Field of Dreams
They say you should never go back but that old saying could not be further from the truth when it comes to my hometown of Huddersfield.
Admittedly, I’ve not lived there since the mid-90s when I headed off down the M62 to work as a reporter at the Hull Daily Mail, but I relish my West Yorkshire visits more than ever.
And my most recent visit reminded me of what I’ve been missing and I could not be prouder of Huddersfield – even if we’ve lost the local football bragging rights to Leeds (for now).
Yet while we might not have a Premier League football club at the moment, we’ve still got a Super League rugby side in the Giants.
And there might not be as many thriving town centre pubs or clubs – with Johnny’s a thing of the past – as there used to be but there is now a small but perfectly formed number, including Magic Rock and Head of Steam.
And due to the pull of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield and out-of-town shopping complexes, there might not be quite as many town centre shops but there are plenty new ones popping up.
Still, whatever the ups and downs, what Huddersfield will always have lots of is character – on human and physical levels – and that’s what sets the town apart.
I might be biased but it’s definitely one of those places with loads going for it – even when it’s faced with everything that the North-South divide has thrown at it.
And that’s proved by the amount of Leeds United, Manchester United and Liverpool fans who have resisted the temptation to re-locate along the M62 and still call Huddersfield home.
From the jaw-droppingly amazing train station, and impressive town centre architecture to the breath-taking countryside that is Last of the Summer Wine land and beautiful urban parks, Huddersfield takes visitors by surprise.
And then there’s its rich, socio-economically, racially diverse, generally harmonious make-up that means it’s a real melting pot of a place which is one of its positives.
The fact that Huddersfield is slap-bang in the middle of the golden triangle of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield mean it’s perfectly poised to be a key beneficiary of the Northern Powerhouse – as a commuter belt but also as its commercial epicentre.
It’s a far cry from the days when Huddersfield hit the headlines when the Luddites came to town and shot Marsden Mill owner William Horsfall in 1812.
It had nothing to do with the bloody past but I must admit I was full of trepidation ahead of my last visit home as I’d been warned that the coronavirus pandemic had been unforgiving.
Sadly, it poured down and there were far too many boarded up shops in the town centre for my liking but thankfully there are clear signs that Huddersfield is on the cusp of something special.
For starters, amid the brilliant architecture, in the vacant town centre stores there were little pop-up arts spaces which are certain to engage local people thanks to their creativity.
Plus, there are lots of colourful artsy things dotted around the area which used to inspire the likes of LS Lowry.
And the fact that so many shops are still going strong is testament to the resilience of Huddersfield entrepreneurs who are key to the town standing on its own two feet.
A surprisingly bustling town centre showed that local people are ready to vote with their feet and support local businesses in the heart of Huddersfield.
To me it confirmed that Huddersfield is not only hanging in there but it’s on the brink of something good – which will bring prosperity to the whole area.
And that includes surrounding towns like Dewsbury, which my Social colleagues are helping to invigorate with the local authority.
Kirklees Council has exciting plans for Huddersfield town centre as well – demonstrated by its purchase of the historic George Hotel and an overall plan of action mapped out in their Huddersfield blueprint.
These are exciting times and the prospects are certainly looking good for Huddersfield thanks to people like family-owned property business SKA Developments.
For starters, it’s really encouraging to see brothers Zeb and Saj Pervaiz powering Huddersfield forward with ambitious plans to revamp the monumental Co-Op building.
They’ve already done their bit to breathe new life into the town centre with their Thread Works development in the old Thatcher’s Furniture store.
Plus, they’re making sure Huddersfield gets the most out of its rivers with the impressive Greater Waterfront Quarter regeneration scheme and I know Huddersfield will be a much better place for it.
These are certainly exciting times for Huddersfield and I’m already looking forward to my next trip back home because it’s a town on the up.