Seven Bridges, Two Cities

The Shipley Street Arts Festival is coming up at the end of June (26th-28th), and this year is taking the river and canal as a linking theme. We’re delighted to announce that the Multi-Story Water project is working actively with Q20 Theatre to make this happen. In case you’re wondering whether there is any “street art” in Shipley, well lookee here…

DSC_0320A genuine (as far as I can tell) piece of Banksy graffiti, tucked away on the footpath that goes up to Gallows Bridge – across the canal – just up the hill from where Aldi and McDonalds sit by Bradford Beck. In case you don’t know his work, Banksy is a famously anonymous, Bristol-based artist whose graffiti has become internationally renowned. People sometimes rip down entire walls so as to be able to flog things he’s painted on them… This particular metal panel looks like its secure enough where it is, though. I’m not sure how long the painting has been there, but it’s tucked away in this wonderfully unassuming location… Here’s the image in close-up:

DSC_0318OK, that’s all I have to say about Banksy. But Gallows Bridge will be featuring as one of Seven Bridges in the Shipley area that will be linked by a looping promenade performance that we are making for the Street Arts Festival. I’m pleased to confirm that this will be performed by David Smith and Lynsey Jones (both of whom co-created and performed in our original Multi-Story Water tours back in 2012), and will be directed by Simon Brewis (who directed them). Always nice to keep things in the family…

Meanwhile, though, we are getting delusions of grandeur. Because simultaneously with the water-themed Street Arts Festival in Shipley, the Leeds Waterfront Festival will be running the same weekend. So to provide a kind of conceptual “bridge” between the two festivals, we will also be presenting another performance — with the same title, Seven Bridges — in Leeds. If you’re really keen, you might want to see both… (!)

DSC_0285This is me being anonymously artsy (if not banksy) while researching the Leeds end the other week. That’s Leeds Bridge you can see reflected in the plate glass — the crossing where the city began. Leeds’s whole history was built around the river, which is why it’s so strange that the city has sort of turned its back on the waterfront: you can live there for years and barely even be aware of its existence…

DSC_0304Here’s another of the Seven Bridges — Victoria Bridge, which was built (unsurprisingly) in the 19th Century to replace a longstanding ferry service. It’s one of the major road links to Leeds station … right beside Bridgewater Place — the unnecessarily tall building better known as “the Dalek”! But even though there’s a clue in the name — Bridge — water — place — you can drive across Victoria Bridge a thousand times and barely even notice that you’re crossing a river…

Now… notice the white, ‘canal style’ railings to the right of the shot above. That’s because this image was taken at the junction where the River Aire (aka the Aire-Calder Navigation) connects with the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. And here it is…

DSC_0303… the footbridge that crosses the end of Lock 1 on the Leeds-Liverpool… the very, very beginning of the 109 miles of canal, that goes through Shipley and all the way to the Mersey… Meanwhile, if you turn through 180 degrees and move upstream on the Aire a little (also in the direction of Shipley, of course…) you come to this…

DSC_0298This is the brand new entrance to Leeds Station, currently being built by Carillion. I like the sign on it: “this is civil engineering“! (as opposed to uncivil engineering…?) Notice that because space is so tight around the station, the building materials are having to be floated upstream on pontoons (in the foreground of the shot) in order to get to the site. Notice also the angle this shot is taken from… I was standing on – you guessed it – a bridge. Granary Wharf Bridge, to be precise — quite a new, modern one… That’s the western end of our Seven Bridges route… and here’s (almost) the eastern end…

DSC_0256This is the entrance to the weir and lock at Crown Point (Clarence Dock), with the Crown Point Bridge arcing overhead… another road bridge that you can merrily drive across without ever noticing the river… And in the shot below is the weir itself, viewed a little further downstream from Knights Bridge (footbridge)…

DSC_0261Notice the black holes in the middle of the shot here. Not technically a “bridge” perhaps, but this is where Meanwood Beck enters the Aire… a rather lovely beck that flows down through Meanwood Park and its attractive, surrounding valley, but then disappears into underground culverts before it gets close to the city centre (shades of Bradford…).

