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The Last Walkway

The last remaining walkway in
Ancoats was given planning
consent for demolition in
the summer of 2003. The
mill buildings on either side
were coming under separate
ownership, and the lawyers for
both parties wanted rid of the
liability. The walkway didn’t
qualify for protection from
demolition by the listing process,
but the regeneration group
recognised the value in trying
to keep the structure. However
without a clear function for the
walkway they could not see how
a case could be made to keep it.
Later in 2003 an artwork
proposal was accepted based
on retaining in perpetuity some
of the ‘lost’ spaces in Ancoats,
and it included the overhead
walkway. Just as the scaffolding
was being erected the developer
agreed that the walkway could
be retained.

Artist’s Tale

The Tipping Point

It was only a few months into the project, I was just settling into the studio
and getting my bearings, when I was rudely awoken one dawn by an almighty
crash. As I looked bleary eyed out of the studio window onto Murrays Mill, I saw
sewing tables, then machinery, then boxes that spilt their loads into a plume
of buttons, needles, belts, labels, neck ties, school uniforms as they hurtled
towards the ground. Next it was rolls of fabric, then the trolleys, then the doors,
then the partition walls, and then I picked up my camera and got over there. In
Manchester this is known as ditching; a team of men some characterised by their
unemployability as unskilled labourers, were armed with crowbars and clubs and
were stripping out the building floor by floor. A giant hole was knocked out down
to the floor of each of the eight levels, and the contents of each mill floor was
carted to that end, everything was then hurled out into the courtyard until the
mill was stripped bare, then they moved to the next floor. I introduced myself to
the foreman of this and the other sites where ditching was soon underway, and
armed myself with my camera and grabbed a box of red patent leather belts. I
went into battle, dawn to dusk saving what things I could as I moved along with
my camera and note book, by tying a belt around things otherwise headed for
the skip, trying, often in vain, to stay one floor ahead of the ditchers.
With a sudden jolt the regeneration process had shifted into action.
Ancoats was at its tipping point, it was also turning itself inside out and
stripping itself bare.

Artist's Tale