Saturday, 25 February 2012

Response to Guardian Article

Living in a city like Wakefield is tough. It’s easy to plod by, get your head down and march on unto your grave, living whatever life is placed before you. Naturally, a lot of people want something more than that. And so they create their own bits of culture, which Rhubarb Bomb is actively engaged in, both in the ‘doing’ and the ‘supporting’. And support is hugely important. That’s why I feel lucky to be part of a network of passionate people trying to make a difference.

However, something even trickier than pushing that forward is getting recognition outside of our fair city for the stuff we do; especially frustrating when the actual ‘stuff’ is genuinely great. It’s something I have seen for many years with our bands. So many deserving of greater recognition, yet also content within their social circles, tied to the irony that if you took those 4 or 5 people and put them in a bigger city with greater ‘opportunities’ they simply wouldn’t be the same group of people. Sometimes the thing that makes you great can also hold you back.

Being part of Rhubarb Bomb has opened my eyes in many ways. That’s why I was appalled by the ignorance of an article published on The Guardian Website this week. Written by a former citizen, who still has the cheek to refer to herself as a ‘Wakefieldian’, it is a surprisingly bias attack on the city. Centred on this weekend's Rhubarb Food Festival, it concludes – after disputing whether anyone evens eats Rhubarb anymore – with the statement: 'By all means trip up to Wakefield this weekend to taste the world's best forced rhubarb. Just make sure you really, really like the stuff first because you'll struggle to find something else redeeming about this wilted Yorkshire town.'

But it is the attitude within the article as a whole that shocks and it is typical of the kind of press Wakefield gets. It’s like the music press relating everything to The Cribs. It’s like saying that the only thing going on in Wakefield city centre is people fighting, drinking and being complete morons. Yes, The Cribs are our biggest export. Yes, Wakefield city centre is pretty awful on a weekend. But if you open your eyes there is so much more going on. It’s also helps if you make an effort to get involved.

I don’t want to be just as narrow minded as the privately educated ‘Nichi Hodgson’ but I would suggest that living in large cities like London, Manchester, or even Leeds, it is perhaps easy to become accustomed to seeing a national monument or Starbucks on every corner, cool clubnights and national bands popping up over a huge range of venues. It’s easy, you don’t have to think, you don’t have to SCRATCH THE SURFACE. You can read your national newspapers and magazines and find a culture that relates directly to you. You don’t need to create your own. You have no idea what that means.

So how sad that, after growing up in the city, she leaves and then chooses to make her living by slagging it off. Wakefield is far from perfect, but her complete ignorance of what is actual happening is embarrassing. It’s like me writing an article about the traditional folk festival that takes place annually in a small mountain village in northern Greenland. Guardian; just because she has ‘educated in Wakefield' on her CV does not mean she should be writing this article. I could give you 20 writers that have a much more appropriate education, in that they actual LIVE in Wakefield. But hey, just another example of the crap press we get here.

I like that you have to look a little deeper in Wakefield. It means more, at least to me. I wish there was more to do here. More reasons for people to live and work here. I expect ‘Nichi’ would say something similar, the reason that she left because those things weren’t there. Well here’s the difference between us. Myself, Rhubarb Bomb and a lot of people who live here take it upon themselves to make that change happen. The Hepworth, The Hop & Ossett Brewery, The Art House, The Orangery, Wakefield Theatre, Yorkshire Sculture Park and the Unity Hall plans. Asell-out music festival with international acts. A brand new shopping centre and masses of city centre improvements AGAINST national economic trends.

But, more importantly, small groups of people working independently in different areas. If there’s one thing we need to do in Wakefield, it is to bring these groups together. But we are trying. We understand that positivity makes the difference.

I wish I was a hotshot journalist with a national platform so I could spread this message of optimism far and wide. But I’m not. I’m just a normal guy who cares about his city and the people who live there, who works (for free) to try and make it a better place for everyone. How she must look down upon the likes of us; poor, idealistic, honest.

The Guardian has shamed us here too. It’s pretty much the only newspaper I read, in any form. I’m confused as to how they can justify this. But most of all, this Nichi has shamed us all. I don’t pretend to be a proper journalist, like she does, so forgive my non-abilities with words, but I shall simply conclude with ‘fuck off’.

Dean Freeman


  1. Well said my friend. It disgusted me the way she spoke of my hometown. I live in Sheffield now, and I admit, Wakefield may not exactly be the pinnacle of what we have to offer in Yorkshire, but I am still proud of it and for all she has achieved as a city. Leave 'Nichi' to her comfy and yet barren life.

  2. Well said Dean. The article was a sneering, sarcastic travesty of journalism. Pointless, negative and flippant are three words that come effortlessly to mind. Thankfully, the work done by you and others like you will bear fruit and stand the test of time. Keep it up!

  3. Absolutley couldn't of put it better myself Dean. Great response. You, everyone you've mentioned, and more, do great work in Wakefield, It's such a shame that someone in a position such as hers can't dig that little bit deeper and champion such work in the national press. Perhaps you should send her the latest copy of the Rhubarb Bomb.

  4. Totally agree dean. Well written article mate. Keep up the good work