Crime Fiction and Reality

How do you write a prison based novel when you have never been inside yourself?

How do you help prisoners to aim for better lives when they come out of prison?

How do you research local history for novels set in previous decades?

Which prisoner covered himself in butter to fight, and delay his slippery arrest, after his football team lost a game?

These are just a few of the questions that were answered during the course of last Saturday afternoon with our two brilliant local authors and speakers – Frances Brody and Veronica Bird OBE.

You may know of the acclaimed author Frances Brody, as she is very well known for her very popular Kate Shackleton mysteries, some set in Yorkshire, including Haworth and Saltaire but you may not have heard of Veronica Bird OBE who was the first female governor of HMP Armley in Leeds and of her aptly named autobiography, Veronica’s Bird.

This dynamic duo who met through Frances’s research into her new series of novels, the Brackerley Prison mysteries, thoroughly informed and entertained their large audience. As well as the writing of her novels and her characters, Frances also spoke about local history research and the use of news cuttings in libraries including the valuable collection in Keighley Local Studies. She also included notes on the craft of creative writing and very helpfully to budding authors in the audience, gave some really good advice on making a start at writing a story or novel, overcoming writers’ block and on how to find interesting minor stories to set within the main plot.

Veronica spoke about her deprived upbringing and subsequent hard won career in some of Britain’s most challenging prisons. She also highlighted the lack of literacy amongst at least 50% of prisoners with consequential feelings of hopelessness and sadly an increased chance of re-offending on release. Both Veronica and Frances support the Shannon Trust that helps with learning to read and improve other basic skills so that prisoners, “can pursue wider opportunities and thrive in the community”. Veronica also told us some amusing stories of what can happen when the occasional slip-up in prison guard vigilance occurs such as the attempted sale of prison knickers at a local market stall. Never destined to be a best seller, however, not one pair was sold.

Veronica, now retired but still working with prison inmates, also works for various charities including Ukrainian refugees, and was awarded her OBE for her charitable works. On Saturday, both speakers raised funds for their chosen charities and Frances Brody very kindly donated to Bradford Libraries two large print versions of her novels, including A Murder Inside (the first prison based novel), as well as an audio version of A Mansion for Murder, her latest Kate Shackleton mystery.

We thank them both for a great afternoon of information, education and entertainment and thank Alice and Felicity, the volunteers who so efficiently supervised refreshments.

Keighley Local Studies Team

David Kirkley, Keighley’s gentlemanly historian

It was with great sadness that staff at Keighley Library heard of the recent death of David Kirkley. David had not only become a major contributor to Heritage Days and Keighley local history but also a friend to the library staff.

David was the other half of the Schools’ Heritage Group, together with Jan Rotheram. This was set up a few years ago and ever since, their wonderful photograph collection has provided a source of displays for Heritage Days and other events held in Keighley Library, in particular the Local Studies Library on the first floor. These displays always won a brilliant reception from locals, as families and friends pointed out their old school selves or others they recognised and reminisced about the “best days” of their lives. In 2022, David had put on another great display for us of local school sport photographs to accompany a talk on Keighley and football in the 1950s by Mike Halliwell.

Before Covid, David came at least once a week to Local Studies for a catch up with other locals, equally enthusiastic about Keighley’s history and we learned a lot from them and their projects in our turn.  David supported this historic library in both word and deed and was amongst the first to support the wonderful musical heritage events. We, the staff, always enjoyed chatting to him, he was a knowledgeable, reliable, kind and helpful gentleman and we shall all miss him very much indeed. We are not surprised that in other areas of his life such as the Cougars’ rugby club, he was held in such high regard, a local legend indeed.

Keighley Local Studies staff.

International Women’s Week in Keighley Local Studies Library

International Women’s Week in Keighley Local Studies Library was celebrated with another popular talk by Irene Lofthouse in full costume. Over 50 people ignored any remaining difficulties of ice and snow to hear about some of the inspirational women of Keighley at the turn of the century.

Margaret Winteringham (first British born female MP in Parliament, child and family welfare campaigner); Rachel Leach (early Dalton mill owner and business woman); Lady Ethel Snowden (campaigner, speaker for women’s rights, ILP member, BBC Board of Governors); Frances Smith (mill worker, councillor, champion of child welfare and public health and first woman director of the Co-op Society Ltd); Margaret Pickles (a Keighley Guardian, a member of the Keighley Union Relief Committee who championed better conditions for the poor and taking children’s upbringing outside the workhouse environment) were just some of the women brought vividly to life by this entertaining actor-historian Irene Lofthouse, who, we are proud to say, does much of her research here in Keighley using our renowned Local Studies’ collection. Our holdings include the Lady Ethel Snowden Library, Down Memory Lane articles by the late Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE, news cuttings, local histories and archives, including a large collection of resources on local mills and their owners. Please see our leaflet guides on this site.

