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   Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday January 16, 2006

Wartime bomb danger

Wartime bomb damage c/o Associated Press
Wartime bomb damage c/o Associated Press

Inside Out investigates how developers are ignoring the risks posed by unexploded wartime bombs in the race to rebuild the North's industrial cities.

Experts say piledrivers being used extensively in cities like Hull and Sheffield could set off lost' bombs buried since air raids in the 1940s.

In the last decade, more than a dozen of people have died in similar incidents on mainland Europe.

Magnetometers or ground penetrating radar can find buried bombs but they are expensive and many developers choose not to use them.

Bomb disposal contractor Mike Sainsbury told Inside Out:

"We all accept that at some point someone is going to hit a bomb with a drilling rig or a piling rig, and there will be an incident. It is quite possible for a pile to strike a bomb and then cause it to detonate.

"Until there is an incident and someone is killed from striking a UXB there won't be any real legislation or any real movement to make this work routine."

Unexploded bomb?

Inside Out researchers found documents that suggest an unexploded wartime bomb may be buried beneath a major new redevelopment in Hull.

Developers of The Boom - a £100m leisure and housing complex described in promotional literature as "an explosive experience in urban living" - were unaware of the document, which was freely available in the local archives.

The company told Inside Out it had been planning a survey to check the site and would carry out underground checks if necessary - but the programme found many developers had not checked the ground before piling.

Many sites are being redeveloped for only the second time since the war and most post war building did not involve deep piling.

Because of the soft ground on the banks of the Humber Estuary, piles must be driven up to 16 metres to bedrock. Bombs have been found as deep as 8 metres.

Compulsory screening

Across the North Sea, screening sites in target areas is compulsory.

Rotterdam, which was heavily bombed by the Germans as well as the RAF and USAF, checks every site and taxpayers' expense.

City engineer Jauko Mutsaers says, "They were designed to kill people and they were designed to do damage… you can't determine if they are still active.

"One small shock might set them off. If you go into the ground with piles or you start moving the ground to make room for buildings… you might set off a bomb."

The developers of Hull's St Stephens Centre, ING, are based in the Netherlands, but they told Inside Out they had not felt it necessary to carry out ground radar or magnetometer tests.

They said a study of databases and historical records found there was a "low to moderate risk" of UXBs being present on the site.

They said workers were being warned of the possibility and were being told what to do if a suspicious object was found.

The company said half the piling work on the site - next door to Hull's main railway station, a major wartime target - had already been completed without incident.

The Blitz

During the Blitz, one in ten German bombs did not go off and in one night bomb disposal crews in Hull had to deal with 400 duds.

It's thought many which fell on existing bombsites were never found at the time.

Others were "abandoned" as too difficult to recover and left where they lay.

There is an official list help by the army but the Ministry of Defence refused to release it to the BBC when Inside Out used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain it.

Inside Out was told there was no guarantee it was accurate and its publication may cause public concern.

Hull City Council said that as a result of the BBC's findings, it would review its policies on the bomb risk.

Councillor Kath Lavery said:

"There is a small risk but what you have to understand is that developers these days have to through a process call due diligence processes both for themselves and for their funders… they are in fact well aware of these problems."

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Comedy writer

Debbie Barham
Radio days - Debbie Barham was crazy about comedy

As a teenager in Sheffield in the 1990s, Debbie Barham would spend hours in her bedroom listening to radio.

But she differed from other teenagers in her choice of listening.

Instead of pop music, she was tuning into comedy shows like The News Huddlines.

Debbie also had a big secret. As well as listening to these shows, she'd started writing for them.

She called herself D.A. Barham so that no-one would suspect she was a girl, and she sent in jokes to be read out on air.

After several rejections, her first commissioned joke was performed in September 1991, when she was just 14.

The first that her mother Ann Kingdom knew about this and other commissions was when her name appeared on the radio:

"she was quite private about what she did, and then one day you hear the credits for Weekending and there's DA Barham and… good heavens that's my daughter!".

