This time of year, with limited light and an inclement climate, it’s far easier to travel by picture postcard. Researching and searching eBay to bring you the finest four colour repro pictures of our retail realm.
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.
I was brought up with Sixties’ shopping precincts and centres, they are so very dear to my heart, I spent my teenage years here in Ashton, Stalybridge, and latterly in Stockport’s Merseyway.
I’ve visited Hanley,Preston,Salford, and Coventry in search of a certain something – that exciting sweeping swoop of concrete, brick, glass and steel. Underpasses with overarching designs and luxurious layouts of leisurely interlocking levels. Each one different in a different way yet essentially similar – embodying a sense of civic pride, a sense of the future realised.
1571 – The Royal Exchange, a trading market in the City of London, is officially opened by Elizabeth I. Above the open-air piazza where dealers buy and sell commodities, there is a two-storey shopping mall, with 100 different kiosks – making it Britain’s first shopping centre.
1964 – It was a monument to provincial pride in reinforced concrete and glass. When the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Birmingham Bull Ring in May 1964, it was the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe, with a total floor area of 23 acres. Inspired by American suburban malls, the Bull Ring promised coatless shopping in an air-conditioned, temperature-controlled hall maintained at late-spring level.
2017 – Many are now no more, or redeveloped beyond recognition. The integrity of the architecture, street furniture, public art, space and usage a thing of folk memory.
So come with me now on a whirlwind picture postcard tour of this Nation’s saving grace – it’s modernist shopping spaces.