Bill Cook and Steve Barker: Full Interview
TRANSCRIPTBill and Steve
Interviewed by Dominic Bilton
11th November 2018
BC: Bill Cook, 16 January 1953, now living in Todmorden and I identify as gay.
SB: Erm, Steve Barker, 11/4/54 living in Todmorden, I’ve been here for a long time, erm, and I identify as gay.
DB: Thank you very much, thank you very much, so, to start with, I thought we could talk about how, erm, you came out Bill, if that’s alright?
BC: Yeah sure,
DB: If you want to tell us about how you came out and your story, that will be great.
BC: Right, well I started about 7 years ago now, I think it was 2011, in the, er, July. Erm, I was out of work and sort of stuck at home on the computer, in a very unhappy relationship. Erm, and, erm, I started fantasising, nothing better, about sex and that but whereas it would have normally been about, sort of, females and that. I was finding I was more attracted to, sort of, males and so I started to, sort of recall past experiences that, that one thing I can always remember was very early, when I was, [exhales] suppose 12 or 13, I can’t really remember exactly when, a boy paid me 10 shillings and I do mean 10 shillings, erm to suck his cock [laughter] and I can still remember the actual feel of that in my mouth and that is something that has sort of stuck with me but I never thought anything more about It. When I grew up erm LGBT wasn’t in existence, you didn’t talk about things like that. Erm I went through life at various times when looking back their were incidences that made me, would have made me possibly think but then I was quite happy with girls, I had been married twice, I had two children we adopted two more children, erm so, 7 years ago I was erm, let’s say looking at er, porn sites and that, gay porn sites and then I started looking at the gay scene in Blackpool because I had worked with somebody at Manchester Town Hall about 1999, 2000 to me was the first person I had ever met who was gay which erm I know sounds stupid but he was the first person I knew that was openly gay and he used to try and shock me with some of his tales about him and his partner and that but he could never actually shock me, so, when I left erm, there, I really sort of wanted to give him a big hug and kiss and you know, say good bye but I didn’t have the nerve to do that, that was one of those things.
Erm so I was on, looking on the gay scene and then I started looking for dating sites and then I found a couple, Adult Friend Finder and Gaydar. And erm I’d chat with people on there but I never, sort of very unhappy about meeting people, sort of nerves and that but in the end I got chatty with somebody and we actually arranged to meet and I met him in Preston and we went to a McDonalds down Preston docks and we chatted for an hour and then he invited me back to his flat which was just up the road from there, which I said yes, we went back to his flat and literally as soon as we walked through the door we were in each others arms, within 5 minutes we were in bed and I realised that I was just very happy. I hadn’t been that happy in a long time and, you know, I was, I was just very happy. But still being married, I didn’t want to be married I couldn’t afford to sort of move out or split up or anything like that, so I for 5 years virtually, I kept it, well, I thought I had kept it secret anyway but in the end of the June in 2016 my, I was arguing with my, now ex-wife, and erm she said you’re gay, which is something she had accused me of numerous times but I always answer, prove it although this time she did. She found my phone and some messages I had sent to John, who was the guy I first had sex with, gone to bed with however you want to put it, talking about, chatting about old times and talking about what I had been up to with another guy called Tony. And I said, OK, I’m gay, I was getting divorced by that stage anyway my wife was had put the wheels in motion because we were getting divorced irrespective because we just weren’t happy with each other.
