Huddersfield Contemporary Art Trail

I was invited by eminent Huddersfield based Psychogeographer Phil Wood to take a tour with him around the Huddersfield Contemporary Art Trail.

An alternate art trip devised by local art trippers Red Fodder.

We set forth from Huddersfield Station on Monday 13th January 2020 at the prearranged time of 14.00 hours. The weather was resolutely overcast and increasingly cold, with an ever present threat of rain.

Never to be knowingly deterred we made good progress around the town – we were hungry for art, the more contemporary the better.

Almost every avenue, alley and byway explored these are the snaps I snapped during our crazy Kirklees caper.

Along the way I added my own small contribution to the town’s contemporary art stock.

A veil was finally drawn over the afternoon’s cultural caprice with fine glasses of foaming ale in The Grove, where I finally came face to face with the Red Fodder folk for the very first time.

A fitting end to a thirsty day’s work.

Platform 13/14 Piccadilly – Concreter Planter

So here we are again at Piccadilly Station – stood standing at the western end of Platforms 13 and 14, waiting on a Southport train.

Time to spare and spend a few more magic moments with an old and trusted friend.

The back-filled concrete planter.

Seen here in a neglected and forlorn state, awaiting minor repairs to its upper sealed surface.

Once incarcerated and seemingly set for demolition, our diminutive concrete pal has lived to fight another day.

Standing alone in all elements, disabused by illicit smokers, grabbing a serruptitious chuff, whilst avoiding the ubiquitous Network Rail CCTV.

Sat upon by the indolent leg weary traveller, having missed yet another cancelled train.

Your days may yet be numbered, as the platforms are part of a Station upgrade – the platforms are not thought to be commodious by the majority of train users.

I for one shall campaign for your preservation and reinstatement – right at the heart of matters.

My personal, totemic modernist work of public art.

Somethings are worth fighting for!

Eastford Square Collyhurst – Nobody Home

Stasis is the order of the day – the last stand for this forlorn stand of shops.

Once the realm of cobbles, railings, high rise arrivals and urban cowboys – an area overwhelmed by the weight of its past and the insubstantial promise of a sustainable future.

Where once productive and fulfilling lives were lived, buddleia now blooms, whilst thin grass entwines around forlorn fencing and betwixt ever widening cracks in the uneven paving.

Development in South Collyhurst will take the form of residential-led, family-focused neighbourhoods. We’ll be providing a variety of housing types and tenures to encourage diversity, along with a mix of social and community infrastructure that supports a family lifestyle in close proximity to the city centre.

Northern Gateway

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

William Jennings Bryan 1896

Indeed, You have turned the city into a heap of rubble, a fortified town into ruins; the fortress of strangers is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

Isiah 25:2

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

Isiah 58:12

The putative William Mitchell cast concrete block stares stolidly at its surroundings, overseeing a slow and painful decline.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

There’s no business like no business – it’s no better out the back.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a significant residential-led development connecting the north to the centre of Manchester. Working with our partners we’re re-imagining the essential neighbourhoods of our city.

The Parkway Pub – Park Hill Sheffield

I’ve been here before, virtually – in my online guide to Park Hill Pubs.

I’ve been here before, actually – on my visits to Park Hill Estate

But hark, what news of the Parkway pub?

Your bold mosaic whilst once exposed, was sadly disabused, then unthinkingly covered.

Has subsequently been uncovered, steam cleaned and proudly on view, as a central part of the most recent of the estate’s phases of redevelopment.

The block is to become student housing, the distinctive tan, turquoise blue and bold red colours of the mosaic, integrated into the banding of the newly refurbished building.

My face was a picture of delight, viewing the multicoloured tesserae – as we were privileged to be guided around the site by Kier Construction, Matthew Borland from Whittam Cox Architects, who are working with Alumno on Béton House and Urban Splash – my thanks to all and particularly PR Surriya Falconer.

