08 April Bloody cold and extremely blustery Wednesday
Perambulating with the portable studio, walking, talking, and drawing
Around the town’s streets and at the hiddenplaces sites
Three hours was long enough to be out and about on a day like today I wanted to find my bearings within hiddenplaces - to begin to formulate what I was after with “Alternative Views” I wanted to hear what people in Burnley had to say about Burnley I wanted to engage with the public and for members of the public to engage with me. I’m not a believer in a “cold calling” approach – going up to someone with a set of predetermined questions. I’m far more interested in talking with people who want to talk to me – If a person approaches me they are undertaking a proactive action. They have taken the decision – un-prompted – to take time out of their schedule and to engage Usually this means they have the time and the desire to exchange more than just a few words And I have discovered that inquisitive people with a bit of time to spare are willing to talk about all manner of things The conversations I had began – as they often do – with “I’m curious – what is that, and what are you doing?” So the first bit of my conversations always seem to have to begin with an explanation – that I am doing this as part of an art project… hiddenplaces…alternative views… art… regeneration…blah blah blah And end with… “And this (gesticulating madly over the op of the studiolab), and I (both hands pointing over my shoulders to the ALTERNATIVE VIEWS embroidered on the back of my white lab coat, are in fact ‘The Art’. At this point whoever I’m talking to usually offer’s up a snippet of information about their surroundings – Today that ranged from over grown bushes, bins, and rats, to “Well what would you do with a building like that?” Too many things said to recount my whole 3 hour day – but I would like to share my images of Burnley – as viewed by me and as informed by others… I began tentatively at Site 14 – the River Calder as seen from the pay and display car park on Parker Lane (For the numbered hiddenplaces site map go to http://www.hiddenplace-in-burnley.blogspot.com/) 1
I parked up my cart in a no parking bay and began to draw what I could see… a site dominated by an expanse of concrete and tarmac – where not so long ago a N.H.S. building stood. It wasn’t long before someone approached me – a smartly dressed young man enquiring what I was up to. I explained… And he replied by telling me that he works for Petty’s Estate Agents - the largest independent estate agents for residential and commercial property in east Lancashire. http://www.petty.co.uk/ He looked at the site… “That’ll soon be a car park. What else can the council do with it? At least a car park will make money in the interim…” He was referring to the impact of the “credit crunch” on property development and sales – no developers buying up land and developing means that demolished sites like this one are likely to remain abandoned empty sites for quite some time to come – not good news for a town council dedicated to the mission of regeneration. 2
He was also kind enough to tell me what the building overlooking the river is - “it’s KoKo’s – a themed night club. On each floor a different club theme” That mystery solved, and the conversation over, I headed up hill towards my next hiddenplace destination – pausing en route to take a picture of the likely destined soon to be car park and KoKo’s http://www.kokosburnley.com/ Or if you want a taste of what a night out at KoKo’s might be like check out http://www.myspace.com/kokosburnley
I pulled in at the next hiddenplace – Site 12 – the bridge over the river Calder behind Holden Street car park. Actually – it’s pretty difficult to access the views from this bridge as it’s all but completely occupied by wheelie bins and large trade bins
Not wishing to add to the sea of green tops – and wanting to eat my lunch away from pungent wafts – I slammed on the breaks and lowered the cart legs on the cobbled approach to the bridge. Just as I was tucking into my egg sarnie – a door opened and a lady emerged. Turns out she was taking five from Linzi’s Hair Dizine to have a quick fag. So whilst she puffed and I chomped we chatted. She asked me why I was here – at this place. I told her that this was one of Burnley’s hiddenplaces… She glanced skyward and said – (actually her glance accompanied by a wry grin spoke volumes) “You should have been here 2 weeks ago – this place was crawling with rats. I would come out here for a smoke and watch them playing in the bushes. We complained to the council and they came out and cut back all the shrubs – I’ve not seen a rat around here since they did that” 4
She lives in Padiham – not that far away from Burnley - and rents a chair in the shop for 2 days a week. Apart from coming in to work – she rarely comes into Burnley… “Why should you come to Burnley?” she asked rhetorically The weather being what it was meant that there weren’t that many people on the streets of Burnley – so at most of my stops I had the luxury of time alone to do some sketching, and in between stops I meandered with my cart looking, listening, and sniffing – all essential senses if one’s familiarizing oneself with a place. I wandered up a back street – Burnley’s pretty full of back streets that weave amongst the buildings – past a non descript kind of building with a pub sign swinging in the wind – Burnley Concert Artistes Club. I pondered… could this be a social club for concert artistes of the brass band variety? Out of the open sash window a man called over “Have you got ice cream?” “No – I’ve got art – Are you a concert artiste?” “No – why should I be? If you’re not selling ice cream what are you doing?” Clearly he was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t selling ice cream and I was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t a brass band artiste. He was a local in his local having a lunchtime bevy I started to shout over… “Don’t stand over there shouting – come on in and ‘av’ a chat...” I crossed the road and made my way to the open window “I can’t get in with my cart – it won’t fit through the door – can we chat through the window?” And we did… “So what about regeneration? Is it happening?” he asked “Well is it?’ I questioned “It needs to – take a look at that building [pointing to the opposite side of the street] – would you knock it down or regenerate it? “I think I’d be tempted to knock it down” “Well so would I – and they would”. He drags his drinking mates into the conversation – but they were less interested in chatting We continued to chat for a while longer through the sash window held open with what looked like a drumstick – but upon closer inspection – kindly held out towards me in the hand of the man whist his other hand held open the window – it was clearly – in his words – “just a window hold opener stick devise” As I pulled away to take a picture of the offending building, he called over another lass that was walking down the street – clearly he likes through the window encounters…
I was feeling a little disheartened - I had hoped that I would hear positive things about Burnley from the people living and working here. Places aren’t all that you see – but so far the comments I had heard reflected the all too visible views of Burnley on a damp and windy day… Continuing up Calder Street towards a scrap yard (back of Site 10), I lolloped over the bridge railings staring down at the ducks on the River Brun On the bank-side I noticed hundreds of lush green cotyledon – the first two sprouting leaves of Himalayan Balsam. This plant receives such a lot of bad press for supposedly being an “alien invasive plant” – but come the summer these banks will be awash with pale purple/pink blooms and the air will be filled with a heavy sweet honeyed scent and the buzzing of honey bees and bumble bees. Surely that – especially next to a scrap yard - can’t be a bad thing! http://www.morrison-prowse.com/alicia/
I had thought that I would manage to see most of the town centre sites today â€“ but I was wrong Pushing a laden cart, talking, thinking, looking, listening, and sniffing the air takes a lot longer than I had anticipated. Not that that was a problem â€“ best to be thorough and slow than rash and rushed.
8th April Evening meal out It was looking like my first full day was going to end as it began – eating alone in an empty restaurant. I’d decided to dine at the Red Triangle, 160 St James St – a veggie café offering up home cooked delights I arrived at 6.00 pm The place was empty But the proprietors were friendly and welcoming Very definitely a comfortable place to dine alone I settled myself down with a glass of cordial and began drawing – carnations on the table
My food arrived – spinach wrapped goat’s cheeses parcels and pine nut risotto with a side salad Delicious Not quite full to the brim I ordered yoghurt, banana, and honey for pud – they didn’t have anything naughty or stodgy. As I polished off the pud a voice from behind called in “Are you open?” 8
They were in fact about to shut, they close at 7.00 pm midweek and they were waiting for me to finish my pot of tea But, as the lady at the door continued… “I’m desperate for something good to eat” The owner replied – “We can offer you what’s on the board” The lady began to make her way in with a bicycle laden with panniers and a basket, talking as she entered… “I have a very particular diet – I hope you can accommodate it” She looked up at the menu blackboard “Oh I’m truly in luck – the spinach parcels sound wonderful” Some time was spent discussing the ingredients of the dishes and what she could and couldn’t eat. The proprietors were generously obliging stating that as they cook everything fresh to order they could easily omit any offending ingredients… Her diet accommodated and her meal decided upon – she pulled up the chair opposite me Her name is Julia, a well spoken lady with grey hair and clad in cycle wear Julia set off on her bike yesterday from the Eldonian Village in Liverpool on a cycling excursion along the Leeds Liverpool canal She’s over half way through her tour – to Leeds - cycling over 30 miles a day A proper cyclist with a proper bike and a positively gung ho attitude – this was a small and gentle bike ride for Julia I couldn’t put an age on her – but most definitely older than me and I’m 44 And from what she was saying - my guess is she’s experienced and seen many a thing in many a country Almost immediately we began talking about regeneration My fault – I couldn’t help myself seeing as I am investigating ‘the mile straight’ of the Leeds Liverpool here in Burnley And 4 miles of the Leeds Liverpool in Liverpool, from the Stanley Dock to Seaforth/Litherland, which also runs through an H.M.R area. http://www.biennial.com/content/LiverpoolBiennial2008/Urbanism20091/Overview.aspx Julia has strong connections with Colne (which comes under the Elevate East Lancs. H.M.R. umbrella) – so she began talking about the regeneration there and how the process of built environment regeneration bothers her because it doesn’t get at the root of the problem; the low incomes and the high unemployment common within regeneration areas. “Without addressing issues of lifestyle and income, all that is being done is making the houses good for now – but what will they be like 30 years down the road when the homes are once again in need of repair and the occupiers can’t afford the repairs and the landlords once again can’t be bothered?” She, like me, is not from a background of deprivation, and if I dare judge by an accent, I would judge her as ‘middle class’ And as outsiders unaffected on a personal level by social and economic depravation, it’s easy to be critical of regeneration schemes. Julia was in the mood for talking – but I wanting to get back to my hotel and write up my notes for Day 1 9
I excused myself from the table Paid my bill and said my goodbyes I will most definitely return to the Red Triangle I rate it highly â€“ giving it an 8/10 And Iâ€™m not the only one to be offering up a good review http://www.burnleyexpress.net/20-challenge/Wine-food-but-no-singing.2098892.jp Tonight I discovered a reason to travel to Burnley for leisure.