The following morning I went into the office, there was about 20 people working there at the time and the majority of them in their late 20s early 30s and the bosses were in their 40s but at that time I was actually the oldest person in the office and as people came in I basically said what had happened the night before and just came out and told them I was gay, which I got 100% support from everybody, I was congratulated. I never quite understand why people congratulate you on coming out but anyway and from that I phoned my daughter up, my daughter was 40, would be 40, at the time, I told her, she just said, ‘are you happy?’, I said, ‘yes’, she said ‘great’ and that was it. Unfortunately my son from my first marriage is no longer with us, he committed suicide a few years before, we never got around to tell him, so we didn’t get a reaction from him and we had also adopted two children, my daughter, adopted daughter is now 19, she’ll be 20 in a couple of days. My son is 16 and he’ll be 17 in December, my wife at the time didn’t want me to tell the children because she was a bit homophobic and she was involved with the Jehovah Witnesses and although she wasn’t a Jehovah Witness she went to the meetings and everything at the Kingdom Hall in Blackpool and she was concerned that if I told the children it would give them ideas. Lack of understanding, obviously but, so, I did tell Chloe, soon afterwards but Chloe wasn’t living with us at that stage, she had already left home and then in, the January of last year, I was out with Daniel and I was taking him shopping on the Saturday morning as I always did the shopping at home, and I was talking to him about treatment I had had prostate cancer which after I came out, I found that I had, so, I was telling him about prostrate cancer, what the treatment was how it affected me, in terms of the radiotherapy and the hormone treatment and that and he was very mature about this as, basically a 15 year old could be and then I said to him, you asked me a question the other week and I didn’t answer you and he said what, you asked me if I was gay and I didn’t answer you but the answer is yes, so then he started to tell me all about his gay friends at school and that and all his friends who have same sex parents and everything, so, my ex-wife was rather wrong about, but there again I think we are of that age where we think differently to sort of, the younger people. We don’t want… How we would’ve reacted at that age is totally different to how they would react now and so, my son now comes across and stays with me and is quite happy on that.
Like I say, I had, I came out in the end of June then I started, I went to the doctors and one of the problems I had had was erectile dysfunction. A lot of it was down to nerves and everything, I was a very nervy person, so I went along to the doctors and the first thing the doctor did was said was well I’d like you to have a blood test to rule certain things out before we proceed any further, so preceded with the blood tests two weeks later results come back, different doctor, both doctors knew I was gay, when I had gone in I said I’m gay, I have this problem with this, I want to do it, and the doctors were fine about it. I had no trouble at all with the doctors and I saw a second doctor and he said well all your bloods are OK but your PSA level is high, it’s 26.1 I said well is that high he said well at your age it should be no more than 4 but there are higher levels. He said there could be various reasons for this and it’s not necessarily cancer coz the cancer and PSA and cancer are linked although they’re not. A PSA test is not a cancer test, he said I would like you to have a biopsy, they did the digital examination and he said well everything feels fine but we’ll do the examination…biopsy so that was all arranged, I had a biopsy at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and when I got the results, out of 13 samples, 11 had 50% cancer cells in them, so I’d got prostate cancer. I was given leaflets and that to read, arrangements were made, I got the results on a Tuesday, the Thursday I had a MRI scan and on the Friday I had CT Bone scan, then from that the prostate cancer was found to be both side of the prostate but contained within and hadn’t started to come out into the lymphs and it hadn’t shown up anywhere else in my body. So then, I was, I had a consultation [coughs] with a consultant, one of the consultants, a junior house surgeon or something and I was given the options as to the treatments, there were four treatments and we can monitor and just do blood tests and monitor sort of progress, which with your high reading we don’t… wouldn’t really recommend, there is surgery, literally just take the prostate out but it’s not severe enough to warrant that, we would recommend hormone treatment and radiotherapy, together. I agreed at the time to the radiotherapy but I knew that the hormone treatment had some side effects which I didn’t really want to have, killed your sex drive, made penis and testicles shrink, breast enlargement and hot flushes and they were the main ones which I wasn’t really keen on. So we agreed to the radiotherapy and then I had another consultation and that time it was signing the forms and everything, consent forms. At that point I said I will do the hormone treatment as well, so I was put straight onto this course of tablets and then I had to have, two weeks later this implant into my stomach, which lasted four weeks. Radiotherapy started, it was supposed to start on the 30th November it actually started the 2nd of December because there were problems at the hospital first day a machine had broken down, so they were far behind and the second one the IT at the Preston Royal, Preston Hospital went down, complete, the whole hospital. I went through radiotherapy, I knew what the side effects were going to be from that, the radiotherapy was it was a doddle, for me I, it had side effects and that but, I was never depressed or anything like that about the cancer, I was just ‘oh well, its just another one of those things’ and I was very positive all the way through it. That finished in, because of all the delays I had to have the final treatment of radiotherapy on the 3rd January.