Women in Publishing

Keighley Local Studies also put on a display about women in publishing with reference to an excellent online article on the British Library website by Dr Margaretta Jolly, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex. This examines the progress made by women in the world of publishing, alongside women’s suffrage and rights’ movements that inspired publications such as the Spare Rib magazine and the establishment of Virago press whose archive is now held at the British Library. The article also notes the emergence of greater diversity in the industry to be inclusive of the working class and also minority ethnic representation with a look at Margaret Busby OBE Hon. FRSL, the youngest and first black woman director of a publishing company. There is plenty online about Margaret Busby who is a patron of Independent Black Publishers and was appointed Chair of Judges for the Booker Prize in 2020. Her latest book New Daughters of Africa (ISBN: 9780241997000), an international anthology of writing by women of African descent, is available from Bradford Libraries.

There is a great reading list attached to this article but check out the following sites for more information:

We also featured the emergence in Bradford of two female Asian publishers at Bradford based Fox & Windmill, Habiba Desai and Sara Razzaq.

This is the first independent book publishing company for British South Asian writers, established in 2021. Their inspiring collection of short stories and poetry from British South Asian writers, Into the Wilds, bridges the gap in the publishing industry for writers from a different background.

Women in the Printing Industry

The printing industry itself was also covered with reference to another article about women’s experiences in the printing industry today but also the first woman to have her own printing press and to employ and to train the first young women in the industry, Emily Faithfull (1835-1895). Emily, a vicar’s daughter, trained as a printer and typesetter and launched the Victoria Press in London in 1860. Its aim was to promote women’s rights to skilled and decently paid employment. The Press printed The English Woman’s Journal, considered the first British feminist periodical, edited by activist-poet Bessie Rayner Parkes. Emily was appointed publisher-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1862. The full article can be read at the following site:

Keighley Local Studies also holds a small selection of 19th century broadsides (single sheets of commentary, song or poetry) and previously has collaborated with Piston, Pen & Press an AHRC-funded project that aimed to “understand how industrial workers in Scotland and the North of England, from the 1840s to the 1910s, engaged with literary culture through writing, reading and participation in wider cultural activities”. Check out their web site for more information please:

It just goes to show that inspirational women are everywhere, should be celebrated and their struggles and achievements recorded. We are pleased that Bradford Libraries and Archives on their bookshelves, displays and in their Local Studies’ departments can share in their journey past, present and future.

Gina Birdsall, Local Studies & Archives Assistant

A Sleigh Full of Health and Wellbeing. HOME TOWN SOUNDS –The Haleys and John Drury play Keighley Library

Santa came early to Keighley Library bringing the precious gift of Live Music on Friday night, 2nd December. A growing atmosphere of happy anticipation and pure joy filled the room as first John Drury and then the Haleys took to the library floor to thunderous applause – and we are not joking here or being Charles Dickensy just for the season. The gigs at Keighley Library, that pay for themselves incidentally, have become so popular locally that tickets sell out literally within hours. Glastonbury eat your heart out!

It is a truth universally recognised that listening to music improves mood and promotes feelings of wellbeing. Music shared combats loneliness and creates a sense of community spirit.  In the words of the legendary John Denver, “no matter what language we speak, what colour we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: we are the same.”

This month’s gig was no exception as regular library borrowers, friends, family, fans and first time library visitors queued for a big slice of communal wellbeing and musical magic. A performance of this scale and calibre to be held, for the very first time in the evening, added to the Christmassy getaway feel that, for some local people this year, could well be limited to this library experience and the books borrowed to escape into over the holiday.

John Drury is a singer songwriter from a London-Irish background who now hails from Oxenhope.  His songs have been described as ‘poetry with music on top’.  He writes about the little as well as the big things in life, and believes deeply that ‘we are all in this together’.  Friday night though was all about the cover versions with a couple of his own compositions thrown in for good measure.  He proved to be the ideal ‘support’ act and from the off had the audience in the palm of his hand, clapping and singing along, troubles of the outside world forgotten for the time being!

What to say about the Haley Sisters? The sisters were born and raised in the village of Harden near Bingley and from a very early age they followed in their parents’ footsteps. The siblings have appeared alongside many respected artists since launching their professional career back in 1989, Freddy Fender, George Hamilton 1V, Raul Malo, Nathan Carter and Daniel O’Donnell.  On 28th May 2017, they performed to a sell-out audience at the London Palladium and in April 2018 they were the opening act for the first of its kind, the Roy Orbison ‘In Dreams Hologram Arena tour’.

