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The Interview

Linda Hodges

Local writer and storyteller, George Murphy interviews local characters and personalities. More HebWeb interviews


Read George Murphy's latest interview and the remarkable story of a local photographer who

- rediscovered Hebden Bridge

- found an old flame who became her life's partner

- and after decades of searching, and strange intimations, found a father and a new family.

Early Morning on the Canal. Photo: Linda Hodges

Linda Hodges Q&A

Can you describe your early years?

I was born on 15th September 1967 in Uppingham, a small village in what was then known as Rutland. My mum was widowed when I was four months old and although it was suggested by the doctor that I be adopted, she wasn't having any of it and moved to Bunny, a small village on the outskirts of Nottingham and, not long after, to Nottingham itself where she found employment at the telephone exchange.

Her boss there ('the duchess') introduced my mum to her son and later became her mother-in-law and my Nana. My stepdad was in the police force and despite him being a bit too heavy-handed with discipline, I was very proud of him as a young girl, especially when he was awarded a certificate from the Queen for brave conduct.

I don't recall life before Nottingham but my earliest memories consist of many happy ones living in Mapperley, a leafy suburb of Nottingham with my mum, stepdad, two younger brothers William and Edward, and our dog Topsy.

We had a typical seventies childhood playing out with our friends during the long hot summers and snowy winters with The Carpenters, Abba, The Osmonds, etc playing on the radio against a backdrop of brown, orange and paisley.

We made dens, played dressing up with my mum's old nighties, hats, handbags, and high heels (even the boys). We also played hopscotch, Chinese Skipping (loads), Hide and Seek, Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians; had dolls that spoke and cried, and went off for whole days with a picnic in the summer hols looking for adventure. I was an avid Enid Blyton fan and so had high expectations for adventure.

My mum and stepdad dad separated in 1986 and divorced a couple of years later.

Did you enjoy your time in school and college?

I was lucky enough to go to Westdale Lane Infants and Junior school as well as a year and a half at All Hallows C of E school in Gedling. I was shy but popular, giggly, imaginative, stubborn, and nervous of authority, as I always seemed to get into trouble without meaning to and in those days we were threatened with the slipper (plimsoll) or cane. Thankfully, I only ever received minor punishments.

I loved junior school for all things creative, such as music, art, drama, and literature and excelled in these. I played the recorder, sang in the choir, and took up the clarinet and piano. At the end of each week each class took it in turns to do a play or performance of some kind in the hall which had a proper theatre set up. This remains my all -time favourite memory of early school life.

Frank Wheldon was a huge sprawling comprehensive and unfortunately with that came a lot of bullying. Because of that, I didn't do drama but I did get A levels in Art, Textiles, Photography, and English and went on to West Notts College of Further Education to do a BTEC Diploma in Art & Design.

At the age of 24, after a couple of years unemployment, I went to Loughborough University as a mature student and obtained a BA Hons in English & History of Art & Design. I enjoyed writing essays but mostly lived with and hung out with artists and knew deep down that I should have applied for a Fine Art degree.

Did you always want to become a photographer?

No I didn't, but I did always want to become an artist. We didn't take so many photos back in the day. Photos were generally taken on special occasions and were concerned only with preserving memories.
I studied A level photography in the sixth form and again on my btec diploma and whilst I quite enjoyed it, I preferred textiles and painting where I felt I could express myself more freely. Saying that, I did love the magic of the darkroom.

It wasn't until around twelve years ago, when my son Jago was little and I bought a good quality digital point & shoot camera which had the facility to do in-built editing, that I really got the photography bug. I'd considered taking up painting again but the lack of space and light at home made it very difficult and I needed to be out of the house so I began taking many photos in and around Hebden Bridge and would spend hours editing and re-editing them.

It felt so good to be creative again and at the suggestion of my neighbour, Marco, decided to have my first exhibition at the Hebden Bridge Visitor Centre. I didn't sell a thing but it was a really good experience. My Mum then suggested I designed greetings cards, a great suggestion as I've been selling cards ever since! I've also since had several solo exhibitions (more successful than my first) and participated in many group exhibitions.

