Tuesday, May 19, 2020

#KindnessMatters – Keeping in Touch

This week (18th - 24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. This year’s theme is kindness, which is more important than ever at the moment. As the Mental Health Foundation say:

One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times. We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope.

The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing.


Kindness doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Often it starts small – right now, keeping in touch with your friends and family could be the best way to begin. We’ve found some inspiration from the collections for staying connected and communicating.

Why not start at home? It could be as simple as making tea or coffee for your household and taking time to stop and have a chat around the kitchen table or in the garden. 

The Holmes family enjoying tea at Priory House, Pontefract

So put the kettle on and get out the best china. 
You could even video call a friend or relative to catch up over a cuppa virtually and compare your favourite mugs!

Coffee and tea pots made by Clokie & Co Ltd, Castleford and hand decorated by Vera Ward and Ida Woodward at pottery painting classes, 1920s- 1940s 

Coffee and tea cups by Clokie & Co Ltd, Castleford, 1930s

Many of us are also reaching out to those outside our households, who we can’t see at the moment - whether it’s an email or message, a phone call, or a video chat. You might share an interesting article with someone, send a joke, share a TV or a book recommendation, or simply say hello.

Rotary dial telephone handset with wall attachment, 1960s-1970s
Apple Macintosh Classic desktop computer, keyboard and mouse, 1980s

Nokia 8110 mobile phone, 1996

Modern technology has been a lifeline for many of us recently, helping us to keep in touch, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a surprise via snail mail! You could polish up your penmanship and pop a message in the post.

Glass inkwells with Bakelite lids
Dip pen with carved bone handle

Propelling pencil with perpetual calendar

Smith Corona typewriter, 1920s

Silver handled ivory letter opener, 1903

Cross written letter, 1833

Embroidered card

How are you keeping in touch with your loved ones? Has someone reached out to you and made your day? The Mental Health Foundation wants to get the nation talking about acts of kindness. Share your experiences with us in the comments or on social media using the #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, #KindnessMatters and #WakeyKindness tags.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

VEDay75 - 8th May 2020

75 years ago today, a crowd was gathering on Wood St, communities across the district were stringing up bunting and setting up trestle tables. After 6 years of conflict, the Second World War was finally nearing its end with victory declared in Europe. There was a sense of relief and an air of celebration across the country. 

Oh yes, we went to celebrate in the Bull Ring. You felt very relieved that no one else was going to be killed.

Kathleen Turner (evacuated from Jersey to Wakefield), 17 on VE Day

As we mark the anniversary of VE Day in 2020, we are privileged to have recollections, photographs and even film footage captured by local people who were celebrating on 8th May 1945. Take some time to experience the day through their eyes and words.

Dancing in the streets

This amateur footage taken by a local businessman shows soldiers, Wrens and the Home Guard parading, as the atmosphere in the city centre builds. In Wood Street, specially erected spotlights have replaced blackout blinds and revellers fill the streets ready to dance into the night.

V.E. CELEBRATIONS (1945), 16mm, Black & White, Silent

Film ID: YFA 2343, www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/ve-celebrations

I went up into Wood Street with some friends and we were dancing in the street.  There was a fantastic atmosphere and there were crowds of people. 

Betty Littlewood, 14 on VE day

I must have gone in the afternoon and stayed over into the evening.  All the lights were on - everything looked so much better, so much happier and brighter.  Everyone was singing and dancing and shouting to one another.  It was a very lovely day.

Edna Morrell, 17 on VE day


You couldn't get any beer, everyone had drunk it by about 6.30. 

Herbert Spurr, early 20s (20/21) on VE Day

Community Spirit

Away from the city, communities that had supported each other through the war were coming together again, this time in celebration.

Neighbours gather for a group photo at a street party on Nevison Avenue, Pontefract

Crossley Street, Featherstone trimmed up for the occasion

We had a street party at the end of the war.  We'd borrowed some trestles and tables from the chapel, and we had all sorts of food and games.  We had a real celebration.

I lived in a mining village, everybody worked at the pit, they were all friendly and would help each other out.  That was our strength during the war.

Sid Wilkinson, 14 on VE Day

Well done Fryston lads

In the mining community of Fryston, amateur photographer, Jack Hulme, was on hand, as he so often was, to record the occasion. In the mid 20th century, former coal miner and local hairdresser, Jack caught everyday life on camera, photographing his family and neighbours at work and play, creating an extraordinary record of his community. Jack was known and trusted by his subjects and his works are honest, affectionate and often humorous. His VE Day photographs are no different, capturing all the local camaraderie on camera and giving us a glimpse into the anticipation and merriment of the day.

Although we can’t take to the streets as they did in 1945, many of us will still be commemorating the anniversary of VE Day in our homes today. Let us know how you are marking the occasion. If, like Jack Hulme, you are recording the day on camera, we’d love to see your photos. Get in touch on our social media channels or leave us a message below.

You can explore these fabulous images in more detail and find out more about Jack Hulme in our VE Day teaching resource, available to download on our Schools at Home page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

On Our Doorstep - Online!

Whilst our doors are sadly closed, we don’t want you to miss out on our current exhibition so we have brought the wonderful paintings of Geoff Leathley online until we can welcome you back to Pontefract Museum.

On Our Doorstep: Paintings by Geoff Leathley

Wednesday market
The works in this exhibition are of Pontefract and Castleford and were painted between June 2017 and June 2018, although I have sketched and painted in each town for over 30 years.
There is a great choice of subjects: a castle, churches, a canal and a wonderful riverside mill. The heart of both towns remains the market, so it is not surprising that here I found lots of subjects and without doubt the most challenging. I decided upon a straightforward style without embellishments or exaggerations of form or colour, although I had to rearrange figures and place them in such a way as to balance the picture.
I found the whole project exciting and enjoyed every minute.

Geoff Leathley

I always carry a pocket-sized sketch book. Most drawings are done for pleasure and are taken no further. A few of these can be taken to the next stage and become studies.

Studies are worked up from a number of sketches, on which I make colour notes. The setting from one sketch, the figures from several individual sketches. They can be reproduced in oil or watercolour. All the problems are worked out at this stage. There can be many alterations. Some will remain as studies; others will be worked up into a larger format.
The old and the new - Pontefract study

On Our Doorstep - Pontefract

Reflections and renovations: Pontefract Castle

On Our Doorstep - Castleford

‘The heart of the town’: market days

In all weathers

With huge thanks to Geoff Leathley for his work on this project.

If you have enjoyed Geoff’s paintings, why not have a go at our digital jigsaw of ‘Wednesday market’.
preview35pieceWednesday market