Join poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan as he looks into the past of his native Barnsley, exploring its history and recalling his own experiences of this particular patch of South Yorkshire.
Barnsley – mentioned in the Domesday Book – developed incrementally into an important commercial and cultural centre, home to cinemas, theatres, civic life and Barnsley FC, McMillan’s beloved Tykes. Appropriately, the home of an ancient glass industry was also the site of Britain’s first bottlebank.
Real Barnsley also tours the surrounding villages and small towns so important to local identity. Penistone, Hoyland Common, Wombwell, Cawthorne, Royston, Carlton, Cudworth, Grimesthorpe and McMillan’s own Darfield are all on his itinerary. Some were mining villages, products of the seventy collieries within a 15 mile radius of Barnsley (all now closed). Others are rural market towns, on the edge of the Pennines.
As McMillan discovers the tide of industry has gone out but the heritage tide has flowed, with the establishment of the Elsecar Heritage Centre at an old ironworks, and ‘The Maurice Dobson Museum and Heritage Centre’, at which the author volunteers. And there are always the moors, to which workers have escaped from factories and pits, where the film Kes was shot.
McMillan’s Barnsley is nothing if not an eclectic mix, home to brass bands and the Barnsley Chop but the Arctic Monkeys, Saxon and Kate Rusby. It is also home to Michael Parkinson, Dicky Bird, sculptor Graham Ibbeson, Lord Halifax, Ebenezer Elliott, poet, and the highwayman Swift Nick. And plenty of colourful locals including McMillan himself: Real Barnsley is his shared story.