Hockney, Saltaire & A Taste Of Puglia – a journey into the heart of Yorkshire.
T’other weekend we boarded a local train from Leeds town centre for Saltaire. After a short 15-20 minute journey we stepped off the train and emerged from the station into a UNESCO World Heritage site! The formerly tee total, Yorkshire stone, model Victorian village of Saltaire was built strictly for the 3000 workers employed in the vast woollen textile mill that was constructed by industrialist Titus Salt to take advantage of the Leeds Liverpool canal and railway. Today, Salts Mill – which you might recognise from the painting above – houses cafes and restaurants, art supplies and book shops and a vibrant collection of David Hockney’s current art work.
While original Hockney’s are to be found dotted around the building it’s on the 3rd floor that we find ‘The Arrival of Spring’ – an uplifting collection of 49 large inkjet prints originally drawn on his ipad as reflections on the changing seasons in the Yorkshire dales. Hockney has always embraced technology and his use of the Brushes app on the ipad is pretty mindblowing. His palette of colours verge on the florescent while his “brush” strokes are bold and quite abstract. There is an enticing sense of depth which combines with powerful contrasts of light and shade in all the work. We are drawn into a landscape that is gradually bursting into life and not surprisingly, when all seen together, these prints are quite exuberant. I love the fact that David Hockney just gets out there, wind and rain, fag on the go, i-pad or canvas on an easel. The man produces! There’s a genuine and tangible energy at work that makes you feel good and happy that you’d made the journey.
Going to Saltaire also gave me the opportunity to catch up with Shipley/Saltaire’s resident salsero, Lubi Jovanovic. A former Straight No Chaser columnist and co-founder of that Leeds based DJ trio – The Dig Family, Lubi still DJ’s and promotes live sessions both sides of the Pennines. Over a cappuccino he tells me he’s still buying and had just picked up a copy of Archie Shepp’s ‘On This Night’. However, it’s the latest salsa/reggaeton that fuels the dancefloor of his weekly Cuban Party in Manchester.
Interestingly, Lubi’s mother worked in Salts Mill post World War 2. As a kid, Lubi had passed through the huge rooms that once housed the relentless looms and describes the experience as deafening and overwhelming . While Hockney’s paintings seem to reclaim the local landscape and present it in different light, Salts Mill itself documents and retains a valuable slice of our own history. As you wander across the worn wooden floors in the gallery you can’t help but imagine those who trod those boards before us. Titus Salt built the mill – a cathedral of industry – and the houses that surrounded it. He owned it all, including the workforce. There was no doubt that his workers were better off in Saltaire than those in the back to back slums of Leeds or Salford but I couldn’t help noticing in the historical timeline of the mill that his response to a spate of strikes was to simply lock out the whole workforce.
Just as Lubi Jovanovic’s parents settled in Yorkshire after there war so did the parents of Gip Dammone and his brother John. Gip, along with Lubi was a co-founder of the Dig family. His mother and father, Nunzia and Salvo, arrrived in Leeds from Sicily and commenced introducing Yorkshire folk to the culinary delights of southern Italy. The was an ice cream parlour where Gip had the top job of stocking the juke box. There was the private members club and discotheque, Blues Gardinia, which hosted live jazz and R&B and a shady poker game in the back room, and then there was Salvo’s. And after Saltaire that’s where we were heading!
Back in 2010, I turned on the TV only to witness Gip Dammone in the kitchen, battling out with other chefs from around the UK, on Gordon Ramsey’s The F Word for ‘Best Neighbourhood Italian Restaurant in Britain’. Lo and behold, out of 600 contestants, Salvo’s nabbed the prize of ‘Numero Uno’ to add to a host of other awards they’ve won. Respect is indeed due. Six years later, on the eve of Valentines Day, we arrive at Salvo’s to find the restaurant booked to capacity. Forunately, we’d booked into Salvo’s Salumeria & Cafe next door for the 10 course Puglia Regional evening.
Like myself, Gip is man who collects vinyl, enjoys an array of headwear, sports an Imperial and enjoys a bit of banter. Though he planned only to hang out in the salumeria for a couple of courses the vino began to flow and as we demolished the Puglian nibbles, the Aquasala (twice baked frise bread with pomodorini tomatoes and oregano) and the delicious Fave e Pane Fritto (broad bean pure and fried country bread) Gip’s infectious enthusiasm grew.The man eats with gusto and as he greeted and chatted with his regulars he was clearly settled in for the session.
His son Salvo appeared from the kitchen as the aubergines stuffed and baked with pecorino and soft black olives arrived on our table. Salvo’s is a family affair. A spicey red onion and orange salad with Mediterranean anchovies was followed by Polipetti Lessi – a salad of boiled and dressed octopus and, potatoes and red pepper. Nice! The wine and conversation flowed only to be halted by “little ear pasta with greens, capers and anchovy served with “Holy Oil” and ‘poor man’s cheese'”.
The accumulation of tapas size servings were proving to be more than enough just as a plate of tender and juicy, locally reared lamb with peas arrived. Luckily, that signaled an end to the flow of savoury dishes and offered the promise of Torta alla Ricotta and an espresso.
Throughout the evening, we were given little insights into the contents and preparation of each dish by Gip and it all added to the array flavours we were experiencing. The food that comes out of the kitchen at Salvo’s remains a labour of love and I couldn’t resist walking away on the night with a copy of their self produced hardback – ‘My family & Other Italians: The Salvo’s Story’. The book which gives further insight into the family’s journey and is punctuated by a selection of their classic recipes.
All in all, we had a truly life affirming day in Yorkshire. We enjoyed the artistry of a gay, nicotine addicted Bradford painter, the musical insights of a jazz and Latin DJ with Serbian roots and the culinary delights of Puglia from an Italian rooted family who are devoted to innovation and tradition (sounds like jazz!). You’ve got to love the cultural diversity and the energy it can deliver. For me, as a day goes, it said something about the Britain we will live in and what makes us who we are. What do you reckon?More Info:
www.salvos.co.uk/ – The book is £16.95 and available from the restaurant or salumeria or on-line (I think!).
PS: Thank to Gail Dammone for the hospitality and coming up with the Mega-Bus!