An unusually modern story was told to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society by Stephen Jagger, until 2009 managing director of local audio pioneers Calrec. We are used to celebrating the old textile industries which prospered in Hebden Bridge, but this account of the later history of Calrec shows how the company successfully met the uncertain and challenging times of the late twentieth century.
Stephen Jagger gave a real insight into the way the company learnt from its mistakes, such as takeovers and technological challenges, to establish a leading brand in producing the highly sophisticated audio mixing desks required by modern outside broadcasting.
Calrec's speciality was equipping the outside broadcasting trucks that are essential to successful sports reporting. Although the company established contracts with big broadcasters across the world, the fast moving pace of the industry meant that innovation was crucial to survival, and in the nineties, the holy grail was a reliable digital mixing system which could handle the subtleties of sports and music broadcasting.
An important factor in their success was to establish an entirely new, flexible management system, giving the greatest possible autonomy to their skilful engineers. Luck, skill and investment paid off and the first Calrec digitally equipped OB truck was used in the USA in 2001, where its first test was a live outside broadcast with the US president.
The need for a continuous cycle of investment in research and development contributed to the decision to sell the company at a time when its reputation and products were at their peak. The business still thrives, happily housed in the Nutclough Mill which nineteenth century innovators built and an equally proud part of the history of Hebden Bridge.
With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report
The group runs a popular programme of workshops and drop-in sessions at the Birchcliffe Centre
Upper Calderdale's suitability for the preservation of local cultural tradition is nowhere shown as strongly as in its wealth of folk tales about places, many of which are still being passed on by word of mouth.
For some years now a small group of friends has been exploring the evidence for prehistoric activity in the South Pennines.