 Becky and Jo-Ann are now award winning vocalists who could easily sell out the Grand Ole Opry in good old Nashville, Tennessee. Think a female version of the Everly Brothers with a magical natural blend of vocal harmonies with Becky on rhythm guitar and Jo-Ann on bass.  The third member of the group is Becky’s husband, songwriter and steel guitarist, Brian ’Smithy’ Smith.  Brian has worked on many recording sessions in Nashville including Crystal Gayle’s ‘Three Good Reasons’ album. 

Proving that music really is in the genes, we were also treated to a song or two from 80-year-old Pa, Tony Haley, who taught us how to yodel with a rousing version of the Frank Ifield classic which earned him a standing ovation led by our very own Town Council Mayor.

Our other guests included Trevor Simpson and his wife Denise.  Trevor is a former FA Premier League and international football referee, the author of two bestselling music books ‘Small Town, Saturday Night’ and a walking encyclopaedia on anything to do with Elvis.

Regular library customers still discuss gigs of years’ past and this will no doubt be one of them in the future. We will now let the music do the talking, see for yourself below and rock on 2023!

Keighley Local Studies Library.

Time Travel in Keighley on the Brontë Trail

Mission: to follow closely in the footsteps of the Brontë family

Location: Keighley town centre…? Keighley town centre

Time Lord: Nancy Garrs, servant to the Brontës. To regenerate later into Irene Lofthouse, popular local guide and author for all things history in the Bradford District

Information provider: Keighley Library Town Trails, first episode Brontë Footsteps in Keighley

Mode of travel: definitely legs not telephone boxes

On Saturday 3rd December, for the first time in history, an intrepid group of literary searchers set off on the Brontë Footsteps Trail around Keighley, led by Nancy Garrs, former Brontë servant. Their mission was to discover the Keighley people, places and buildings that had formerly provided the Brontës with entertainments, tuition, publications and national cultural updates in the development of science and the arts.  This was a first and all the information was gathered together from many secondary and primary sources held at Keighley’s own Carnegie Public Library.

The Trail was launched with an introduction by library staff and authors, Angela Speight and Gina Birdsall, who outlined why Keighley’s 19th/20th century’s rich history and rapid economic growth and burgeoning cultural development was to become the subject of a series of published Trails set in the town centre. They also noted the large numbers of connections between Keighley and the Brontës that authors have made in biographies and histories of the family that led to the creation of this, the very first town trail, and the first full recognition of Keighley’s contribution to the formative development of the Brontës in the 1820s and 1830s. Furthermore, all these references in books and articles and published diaries of the Brontës are to be found in Keighley Library’s own Brontë Library collection. The trail walk followed and we all, some of us it seems for the first time, really looked at Keighley town places and buildings.

Nancy must have had a lenient day of chores because she was full of energy and enthusiasm and brought some of her own extensive knowledge to the walk regarding the Brontës, their lives and times. It was a very entertaining trail through history and Nancy really did rival the best of the best of Dr Whos.

Nancy Garrs (Irene Lofthouse)

Temple Street Buildings Devonshire Arms Buildings on Church Green

However, the library tardis and a warm space eventually beckoned and we returned for tea and cake and a look at some of the library’s wonderful books and archives that make up the unique history of Keighley in relation to the Brontës, including the Brontë Library that is now the largest in the country outside that of Haworth Parsonage. Angela and Gina had also provided a more detailed fact/source sheet and bibliography for those who wanted to do further research.

We would like to thank all who joined us on the trail, Irene Lofthouse for her wonderful tour on the day, Steven Wood and Eddie Kelly, local historians who contributed their knowledge and expertise to the trail research. Finally, we would like to thank Dionne Hood, Bradford Libraries’ Development Officer for Reading and Stock, and Create Connect Make (especial thanks to Jean McEwan) for their wonderful support and offer to publish this cultural first in Keighley.

Here’s what Ann Dinsdale (Principal Curator, Brontë Parsonage) and Sharon Wright (journalist and author of The Mother of the Brontës thought about the trail booklet:

“The Brontë Trail not only flags up the wonderful resources available at Keighley Local Studies Archive, it shines a light on all the forgotten corners of Keighley which are associated with the Brontës’ lives. It allows you to follow in their footsteps around the town and includes details which are usually missing in biographies of the famous family.”  (Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator, Brontë Parsonage)

“The Brontë Trail is a long-overdue guide to the family’s forgotten local links. The authors have mined important and exciting knowledge from the local history goldmine at Keighley Library.” Journalist and Brontë biographer Sharon Wright.

