5 reasons to love Penistone
- Credit: Joan Russell, Joan Russell
Five key figures in the town share what they love about Penistone. Photographs by Joan Russell
A show of strength
Rebecca Barnett used to have a reflexology and massage therapy trade stand at Penistone Agricultural Show but this year’s event in September will be her second as the show secretary. ‘I have lived in Penistone for 18 years and been to the show pretty much every year, either with a stand or as a visitor, and I think the show is a part of Penistone,’ she said.
‘The show society are really supportive of the town and one of the main aims of the show is to bring people into the town, not just to see the show, but to spend time and money in the shops and the cafes. I see the show as being really intrinsic to the community.’
The show, which will take place this year on Saturday September 12, features a range of animal classes, entertainment, demonstrations and – something the event organisers are particularly keen to develop – attractions for all the family.
And Rochdale-born Rebecca, who you’ll find working at the Paramount when she’s not helping to organise the Penistone Show, added: ‘There is a real sense of community here, there are lots of groups who all have the town’s best interests at heart and although it is a growing town, it retains that friendly community feel. A local council did a survey recently asking people what words they associate with Penistone and lots of people said Paramount, Show, Windy and Community. I think that just about sums the place up.’
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Chain of command
It can be a nerve-wracking time, but Paul Hand-Davis should be fine when he’s presented with his mayoral chains – after all, he’s been there before. Councillor Hand-Davis, a former inspector with South Yorkshire Police, was mayor of Penistone in 2007 and will take on the role again in May.
‘I’m looking forward to it,’ he said. ‘When I was mayor previously we had the controversy of the new supermarket and now we have the contentious issue of house building after the county council designated this as a prime building area. It can change the nature of a place and can mean that the small town feel of a place is lost but this is a very vibrant town. You hear about some towns where there are no young people left, they have become retirement towns, and that’s certainly not the case here.’
Cllr Hand-Davis moved to Penistone with his young family in 1986 and he added: ‘It was a very welcoming place and has been a great town to live in and be involved in. People tend to like to put a lot back into the town the local area and there are lots of groups here, such as the WI and the British Legion and the Round Table – they are magnificent, they do a hell of a lot for the town.
‘I like the fact that Penistone is surrounded by lovely countryside. I can put my boots on and be out in the fields in just a few minutes. It is a cold and windy place in the Pennines but we love it.’
Book yourself in
Ceri Worman likes to do things by the book. The former English teacher and author of six books for children is busy organising the third annual Penistone Literary Festival which could this year be held in September, rather than June. ‘A lot of people go away in early summer, so we’re thinking of moving the festival to later in the year,’ she said. The festival was the idea of another English teacher, Edana Guest, and the previous events have featured star names including Simon Armitage, Ian McMillan and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy as well as a library-full of local writing talent.
‘We’re not in competition with other festivals, we just wanted to bring the arts to the doorstep of people in the Penistone and Barnsley area which are perhaps not as culturally blessed as some other places.’
The festival is just one highlight of the cultural calendar in Penistone and Ceri – who is also a member of a book group and the Penistone Ladies Choir – added: ‘It’s quite a creative place and the Paramount Cinema is wonderful, it’s like stepping back to the 1950s. I used to live near the South Bank in London and when the Paramount shows the National Theatre it’s almost as good as being there.
‘I love to go up to the top and look down on the town, it looks like Greendale where Postman Pat lives. The high street is very manageable, there are lots of nice cafes and although it’s two overcoats colder than Barnsley, there are wonderful views a lovely community feel about the town.’
Star of the cinema
Built in the 1930s, Birmingham’s huge and luxurious Paramount Theatre was an immediate hit with cinema goers, and not only for the movies and film stars on the giant silver screen.
The real star of the show was the gold painted Cormpton Organ which rose through the stage and filled the auditorium with its resonant sound. For fifty years the organ was a key feature in the cinema but in the late 1980s the paramount was turned into a modern multiplex and the organ was moved to the Regal in Oswestry. Less than a decade later, the Regal closed and in 2000 the organ was moved again, bought by the Penistone Cinema Organ Trust and given a new home in Yorkshire.
The Paramount Cinema – the old Metro was re-named in honour of the organ – shows all the big film releases and hosts live shows and monthly organ concerts which have a large and loyal following. The cinema itself marked its centenary in 2014 and manager Brian Barnsley, whose first job was as a trainee projectionist at the ABC in Woking, said: ‘The Paramount is a cracking place to work, it gets in your blood. When people move on, it tends to be when they retire.’
Brian moved to Penistone to take up the role of officer on the Penistone Line community rail line and he added: ‘I’ve always lived in bigger places so I was amazed – and I continue to be – by how much goes on here. The number of societies and groups and things that happen here never cease to amaze me. There’s not a long wrong with the place but when more people move into the town it will put more of a strain on services. I don’t want to live anywhere else though.’
On your bike
Interest in cycling has shifted up a gear in recent years and Jill Bramall has been helping people from across the county get on their bikes. She runs the Cycle Penistone scheme which rents out bikes for use on the Trans Pennine Trail and she said: ‘We have seen a massive increase in numbers taking part since the Tours, particularly since the Tour de Yorkshire. The day after that passed through Barnsley last year was a bank holiday Monday and we had our busiest day ever – everyone and their grandma was inspired to get on their bikes.
‘We offer something for the family market, not the serious cyclist – some people can feel intimidated by high end cycle shops, but we’re very friendly and down to earth and encourage people just have a tootle about on a bike.’
Jill who was born and bred down the road in Stocksbridge before moving to Penistone five years ago, added: ‘Penistone is a beautiful place to live and work and it’s got everything we need on the doorstep. The community is very good at volunteering and not being reliant on others, so people will get their sleeves rolled up and get involved, such as in the up-keep of the Trans-Pennine Trail.
‘People come from far and wide to ride on the Trans Pennine Trail and they say what a beautiful place this is and I think that’s something you can overlook when you live here.’
Need to know
Getting there: Penistone stands just off the A628, around eight miles west of Barnsley. Typing S36 6BR into your satnav should take you to the town centre. There are regular rail services to Huddersfield and Sheffield.
Where to park: There is free on-street parking available around the town.
Did you know: 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 it is quite a roof. At 35 metres long, 24 metres wide and 13 metres high, it is the largest publicly accessible oak frame in the country. Quite a claim to fame, eh?
What to do: If you’re there on a Thursday visit the market. 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.
Find out more: The visitpenistone.co.uk site has lots of information and useful links.