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Saltaire people: Geoff Bank
Written by Roger Clarke, April 2005

[Note: Geoff Bank was the Secretary to the Saltaire Village Society at the time of writing.]

Nineteenth Century Saltaire had committees for everything. Service to the community was important, and it was also a social activity with workmates and neighbours. Most of the committees were focused on single events such as street parties and celebrations.  Or they were connected with the numerous societies which flourished (my favourite is the “Horticultural, Pig, Dog, Poultry and Pigeon Society” founded in 1876 – imagine how much discussion and negotiation went into deciding on this unlikely name!)

The Saltaire Village Society is not an organization of this kind. It was founded in 1984 out of opposition to the proposed route of the Bingley Relief Road, which looked as if it might go through Roberts Park. Local residents fought hard to defeat this plan, and were eventually successful. Spontaneous voluntary action and protest of this kind needs to be organized and focused.  It could well have ended there, but it must have seemed obvious that there would be other issues which would inflame public opinion which would need a forum and organization to be in place to meet the need.
This has proved to be the case:

  • Cable TV lines are now installed at the back of houses, not the front, saving damage to pavements
  • Parking restrictions on Victoria Road and residents parking
  • Paper recycling bags instead of more wheelie bins.
  • Reaction to the Saltaire Management Plan and the more recent Airedale Corridors document.
  • Proposals last year for traffic management on the A650, and a possible “Shunnell”.

The problem is how to sustain the organization in the relatively quiet troughs between the peaks of protest. And that’s precisely what Geoff Bank and his colleagues on the Committee are good at. He has been Secretary to the Village Society for 10 years now.

Fifty-two year old Geoff has lived with his wife, Chris, on Albert Road since 1987. He took early retirement from his management job with the Post Office in 2003. They were regular attenders at Society meetings until their daughter Emily was born.  She’s now 9 years old and attends Saltaire Primary School. Geoff became vice secretary to Bernard Hibbert, and when Bernard retired Geoff took over completely.

Geoff comments that there’s now lots of planning in place and many big ideas for the Village, but there’s not much happening on the ground.  Caroline Wilkinson, Heritage Site Officer, recently attended a Village Society meeting and explained what the Council is planning.
Geoff says that “we need a quick win to get people on the Council’s side”. For example, he’s writing to the Council about replacing the iron railings around Victoria Hall. There are also ambitious plans for Roberts Park, but it’s the voluntary effort at the Half Moon Pavilion which catches the eye.  The shelters have been boarded up to prevent further deterioration, but little is done to protect the Lodge which local children treat as a climbing frame. With an MEP living on William Henry Street, and an MP on Whitlam Street, Geoff would hope for a higher profile and more action.

The Village Society AGM is being held on 23rd May 2005 and Councillor Martin Love of the Green Party, with a representative from the Highways Agency will address the problem of rat running on Caroline Street and Titus Street. The AGM is also an important meeting for Geoff because he’s resigning as Secretary.  It’s been the sort of job which was tailor made for him.  He’s organized, methodical, pays attention to detail, and is totally reliable.  He’s also enthusiastic about everything he does – as long as it’s behind the scenes.  He doesn’t see himself as someone to “front” the Society – although he’s often contacted by the Council or the Press about Saltaire related issues.  One newspaper even phoned him to ask how he thought Saltaire residents would vote in the coming General Election!! Geoff gets satisfaction from seeing jobs through, even something like minute taking and distribution. But it comes at a price.  At times there are frustrations that things don’t move very quickly, and active support from the community often seems to be lacking.  Having said that, the meetings with Caroline Wilkinson and Alastair McKinna were very well supported.

The key is that Geoff’s involvement with the Village Society has to compete with his other 2 passions (apart from his love for his family) – his running and his records. He’s heavily into road running, mainly half marathons, but some full marathons too. And he’s good at it, with 1 hour 36 minutes as his best for the Half.  He trains 6 days every week, and craves for the endorphin buzz which all athletes work for.  He’s thrilled that Chris is training to do the Run for Life event in Lister Park next month. The records are something else.  He’s got 2,500 vinyl LP albums, and has been collecting for 45 years.  He describes himself as “a sad anorak” when it comes to albums – to listen to, to admire the artwork, and to know their value and rarity.  But the hobby is compulsive.

When I hear him enthuse about his hobbies and his family, and look at the time he’d like to invest in them, I wonder how he’s managed to fit anything else in. With 10 years as Secretary, no-one can doubt his commitment. His replacement will have to be someone special. So if you’ve got an enthusiasm for Saltaire, and skills with IT and communicating with people, go along to the AGM – or signal your interest with the Saltaire Village Society.

© Roger Clarke, April 2005 
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