Some Feedback for the new Brontë Trail

“That was such an interesting walk. I thought I knew quite a bit, but I learnt a lot as we walked. Thank you.”

“What a refreshing way to find out about the Brontës. Really enjoyed the presentation, and the leaflet with pictures is great to be able to retrace the steps.”

“I shall be able to impress my family with what I’ve learnt, and I’ll be going to visit the places on the map we didn’t get to.”

“Thank you for the walk, and discussion about the routes the Brontës used to come from Haworth. I’ve been trying to work out what Charlotte meant in a letter she wrote, and this has been really helpful.”

“Setts or cobbles? What did Brontës call them? Enjoyed the walk, and it created questions I’d not thought about. I hope there’ll be more walks like this.”

“Thank you for a fantastic walk and talk at the weekend about the Brontës in Keighley. It was so informative and really brought the research you’ve done to life. Congratulations to everyone involved in all of the process.”

“What a wonderful walk-talk- and exhibition – full of colour, humour and life and history. Congratulations to our guide.”

“Just enjoyed the Brontë Town Trail – wonderful! Thanks to Irene (Nancy Garrs) for such a spirited and lively tour. Thanks to Gina and Angela for such an interesting and informative booklet!”

For those of you interested in Nancy Garrs herself please follow these links:

For Irene Lofthouse, author and local history guide:

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies Library

Remembrance Day in Keighley

As everywhere today, people came together to mark the day that World War One ended on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11am in 1918. It’s a day marked by towns and villages all over the country as a day for communities, families and individuals to remember the great loss of life that war brings, not least the lives of service and military personnel.

Keighley Local Studies Library hosted a family history morning session for local people to trace the members of their families who have served in the war and on the Home Front through the archives available and we were fortunate enough to get the help of the Queen’s Award winning volunteers the Men of Worth, led by Andy Wade and Ian Walkden, who as always gave of their helpful best. Library staff also displayed the many library books on local and family history specific to the session and copies of original records from the unique library archive collection held in Keighley.

It was a successful morning and we hope that everyone gained a better knowledge of their own families’ history and of the local history of the Keighley area as affected by war. Keighley’s Town Mayor, Councillor Luke Maunsell and Consort, Debbie Maunsell, also visited and this added to the occasion. Events like this particularly emphasise the value of local archives to the community as a whole and of the essential contribution they make to the wider bank of knowledge that is our national history as it unfolds. We are all inevitably touched by national and international affairs and 2022 has proved no small exception.

Andy Wade also took the opportunity to present to Keighley Library a copy of the Oakworth Roll of Honour 1914-1919 and 2014-2019.

Many thanks to everyone who attended.

Armistice Day in Keighley Local Studies – 11th November 2022

Keighley Local  Studies Library has a unique and quite extensive archive of World War 1 and WW2 records. These include national and local memorabilia and archives. The Keighley War hospital records are particularly interesting and of national importance as they are a rarity. They include the Dr Scatterty collection which has a Patients’ register, archive BK39, that contains 13,214 names of servicemen who were treated at the local Morton War Hospital. The register also records the names of German prisoners of war who were being held locally and who required treatment from time to time, notably from the influenza epidemic.

The Queen’s Award winning Men of Worth Project are documenting the men and women of Keighley and the Worth Valley who served the country in wartime and volunteers have done a lot of research into Keighley Library’s unique collection. Volunteers have also been working hard to transcribe and digitise the Patient Register.

On the 11 November, we hope to combine the two archives and, with the award winning assistance of Men of Worth volunteers, we hope to be able to help local people trace the service men and women in their families from Keighley and the Worth valley area. It is a short session this year and will be broken by the two minutes’ silence in Keighley’s Town Hall square. Please join us if you can.

Keighley Local Studies Library Celebrates Libraries’ Week with Local Crime Fiction

On Saturday 8th October, Keighley Library will be bursting with activity, not least Keighley Local Studies with a major investigation into local crime fiction, past and present.

At 11 am, please join us as local literary super sleuths and authors, Ann Dinsdale (Principal Curator of Haworth Parsonage) and Sharon Wright (journalist, speaker and author) thrash out the mysterious twists, turns and crimes in the life of the Revd. Austin Lee who was one of Keighley Library’s most borrowed crime authors in the 1950s with a curious fascination for Haworth and the Brontës.

