Ossett, the town from which I hail decided to host a ‘Promote Ossett’ day in a manner in which has left me baffled ever since, not to mention leaving many local school children traumatised at best, scarred for life at worst. I heard about the event in the local pub the night before, 40 large and multi-coloured sheep had been made by the local school children and were to be on display in Ossett Town Centre. So far so good, my cousin and I decided to go along and support the local kids in the community, not knowing that the trauma of the event will ensure that most of them will end up as part of care in the community.
Now picture the scene, Ossett Town Centre is actually a precinct surrounded by fine buildings dating back to its more illustrious days when the town had its own mayor and mayoress, a functioning town hall, and …… they even tried to set it up as a spa town to rival north (posh) Yorkshire’s Harrogate. Though, with the best will in the world that was a venture that was more than a tad ambitious given that during those times, the vast majority of the local population were coal miners and factory workers, and their version of ‘taking the waters’ was either in the beer content down the pub or the enforced once a week scrub in a tin bath in front of the fire in the front room, but I digress…….
As we approached the town centre we began to see trees wrapped in scarves, decorated with woollen pom poms and some even wrapped in crochet patchwork blankets, the kind that great grandma Parker or Great Aunty Edith would wear over their knees, sitting in a deck chair on the back step on a fine summer evening – knit graffiti as one friend called it. However, in this instance it made no sense, though intrigued, we ventured closer. Soon enough, we saw the afore mentioned sheep, of which there were indeed around 40, were indeed large and multi coloured, they were however located on the tops of large poles (as in pole dancing not the nationality, this event from what I could see was all about cruelty to children, not ethnic minorities).
These poles were lined up, with children at the bottom, to form the rear of a procession. In the middle were people dressed in flat caps and white coats (well, given the occasion, at least the white coats were appropriate!) which given the ‘nature’ of the event, one can only assume were meant to be shepherds and some of whom were carrying large placards bearing the slogan ‘FLOCK TO OSSETT.’ To the front of the procession were school children aged between 6 and 10 (too young to resist I’d wager) each of which had a cardboard cut out sheep taped to either side of their heads and to keep their hands from removing the afore mentioned trauma giving ridiculous items, they were carrying homemade percussion instruments which they had to shake periodically whilst chanting ‘Flock to Ossett’. What the???………
Now baffled as I was as to why on earth this preposterous spectacle could possibly induce anyone to want to move to Ossett I thought that there must be some rhyme or reason behind the madness and indeed, good old Wikipedia produced the missing link:
Author and local resident, Stan Barstow said that Ossett was the “border country” where the north-west of the coalfield merged with the south-east of the wool towns. The town was once a thriving centre of the “shoddy” industry; recycling woollen garments’’. Aha – there we have it though this is a fact of which most current residents are barely aware, so far lodged in the dim and distant past it is and surely Ossett has more to offer than its former glory as a shoddy town?
Well, further research showed that Ossett’s other claims to fame include, and I quote from Wikipedia:
a) In the Second World War, Ossett was accidentally bombed on 16 September 1940. No one was killed, save for a number of chickens’’. I love the ‘accidentally’ and was this really such a minor event that only the unexpected roasting of a few chickens was worth mentioning?
b) It spawned (sorry, the only fitting description) ‘’Black Lace, legendary British pop-music group, notable for their 1984 single “Agadoo”’’ Ha ha, now that will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day, are you ready? ‘ Agadoo doo doo push pineapple, shake the tree, Agadoo doo doo push pineapple grind coffee, to the left to the right jump up and down and to the knees, Come and dance every night, sing with the hula melody. Ahh, such poetry!
c) Software house Team17 are based there and their most famous game – “Worms” – contained a Hell level with a sign saying, “Welcome to Ossett”.’’ FABULOUS! Nice bit of humour from the computer geeks.
d) It is the home of ‘’Matt Abbott, who is the front man and lyricist in alternative pop act Skint & Demoralised’’ Requires no further comment.
e) Actress Helen Worth (Gail Platt on Coronation Street) was born and brought up in Ossett.
I truly have no words…
f) ‘’The town is mentioned in the song It’s Grim Up North’’. I rest my case…..
So perhaps, in retrospect, they went for the best option available. Needless to say, I don’t see many people ‘flocking’ to Ossett as a result of this promotion, though one last mention, right down at the bottom of the Ossett page on Wikipedia did attract my attention:
‘’Portia Da Costa, erotic novelist grew up in and currently lives in Ossett’’. She has books to her name entitled, The Accidental Call Girl and How to Seduce a Billionaire.
All of a sudden, I feel that all may not be lost….