On the 7th January I went to an LGBT meeting Out with Cancer at the Manchester foundation building, a friend on Facebook had put me in touch with the, Martin Wells who was the facilitator for the group because his partner had died of cancer, he had prostate cancer as well which was very useful. So I went along to this group and that was, in a way, my first real introduction to the LGBT world, of a group specifically with other gay men and everything like that and I was able then, at the start of 2017 to start actually reinventing my life. I have an interest in art and have a lot of artist friends on Facebook and one of my friends was who I had actually met as well, had actually, was actually having an exhibition in St Albans in the February and I had arranged to go down and stop over on the Friday night, because the preview was on the Friday, to see the preview and everything and another Facebook friend, was chatting with him and he said he’d lie to go down to see the exhibition as well, so I sent him a private message, not telling Ivan, the artist, the message basically was, ‘I’m going down there as well, if you want to come down with me in the car, you’re welcome, I am on my own, I’ve got a double room booked if you want to share’, message came back, ‘yes please’. So, I arranged to meet with Steve A the week before we went down because I hadn’t actually physically met him but we had chatted and that on Facebook and we got along well and, so I met him and we went down and we went to the preview and we slept together and, although I wasn’t capable of doing anything, but we shared the bed and everything. I had a form of relationship with Steve, lasted till about the May but he was a bit into his drugs and things and it wasn’t really going to go anywhere, he was nice as a friend and he is still a friend but it wasn’t going to go anywhere.
But in the meantime I had also caught up with another Facebook friend called Joanne. Joanne is transgender and she is very, very shy person but if you meet her she is very outgoing and forward which is her defence. Joanne transitioned 24/ 25 years ago and she, what she had to do to transition, compared with what the procedures and everything are now and way you have to tick all the boxes and everything was a lot different and she did get a lot of abuse in the 1980s and ‘90s when she was going through the thing and her defence is humour but she doesn’t really like meeting people and she never actually worked out why she agreed to meet with me in the first place but we did, we met and we become friends immediately. She is still a very good friend, I still her, not as often as we would like because the other thing that, last year I suddenly found that I was actually quite a social person and I really did enjoy going out and meeting people, which I hadn’t done for 20 odd years, so I am sort of out an awful lot in more ways than one and sort of through last year, my life sort of developed into the LGBT world, I joined East Lancashire’s LGBT group and Lancashire’s LGBT group and they organise walking groups and ten pin bowling groups and Burnley. So about, again about the May, April I started going to the walking group with Steve Asbury [?], he went on a couple but relied on me for transport and I was getting a bit fed up with putting on the transport and then decided to do the ten pin bowling although I was living in Blackpool it was quite a long way to Burnley, it’s one side of Lancashire to the other, I went along to the ten pin bowling and I met some very nice people there and I continued going and I think that brings up to the point where you might like to stop now and speak to Steve.
DB: So Steve, how did you come out, what’s your story?
SB: Well I didn’t come out, I mean obviously I was gay but I never actually came out probably until I was well into my 30s. I moved to Hebden Bridge when I was 8 years old. I went to the local high school, there was nothing gay there whatsoever, so I just used to have to get on with life. But as I got to a teenager I started realising, well before then when I used to go out it was always with girls, I was not interested in football or anything like that and I was always seemed to be hanging around with the girls and then as I got older, my mates in school were getting girlfriends and I thought, I don’t really want a girlfriend, I didn’t know why or know anything about it, so I went to school and my mates had girlfriends and one of the girls that I used to go, well when we were kids we used to play out and she had a friend and I got sort of friendly with her and we used to go on different retreats and then my mates at work were saying ‘are you not engaged yet?’ and I thought, ‘no, no’ and then pressure started coming from the family saying, ‘you should be starting to think about getting engaged and married’, and I said ‘no, we are alright,’ we never, even though I was going out with this girl, we never had any sexual contact at all. Her parents were really strict, anyway we did end up getting engaged. We fixed a date for the wedding and then I got really really nervous, couldn’t talk to anybody, I couldn’t talk to friends I just knew that I was more interested in guys and I just didn’t know why. My mum and dad had booked the reception and her mum and dad had done whatever and then it came to it and we ended up having to get married and just as- on the day I just wanted to walk away, I just wanted to find a big hole to fall into and end it all. Anyway, we ended up getting married she was, she always went to bed early coz that’s how she had always gone to bed but there was, a lot of people can’t understand this, but there was no sexual contact. We slept in the same bed but we never had any sexually interactions whatsoever coz it just didn’t appeal to me. I felt really really guilty because I thought I let this happen, I should’ve stopped it and anyway, we stayed together for 7 years. Then when we did decide to split, she saying that there was something wrong with me, her, no, and I couldn’t tell her why because I still, at this time, just knew I was attracted, I didn’t know anything about gay, homosexuals or anything and then, like I say we split and then two guys from London moved, I lived in a house in Todmorden they lived back to back with me and they were doing this house up and I got sort of friendly with them and they were saying that they don’t know what they were doing in winter because the house had no heating in it, they had stripped it right own to the brick work and I said, look, if you are stuck you can come and stay in my attic and that’s when I started