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Posts tagged “industrial history

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
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Clocking Off Peeps

“So, what can you see?”
“I can see an old clocking-in clock.”
“Really, let me see,… oh yeah… do you think that’s really in there?
“No its too old, anyway there’s a business in there now, and it looks
like a photo to me. Let me see again.”
“It not a photo.”
“Yes it is, look there’s no room for it to be there.”
“Well if it’s a photo how can it be telling the right time?”
“It can’t be.”
“It is.”
“That’s just a coincidence. It must be taken at 2.20.”
“It says 2.22 now.”
“Shit. You’re right……”

Passers' by Tale

The Cutting Room

A few cutting and
pattern rooms remained in
Ancoats at the outset of the
regeneration, one in particular,
the last to be cleared to make
way for development, was quite
remarkable. It had been built
into the attic of Royal Mills.
The cutting room was vast and
bright, and one end had been
given over to a small locked 
room as a pattern store.
A fire had wrecked the roof and
now mature trees were growing
in the space. In the pattern room
the plasterwork had long since
been washed away exposing
the brickwork but the patterns,
made of a waterproof velum,
remained vivid hanging from
the walls. The patterns and the
patina of the brick wall almost
merged in the light of dusk and
so I went back to photograph
this space on midsummer’s day
and had to wait until late into the
evening for dusk. While I waited I
was aware not only of butterflies
and birds but also of a rabbit.

Artist's Tale


Pennies from Heaven

The industrial archaeologist set
out his grid on a portion of the
top floor of Murray’s Mills and
went off for lunch. When he
came back a bit of the ceiling
had fallen in over the grid and
on the top of the pile, shining,
was an old penny from the year
the building was constructed.
Chance favoured this young
archaeologist. I often wonder
how he will respond? I wonder
if he will reinstate the coin
entrusted to him when Murray’s
Mill is developed?

Archaeologist's Tale