In the afternoon at 2pm, dust down for finger prints with the popular crime author Frances Brody, whose Kate Shackleton mysteries reach their 13th challenge, this time set in the grounds of the mysterious Milner Field and Saltaire Village. Find out what inspires crime story writing that is set in  Yorkshire locations and investigate the creative impulse, as well as the challenges of local history research for fiction.

Both events are free but seats are limited so please telephone us on 01535 618215 to book a seat.

Keighley Library will also be hosting events for the Keighley Arts and Film Festival with a Create, Connect and Make Festival and the popular local history speaker, Irene Lofthouse, will be taking a walk around Keighley: Past and Present. Details for this to be released in the press and on social media.

Play resumes for Keighley Library’s Heritage Day

The first Heritage Day in Keighley Library was held on Saturday 10th September. Everyone seemed shocked at the sad news of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the general mood felt was that by holding and attending the event, we were following an example set for 70 years of continued service even in difficult times.

For Keighley Library, Keighley Local Studies in particular, the day had some important successes, in large part because this was the first “Heritage Day” of events held at the library since Covid and in fact it became clear as the day progressed that we had achieved a return to the popularity enjoyed pre Covid, a popularity that we hope to build on and increase into the future.

All the heritage stands reported busy times during the day. Colin Neville from Not Just Hockney, who has another new book out on popular local artist Joseph Pighills, had interest as well as sales.

Airedale and Wharfedale Family History Society were very happy with their reception and one fortunate member of the public even had a large portion of their own family tree discovered.

Keighley & District Local History Society had several displays covering trams, the train and bus stations, pubs, historic buildings and businesses. They also created some items honouring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Staffed by Joyce and Melissa, the day is reported to have been amongst the most successful yet, with plenty of interest and several people making offers of donations and assistance.

As ever, the Queen’s Award winning Men of Worth volunteer project, that is at the forefront of digital archiving, reported movingly of families seeing photographs of grandparents who had served in the wars for the very first time.

The Patients’ Register was on display from Keighley’s War Hospital at Morton and volunteers have been busily transcribing and digitising their fragile pages. Please come into the library to see the book and further information on this project on Keighley Library’s ground floor.

Andy Wade and Ian Walkden of MoW reported a great turnout and were busy for most of the day. Their volunteers have now been researching service women in the wars for some time and there were some interesting biographies on display, with an appeal for any further details of women in Keighley and the Worth Valley area who served. We hope to write further pieces on the Men of Worth and about some new projects that they are pursuing in October as we come up to Remembrance Day. Thanks to their volunteers Kat Hyde and Laura Goodchild.

Ex professional footballer, Keighley’s own Mike Hellawell’s talk had received a red card before it even started by having to be suddenly sent off the Local Studies’ pitch to be relocated to the Lending library area on the ground floor due to a broken lift. Inconvenience of seating rearrangements and some noise aside, the event went very well with an audience of over 100 people who, despite the changes, managed to enjoy the afternoon. Mike’s question and answer session at the end was particularly lively as Mike had been a popular local cricket player as well as footballer and had also run his own grocery shop in Keighley. There were a lot of questions and funny banter from Mike’s contemporaries and friends in the audience that gave us a glimpse of Keighley and local society in the past.

The sense of Keighley in the late 20th century was enhanced by David Kirkley’s very popular (even days after) photograph display of some local schools’ sports teams of the past and by the library’s own displays of Keighley in the 1950s, Keighley Galas in the Past and of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s coronation times.

The refreshments and a Spot the Ball competition managed to raise £65 for Keighley’s Lord Mayor’s charity Dementia Keighley. Thanks must go again to the Keighley Lions for the competition prize and to Morrisons’ Supermarket for their kind donation of refreshments to the Friends of Keighley Library who manned the tea and coffee pots with their usual professional calm and efficiency. A big thank you to Julie Evans and Lynn Hibbert for that and also to Denise Wilson for collecting for Dementia Keighley.

Keighley Library staff can now look forward again hopefully, to even more successful Heritage Days. Thanks to all for coming at a difficult time. Please come again next year. We shall leave you with some more thanks again to local star Mike Hellawell written in our Visitors’ Book and echoed by all the library staff.

“Really enjoyable, and a pleasure to meet a local international footballer! ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone!’” Shaun Roberts

“Great stuff from Mike about the old days. Lots of fun.” Jean Mitchell

“Fabulous talk. Very entertaining! Catherine Kelly

“In the same room as a legend.” M. Hibbert, Burnley Fan since 1962

“Let’s have lots more of these talks and bring back the music sessions, we all loved.” Mrs Prett

“A popular speaker with lots of friends in Keighley.” Ronnie

Keighley Local Studies

Friends of Keighley Library     

Keighley Lions