finding out more about the gay thing and one of them was very helpful with me and said, do you know you are gay? And I said I don’t know what I am, I said I just know that I’m interest In, these two guys were actually a couple and I said I just don’t know how to sort my life out and because they were from London they told me about Gay Times and they had papers and anyway I started to applying to adds in the Yorkshire area and I met, I got involved with somebody in Howarth we arranged to meet at a pub in Howarth, now I didn’t anything about him apart from he was gay but when I met him he told me that he had had a wife and two children and that he had a nervous breakdown and he was staying, just staying with his wife because he opened up to her and said, but he said he wanted to be, that he wanted to follow his heart and be gay. So, we went out a few times and then he actually wanted me to move in to his house in Howarth, obviously with two young children, so everything had to be organised so that the children didn’t know, so anyway, after, I don’t know if it was a year or, I still had my house in Walsdon and he wanted to move in with me, so I said yes, so we told the children and they were ok about it but I think the children thought they were coming with us and then just before we-, just as the time we actually moving out to come over here the children started getting very emotional and that tugged at my heart strings and I thought I can’t do this not because of him but because of the children because they said, well aren’t we coming with you? Are we not coming? And blah blah blah and I said, its not going to work this, so, because I still wanted to keep in contact with him but he more or less said, no, he said, it’s either move in with you or nothing, so, it sort of ended there we had really no contact and then depression set in with me then and I don’t know how it came about it but I found about Icebreakers in Manchester, so I started going to a few meetings, I met some other gay people and I thought yeah, this is me, I got friendly with someone and we went out a couple of dates after the Icebreakers, just for a drink and then he was in a relationship with his wife and he had two children and he said I need to get out, anyway he actually came and stayed with me for a short while, there was nothing between us he just said, it’d be a great help and he ended up staying for a couple of years, because he couldn’t find, he had to sort his house out over there in Wales and then I’d never even been on a gay holiday and he said, oh do you fancy a gay holiday? I said what’s a gay holiday and he said well its where you go somewhere that’s a complex and it’s all gay men, there are no women or anything and I said oh yeah but I’d never been abroad, well, I think id been to Portugal but that was a different story and so anywhere I went there and, I mean we used to do our own thing, like I say single beds and we just stayed in the bungalow and then in he second week I met some people from Northamptonshire, Ashby-de-la-Zouch and I got very very friendly with one who I really liked and we said we would keep in contact we’d swapped number and we had been out on a few good nights in Gran Canarias and then, (mumbles) yeah and then when we came home he must have lost my number and I don’t know, I thought no its probably just a holiday thing and its finished and then one of his friends rung me and said, oh Stuart hasn’t heard from you and I said, Oh I said oh I thought he just wasn’t impressed, he said oh no he is I was talking to him the other day. So I got his phone number and we spoke to each other and we got very close and he ended up coming up every weekend and he lived in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. He never actually lived with me apart from holiday times coz his work was down there, so came up every weekend, Friday night and went Home on Monday and it sort of went on and we got very close and we was in a relationship, we was together 20 years and then he died suddenly in 2010 massive heart attack. He was a heavy smoker and he liked his drink but not an alcoholic, as such, and then after that everyone said well why don’t you go out and I said no my time is over now, I said I’ve done, I were 60ish, I was 60 by then and I thought nah it’ll be all down hill for me and then I just got myself into a rut and I thought no, I need to get out and some reason, something came up on Facebook about the meet up groups and so I joined it and then I found out their was this thing in, coz I’m very into walking, and this thing came up, the bowling group in Burnley and I just thought, well I’ll go along. The first time I went I couldn’t find it, I’d no satnav, I drove round and round and round and in the end I went home and its only once a month, so the next month when it was coming up I got information that it was defiantly on that night, I thought, right, I’m leaving early, I’m going to make sure I find it. I had a rough idea the area but anyway I ended up having to ask a girl at the petrol station ‘is there a bowling alley around here’? and she said, oh yes, its just sort of…any I found it and I went in and that’s when I met Bill, I just walked in and I thought, oh he looks very nice and anyway we got sort of chatting and you know the rest of it from there, I just said are you with the bowling group and he said, yeah I’m just waiting for them to arrive and we had time to sit down and talk he told me that he had viewings of houses in Todmorden and I said, oh well I’m from Todmorden and that’s basically it. I haven’t said much about Hebden Bridge but like I say there was nothing, there were no pubs, there were no other people, I related to. When I was working in Todmorden, when I was married and when my work found out that had two lads living with me, oh there were all sorts of things, and I wouldn’t go to work for weeks coz I just went to town, anyway, so I started going back and my mate, I used to drive and my mate used to and he just sort of says what’s up and I said well, I said I’m getting a lot of backlash off these lot saying, oh are you gay or something or you queer and I didn’t know how to handle it and he just said, don’t worry about it and so I was going to work under sufferance and then I were just dreading it, even though I loved the job I was going in and one day I just went in and my head just went and I had a go at all of them and I just stood there, faced them and as soon as I did that it all calmed down after that as if they sort of accept that because I blew my top they thought, well I’m not dealing with him. So, that’s it.
