I have been mulling over how the press and media have been treating two causes that have fallen close to home .
The campaign to buy for posterity the Bronte birthplace of Thornton.
The case of Where Richard III bones should lie .
These are both issues that many people in the area are deeply passionate about and which have drawn the attention of the media,,though not necessarily the grown up and sensible members thereof.I realise that the Independent is not a tabloid but its article on the Birthplace makes it an honourary(or dishonourary?) member .
The dispute on where Richard IIIs bones should lie is well known to regular readers of this blog but perhaps the bid to acquire the Brontes birthplace is not, so I will give a brief summary
The Brontes were not as many people belive born and bred in Haworth ,they were born in Thornton .They came to Haworth as young children .Its likely the older girls Elizabeth and Maria had fond memories of Thornton and had they lived to adult hoods perhaps we would have had references to them in their published works, unfortunately both girls died in infancy and the remaining children dont seem to have any memories of their first home.However that is not to say Thornton does not have a great many links to the Brontes ,many of Patrick’s friends made in Thornton stayed life long friends well-known to his children,Likewise incidents which occurred while patrick was resident there have sneaked into his children’s work .It’s probably true to say that Patrick’s years in Thornton were the happiest of his life .He was a promising(If impoverished) young clergyman with a wife he loved and who loved him ,a growing family of children and a circle of good friends.
His years in Haworth where by contrast overshadowed almost from the start by isolation ,worry and tragedy and though he came to love the area and its people and was passionately committed to their well-being ,he must surely have loved back frequently to the time when he was surrounded by his bright and delightful children and had the support and love of a gentle but intelligent and witty wife.The Bronte birthplace in Thornton has there fore a place in Bronte history and does not deserve the long-standing neglect it has endured.The house is quite small and from the outside unremarkable but it is important and situated in a village that is often under rated Thornton may seem unremarkable to those driving along the main road past the village .Take one of the turnoffs or follow the Bronte birthplace sign and its clear Thornton has charm and character ,it also has a passion for its Bronte heritage ,deeply proud of being the birthplace and cradle of genius.The residents have often passed the Brontes birthplace and been saddened by its neglect .They have also been annoyed that their contribution to the Bronte legacy is almost always ignored or downplayed.These are the foremost emotions expressed by residents.There is also however frustration that the tourists who visit Haworth ,,bringing a variable but substantial income to our businesses in Haworth is denied to Thornton.This does not mean that Thorntons primary concern is financial and it is easy for both academics and those of us fortunate enough to live in or near Haworth to consider their concerns as unworthy,However academics get paid regularly ,they are not for the most part affected by the recession and they don’t have to go out to find work or customers to ensure their mortgage is paid and their family’s fed.Likewise we in Haworth and the surrounding villages have benefited from Haworths place on the tourist map and though Haworth has many and varied things to interest the traveler we owe the survival of our landscape and our infra structure to the Bronte fame.Haworth has a deep-seated affection for its famous sisters and a deep-seated respect for their legacy and work but is also surely grateful that they have also made us a stop on the tourist trail,Visitors from all over the globe come here and are very welcome we enjoy meeting our visitors and whether they spend money in the village or not they enrich our lives
Thornton’s campaign to buy the Bronte birthplace has been motivated purely by a desire to preserve it for posterity and the individuals are passionately committed to providing a place for Bronte study and for education and culture,,
Unfortunatly our council who has long regarded anything outside the bounds of the metropolis as somehow beneath its attention is not moved by culture or art or the need to preserve historical sites.The only motive likely to move it to consider aiding the Bronte birthplace trust is the possibility of increased revenue and hence this has had to play a part in proposals to the council and elsewhere
The Media who are above all motivated by the pound and dollar have seized on this aspect of the campaign and given it prominence over and above all others.Likewise as the headline and story “,locals want to preserve their heritage and have support of their neighbouring villages” is not quite as entertaining as” Locals battle each other for Bronte cash bonanza “.Hence Thornton and Haworth and the Birthplace trust and the Bronte society and Bronte parsonage are now portrayed as at war ,when in fact the Bronte society has long been saddened at the neglect of the Birthplace and Haworth residents and traders are supportive of the bid,many Haworth residents are active members or supporters of the trust .