What is the most rewarding part of photography for you?

I think the most rewarding part is having the ability to share some of my visual experience with others. I remember being on a train in my early twenties and having a sudden desperate urge to be able to share what I saw out of the window with others and to feel less alone as a human being trapped in an individual body. I love being able to capture moments that will never be repeated and preserving them for posterity.

I facilitated an online Photo walk for twelve weeks during the lockdown which people enjoyed, with some letting me know that it really helped them through that difficult time and so that was really rewarding and something I'd like to do again.

Which photographers have inspired you most?

Well this might sound arrogant but none really. I think early on when I was doing more b&w photography on my courses, I was inspired by the likes of Henri Cartier Bresson and Bill Brand, but my photography has probably been more inspired by the wealth of art, particularly paintings and theatre stage sets that I've seen since childhood.

As a child I 'entered' paintings, imagining myself there living in other landscapes or times in history with the people who inhabited them.
I was spellbound by Turner, Constable and Vermeer and more recently I'm inspired by painters such as Robert Spencer and John Atkinson Grimshaw.

You have had plenty of other jobs. Can you tell us about them?
Yes my jobs over the years have included retail, waitressing, bar work, tutoring, education assistant, costumed interpreting/ tour guide in museums and visitor attractions, and holistic therapies. I've also worked in the voluntary sector.

Although I love doing therapeutic massage, reflexology and reiki healing and aim to continue with it as soon as I can find another space to work from, my favourite job was as costumed interpreter and tour guide. At last I was able to do the acting I'd avoided at school due to bullying. I first did this at The Galleries of Justice in Nottingham playing both prisoners and warders and with it my confidence grew immensely. I then went on to play Cinderella amongst other roles at Shibden Hall and the role of Lady of the Manor and Housekeeper at East Riddleston Hall.

During a break as Prisoner Molly
at The Galleries of Justice, circa 1998

I was able to research and create tours and workshops and then act, and more importantly interact, with the public, whether they be individuals, visitor groups or school/colleges, VIP's, etc. The most rewarding of these was when I had to create a tour for a group of blind visitors in at 'The Galleries of Justice' an old Shire Hall, with Victorian courtrooms and prison cells dating back to the 14th century.

When did you first suspect that you had Italian ancestry?

I didn't exactly suspect it but in the few months prior to me finding out in 1987, I feel I was definitely given some clues. It was a very strange time and leaves me convinced that I was meant to find out about my roots at that particular time.

The first encounter happened when on a college trip to the National Gallery in London. I was stood alone in one of the galleries looking at a huge landscape painting depicting the French/Italian Riviera when a little old lady came and stood next to me and for a while we both stood looking at the painting in silence. She then started up a conversation during which she let me know that she was from the French/Italian Riviera and asked if one of my parents was Italian. I told her that they were both English but she just kept staring at me. ''Are you sure?'' she asked Because you look like you have Italian blood. Feeling quite taken aback I again assured her that they were both English.

Not long after that a few others asked if I was Italian too. I recalled on our French exchange how some people said they hadn't spoken to me as they thought I was French. I found myself wanting to 'look Italian' and died my hair black, used a darker foundation and wore what I thought were Italian looking clothes (based on the dress style of Giovanni, an Italian guy in my tutor group at college).

Then on the 8th March I was in London again, passing through Victoria Station with my friend Amanda, when a very handsome dark haired and dark eyed man approached me asking if I was Italian. Again, he was really surprised when I told him I was English. He told me he was from Milan and heading back that evening. We chatted and then kissed each other on the cheek and he said if I went to Milan he'd kiss me again. ''Haha yeah right'' I said. However as we walked off in separate directions I felt a surge of grief rise up from my belly and I started sobbing much to the dismay of my friend. She asked me what the matter was but I told her I didn't know and I carried on crying for another fifteen minutes or so.

I think by the time I discovered I was half Italian, I somehow already knew. In my diary, only two days before my discovery, I wrote that we were asked in a graphics lesson to choose several adjectives to describe ourselves and it appears that for one of these I chose 'Italia'.