DB: So, do you want to tell us a bit more about how you met? So you both attended this group, LGBT group at the bowling alley in Burnley, so how did you first start dating, how did you know you liked each other, how did that come about?
SB: Well I liked him from the first moment I set eyes on him coz he was my type of guy, my age bracket because I don’t like, I’ve never liked younger, I’ve always liked either older or about my age and erm, like I say, we got talking and we arranged, because he was viewing houses on the Saturday we’d arrange to meet after he’d viewed the houses we went to legacy arts, didn’t we?
SB: and then we went for a meal at the Weatherspoon’s and then we arranged to meet up for the walk on the Saturday but I’m quite…
SB: Sunday, yeah Sunday and then as we, I’m quite a fast walker and when I take dogs out, I tend to be more or less upfront and we never actually got time to chat and when we did we said we’ll talk more at the pub afterwards, you see, well because my satnav died, I never got there but we arranged to meet the following week and then we went for a meal did we? And then we ended up meeting again at the Old Gate in Hebden bridge, we had a meal there and went to the Happy Valley Pride and then because I was house sitting, he came up there that night and that’s when, how we started our relationship.
DB: And how long ago was that now? How long have you been together?
BC: 12 months
SB: October the 11th 2017
BC: Our anniversary cards are on there
DB: and do you think that with Todmorden being as LGBT friendly, I’m assuming Todmorden is an LGBT friendly space? To both men and women
SB: yes, I started going to an Oldham group, the Out and About group in Oldham. It was a nice group, people, maybe just a bit older than me, and I, and then my friend who I used to work with said, oh there is one in Todmorden and I said no, she said yeah, I’m sure I’ve seen it advertised, she said something rainbow and I said, no it wont be Todmorden and she said yeah. Anyway, I looked it up and I found out their was one in Todmorden, I don’t know how long it had been running and so I spoke to two of the lesbians that were running it, I think it was age concern then, it was run by age concern, it wasn’t called Over the Rainbow, they’ve gone on their own called Over the Rainbow, no they said come down but it was always the first Saturday in the month but Saturdays were no good for me, so I carried on going to Oldham, I said in the Winter time I’ll be able to get to the Saturday meetings and it sort of went on and we invited the Todmorden group over to the Oldham group, so I met them at, I said, I’ll be coming as soon its, but they used to watch a lot of films, any kind of films, some of them was were gay some of them was ordinary films, what anybody wanted to watch really, well, I didn’t really know a lot about films but I did say that I would go but that’s, that was it.
DB: So what is this Over the Rainbow? What kind of group is it?
SB: well it’s an older, over 50’s group but they have just changed it now to over 40’s because, the Oldham one is on a Friday afternoon, well nobody over 40 now can go because a lot of people are working, so it’s a difficult time but the one in Todmorden it’s on a Saturday afternoon is a lot better for everybody if they, if they want to sort of travel to Todmorden and there is a few from Todmorden that go there is a transgender woman comes from Keighley, theres a couple that comes from Halifax now there is a gay group in Halifax, I don’t know about- I think Lesbians can go there but it is… it was really a gay mans group called HAG and, like I say, its just starting to build back up again now.