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This is Knights Bridge itself, viewed from the Clarence Dock side, and looking across to the building that operates as the headquarters for the Canal and River Trust in Leeds (hub of the CRT Northeastern partnership, if that means anything to you). Some very nice people work there… This bridge, as you can tell, is pretty modern, but I need to do some more research about it…

What strikes me here is the proliferation of white-painted metal, which even extends to these cage-like railings in front of the CRT building itself…

DSC_0262I like the little bit of signage here, pointing you to the next bridge (“hey, you’ve just crossed the river, fancy doing it again in the opposite direction?”). But there’s no shortage of signage in the vicinity of the river in Leeds… Check these out, for instance…

DSC_0239DSC_0242DSC_0251DSC_0272 DSC_0243Everywhere you go, it seems, you’re being warned that you’re on private property… that you are walking at the permission and indulgence of property owners… that you are on CCTV… There’s no sense in Leeds at all that the banks of a river might be public space, for anyone to walk along. The riverside paths are constantly broken up, interrupted by buildings or private spaces that you can’t enter. There is no “ancient right of way” here, in the way that there is in Shipley… And then the city wonders why people don’t engage more with the waterfront…

O Banksy, where art thou…?

 

Bradford’s “Conceptual” Canal

Just last week, the new cycle route between Shipley and the centre of Bradford was officially opened. Broadly speaking, it runs parallel with the line of Bradford Beck — which also means that it traces the former route of the Bradford Canal.2015-04-10 11.05.16

This shot looks south down the green space that runs alongside the Canal Road towards Bradford. The canal itself would (as I understand it) have run along on the left, roughly where you see the path, while the Beck — then as now — ran at the bottom of the valley. This is the spot, in fact, where my short film Wading to Shipley begins from – except that in 2012 when we shot that material there was no such clear access to the Beck at this point (that new bit of fence demonstrates that access might be a bit too clear without it!). This next shot is a few yards further downstream past the bridge…
2015-04-10 11.03.42Here you can see the high retaining wall/flood defence that pens the Beck in at this point. The area to the left (east) used to be an impassable area of undergrowth…

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But it’s now been cleared out completely in the construction of this path. Hopefully in due course there’ll be some replanting and other improvement because it looks a wee bit bleak just here…

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As you begin to walk towards Shipley, the new path forks neatly in two directions. The main path follows what would have been the route of the canal, while the lower path heads down to a small footbridge across the Beck…

2015-04-10 10.59.49The bridge has been there for a long time, but access to it — and across towards the station — is now much clearer… also making the Beck that bit more accessible.

2015-04-10 11.00.24Here’s a close-up of the notice in the last-but-one picture above. Bradford Council (as it has done in other places flagged up on this blog) has taken care to ensure that this new path is designated as a temporary right of way — that no precedent is being set which might, through use and custom, establish this as a permanent public right of way. This means that, in the future, they can choose to close the path, build over it, whatever. An understandable disclaimer perhaps, but a rather disappointing one for anyone dreaming of a greater sense of “public commons” rather than slightly grudging “permission”…

2015-04-10 10.59.08This shot, taken further along, looks back down the path towards the back of the sign, and Bradford beyond. This might become quite a pleasant, wooded walk in time…

2015-04-10 10.58.26Further along still, the trees open out and you can look across the valley to Shipley station. Here the Beck is only visible via the retaining wall that cuts across the land…

2015-04-10 11.11.08And here the path brings us out onto Carnegie Drive, Windhill, looking towards the main Leeds Road — with the railway crossing the bridge to the left… Remember again, this is roughly the trajectory of the old Bradford Canal. And now, closer still to the road, take a look across to the red-brick building just visible, in the middle distance, between the two blue cars pictured below…

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The red-brick building, pictured again on the right here (this time we’ve crossed the Leeds Road to the other side), is the old pump house for the Bradford Canal… and the path marked out down the middle of the car park you see here would have been the line of the canal itself… connecting towards the route we’ve just traced.

The pumphouse was built in 1872, by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Company, after they took over the Bradford Canal. It had been closed for some years, following a major canalside cholera outbreak! The seriously polluted condition of the water was in part due to the poor water supply from central Bradford, as it trickled down through the many locks on the way to Shipley… So the LLCC’s solution in the late nineteenth century was to establish a pumping system that re-cycled water from the Leeds-Liverpool end all the way back up to the Hoppy Bridge end in Bradford….

