I have admired the work of Bernhard and Hilla Becher ever since seeing their photographs in the one and only Tate at the time, in old London town.
An early example, possibly twelve small black and white prints of pit head winding gear, assembled in a three by four grid.
I became intrigued by the notion of serial art and typology, later in the seventies working as a Systems printmaker.
Very much in the tradition of Max Bill and Richard Paul Lohse.
In more recent years I have worked as a documentary photographer, at time paying homage to Bernhard and Hilla.
By placing several cooling towers side by side something happened, something like tonal music; you don’t see what makes the objects different until you bring them together, so subtle are their differences.
So on hearing of their exhibition at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, I excitedly booked my train ticket from Manchester.
Saturday 29th February 2020 – an auspicious Leap Year – knowingly taking a leap into the known unknown.
Braving the imminent threat of Storm Jorge.
I was given the warmest of welcomes by the gallery staff, spending a good while chatting to James, a fellow enthusiast.
My first surprise was the Bechers’ drawings, painting and notebooks.
Then onwards into two large, light spaces, with the work – actual Becher archive prints, displayed with the reverence that they deserve.
Given space to breath, in a calm contemplative area.
With a quiet attentive audience.
So here that are in situ – worth the wait, worth the train ticket, worth the two way seven hour rail trip. Seeing the prints close up reading the exposure, the thrill of the dodge and burn, a lifetime’s ambition realised.
The Theatre De-Luxe was built in 1911 at the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway with its entrance in Anlaby Road and its auditorium along the side of the pavement in Ferensway. Kinematograph Year Book of 1914 lists 600 seats and the owners as National Electric Picture Theatres Ltd.
In 1925, the theatre was rebuilt to a radically altered ground-plan and renamed the Cecil Theatre. The opening night was Monday 28th September 1925. The entrance was in a curved façade at the Anlaby Road/Ferensway corner. The alignment of the new, larger, auditorium was at right angles to Ferensway, and parallel to Anlaby Road. Effectively, the length of the Theatre De-Luxe auditorium became the width of the Cecil Theatre’s. Seating was 1,700 with 700 of those in the balcony, according to the Hull Daily Mail. The Cecil Theatre was originally designed for silent movies with a full orchestra pit. KYB 1931 lists it having Western Electric sound installed; and a 1931 aerial view shows that a brick horn-chamber had been built onto the wall at the rear of the stage. It had a 35 feet wide proscenium. The cinema also had a café attached.
The Cecil Theatre’s demise came during bombing on the night of 7/8 May 1941 when German incendiary bombs reduced the building to a shell; and it remained like that until demolition in 1953.
Work on the new Cecil Theatre was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28th November 1955 with 1,374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony.
At the time of opening it had the largest CinemaScope screen in the country measuring 57 feet wide, and the first film shown was Marilyn Monroe The Seven Year Itch. The proscenium was 60 feet wide, and the cinema was equipped with a Marshall Sykes 3Manual/15Ranks organ, which was opened by organist Vivian Newall.
There was also a 100-seat restaurant & bar which in 1971 was converted into a second screen seating 137 (Cecil 2). The following year the main auditorium was spilt into 2 smaller cinemas in the balcony (Cecil 1 & 3 each seating 307) and an entertainment hall in the former stalls which became a Mecca Bingo Club, with Mecca also operating the cinemas.
In the 1980’s it was taken over by the Cannon Cinemas chain. The cinema operation was closed on 23rd March 1992 and the cinemas were ‘For Sale and/or Lease. It was taken over by Take Two Cinemas and renamed Take Two Cinema. It was closed on 27th February 1997 and the two screens in the former circle were stripped out and converted into a snooker club.
Whilst bingo continues in the former stalls area of this post war cinema, the former mini cinemas in the circle still contain the snooker tables, but the space is unused. The screen in the former restaurant/cafe area remains basically intact, but is unused.
I worked at the Cecil in the three years before it closed in the 90’s. MGM owned the place before the Virgin group bought it and closed it. It was a good place to work and an interesting building. Behind the scenes had remained unchanged since Anna Neagle first opened it. The organ had been removed however but the organ room was still in tact in the bingo section of the building. The fire exits led to long dark corridors that were always being infiltrated by kids sneeking in for a free shows. I understand that this was always the case. The resturant kitchen was fully intact and resembled something out of a Kubrick film – very spooky place!
And so the projectors whirr no more, house is called at the Cecil – possibly the most oddly named cinema in the land.
Happily it remains an imposing presence in the centre of the city – a mammoth modern temple of entertainment – reflecting the ever changing tastes of the day and the morning after.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Previously posted as historical journey – this, as they say, is the real deal, one foot after another, one sunny afternoon in September.
From east to west and back again – in or on, under and around our very own Highway in the Sky.
Part of the ever changing patchwork of demolition and development which defines the modern city. The carriageway prevails, whilst the pervasive rise and fall continues apace, its forlorn pedestrian underpasses may soon be superseded by wider walkways.
Manchester City Council is spending around £10million to make major changes to the junction where Princess Road meets the Mancunian Way and Medlock Street.
Much to the chagrin of local residents, who value the solace of their sole soulful green space and the frequent users, passing under the constant waves of sooty traffic.
What you see is what you get today, tomorrow is another kettle of concrete, trees, traffic and steel.
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 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.