DB: let’s just pause there for a second…
DB: That’s quite interesting then, with regards to the groups, Over the Rainbow and
HAG like you mentioned just before about the people coming from the villages around to all meet up but there’s not a great deal of them?
SB: No, there’s only that one and then there is the women’s disco, which is, I think its supposed to be the biggest one, they all seem to congregate here, I think its either the first or second Saturday in the month, its just one a month and they meet at Todmorden cricket club and it is very very popular, they come from all to go to this but I think with the Over the rainbow because it was over 50’s a lot of the people, the gay people in Todmorden usually had partners and they just, it didn’t seem attractive enough and we’ve been trying to make it more attractive for people to come and join the group and especially the Oldham group, I know we are talking about Yorkshire but the Oldham group started helping out with schools and had a couple of schools come and to talk about LGBT friendly, they have done posters for us and they also go, a few of them have been chatting young children doing, like a life story and the children ask them a question and they wrote it all down and they make this thing up at the end and one of the guys says, well he says, think it was a girl, or was it a boy, a girl, yeah it was a girl and she started, oh she said, oh are you married and he was married to a man and he didn’t know how to handle it coz it was his first one and he went to see the lady who was in charge of the Oldham group, Sophie said well, he started to ask me about a relationship and if I’m married and that and she said tell her, anyway, when she had gone home she must have told her parents, oh I’ve met Dave and he is married to Ron and when the parents come after the few weeks, well the few months they are there, she said ‘ oh she has never stopped talking about you’ , so all these things is getting young people understanding what it was like for us in the olden days because a lot of them didn’t, like understand it, so they was asking us questions and but we haven’t done that at Todmorden yet but I think it’s a good thing to do is to get schools involved and make us poster and maybe raise some money for the group to move forward.
DB: that’s a really interesting thing you could do with the schools around and what is, what is, I know you said that people coming to the Todmorden group from some of the other villages around, so what is it that you think bring people to this area.
SB: I think probably the people that have ended up on their own and wanting to get out and get back into an LGBT friendly situation because there is not so many and even people come now and say, we’ve never seen it advertised, its advertise in the library its advertised in the information centre but a lot of people still they say they didn’t know anything about it, like I didn’t, I don’t know how long it had been going coz I would have definitely would have gone before hand but if id have done that, I might not have met Bill, so I’m quiet happy with it.
DB: And did you Bill, know anything about, I know you said that you wanted to move to Todmorden but was their specific reason for you wanting to move here, did you know anything about, perhaps a gay scene or...
BC: no, I mean I never knew about, obviously I knew about Hebden Bridge and its reputation as the Lesbian capital of Britain and things like that in terms of Todmorden.
SB: It’s Todmorden actually, it’s not Hebden Bridge, no it’s Todmorden
BC: but they always say its Hebden Bridge but I’m not going to get into the argument on that one. So but the area itself is very beautiful, I was getting divorced I knew I was going to have to move out and I was thinking where to move to and Todmorden just stuck in my head and I knew nobody in Todmorden. I’d been through Todmorden but I’d never even stopped in Todmorden or anything like that. I’d driven through it, had a drive through and then I was coming through on the train from Preston coming down through Colden (possibly, audio unclear) and when you come out and you sort of see the expanse of the valley and everything, I was going with my son to York and I jus thought yes, I’ve got to move here its absolutely beautiful and it really sort of developed from that. So with Hebden Bridge been close by I knew there was liable to be something going on sort of down there, I knew of, they’d done Happy Valley Pride, I never got to that, I was wanting to go last year but I never actually made it in the end. I’d been to Hebden Bridge when I worked at Lancashire county council the architects department used to organise a boat trip and invariably it went from Hebden Bridge down to Sowery Bridge, few drinks and then back and I’d stopped at the Hare and Hounds up at Old Town. The second time I did that, I’d been to Hebden Bridge before and I knew that area, so I knew that Hebden Bridge was supposed to a bit more expensive than Todmorden, I just decided that it was Todmorden that I wanted to move to and sort of developed things from there but obviously we are only, when we get to a fair wind, we are only 30 minutes roughly from Manchester, so its close enough to actually go into a Manchester of an evening as well. So, I could enjoy the best of both worlds and that was really the only reason I came Todmorden, it wasn’t really the gay scene, I didn’t know a gay scene as such and their isn’t as much going on coz Happy Valley pride, we both volunteer is Hebden orientated and we are also in the Edwin Carpenter group in Hebden Bridge as well.
