Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another perspective on a sore point

I had once a conversation with one of the original Amber film making collective on the subject of T.Dan Smith. Amber had just finished shooting a film on Smith's career following his release from prison where he was sent after being convicted of corruption in a public office, a charge he admitted.

Smith, so my informant told me, had simply operated within the existing 'culture' to achieve the out comes he though overdue for the city in which he had been born and worked (and where he died). These 'rules' were a fact of the 'ecology' of planning; the back scratching and palm lining of jobbery in local government contracts. No doubt it is a common defence. The rub in Smith's case was that he never benefited himself by these means. He never gained a place on the boards of the companies he 'flattered' with his patronage as so many others had (and still do). Smith had a vision for Newcastle, and he wanted to build it come what may.

Discredited, much of what Smith did summarises what I dislike about 60s planning. In terms of this fine old city, it well nigh killed it. Yet, I must confess, Newcastle and Smith were not unique, and I am not referring to Smith's claim here, that "everyone was doing it". No, I am referring to concrete and tarmacking one's way into the 21st century pursued up and down the land. After my conversation (and a viewing of the film) I appreciated another way in which "everyone was doing it". Cities and towns across the United Kingdom, irrespective of local political allegiance and control, had joined in the post War passion for destroying what little the German Air Force had left standing.

Today comes further confirmation of this fact in an article on the B.B.C.'s web site.

Southampton is at the other end of the country from Newcastle but shared a similar history and now looks back on what went wrong with the often laudable aspiration to do good to the many by the few.

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