When were your suspicions confirmed?

My mum revealed my birth dad's identity on 15th March 1987 (as it happens thirty-seven years ago to the day that I'm writing this section of my interview) I'd popped in to see her and told her about the trip to London and the Italian at the station. At first she was quite secretive, for reasons she explained later, but after some hesitation she told me her story and the story of how I came to be. I was blown away and my world and sense of who I was changed then and there. The most difficult part for me was the realisation that my dad had no idea I existed and so the following day I decided I wanted to find him.
It was to take another thirty-five years.

How did you go about contacting and meeting your father?

After several failed attempts at trying to find an agency to help me, as I wasn't officially adopted, I decided to give up for a while as it was knocking my confidence. Someone from the Salvation Army even threw my details in the bin.

It was during the lockdown when I started worrying about the possibility of my dad dying before I found him. It was my business mentor, Fiona Pattison, who urged me to contact him via Facebook, which I then did on Father's Day 2020, although he didn't see and reply to my message for another year and a half. When he did see it he told me he'd experienced a whole range of emotions and was glad he'd been sitting down. He also wrote that ''Life is full of wonder'' which I thought was a brilliant outlook and boded well for us getting along together.

The first time I met Giampierro Zucchelli (Gian) was in Manchester on April 12th 2022. At my brother Claudio's suggestion, we had arranged to meet in the 200 degrees coffee house, which my dad became convinced was the same place he used to meet up with other Europeans when he came over from Italy to Manchester in the 1960s.

It took a lot for me to get there when the big day arrived. I'd barely slept the night before but still managed to have an interesting dream about myself as a young girl just before waking up. My partner Steve came along with me for the initial part of the journey and he was and remains, invaluable support and my absolute rock.

I'd been hoping to relax a bit on the train to Manchester but the people at the next table were having a somewhat heated chat about issues of their own. I was snorting Frankincense oil like there was no tomorrow in an attempt to calm myself down. Manchester, being super charged with mission and expectation took on a strange fragmented semi-familiar appearance – or was that the Frankincense?

After popping in to the library to change into my new slightly-tight boots and being so nervous I could barely look at myself in the mirror, we walked in the direction of the cafe but somehow took a different turning and were suddenly in front of it before we expected to be. The butterflies in my belly were having a field day so Steve suggested walking around the block a couple of times to prepare myself for going in. In the end one circuit was enough as excitement and curiosity took over and so I kissed goodbye to Steve who was going to hang out in the Manchester gallery nearby and walked into the low-lit, almost deserted cafe, with one movement, one breath, the world suspended.

As I reached the counter I looked around and saw my dad at a table against the back wall. I was glad to see him looking at his phone as it gave me a minute's grace to gain a little composure. I then walked over and said ''Ciao Babbo'' and gibbered on in English to fill the space between familiarity and the enormity of the moment.. He then stood up to give me a hug and with this the heavens opened and I just sobbed uncontrollably on his shoulder. He stroked my head and kissed me saying gently ''It's been too long''

In the end my dad was so relaxed and easy-going that it really helped calm me down. We then went to a cafe opposite the ManchesterGallery where he told me how I looked very much like his sister Anna, and we briefly explained our story to the owner of the cafe who was delighted for us and took our first ever photo together. Heading home back through Manchester afterwards, I was completely out of body.

Have you met other new members of your new family?

Yes I've now met Chris, my dad's wife, brothers Claudio and Fabio, and sister Vania. I actually met Vania a year to the day that I met my dad. They seem like lovely people and were very curious about me and Jago and happy to meet us. I feel very lucky as I know this isn't always the case. Claudio and his partner Daniel have moved to the Hebden area which they were wanting to do even before they knew about me which is pretty incredible really and we had our first family Christmas gathering at their house on Boxing Day of last year.

Some questions from readers:

Choose your favourite:


Recently it's The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn


Raglan Road Sinead O'connor


The Shape of Water Guillermo Del Torro

Piece of art:

Birch Forest Gustave Klimt


Buddha bowls are my current favourite thing

TV Series:

This is us

When and where did you meet your partner?