2015-04-10 11.15.42Here’s the pumphouse viewed closer up, on Dock Lane — and beyond it the original lock-keeper’s cottage, built in 1774 when the canal first opened. (The first sections of the Leeds-Liverpool canal to be cut in 1773 and 1774 were those between Shipley and Skipton: together with the Bradford Canal branch line, this allowed the first cargoes to be shipped between Bradford and Skipton…)

2015-03-05 13.35.50And here is all that’s now left of the Bradford Canal — the stumpy-looking mouth opening out onto the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, just a little further down Dock Lane from the pumphouse. So although the new cycle route stops rather abruptly when you hit the Leeds Road, all cyclists need to do is cross over it, whizz down Dock Lane, and then join the LLC towpath on the other side of the swing-bridge… They can then follow the towpath all the way to Leeds if they want — meaning a clear cycle route from Bradford to Leeds, via this northern hinge at Shipley (exactly what the canal system used to do, and what the Leeds to Bradford Forster Square train route still does…). But let’s head back to the pumphouse…

2015-03-05 13.41.05It’s a simple but also rather beautiful, chapel-like structure which currently stands empty. It had been converted for private residence a few years ago, but then it came up for sale and Bradford Council purchased it strategically — with a view to the so-called “Bradford Masterplan” scheme of 2003 (by architect Will Alsop) which would have involved re-opening the Bradford Canal. So for example the lock chamber behind the pumphouse — pictured below — would have been dug out again and filled with water.

2015-04-10 09.59.32The white barriers here aren’t original canal furniture – apparently they were put in by the people who last owned the pumphouse, for a bit of, well, fake authenticity… Anyway the point is that nobody is now talking seriously about re-opening the canal, which would be ludicrously expensive (in an age of austerity…) and of dubious economic, cultural or ecological benefit… Much better to treat the Beck properly if you want to make a feature of water along this particular valley… But people in the Council are apparently still talking about the notion of a “conceptual canal” — marking the line of where the canal once stood, by interventions such as the new cycle path. So the pumphouse stands at a strategically important juncture in this “concept”… Let’s take a look inside…

2015-04-10 10.13.01The building is now subdivided into upper and lower floors, where once it would have just been a single chamber housing a pump engine. The lower floor is currently without light (the windows are shuttered; electricity cut off), but in torchlight you can see some serious bowing in the floorboards that will need sorting out if the building is ever to be useful again… Upstairs it’s much brighter and more welcoming…

2015-04-10 10.17.00xx… except that it is weirdly subdivided by things like this mezzanine, presumably added to create an extra bedroom space. The master bedroom, pictured in the two images below, is the largest room, but has a very peculiar-looking WC in one corner…

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Pictured on the left here is Dave Partridge, Economic Development officer with Bradford Council, who kindly showed us around the building. Dave is interested in the building being used for socially constructive purposes, in line with the “conceptual canal” idea… and so my colleague Trevor Roberts, pictured below, is concocting a little scheme to put the pump house back into use…

2015-04-10 10.17.09Trevor runs a social enterprise called Canal Connections, which is all about using the waterways to reconnect people and places in novel ways. He sees the pump house as a potential meeting place — a site for conversations, exhibitions, and so forth — that highlight the importance of the waterways to the history, heritage, and perhaps futures of not just Shipley but also — by extension to the south and east — Bradford and Leeds. The pumphouse stands at an axis point, a conceptual hinge if you like. It has spaces that could be put back into social use, both inside and outside. What would you dream up for it, if you were planning Bradford’s “conceptual canal”…?

‘Hydro-Citizens’ visit Shipley

DSC_0049Taken yesterday: an evocative shot of Salts Mill and New Mill from the deck of the Lady Jane… a working boat run by the JAMES project. At the front, you see one of the crew members with a barge pole attempting to break up the surprisingly thick ice that had formed on the surface of the canal as we made our way west.

DSC_0020In the shot below, a beer bottle just out of the ice at a jaunty angle – not quote sure of the physics there (how did the water freeze around it with most of the weight of the bottle above the surface?) – but I guess that’s the laws of nature (and litter) for you…

DSC_0042The occasion for this chilly but stunningly beautiful boat ride (perfect blue sky, crisp air, stunning light) was the visit of the full national team of the ‘Towards HydroCitizenship’ project — the three-year research project around water, communities and arts practice for which Multi-Story Water in Shipley is one of four, regional case studies (the others are in Mid-Wales, Bristol, and London). The team convened for two days of discussion and provocation, sharing what we’ve been doing so far and looking at future plans (the project kicked off last year but we’re still mostly in the developmental stages, starting to decide of activities and events). On Day 1 (Thursday 5th) we met at Yorkshire Water’s complex in Esholt … which took some of us quite a while to find (!) … where we heard from some YW staff about various innovative initiatives, before moving into our own project discussions. Then that evening, after dinner at the Waterside restaurant on Shipley Wharf (to keep with the theme…) we headed down to Baildon Woodbottom Working Men’s Club — on the banks of the Aire — where club secretary Philip Moncaster hosted a pub quiz event, for ‘our university friends’ and some regulars too. Teams of four, and some utterly random questions generated by the quiz machine that the club has apparently had for years but never used. Philip, it turns out, is a skilled host/DJ and it was great to see him perform. Much fun had by all (thanks Philip!) and I won’t gloat too much in mentioning that my team won…

Tom Payne and Sara Penrhyn Jones (both Aberystwyth University) share a pint with Anthony Lyons (Bristol-based artist) at Baildon Woodbottom

Tom Payne and Sara Penrhyn Jones (both Aberystwyth University) share a pint with Anthony Lyons (Bristol-based artist) at Baildon Woodbottom, prior to their failure to win the quiz.

