This Summer I was commissioned by Place Space and Identity 3 to create a large scale installation/walk in Stoke on Trent
FABRIC WALK used the two protective actions of wrapping and walking to stitch together the areas of Middleport, Longport and Dalehall. The route highlighted forgotten spaces, transformation and change. A lovely account of the walk can be found on Neil Birds blog page
To create the walk I set up a series of Repair Stations where I exchanged free textile repairs for a story or memory about the area. Whilst I was sewing I asked the participant to locate their story on a large map. Some of the stories can be found below and on the Place Space and Identity 3 blog
Memories, Facts, Over-hearings and Impressions.
I have collated the anecdotes I have been given so far… some are verbatim (V), others written memories from the first week of the Repair Stations (RS), and others my memory of what people have told me(M). Or I have overheard (O).
RS: BURSLEM ARTS FEST 2009 (2nd May)
It was fantastic – Oh, and it was my 23rd Birthday! There were lots of artists selling their art. My son had a portrait drawn of him. There was a bird man who was showing the kids owls. The school of Art was open. Our Samba band played and played capoeira on the square at the end. There were some tribal belly dancers. And we all had chocolate cake and party hats to celebrate my birthday. I don’t think I could have created a better party atmosphere myself.
M: JOHN BRINDLEYS HOUSE
All that remains is a gate post but it used to stand there where the new Mott Place Apartments are. Over the front door was a beautiful architrave of fruit. Gone.
RS: THE LEOPARD PUB
– This used to be the centre of all our after Samba hanging out. We would always gather for food in the upstairs room. Often we would stay drinking, chatting and drumming on the tables (rhythmically of course).
I even held my 24th birthday in that upstairs room – they let me bring my own cake and provided free candles. It was our social space, until they changed the chef and started charging to reserve the room.
V: TRUBSHAW CROSS
RS: *GEURILLA LIGHTING * MIDDLEPORT
A close friend and I spent ages looking for some guerrilla lighting that we due to happen in Burslem. We bumped into a young family, who looked equally confused about the whereabouts of the event. Eventually, after asking several local people we were directed down to Middleport. The six of us walked down the hill. On the way down, some youths stuck their heads out of a passing car and shouted ‘Niggers!’ to me and my friend. He was angry. I was calm. We both enjoyed the multi-coloured lighting, making the gardens and buildings of Middleport look pretty.
M: HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH. MIDDLEPORT
As a bricklayer by trade he notices these things and walking past late in the afternoon he saw the most badly made brick wall. The back of the church, on the corner. Bricks of all colour, all put together, different shapes, different sizes, going off at all angles. It was the worst wall he had ever seen. But in that afternoon light, its flaws were illuminated and transformed into something beautiful. He stopped and looked at it for a while and realised that it looked like fabric a plaid or a tweed. He went home, intending to return soon at the same time of day to take a picture.
Two days later, a Monday, when he came back, camera in hand the wall had been knocked down. He had supposed that as it was part of a church they would leave it alone
RS: BURSLEM SCHOOL OF ART
– I have a strong connection to this building. For about a year ‘Planet Sound Community Art’ was stationed. Every Sunday we would play djembe drums and dun duns. Sometimes we would even sing songs or vocalise the parts. There were children and adults of different cultures, sitting around in a circle making music. I miss it.
M: Photographed areas round here, the patterns and textures in the pulled down houses.
M: PROGRESSION OF HOUSES.
New houses – Polished up, new windows, new doors.
Boarded up houses
Knocked down houses
M: EVERYTHING CHANGES. Big industries become fractured.
Physical weight of the machinery meant it was more permanent, harder to dismantle.
Digital companies can pick up and relocate more easily.
RS: LEOPARD PUB – POETRY – RUN BY JOHN WILLIAMS
– Every month there is a poetry stanza held in the pub. Young and old writers come to share their work. I have often gone along. It is a pretty tense atmosphere and everyone is very honest with their feedback/critic – which is great! Sometimes they even invite guests (well known ) poets.
O: But I am not from here
RS: MIDDLEPORT MEMORIES
Memories of Slater Street, so many families and stories, now they are gone, but Middleport is changing. A new health care centre that acts as a kind of hub for people, even offering a small meeting room
There’s also the walks that take you past the remaining house newly refurbished with new doors, windows &paintwork totally changing the feeling of the area for the better.
Port Street built for works working in the factory. Right on the canal edge the factory was the hub of the Middleport community. Still a focal point as to how things used to be, great that it is still in production.
All in all it’s the people that make the place, Stoke folk, Middleport folk cautious but friendly.
RS: MY FIRST IMPRESSION of S.O.T. is that I wanted to be here. As a result I uprooted myself from London and moved to the area. The people have welcomed me with open arms. I have been able to get involved with Stoke on Trent Lions International club that’s involved with charity and voluntary work, Grey Power/ Pensioners Convention – a group that looks after the welfare of pensioners groups and stand up for the rights of older folks in the community.
One project that I remembered was “The Mile of Bras” organised by the SOT Lions Club. I have seen many changes in the landscape. Lots of bottle kilns have disappeared and pubs and other social venues have been closing rapidly while the super market chain stores have been expanding, Sainsbury & Tesco. Netto has disappeared giving way to Asda.
