Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vote for Art

Another article that highlights the way art (and artists) are used to prop up a declining civic and commercial sector. Making this point today would seem now to be unnecessary in so many places, in the U.K. and abroad; old hat. So what?

You'd be surprised. When this city's revitalisation fantasies were fuelled by copious amounts of (borrowed) money in the years before 2008, mentioning the role of the arts in creating success for a depressed post-Industrial city centre fell on some very unhappy ears. I was myself slapped down in public by a highly paid well filled suit piloting a 'Shop til We Drop' strategy for this city for even mentioning it. Artist's he said with a wrinkled nose, were perverts. The big name stores would be lured into town and, given easy plastic credit then available no questions asked, so would the shoppers. High Street UK. Weirdo and pervert free.

It flopped.

What do we have now in my fair city? An ever increasing café society and more art galleries in abandoned commercial premises. Who would have predicted that?

Latest redundant English sea side town to see the art route to a future – any sort of future – is Folkstone, like fellow struggler, Margate and sharing many of the same problems. The London Observer's Tim Adams explains here. (Off site link.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer's end?

Hopefully, not. I am posting a photographic gallery of a walk along familiar paths from my home to the shops on Shields Road that, like a cross section through a tree, is for me a record of time passing.

The first photograph is taken from roughly when I sat on a then yellow painted local authority owned and run bus the first time I laid my eyes on what I call Battlefield. I can remember the dismal grass and broom handle thick sapling trees, recently planted, and a certain forlorn look, as if no one gave this patch much of a chance. It did not seem to me to be a place at all and I doubted the trees would survive vandals as I had seen in another city further south. Wrong. They survived long enough to be cut down by a very different class of vandal. (See my previous post.)

Battlefield 09.08.14

But others are thriving and alongside the refurbished (and magnificent) East Coast Mainline Byker Bridge there is now a mature woodland. The forlorn has been transformed by nature's hand. It is no idyllic place; it challenges in some ways. But if one turns one's mind and looks at matters from another standpoint, survival, even compromise can be noble. I've lived to see it with my own eyes.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Enlightenment comes via piece of junk mail.

Very occasionally someone puts the Jesmond Residents Association (JRA) newsletter through my door. I'm technically not living in Jesmond, I think, and I'm no member of the JRA. But I am grateful to the Association for information that relates to the cycle highway being rapidly constructed across 'Battlefield' as quickly as the trees can be felled. Sustainable but not for amenity obviously.

"Last summer [2013] the City Council was awarded 5.7 m[illion GBP] by the Department of Transport (DfT) from the City Cycle Ambition Fund. …" (JRA newsletter Summer 2014. Additions in square brackets byBtB).

Whilst the newsletter doesn't mention 'Battlefield' – and who ever does? – it is obviously part of the same "strategic cycle route" planning discussed in the note.

Some might think it a fair exchange, trees for a safe cycle route. But there was such a route already. Making it so cyclists can be tempted to speed past pedestrians with no protection for either is seemingly inviting trouble. Maybe leaving things as they were would invite caution? It would certainly have saved a lot of trees.