Townspeople of Penistone work hard to improve life in the community
PUBLISHED: 00:16 09 January 2012 | UPDATED: 13:22 17 September 2014
The people of Penistone are taking matters in their own hands to improve life in the town, as Paul Mackenzie reports Photographs by Kirsty Thompson
It might not look it now but the leisure centre could soon become an important part of life in Penistone. Once home to several of the town’s sports clubs, fitness classes and even tea dances, the building has been boarded up for almost a year since it became a victim of council cuts.
But now a small group of people is now trying to raise the money necessary to re-open the 1930s building on Thurlstone Road as a community run sports centre.
Rebecca Watkins is one of the group intent on returning it to action. ‘We want to run it with the community but to do that we need to raise £2,000,’ she said.
The 18-year-old from Millhouse added: ‘It would make a big difference to the town to have the leisure centre back because it would mean people didn’t have to travel out of town. It’s not fair that people should have to pay the extra, they should have the facilities here in Penistone.’
Cllr Tim Cheetham from Barnsley Council, which ran the leisure centre until its closure, said: ‘Local authorities are having to make 28 per cent cuts across the board and there are services such as education and care for the elderly which we simply can not cut back on.’
The leisure centre was shut along with Wombwell Swimming Baths, Athersley Leisure Centre and Cllr Cheetham added: ‘The decision was based on which facilities did not have a strong business case to remain open. Penistone Leisure Centre was under used so in a way the people of the town had already voted with their feet.
There are other facilities in the town – at the state-of-the art high school for instance – which the community can use outside school hours.
‘We have met with the community group several times and we will do everything we can to help them.’
Until it re-opens, there is still plenty to keep you busy in Penistone. Try shopping for starters. Penistone has had a charter to hold a Thursday market since 1699 and it is still going strong, with food, clothes and homewares for sale under one roof – and what a roof it is. At 35 metres long, 24 metres wide and 13 metres high and using well over 100 cubic metres of oak it is the largest publicly accessible oak frame in the country. And while that’s a rather cumbersome claim fame, try this, from shopper Ken Gardner: ‘It’s a bloody lovely piece of work.’
The market is one of the reasons Penistone comes alive on Thursdays but it’s not the only reason.
They also come from far and wide to see Kevin Grunhill.
Kevin’s fans travel from all over Yorkshire and he has regulars who come from Nottingham, Carlisle and even Suffolk to be in the audience for his weekly concerts.
Kevin, is a founder member of the Penistone Cinema Organ Trust, who gives recitals every week at St Andrews Church on the UK’s only Allen 317EX digital theatre organ.
He has been playing the piano and organ since he was a child and after studying the instruments at college and university, he bought a Compton organ from a cinema in Shropshire which he refurbished and installed at Penistone’s cinema in 1999.
‘It wasn’t in a bad state when we got it, it wanted some restoration work but it’s in as good a condition now as it has ever been,’ he said.
‘It had originally been at the Paramount Cinema in Birmingham and the cinema here was re-named the Paramount after the organ.
‘The Compton organ at the cinema is the largest of its kind in Yorkshire – the bigger it is, the more different tones it can produce.’
And Kevin, who was one of the organists at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom for 10 years and who also gives monthly concerts on the organ at the Paramount, added: ‘The trust is very active. It was set up based on the Compton organ but since then we have done work on organs around Yorkshire, including at the organ museum in Scarborough, and around the country. We’ve also just done restoration work on an organ in Holland.
‘The whole nostalgia thing is great for people. It’s like steam trains – we’ve got all these quick and efficient trains now but it’s still the steam trains that get the heart racing. Cinema organs are the same, they get people smiling and get the memories going. A lot of people remember the organs from the 1930s, 40s and 50s but we’re creating memories for a new generation coming along now.
‘People come from all over to hear the organ and it’s good for the town. People come here and spend money in the shops and cafes.’
Kevin’s organ music clearly has a following so maybe he ought to have his own slot on Penistone FM. The community radio station broadcasts all day, every day from humble premises above a cafe on the town’s High Street.
The station, which has a healthy average of 5,000 listeners a day around the town and in nearby villages, began broadcasting at 95.7FM as well as online at www.penistonefm.co.uk in 2009 after a short trial showed strong interest in the scheme.
Andrew Millner, one of the station’s directors, said: ‘There’s a lot of independent spirit in Penistone and when I first saw about the community radio station I thought it would be an excellent service for the town.
‘Initially we broadcast for two weeks and we had an incredible response from the local community – that gave us the overwhelming message that people supported us.’
The organisers then had to raise £60,000 to pay for the transmitter and other necessary equipment and went on air in June 2009.
Penistone FM is run by volunteers and is a not-for-profit organisation – not a commercial station – and Andrew, who is also a councillor on Barnsley Council, added: ‘We broadcast to communities around the town and are much more at a grass roots level than commercial stations in this area. We are very much at the level promoting the coffee morning in the church hall.
‘One man said to me shortly after we started that he’d found out more about what was happening in two weeks listening to us than in years listening to commercial stations.’
With the help of a grant from the East Peak Innovation Partnership, a third studio is now being developed at the Penistone FM office to provide media training for volunteers of all ages over the next two years and the station is also forging links with Penistone Grammar School and Shelley High School.
Getting there: Penistone stands just off the A628, around eight miles west of Barnsley. If you have a satnav, typing in S36 6BR should take you to the town centre. There are regular rail services to Huddersfield and Sheffield and campaigners are hoping to have the connection with Manchester via the Woodhead Tunnel re-opened.
Where to park: There is free on-street parking available around the town
What to do: If you’re there on a Thursday visit the market and hear Kevin play. On any other day of the week, explore the shops, pubs and cafes, and enjoy the scenery. The farmers’ market is held on the second Saturday of every month.