Saturday, June 9, 2012

While the sun shines

Making my way during our recent heatwave (some pessimists say 'summer') towards town via City Road. This is an area that has undergone a mostly unseen re-development in recent years and the area that languished after the Central Motorway sliced it off from the city centre to the west has come back from the dead.

Just enough of the older architecture – styles that reflect the heyday of the commercial history of the nearby Quayside – remains to give this under rated enclave a character of its own. To think, but for film making collective Amber Films (especially the late Murray Martin), it would all (yes, all) have been pounded into the ground. The usual 'roll over and die' attitude that town planners like to encourage in their chosen victims failed because Amber artfully and comprehensively undermined the City Council's case for clearance. Using photography and taped interviews the 'unseen' Quayside told its own unique, diverse story in a subsequent highly popular exhibition at Amber's own Quayside gallery space. Within ten years this attractive diversity had stimulated a landmark re-generation scheme (whose mediocre leadership took pains to distance itself from the radical community roots of this renaissance). By a whisker Newcastle was spared, in part at least, the disease of 'totalitarian' corporate office blocks that have blighted one sea or river frontage after another around the globe.

To me it is ironic that Martin, a socialist of an independent kind, could easily have become a property millionaire had he chosen. Amber bought their own Quayside complex at a rock bottom price and, as I came to know afterwards, were offered other properties nearby at similarly low market values. Within a few years valuations were several ten fold higher.

Murray Martin, film maker and activist, 1943–2007
(photo: Amber Films)

See also: More than a fig leaf

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