Sadly on this occasion the Birthplace trust has failed in its bid to buy the house ,they are discouraged but hopeful that with fundraising and continued effort the house can be bought when next on the Market as the sum required is fairly modest (its rare that piece of literary heritage comes up at the bargain price of £120,000 )
A similar tack has been seen in the media coverage of York and Leicesters campaigns to be the place were King Richard III bones are to lie .
When we in York first asked to be considered as a suitable home for Richard III bones it was not from any antipathy towards Leicester but from loyalty to one of our own who we consider to have been our “Good King Richard III.
Leicester meanwhile quite rightly felt outraged that Yorkshire wanted to “steal” Richards bones from them, Some people felt insulted that they were considered ” not good enough” to give Richard III a lasting home and its fair to say that many more felt that York and Yorkshire were like modern-day Venetians launching a sneak attack on valuable bones with which to enrich our church and city.While stories reflected both outrage and annoyance at this stage the debate lacked any real venom.However the people of Leicester have like the people of Haworth and Thornton been badly served by their council ,imprudent comments and lack of tact have been seized on by the tabloid press.
There has been no attempt by the ouncil to understand or seriosuly consider Yorks case or offer a olive branch ,maybe offering to bring Richards bones to York for a “lying in state ” which was a very reasonable idea put foward by a forum member.This might have shown Liecester had respect for our views .Unfortuantly the council have prefered to stick to hands off ,finders ,keepers stype comments with occasional hints at tourism and money based motives on Yorks side thus giving the impression of dogs fighting over a bone (or bones in this case)
The press has been more than happy to build on its news worthy idea of a new “Wars of thr Roses” with the noticeable effect that it is helping to create just that.Scarce one headline on the dispute has not featured the words battle ,fight or war
While almost all Yorkshire folk are enlightened enough to know that most southerners (ie those south of Yorkshire) are not baby eating barbarians and hopefully most southerners no longer assume we are illiterate flat capped Philistines the press have done their best to promote prejudice and distrust.
Until the past few days the campaigns had been fairly gentlemanly .Where genuine outrage was felt it was usually vented in humour all be rather cutting ,for example the anger felt against the unfortunate archeologist who caused widespread outrage by whacking a rather large hole in King Richards skull with a mattock has acquired the nick name Jo the mattock ,(a name I would be happy to live with had I done the same )
Now however helped by the media the name calling has become markedly less good-humoured usually with comments posted on Pro York forums that if used against members of other cultures would be considered racist.Helped by selectively edited reporting and selectively edited newspaper comment sections(I know from personal experience that despite it being frowned on tabloid newspapers monitor and edit their comments columns removing comments that don’t serve their purpose)Now understandably York has been reliating in kind.
Its is sad to think that the campaigns have now truly become a battle .Both cities are likely to lose out as it simply isn’t true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity .While both sides are equally guilty to some extent Leicester is rather unfairly likely to suffer the most.
York and Yorkshire don’t really need good PR there are plenty of attractions and they are popular with people of different interests and from a wide geographic range.Leicester meanwhile is investing heavily in Richard III based tourism ,Their customer base after the media interest dies down its likely to be Ricardians and people from the north ,both of whom are becoming alienated by unfavourable press coverage .
It is perhaps time for Leicester and York to “kiss and make up” at least in the public and go back to their previous shake hands, wish your opponents luck and may the best man win attitudes.Or we could all could just battle up and head for fleet Street where the real villains lie
The Bronte Birthplace trust has a FB page here
as does the Brong Richard III home group
as does Leicester
There are links on both pages to the relevant epetitions