SB: and the gay mans group
BC: and the gay man’s group, in Hebden Bridge so it’s more orientated down at Hebden Bridge rather than Todmorden but we are trying at the moment to get a social group going again in Todmorden itself and we sort of meet up with one of the Lesbian girls and sort of, is sort of pushing this and we sort of meet but there is only a few, its really only a social drink. We go on the Golden Lion and that sort of, very gay friendly it’s a more sort of unusual sort of pub its not really a sort of traditional it’s a, there’s a Thai restaurant running in it and there is an another bar around the side of it that sells these exceedingly very expensive and very strong cans beer and everything and there is live music on and there is an upstairs that will have live music on competing with, its very much a sort of community sort of pub and we sort of go in there and we should over the top of everything else its, on that, I mean Todmorden is from our point of view is very much more a sort of, the Legacy art gallery, we have friends in there and we meet various artists in there when they have previews, some straight, some are gay, lesbians you know, well it is very tolerant, I’m quite happy to walk to down the road holding hands with Steve, Steve because he has known prejudice of the past is more reticent about holding hands, its funny because the first time I brought Steve Raspberry (or Asberry)across, long before I met Steve to a preview at the gallery he wanted to go out for a walk down town and we went out side and the first thing I did was hold his hand and he was very, Steve again has always know, been gay and it was very, sort of, strange for him coz he is coming sort of from just outside Wigan and lived in Leyland it wasn’t sort of quite the same, where as to me it was, to me it was just a natural thing to do and that is, I suppose the way I view myself as not as a label but basically a human being but I’m a human being that just happens to prefer men, I’ve found that, you know I’ve tried both sides, so of speak, you know I have been married, the first wife was more successful than the second one, I don’t know it was just various reasons on both sides as to why it failed but it was, but I’ve never been as happy since I came out. Last year was basically the best year of my life coz a that the end of the year I had a partner, I had Steve and you know, we just sort of go from strength to strength its just a very close loving relationship that we have, you know, just, its just hard to explain really but it’s not a relationship based on sex or anything like that, I mean we love to cuddle but you know its not a sexual relationship, we just seem to like the same things and everything and just very grateful that, you know, in the end that we met and, you know, I mean if we hadn’t of met, we would’ve actually met because Steve is in the Gay Gordons and was in the Gay Gordons for a couple of years now?
SB: I think I’ve been in it three year, I think it three year this year
BC: and I, ever since I saw them at Manchester 2011 pride which was the first pride I’d ever been to and that was when I was coming out to myself, and id gone along to that and I seen them in the parade and then I’d missed a few years and then id seen them again the year before last, I think it was and I saw them last year and I’d always intended, once I was away from Blackpool of actually making contact and joining the Gay Gordons, which obviously I have done now through Steve and so we would have actually met anyway
BC: but its very funny the way that things do work out, you just sort of click into place, I mean everybody said Joanne was highly sort of delighted for us, our friend, my ex wife when I moved out she was very homophobic, no she was Homophobic, I wouldn’t say she was very homophobic had sort of made comments in the past and I sort of put her right about things and when I moved, she never wanted to meet Steve or Joanne but when I actually moved out they helped me to move and so she had to meet them and, you know they really get on very well, we’re, my son is in the air cadets and we are going to his squadron dinner in December, so me and Steve are going with my ex wife
DB: So now you are friends?