The next morning we were up bright and early and back across the other side of the river, where the owner and developer of the Victoria Mills residential complex, Andrew Mason, talked us through the complexities of building luxury apartments in a flood zone.

DSC_0010Here is Andrew, central, entertaining Ozlem Edizel (Middlesex University) and – to the left, Peter Coates (Bristol University). (The red-head is our own Lyze Dudley, who co-ordinated the programme for the two days with great aplomb.) It was somewhat surreal for me to see Andrew telling us about the Victoria Mills site, given that in 2012 and 2013, for our Multi-Story Water performance tours of the area, two different actors performed as Andrew — using edited, verbatim transcriptions from an interview I had conducted with him indoors. So to see him now acting the role himself (and repeating some very similar lines – he clearly has a good ‘spiel’ worked out) was, at least for me, a little bizarre as well as thoroughly entertaining. Even the most sceptical of our visitors was won over by Andrew’s obvious passion for the site, and his extraordinary grasp of detail in discussing every aspect of its construction. (His formidable powers of memory were also apparent when he instantly recognised and greeted me – even though we’ve only actually met once, in 2012, when I interview him…)

Anyway, after the Victoria Mills visit we reconvened at Kirkgate Centre in the centre of Shipley for more conferencing discussions about various aspects of the ongoing project. Overall I think we struck a pretty good balance this kind of broad, conceptual stuff and the more locally-specific events showing our visitors something of the water locality. The last of these was of course our boat trip on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, yesterday afternoon (Friday 6th). The JAMES project, based at Shipley wharf, generously offered two boats to carry the assembled Hydro Citizens — and like myself, these brave gentlemen (below) chose the Lady Jane, on the grounds that an open working boat might give us better views as we travelled, even if we got a little chilly on the way…

DSC_0017Here are Peter Coates again, Simon Read (Middlesex University) and Iain Biggs (Bristol-based artist/researcher), as we’re about to set out from Shipley Wharf. Note how low in the water the boat sits — only our upper bodies were above water level. Meanwhile, another group of us travelled on the larger “Two Shires” boat, which had a lovely warm stove going inside, to compensate for having less all-round views! The Two Shires actually ended up taking over from the Lady Jane as lead ‘ice-breaker’, since its greater width and more powerful engine meant that it could get through more easily. Anyway, here is the Two Shires coming into Hirst Lock, at the end of our upstream journey…

DSC_0056We had come to visit the site immediately adjacent (and south) of the lock, where Hirst Wood Regeneration Group is transforming a neglected piece of marshy land into a nature reserve complete with bird hide and pond. Here’s the site viewed from the top end, looking east back towards Saltaire. Lyze (again viewed from behind!) is here seen walking down with Pauline, the secretary of Hirst Wood Regeneration Group, and Jason (?) from the JAMES boat crew…

DSC_0058Pauline is a really remarkable woman, the driving force behind a number of transformational projects in this area. I’d heard a lot about her but never actually met her before: before we left I arranged to come back and talk with her in more detail about the group’s work, as part of our research. Pauline gave a great introduction to the nature reserve project from the warmth of the Two Shires, before we went for this reccy.

DSC_0070Here’s a closer-up shot of the viewing platform for the pond area, which as you can see is still under construction! (The platform is necessary because this area is essentially wetland, and gets very marshy underfoot in wet weather.) I’m looking forward to seeing how this project develops… Speaking of construction, here’s a shot I snapped on the way back down the canal of the Italianate tower of New Mill, partially covered in scaffolding. Presumably some kind of restoration/maintenance work going on – but I was primarily struck by the light, the shadows, and the colours of sky and stone. Quite pleased with this shot…

DSC_0080As the light began to die, we made our way back towards Shipley Wharf, at the end of a memorable couple of days. Our visitors all professed to have enjoyed their trip very much – Shipley has much to be proud of! Next time we all meet, it’ll be Wales, in the summer…

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