect tie but I retained it more for fancy dress purposes, it has to be said).

One other comment Karen had (and her sister also made on seeing the pictures)- the buildings looked rather run down and tired. A new build is on the horizon though and a large set of complex plans were also on display, although I struggled to get a chance to study them, as ambassadors kept offering me sandwiches, vol-au-vents and samosas.

It was also reassuring to see that Karen’s memory is just as fallible as mine. She showed us three successive classroom doors that she recalls had been booby-trapped with a bucket to trick the teacher, each successive door she changed her mind and assured us it was this one. The last was a cupboard!

The blazer badge, predating Karen.The classroom where Karen's class were busted for sneaking alcohol into the school dance.A typical corridorThe large crest on the back wall of the stageThe tree lined drive to the main entranceThe main frontage, brick with Burmantofts embellishmentsA later addition to the building, the gym can be seen outside the window.The main hall with the displayThe hall looking towards the stage.Traffic lights outside the former Head's office (now a seminar room)An old photo of the lobbyThe lobby today. The school is a specialist languages college and the time zone clocks reflect the importance of commerce.Pupils dancing round a maypoleVintage panorama shots. If you look closely you can see there is a missing lampshade in the hall.One of the original stairwells with a slightly incongruous steel railguard.The newest building- multi purpose sports facilityThe vestibule- out of bounds in Karen's time. There is a large plastic file box with fire brigade plans in the corner.Karen's Fifth form classroom- the corridor now somewhat narrower due to the lockers and a porch for what is now the staff room to the left. They used to rest their bums on a row of tables. This is the top floor corridor alongside the school hall (reception below).