The Barbican Estate – London

Bouncing betwixt and between Bonnard and Bill Viola from Tate Modern to the Royal Academy I took a detour to The Barbican – in search of the Dorothy Annan tiled mural.

Having failed conspicuously to find it, following an extensive and discursive wander, I did the wise thing and asked.

My thanks to the helpful resident and his young son.

Redirected and on course for our deferred engagement, Dorothy and I met at last on an underpass.

I also recently discovered a Barbican Manchester mash up – Gerrards of Swinton fulfilled their largest ever single order for the site – my thanks to David Roughley for the information and illustration.

Here are the snaps that I took along the way.

Ash Hotel – Stockport

232 Manchester Road Heaton Chapel Stockport SK4 1NN

So once there was a pleasure gardens, and then in 1901 a pub.

Wilson’s Brewery built The Ash Hotel, a grand boozer in a Jacobean manor manner, complete with bowling green and billiard room.

It lasted through to the 70’s and 90’s but gradually it became harder and harder to manage and fill a pub of such size and stature.

Closed – standing unloved and unused until it was finally converted into the Ash Tea Rooms in 2011.

Only to be closed again in May 2018.

Once ringing with the chink of glass on glass, songs and laughter it awaits its latest fate – conversion to flats.

One can only hope that much of its architectural detail will be preserved – particularly the architectural type fascia sign.

And the mosaic flooring.

Only time will tell – if you’re passing tip your hat take a look and celebrate a grand old building which somehow will prevail.

Crazy Golf – Postcards From Blackpool

This in so many senses is where it all began – my first encounter with the visual arts was through my Aunty Alice’s postcard album. Predating visits to Manchester City Art Gallery in my mid-teens, I was lost in a world of post WW1 printed ephemera, rendered less ephemeral by careful collection and collation. Sitting entranced for hours and hours absorbing the photography, text and illustration of hundreds of unseen hands.

This is North Shore Blackpool – behind the Metropole in the early 60s.

The colour is muted by the then state of the art colour reproduction, the holiday dress is constrained by the codes of the day. Light cotton frocks and wide brimmed sun hats, shirts tucked in belted slacks, sandals and shorts – purely for the pre-teens.

The focus and locus of fun is located on the prom and what better way to squander a moment or eighteen, than with a pleasurable round of crazy golf. Municipal Modernist frivolity rendered corporeal in corporation concrete, repainted annually ahead of the coming vacationers.

Domesticated Brutalism to soften the soul.

And there can be no better away to inform the awaiting world of your capricious coastal antics than a picture postcard, so playfully displayed on the corner shop carousel – 10p a pop.

Stopping to chuckle at the Bamforth’s mild mannered filth, yet finally purer of heart, opting for the purely pictorial.

Man and boy and beyond I have visited Blackpool – a day, week or fortnight here and there, the worker’s working week temporarily suspended with a week away.

Times have now changed and the new nexus is cash, all too incautiously squandered – Pleasure Beach and pub replacing the beach as the giddy stags and hens collide in an intoxicating miasma of flaming Sambuca, Carling, Carlsberg and cheap cocktails – for those too cash strapped for Ibiza.

The numbers are up – 18 times nothing is nothing – each year as I revisit, the primarily primary colour paint wears a little thinner in the thin salt air and the whining westerly wind, of the all too adjacent Irish Sea.

Overgrown and underused awaiting the kids and grown ups that forever fail to show. On one visit the sunken course had become the home of the daytime hard drinkers, they suggested we refurbish and run the course as a going concern. I declined lacking the time, will and capital for such a crazy enterprise.

The starting has finally stopped.

Central Retail Park – Great Ancoats Street Manchester

Way back when, when the city was a maverick mixed up maze of citizens, industry, pubs, shops and places of worship the world looked a lot like this.

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However the process of clearance and redevelopment radically changed and reduced the population and appearance of Great Ancoats Street and its environs.

The back to backs aren’t coming back and their occupants shifted from pillar to post along with the businesses that served them. Following years of decline Manchester takes a long hard look at itself and decides to modernise.

In 1989 an out of town inner ring road shopping centre in the architectural style de jour is built – the anonymous industrial retail hangar appears.

2018 and the nexus of the city has shifted yet again – Ancoats is designated as the hippest place on earth and has no time for an outmoded shopping experience.

All these developers have a certain sensitivity towards this history of the area without neglecting modern tastes. 

So the Central Retail park awaits its fate.

There was to have been another retail complex.

