Please remember to take all your belongings with you

The woman from Skegness is in deep conversation with a Turkish man sitting across the aisle. “Where in Istanbul is your family from?” she asks. He’s gobsmacked when she says she knows Istanbul well.

This evening I’m off to some offices above Huddersfield Station to watch the premiere of two films commissioned by Creative Scene as part of its ongoing ‘The Next Station Will Be…’ series.

CS_170316_039-EditTwo pairs of filmmakers have been given free access to the Huddersfield-Leeds route by project partners First TransPennine Express and for two months they rode the rails, interviewed staff and overheard dozens of conversations like mine.

CS_170316_009-EditFor the train operator this collaboration is more than just a nod to community engagement. I know the managers here have a deeper understanding of how a train company fits into the fabric of the society it serves. They ‘get it’ and that’s refreshing.

CS_170316_051-EditI shadow the press photographer until I meet up with SceneMaker Ammaarah. She’s always taken a keen interest in Creative Scene’s digital arts projects and last year helped out on the first ‘The Next Station Will Be …’ production, interviewing passengers for a short film.

Since then she and other SceneMakers have made a research trip to a robotics art workshop in Leeds. “That was really cool,” she tells me. “I’d love to do more of that. I’d like to get involved with coding.”

CS_170316_043-EditFollowing her A-levels, Ammaarah aims to study Art and Science at university. “Projects like these always appeal to me,” she says, “the train journey is so day-to-day but making it into art is something completely different.”

As the screenings are about to begin and the popcorn is handed out, I have an idea. “Will you review the films for me? And tell me later what you thought?”

She agrees and 40 minutes later Ammaarah and I retreat to the back office which is doubling as a ‘field kitchen’ for the Kirklees College catering students preparing canapés and mocktails.

“They were very different, weren’t they?” I say. “Which one did you like best? No, that’s unfair.”

“That is unfair, I liked aspects of both,” says Ammaarah diplomatically. I could relate to aspects of the first film. It had an accurate representation of what we’d call the daily commute. I also liked the background stories: people meeting friends or family. It reminded me of my own experiences.”

In Train of Thought the filmmakers had invited passengers to write down their thoughts as they stared out onto the Yorkshire countryside.

Thank goodness the phone signal doesn’t work…peace at last

I hope my parking ticket isn’t overdue… if it is, I’m screwed

They also interviewed some of the staff. Conductor Nikki May, who has just watched the film with her colleagues, told the camera, “I’ve had people asleep on the luggage racks, people amorous in toilets… it’s certainly interesting on the trains.”

“The second one was quite whimsical, almost trippy,” says Ammaarah, continuing her review.

“Trippy? Yeah. There were elements of Pink Floyd in there for me,” I agree.

Riding West Riding is a collaboration between artist Alistair MacDonald and filmmaker Kevin Threlfall. They describe their film as experimental as they sensitively examine the character of stations from sleepy Mirfield to manic Leeds. Before the screening Kevin admitted being over-excited at riding in the front cab with the driver.

“It was really quirky with all the effects,” says Ammaarah. “It put the train journey into a different perspective, parts of it were really quite clever. I also liked the music, it ended really nicely.

“I think both films put train journeys into a positive light. Also I was amazed how good the weather was.”

“Yes! I thought that too. This was shot last autumn, where was all that sunshine?”

“Exactly. Not truly accurate of Yorkshire weather!”

The Next Station Will Be … featured
Train of Thought by Andy Wicks and Tim Copsey, and
Riding West Riding by Alistair MacDonald and Kevin Threlfall

They were produced by Let’s Go.

“Eyes down, ladies and gentlemen. Look in.”

“I’d imagined it was going to be all old ladies with purple rinses, sitting around marking their cards. It wasn’t like that at all.”

Ahead of tonight’s ‘Bingo Balls’, SceneMaker Gayna is telling me about her trip to Mecca Bingo in Dewsbury, the inspiration for tonight’s wacky event.

CS_270315_0023-Edit“The age range was huge. The older ladies said it was a safe and friendly place, and some of the older men said that too. They were there for the social interaction.

“And then you had a bunch of younger people who were out to win. When we were there some guy from Halifax won £40,000 in the national game that everyone plays.”

“So it challenged some of your stereotypes?” I ask.

“Definitely. With my faith background, gambling is not something we do… so that made it more interesting. I wanted to see why people did it.

“I was surprised how friendly it was. One older man, whose wife had passed away, said it was like coming to see his family once a week. Some of the ladies gave him a hug, asked how he was. It wasn’t the playing of the game for him, it was the meeting other people.”

Gayna has been working with Let’s Go Global artist Karen Shannon who, as well as interviewing Dewsbury’s bingo punters, has created an oversize bingo game projected onto a Victorian facade outside Batley train station. And Gayna will be calling the numbers.

I notice a mother and teenage daughter looking quizzical on the other side of the road and cajole them to come and find out more.