BC: Now I get on better on with her but she gets on with Steve, she likes Joanne and its just funny the way that it has worked out, I cant get my head around it at times sort of, it’s knowing sort of what people have been like in the past and then how they react, I think it’s a bit like Steve when he says when he blew up at work and then the people sort of settled down and just accept it but I’ve found that people are a lot more accepting than I expected now and that things are changing and obviously changing for the better in this country at least and I think, you know to the extent that, I think, like the village in Manchester it will actually die out to an extent as a gay centre because a lot of the younger gay friends that I have know, although they will go down there, they are equally around the northern Quarter or Spinningfields and places like that and they don’t sort of congregate in the same areas, they meet people elsewhere as well and I think the whole scene, of which I have never been a part of, but is, it seems it be changing that you know, it’s just more accepted and people just really don’t care, they just, most of my friends just don’t give a damn they, you know, they that’s very nice. I’ve just started a new job in July, beginning of July but the interview, as far as I was aware I didn’t say anything to specifically say I was gay or anything, or anything like that but the first day there I was sort of talking and I talked about Steve my partner, Steve and it was just accepted that my partner is called Steve and he is male and that’s it there is no, I think that was in the office, I started on the Tuesday but I didn’t get into the office until the Thursday because I had to go to Billericay as an induction into the company and the company secretary, sorry the company director who deals with personal and that and as I’m going through this form and that and there is a question about diversity and I said well I’m LGBT and she is black and says and are you disabled, we could get the jackpot here on diversity. You know and that was the whole attitude that, you know, there’s no, they won’t tolerate prejudice or anything like that within the company. So, you know its sort of, so for me it means we can have quiet a joke, there is another guy in the office called Steve and so now we have to, when I’m talking about Steve, its, is it Steve there or is it your Steve and, that’s the way life goes on now and its just, I think all round its just more tolerable ( dog barks) and tolerated. Hebden Bridge is very, Hebden Bridge is obviously more relaxed than Todmorden but its
SB: It’s when people start coming in from London and Birmingham and where ever, the locals seem to go from the Valley to the tops because there are houses right around the hillsides, Heptonstall and old town they all seem to move up there and then the people that came and got all the houses, they had different views because they probably knew somebody who was gay and didn’t have a problem with it whereas the old Hebden Bridge folk it was just everybody knew each other, so that’s why it was just sort of kept under wraps. There was probably other people besides me, but you didn’t know who they was.
DB: That’s interesting isn’t that people from big cities have come in, into the small towns, into the valleys and brought their quiet liberal attitudes, the city attitudes into smaller towns.
SB: It’s like going to all the café’s, they’ve got seating areas outside they’ve got buskers playing its nice atmosphere but I remember it, I suppose I do the same because I moved out because I didn’t like the change at the time but now if I’d of known it was going to be more gay friendly, I would have, when my mother and father died, I would have stayed in Hebden Bridge.
DB: It’s interesting that you say, Bill that Hebden Bridge is the lesbian capital, or what ever it was and then you say, well actually its Todmorden, so why do you say its Todmorden?
SB: Well what it is, Hebden B-…(phone pings) Todmorden isn’t recognised and I think, when they collect these thingy’s, well there’s a lot of girls, a few girls come up from Hebden Bridge to the women’s disco, now the majority of the Lesbians live in Colden (sp) which is about two miles out of Todmorden, going towards Burnley now all the girls live there, there are a lot more girls there than what there is in Hebden Bridge, so I say its Todmorden, but because Tods not recognised, Hebden Bridge is the closest,
SB: so they have probably pinpointed Hebden bridge because, well, everyone will have heard of Hebden Bridge, you see, which because its the Pennine centre of the (trails off)
BC: I think also you’ve got this situation that Hebden Bridge became popular, we started of with the hippies moving in and everything and a more free lifestyle and then the industry collapsed in Hebden Bridge, there is no, the mills and that all closed down, so there is deprivation and house prices get cheap, so people were moving in there but then it became popular, so house prices went up, so people then move up the valley, I mean Colden (sp) is very, it’s like hard to describe, it’s really a throwback in some ways to the 19th in the terms of that it is all back to back houses. You’ve got a very steep valley, its almost, nearly a ravine in places, you’ve basically the river Calder coming down through the bottom, the road goes along side it and there’s like houses up side but then everything goes up the hill quiet steeply, the railway is set higher up on a ledge and houses go up, sort of the side, so house prices up there, down in the bottom of the main street, the back to backs are obviously a lot cheaper and I think what’s happen is they have been forced out of Hebden bridge, I’ve heard this, before the people its like this apartment here we have at least two lesbian couples, possibly three lesbian couples in the apartment and one single girl, that we know of and given there is only 20 apartments that’s not a bad average, so I think Hebden Bridge at one time possibly was the lesbian capital but it is really Calder valley but there again, you see this whole valley is called Happy Valley you know we are, and I think it is from LGBT point of view, it really is a happy valley, it is, you know, it really is, well I’m happy, I’m very happy but there again I’ve never stopped smiling, so.
DB: I think that’s a fantastic place to stop. I think that rounds everything up doesn’t it? Lovely, thank you chaps.