Henderson Global Investors, on behalf of its flagships £1 billion Retail Warehouse Fund, has received detailed planning permission for a food store led regeneration at Central Retail Park, Manchester, investing £40 million in the scheme.

Though nothing lasts forever and the scheme came to nothing.

The latest proposal according to Place North West is for housing – with the attendant heated debate regarding affordable homes.

Of the 61 big residential developments granted planning permission by Manchester city council’s planning committee in 2016 and 2017, not one of the 14,667 planned flats or housesmet the government’s definition of affordable, being neither for social rent nor offered at 80% of the market rate.

Demolition of the former retail units would enable the development of the site by Manchester Life, the city’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi United Group. Previous site owner TH Real Estate, was unable to deliver the project, finally sold the Central Park site to the city council in November 2017.

The long awaited development of the site on Manchester’s inner ring road has edged closer, with site notices posted declaring that demolition is to start on 20 August.

As of last week the lone security guard at home in his brick cabin informs me that demolition has been delayed by the discovery of asbestos on the site.

Watch this forlorn windswept wet space.

Sheffield Streets

I had time to kill – in search of early Sunday morning visual thrills.

I took to the mean streets of Steeltown UK.

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.

Raymond Chandler 

It was 8am – low bright sun pierced the achingly empty space between the long high industrial buildings.

There was nobody to share the morning – yet the clearly audible kling and klang of work pervaded the air, along with the lingering aroma of engine oil and decay.

This is what I found:

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Three Lost Pubs – Sheffield

A city once awash with industry and ale – a myriad of pubs slaking the thirst of the thirsty steel workers.

A liquid equilibrium flowing and flowering for over a century.

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The Lower Don Valley once home to a wealth of boozers, tells a different tale today.

A fall in production produced a proportionate reduction in consumption.

The clatter of clogs on cobbles, metal on metal is but a distant memory, along with the sound of pints pulled and hastily glugged.

The architecture of ale still prevails – now purveying pleasures and delights of a different stripe, whatever takes your fancy, as long as it’s not too fancy.

And doesn’t involve taking a drink.

 

The Gower Arms – 47 Gower Street Burngreave Sheffield S4 7JWblanku01838

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I drink down there – top pubs methinks. They are old fashioned pubs with some real characters. Will be there Friday night in the Staff first, Royal Oak, Gower, Grapes and back to the Staff till I drop.

Blade Bloke 2007

From top pub to closed corner supermarket in two shakes of a monkey’s tale.

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The Norfolk Arms Hotel – 195/199 Carlisle Street Sheffield S4 7LJblanku08444

From a Gilmour’s tap, Tetley tavern to a temple of trendy funk.

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Club Xes is a nightclub in Sheffield  described as a vibrant and thrilling, and full of Sheffield’s young and trendy crowd.  The DJs are renowned for providing the newest funkiest records.

Premises Type – This place does not serve real ale.

Premises Description – Gay nightclub.

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The Corner Pin – 231-233 Carlisle Street East Sheffield S4 7QN

 

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First licensed to sell beer in 1840. One of 26 public houses serving the steel industry along a three- quarter mile stretch of Carlisle Street. It is said to have a ghost who likes to turn the lights on in the middle of the night and footfalls can be heard.

The Corner Pin was the last of the Steelmakers pubs in Sheffield and was one of my favourite places to visit for a real good pint! I would come over from Melbourne once or twice a year, still do, and meet up with Chris Payling and many others still left over from the days of Sheffield Steel, but now all gone. 

They even took away your window frames, along with your dignity once a pale green shadow of yourself, stripped back to brick.

Stop dreaming of a foaming pint right now – you’re an office.

Not a pub.

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All B&W photographs copyright Picture Sheffield 

Canyons of Industry – Sheffield

Obviously, stating the obvious in Comic Sans on a shocking pink ground may ease the pain of industrial decline and its attendant social and economic ills.

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Sheffield along with the majority of  British manufacturing towns and cities, has seen the wealth created by over a century of hard labour spirited elsewhere, and the means by which that wealth was created shipped overseas or overwritten by new technologies.

This has not been an accident or unfortunate consequence of global trends, it has been government policy.

It has not been government policy to regenerate these towns and cities.

So Sheffield has taken the initiative to become – The fastest growing British city outside London.

With areas of new and arresting development.

Though that may do little to redress the structural economic divides within the city.

 

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So I walked the avenues and alleyways of the Lower Don Valley, early on an October Sunday morning, mourning the passing of the clang and clamour that once fuelled the city and the nation.

An aroma of engine oil and the sound of metal on metal still permeates the area, and the low autumnal sun warms the long straight streets.

 

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