“I saw you setting up the other night,” Mum Hayley says to Gayna, after I’ve introduced them. “But I don’t get the bingo thing. Will there be an actual bingo game later?”

“Yes, there will,” says Gayna. “And there’ll be prizes, tickets to arts events, that sort of thing.”

Gayna does a great ambassadorial job explaining her role as a SceneMaker: “We advise Creative Scene on what needs to happen, and tell them what’s already going on in the area. You could apply to be a SceneMaker, if you’d like, get more involved, help run some events.”

The microphone cackles into life. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” announces Karen, station master for the evening. “Has everyone got a bingo card?”

CS_270315_0061-EditAs we wait for more players to arrive by train from Dewsbury, SceneMaker Duncan whips the crowd into a frenzy with his announcement about free tea on his stall. “We have seven varieties on offer,” he proclaims. “Yes, that’s seven varieties all blended locally in Cleckheaton.”

The train arrives, the crowd swells and the rules of bingo are explained. “Are you ready for your first game?” asks Karen. “Eyes down, ladies and gentlemen. Look in.”

CS_270315_0103-Edit CS_270315_0106To a backing of organ fairground music, Gayna’s pre-recorded voice announces the numbers.

“Rise and shine, four and nine, 49.”

“Two and seven, stairway to heaven, 27.”

“Cup of tea,” – there’s a cheer from Duncan –  “number three.”

After another half dozen more numbers someone calls out, “Bingo!” and the rest of the players groan.

Karen checks the card. “Has 26 been called? Oh dear, false call. That’s a false call, ladies and gentlemen. So we’re still on! Eyes down, Look in!”

“All the beans, five and seven, 57.”

“Winnie the Pooh, four and two, 42.”

“Thee and me, two and three, 23.”

“Bingo!”

Check out the amazing Let’s Go Global video, featuring SceneMaker Gayna, projected as part of the Bingo Balls evening.

“I’m going there because I live in Halifax.”

My final destination will be Nantwich in Cheshire where I am going to see my family for Easter.

Station supervisors Sham and Ilyas stand side by side next to the glass waiting room on Platform 2. “It’s something different for Dewsbury train station, isn’t it?” says Ilyas when I ask them about the projection. “The passengers are really curious and we tell them all about it.”

CS_270315_0149-Edit“It’s been very positive,” adds his colleague, “and very busy. People are going over to the other side and watching it from the sofa, eating satsumas,” says Sham.

“Oh really? Have they all gone?”

Sure enough, across the tracks on Platform 1, I can see an orange three-seater sofa, a coffee table and half a bowl of satsumas. This is a Creative Scene event, after all.

Ticket to Ride is the creation of artist duo, Shanaz Gulzar and Steve Manthorp who together make up Adept Projects. They’ve filmed the driver’s view of a local train travelling between Huddersfield and Leeds, laid ‘talking heads’ of passengers on top and back projected the whole thing from inside the glass waiting room. A perfect fit.

Looking straight into camera, the passengers tell us where they are going and why.

My final destination is Huddersfield and I’m going there for college.

CS_270315_0180-EditOn the footbridge I bump into SceneMaker Ammaarah who has helped Shanaz and Steve get the content together.

“What was your involvement?” I ask her.

“I recorded train sounds from the platform which was fun because I’d never done anything like that before. And I stopped some of the passengers to interview them… anyone I thought was going somewhere interesting.”

“How did you decide who to ask?”

“No one with a briefcase because that was too obvious. I tried to speak with people who looked out of place. There are people from all walks of life, coming and going. Some were travelling to Florida, or coming from London, it was amazing to see how many different people were going through Dewsbury Station and the different stories they had to tell.

“Which is your favourite?”

“There’s a woman who’d just passed her UK Citizenship Test and when I asked her if I could interview her she was so enthusiastic and immediately said, ‘Yes, this is what British people do…’”

“You mean, get involved in art projects?”

“Yes. And I thought that was really heart-warming. She was so happy to do it.”

“My final destination is Dewsbury because I go to Batley School of Art.”

CS_270315_0156-EditThere’s a couple sitting together on the sofa on Platform 1. I’ve already been given the nod this is someone I should interview.

“So you’re the Station Manager for West Yorkshire?” I ask.

“Yes,” says William Munton. “We cover Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Stalybridge.”

“And what did you think when Creative Scene first proposed staging this at the station?”

“We thought it was a great opportunity to get involved in something creative and totally different,” he says. “I think it looks excellent… it’s a winner all round.”

William’s wife Lucy is here too. “It’s not exactly an exciting Friday night out… sitting on a sofa on a breezy railway platform,” I joke.

“I’m really enjoying myself, it’s like I’m in my own lounge,” she says. “It’s lovely. I think it’s brought the station to life, a fantastic idea.”

“Can I take a photograph of the two of you on the sofa?”

My final destination is Halifax and the reason I’m going there is because I live in Halifax.