In autumn the area looks beautiful with the variation of colour on the leaves of the trees. In the summer the council takes pride in beautifying the roundabouts with flowers. The parks are well kept. I love the Burslem Park. The wheels left gave me an indication of the mining areas.
M: ARCHITECTURE & ALLOTMENTS & WALKING ALONG THE CANAL
M: MULTIPLES – Many jobs, many nationalities. Divergence.
RS: NORSACA (North Staff Afro Caribbean society supports the Six Towns One City Association & organise the yearly Carnival in Hanley Park. They run luncheon clubs, support youths in the community, facilitate carbooth sales on a Sunday.
The opening of the new TESCO store in Hanley created the opportunity for a new road to link Potteries Ways to Clough Street, Trinity Street, Broad Street and Etruria Rd.
Victoria Hall Car Park is now going to be used for SOT new bus station.
Potteries Way cut across some streets dividing them in two. Most of the street on the outskirts of Northwood have street that are one way.
Lots of factories have disappeared and in Litchfield St has one pottery remaining – Emma Bridgewater former Johnson Brothers called Eastwood Pottery. Others were Hanley Pottery that is now a new housing estate. Below Hanley Pottery was a Johnson Brothers Sanitary Ware pottery. It has been demolished. Party of it now has a new housing estate called Wedgewood. In front of those still remains is the wage office.
Opposite that there was Imperial Pottery (Johnson Brothers) and the main canteen. This is now the new Eastwood Primary School
What remains is the Trent Canal which barges used to transfer good. There are two bottle kilns preserved on the site. Twyford Sanitary Ware has been transferred elsewhere. Near the cemetery on Shelton there is a bottle kiln and flat conversion. Armitage Shank is closed.
Dudson Centre – rebuilt using old brick was former Dudson Pottery Chimney – is still standing
In 70’s Britain had lots on lines (railway) going to smaller towns but only main lines are now used since the close of the industries in S.O.T. Behind Quality Hotel, previously Grand Hotel was Hanley Railway Station. There were tramlines in Hanley that have been taken out. Old Vic theatre moved from corner Victoria Street & Hartshill Road to Etruria Rd. Basford known as ‘the New Vic’.
Stoke City Football club used to be on Campbell road, Modern one is on Britannia Way off A50 called Britannia Stadium. Elder Road block off with peg to prevent curb crawlers. There’s still a bike track.
RS: FESTIVAL PARK
Festival Park was derelict land and garden allotments. Shelton Bar was British Steel – Now – part extends to Doulton Outlet, Sentinel, Vodafone & Magistrate holding centre for prisoners & Royal Mail Depot – Parcel Force. Festival Park is now developed as a Business Park and out of town shopping centre.
RS: FOREST PARK
Part OF an old British Coal Mining Shaft (National Coal Board NCB). Level the mine and sink some of the slack for safety reasons to avoid landslide – Made as a park and small housing estate – Old school called Granville School has been knocked down and modern one is now called Forest Park Primary. Also there is a park for ramblers.
RS: LOTS OF CHANGES
SNEYD ESTATE (INDUSTRIAL) Another pit in the city closed for last 40 years. Has lots of units on it now (workshop, manufacturing, sales units
TOWN CENTRE – HANLEY New shopping centre was an indoor market upstairs, now underground. Lots of old shops. RADIO STOKE. Lots of changes – bank, restaurants etc. moved. PUBLIC BATH Top of Litchfield Street before baths in houses. WOOLWORTH – closed. HAYDEN STORE- closed. Hanley had 6 cinemas: Roxy, Capital Garmont, Odeon, ABC Essaldo. Most became bingo houses. Supermarkets – CHC – Quick Save – Nightclubs – went
RS: MINING INDUSTRY Hanley Deep Chatley – Sneyd – Whitfield – Wotstanso – Florence – Silverdate – DISAPPEARED
The collected stories mapped out the route which was in turn marked out by parts of the landscape wrapped in fabric.
Maffi who had been working alongside all six artists on the project made a video of the walk
The act of sewing and wrapping conveys a sense of worth, offers protection and through its very nature is restorativePARCELS. COVERING. HIDING. PROTECTING. RESTORING. TAKING CARE. CONSERVATION. REPAIRING. PATCHING-UP. LOVING. DISGUISE. SEALING. TYING-UP. RITUAL. ISOLATE. REPAIR
For me walking is a temporal and spatial embodiment of these acts. It is a reaction against speed, embracing the slow revolutions of the earth. By giving in to the kinaesthetic experience I seek to regain a timelessness, an ability to move temporally and spatially through the imagination.
PLACE SPACE & IDENTITY 3
6 Artists (Rich White, B-Arts, Redhawk Logistica, Daisy Thompson, Lucy Cork and myself) were commissioned to create projects, performances, installations or artworks that would engage and inspire the people of Stoke to celebrate their many identities, honour the places they are from and beautify the spaces they inhabit.
This unique collaboration between RENEW (the regeneration body for Stoke-on-Trent) and the arts team at Stoke-on-Trent city council, is based on the belief in arts and culture to transform the image of a city for its citizens and for those seeking to live, work and do business. It was funded by RENEW and the Arts Council England.