I first met my partner Steve when we were in the sixth form together at Frank Wheldon Comprehensive. We were both doing our Art A level and so connected through that. We flirted and got together on occasion but only really started dating just before we finished in the sixth form. Unfortunately we both ended up going our separate ways due to Steve having to move away and us both going off to art colleges in different towns.

After not seeing each other for another thirty one years, we met again through a school reunion on Facebook. Steve wasn't even on it but his brother Neal was. I first contacted him on New Year's Eve 2017 and after messaging every day for weeks, and once all through the night, we finally arranged to meet up at the beginning of March 2018. We got together on the 14th/15th March (the same weekend I'm writing this interview and the same weekend all those years ago that I discovered who my birth dad was) And we've been happily together ever since!

Do you remember the first time you visited Hebden Bridge?

Yes my first visit to Hebden was in 1991. Myself and my boyfriend at the time came up to 'Walkley's Clogs' as we were both 'New Model Army' fans and he wanted to buy some clog boots like theirs. I remember seeing both adults and small children with NMA band T shirts and clogs while we were in there and wondered where on earth we'd come to!

Because we walked straight along the towpath from the station to the Clog Mill and back, I didn't realise there was a town nearby and so was really surprised to find out a few years later that there was! When my housemate Nikki said she was thinking of moving up to Hebden, due to getting commissions for her textile work and really liking it up here, I really couldn't understand why, as in my mind Hebden was in the middle of nowhere and I'd previously moved with her from Loughborough to Nottingham to find somewhere more lively.

I think you came back and changed your opinions about it?

I visited Hebden again around Christmas 1998 when I came to stay with Nikki. One afternoon when Nikki was ill in bed the local brass band, clad in Victorian costume, came and stood outside her window and played Christmas carols, which I thought was lovely. Back in Nottingham, Christmas felt tardy and over-focused on consumerism. I felt suffocated and exhausted by city life and desperately needed a new start after a bad bout of depression.

I took myself off for a wander around Old Town and loved the light, the landscape, and sense of space. I felt I could heal here and so made the decision to move up. Just under twelve months later I gave notice on my flat and a week before my tenancy ran out Nikki had found a room in a shared house for me in Springside, near Eastwood. I arrived at midnight, a couple of weeks before the millennium, without even viewing the house or meeting my housemates.

How was Lockdown for you?

Living on Sackville Street, meant lockdown wasn't too difficult for us at all. We were very lucky to have lovely neighbours and the extraordinarily beautiful weather meant we all sat outside our terraced and back-to-back houses sunbathing, relaxing, and chatting on the cobbles. We formed a WhatsApp group and helped each other out where possible.

I took photographs of some of the neighbours, including the lovely Paulette who had told me she was dying of cancer. It felt important to record a little of what was an uncertain and scary time and yet also, for us, a special time for which we look back with nostaglia.

I facilitated an online photo walk, setting projects which people could either do on their daily walks or at home if they were unable to get out. I also had more time to develop and experiment further with my own photography.

What's it like being a mum?

Being a mum has been by far the most challenging and rewarding role I've ever had the privilege to take on. My son Jago's twenty now and I really am so proud of who he is. He's clever with a great deal of drive and ambition but is also wise, funny, stylish, and has a big heart. He's definitely taught me a few things along the way.

Is there a question you would like me to have asked? How would you have answered?

Yes, if you'd asked me What's the most profound experience you've ever had? I would have replied "Sufi Whirling"

I definitely reached another level of existence, or altered state of consciousness, very quickly and had an absolute sense of homecoming. I also had the sense of being at the top of a mountain and yet was also the mountain itself. In fact, I was connected with and became everything and everyone whilst still retaining a sense of individual consciousness. I've never felt this degree of ecstasy or certainty and had tears rolling down my face. In those moments, I knew without doubt that underneath layers of life experience, joy is our natural state of being.

A selection of cards from photographer Linda Hodges


See Hebden Bridge Gallery on Linda Hodges' website

More HebWeb interviews from George Murphy

If you would like to send a message about this interview or suggest ideas for further interviews, please email George Murphy