So here it is living and breathing the South Yorkshire air once more.

Alas the Parkway is a pub no more – simply an empty shell.

But hush – can you not catch the chink of pint pots and gales of merry laughter, carried gently on the passing breeze?

Civic Centre – Wigan Again

I’ve been here before, no not in some strange déjà vu sense.

I’ve been here before – look!

Three years on, now in the shadow of the newly built Life Centre, you stand alone unloved – empty.

But the future of the Modernist landmark, which was first put in service by the borough in the early 70s, remains unclear. There is speculation that the Millgate building, first unveiled by Wigan Mayor John Farrimond, could become a hotel.

Last October the Wigan Observer revealed how the council had enjoyed mixed fortunes when it came to marketing elements of its existing property portfolio.

But the council has been successful in offloading some venues, with Ince Town Hall now home to Little Giggles nursery.

So who knows what fate awaits you – the town I am told is on the up.

Let’s hope that the Civic Centre is not coming down

Churchill Way Flyovers and Walkways – Liverpool

It’s too late she’s gone.

Opened in 1972 as an almost belated response to George Buchanan’s 1963 Traffic in Towns which had informed the Liverpool City Centre Plan of 1965.

The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.

These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.

The majority of the planned Walkways in the Sky remained unrealised.

The Churchill Way was realised and remained in use until September 2nd 2019 – closed and facing a £10 million demolition programme, following a maintenance report which found them to be unsafe – and presumably beyond economic repair.

And so I took one last look around taking snaps, an epitaph to the end of an era, and the end of an idea that was once once rendered concrete.

Take a closer walk with me.

Blank Street – Ancoats

As with all things material and corporeal there was time when you simply didn’t exist.

1860 adjacent to Woodward Street and the Rochdale Canal, a simple agglomeration of loose limbed industrial buildings and such – yet to be christened Blank.

adjective

  1.  Unrelieved by decorative or other features; bare, empty, or plain a blank wall.
  2. Showing a lack of comprehension or reaction – we were met by blank looks – synonyms: expressionless, empty, vacant, deadpan, wooden, stony, impassive, inanimate, vacuous, glazed, fixed, lifeless, uninterested, emotionless, unresponsive, inscrutable.

noun

  1. A space left to be filled in a document – leave blanks to type in the appropriate names – synonyms: space, gap, blank space, empty space.
  2. A cartridge containing gunpowder but no bullet, used for training or as a signal.

verb

  1. Make (something) blank or empty – electronic countermeasures blanked out the radar signals.
  2.  Informal North American defeat (a sports team) without allowing them to score – Baltimore blanked Toronto in a 7–0 victory.

Though contradictorily I have found reference to a bankrupt foundry in the London Gazette 1857.

You appear again during the Manchester Blitz.

By 1960 you are on the map and the area is on the up and up.

Though I have to ask the question of the namers of streets – why so Blank, an off day at the office – we have whole blocks named for poets, painters, and far flung places, so why so Blank?

Hadn’t they heard of nominative determinism – born to be Blank.

Whilst in search of a Brown Cow I found a photograph on the Local Image Collection of 60’s maisonettes in the area alongside Woodward Street.

This Municipal Modernist development seems to have been short-lived and subject to yet more demolition in the area, to be replaced by late 70’s terraced housing.

Blank Street inexplicably became Fulmer Drive.

Which in turn had been tinned up and demolished around 2008.

How did that happen – seemingly viable homes previously changing hands for £100,000 deemed surplus to requirements – land banking, ahead of an as yet unseen masterplan?

Your life was short and sharp – shaped by economic shifts, world war and the local authorities ephemeral housing policies. There is little evidence of your existence, photographic or otherwise, so I want to set the record straight – draw a blank.

Here you are as of July 2019 – tarmac intact, drains fully functioning, pavements paved, awaiting orders. A circuitous run of grassy ridges resembling the remains of some Roman or Iron Age fortification.

Where do we go from here?