On song in Ossett, West Yorkshire

The people of Ossett have been hitting the high notes for decades. Emma Mayoh tunes in to this West Yorkshire town. MAIN PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN COCKS

Some people might question Peter Savage’s state of mind. The trained dancer has worked with some of entertainment’s biggest stars. As well as being part of the line-up in the Black and White Minstrels stage show, he has also shared theatres with entertainers like Australian soprano June Bronhill and Welsh contralto Olive Gilbert in Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream. But it was a move back to Ossett that left him starry-eyed.

He said: ‘I was ready to come back. I’d gone to London and I’d been dancing around the country as well as doing various other things including two years with the Black and White Minstrels Show. I was ready to slow down a bit. I came back in 1991 and it felt really good to finally be home.

Peter, now 74, does not miss an opportunity to champion the town and has thrown himself into community life. As well as being involved with the Ossett Civic Trust he is also a member of the Town Centre Partnership.

His entertaining skills have not gone to waste either. As well as helping out local group, the Priory Players, he is also the chairman of Ossett Elizabethans Amateur Operatic Society, who regularly put on performances in Ossett’s ornate Town Hall. Founded in 1960, the group will celebrate its golden jubilee with a special concert in the Town Hall in October.

He said: ‘When I came back I wanted to make sure that I put everything into helping in Ossett. It’s a place I absolutely adore and I love to get involved with things going on here.

‘This is an important milestone for us and everyone is excited about this year. We are a big part of the community and we intend to celebrate this occasion properly. It is going to be a good.’

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Peter, along with fellow Civic Trust member, Caron Ryalls, is now planning to attract more people to Ossett. It is hoped that, following the success of the regular Christmas lights switch on, they will be able to stage a farmers’ market.

Ossett appeared in the Domesday Book as Osleset, which was under the Manor of Wakefield. The name is believed to derive from the Saxons and the town grew substantially with the coming of the mining and woollen industries that dominated this area.

Today, Ossett has everything you could want. As well as a swathe of independent shops including a chocolate shop and designer boutiques, there are plenty of places to eat. It is home to an army of local groups and  organisations and is packed with people committed to keeping Ossett great.

Among their number is Terry Breeze. He is one of the traders who has turned out every week since the market was re-started, following a break, in 1969.

Terry, who runs Alpine Footwear and designed the current layout of the market, said: ‘A friend and I started the stall with �500 in our pockets. ‘Ossett always seemed a really busy, friendly place and it has really worked out. I think the shops would be pretty lost without it because the market brings people in. It’s such a big part of the character of the town.’

Just outside the town centre, at Kings Yard in Low Mill Road, is Bob Lawson’s micro-brewery. Brewer Bob had worked for some big name beer companies but in 1997 he set up Ossett Brewery.

The micro-brewery, at the back of the Brewers Pride pub, produced its first beer, the Bobby Dazzler. The company now produce many award-winning beers, including Silver King and Yorkshire Blond and it has gone from pumping out 40 barrels a week to 130 barrels a week. The brewery also runs several pubs, including The Silver King and The Tap in Ossett.

Bob’s son Jamie now runs the brewery with friend and director, Mike Inman, 49, who previously worked for Richard Branson’s Virgin business. But when friend Jamie offered him the chance to leave his life in Sydney behind to work in Ossett, he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Mike said: ‘I love being a part of the business, who wouldn’t love being at a brewery? But I love being in Ossett too. It’s a lovely place.’

Need to knowLocals say Ossett must be one of the windiest places to live because of its proximity to nearby valleys. Stave off the cold with a warming hot chocolate at Chocoholics. It is run by Lancastrians Viv and Paddy Campbell who opened up in Ossett just under three years ago. Viv also sells her own handmade chocolates.

People living in Ossett during the Second World War were lucky. Despite the fact that ten bombs were accidentally dropped on the town, incredibly, no one was killed. Several properties, however, were damaged and a few chickens met an untimely end.

 Changes are afoot in Ossett. There are currently plans underway to regenerate a block of buildings behind the town hall to create new, modern apartments as well as to help improve their appearance. The Cock and Bottle pub, in the town centre, is also going to be transformed into apartments and it is hoped planning permission will be granted for further regeneration projects in the town.

Councillor Elizabeth Knowles, who has lived in Ossett for 25 years, loves the town she represents. She said: ‘My husband moved his business over to Bradford but I was not budging from Ossett. I love it. It’s such a friendly place and it’s one of those places where everyone knows each other.’

Where is it? Ossett is located directly off the M1, in between Wakefield and Dewsbury. Type WF5 8BE into your satnav to get you there.

Where to park? Ossett has several reasonably priced car parks in the town centre, in Illingworth Street, Prospect Road and Ventnor Way.

What to do? Ossett’s market is not to be missed. Visit on a Tuesday or a Friday to discover what makes it so special. The Priory Players and the Elizabethan Amateur Operatic Society put on regular performances at Ossett Town Hall. If you are lucky you may also catch a performance from Wakefield Orchestral Wind. Visit in July and you will be able to watch them at the popular Ossett Gala on July 10th.You will never go hungry or thirsty in Ossett with plenty of places to stop and enjoy some refreshments.

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