Debbie (or D.A.) became a regular contributor to programmes like The News Huddlines, and the topical gag show Weekending.

After a while she was invited to attend script meetings. No-one could believe she was a girl.

And no-one knew she was so young; she lied about her age, adding several years.

Comedy royalty

When she was 16, instead of staying at school to do A levels, she moved to London and devoted herself to full-time comedy writing.

She got plenty of work, with commissions from comedy royalty like Clive Anderson, Graham Norton and Rory Bremner.

BBC Radio 4 presenter Ned Sherrin remembers getting scripts from Debbie:

"She used to send you sheets and sheets of things, whereas most people are rather niggardly with their quips, she would cover perhaps ten pages."

She took on a phenomenal amount of work; the Sheffield teenager was writing radio & TV scripts, magazine features, regular columns for The Sun and The Independent, computer games for Douglas Adams, and online journalism for a sports website.

If there was a writing job to be done, Debbie did it.


You can't work at that pace, and sadly Debbie only coped by giving up sleeping and eating.

She was diagnosed with anorexia in her early 20s, and for the rest of her short life struggled to cope with the disorder.

"There is so much hidden away that I will never know that she wrote it".
Peter Barham, father

She died on Easter Sunday 2003, aged only 26.

It's hard to comprehend the sheer volume and quality of Debbie's work.

Her father Peter Barham fears he'll spend the rest of his life catching up on all that she wrote.

Fellow comedy writer John Langdon hopes that Debbie's example will spur on other young talents:

"Maybe new writers could learn from Debbie's experience that a young, possibly timid teenager who had a bright idea and thought 'I could write jokes', she went ahead and did it and boy what a career she made of it'".

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Frank Meadow Sutcliffe's Whitby

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe c/o  Sutcliffe Gallery
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe - the past captured on film

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe is probably - alongside Dracula and fish and chips - Whitby's most famous export.

His pictures of the working people of Victorian Whitby are found all over the world.

Inside Out looks at some remarkable new Sutcliffe photographs.

A life in Whitby

Frank Sutcliffe was born in Headingley, Leeds in 1853.

He established his own professional photographic studio in a disused jet workshop in Waterloo Yard, Whitby in 1875.

Harbour scene c/o Sutcliffe Gallery
Whitby in the heyday of its fishing industry

Sutcliffe lived in Whitby until his death at the age of 88 in 1941.

The photographer developed a great affection for this busy fishing port on the North Yorkshire coast.

He produced numerous studies of Whitby fisherfolk working around the harbour.

Sutcliffe is also renowned for his superbly composed landscapes and images of rural communities in the neighbouring moorland villages in and around the North Yorkshire Moors.

Sutcliffe's work

Sutcliffe was a founder member of The Linked Ring Brotherhood and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 1941.

Couple in yard c/o Sutcliffe Gallery
A moment captured in time by the photographer

The majority of Sutcliffe's negatives were on whole plate glass, the earliest being on wet collodion which required the glass to be coated with the sensitive emulsion.

In 1965 Sutcliffe's plates were donated by The Sutcliffe Gallery to Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, owners of Whitby Museum.

Since then a gradual process has taken place of transferring the images from the original plate, in the early days onto 8"x10" sheet film, to create high quality duplicate negatives.

Now with advances in technology, each subject is being digitally recorded on to two CDs, one for the Sutcliffe Gallery archives and one for Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society.

Unseen Sutcliffe

Despite the volume of Sutcliffe's work on display in Whitby, some photographs remain undeveloped - and unseen.

Group of people c/o Sutcliffe Gallery
Slice of life - Sutcliffe's evocative pictures

This week Joe Cornish - a landscape photographer who's a big fan of Sutcliffe, casts an expert eye over the newly uncovered pictures.

Then he's off to find the 21st Century relatives who now have new portraits to add to the family album.

Credits - Photographs copyright of the Sutcliffe Gallery, Whitby.

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