Some things change, some stay the same…

In preparation for next month’s re-mounting of our Multi-Story Water performance tours, I went walkabout around the Aire in Shipley the other day. I wanted to make sure that the script for our Red Route tour is up to date, and so the first port of call was Lower Holme, where that route finishes up – the site of the demolished mill still referred to locally as “C.F. Taylor’s”. I popped in to visit Margaret Wright, who lives in one of Lower Holme’s former mill cottages, and who has been a great supporter of our project almost from Day 1. (june13 001Here’s Margaret with her dog Millie, right.) I had been expecting to find the derelict mill site populated by trucks and workmen, because my understanding was that developer James Marshall was wanting to have work completed on the site by this autumn. (James has been pro-active in liaising with Lower Holme residents about his proposed retail development, and addressing their concerns – see previous blog posts on Lower Holme.) However, there is no sign of any work even having been begun, which is bewildering for Margaret and the other residents… After so many years of putting up with an ugly metal fence and a wasteland (and the social nuisance factor that comes with it), they must be wondering when the build is ever going to happen… That said, the current word is that the remaining Lower Holme mill building june13 003(left), which is in an increasingly poor state of repair despite having been converted as flats a few years ago, is to be pulled down as part of the new development. Margaret proudly told me that James had even asked some of the residents what they thought should be done with this building – convert for offices, social housing, or knock it down? – and that they had asked him to get rid of it. So now it’s going, and for once people feel like they have been consulted! But as I say, there’s still no visible change on site…. except for the appearance of black plastic bins along the path leading down to the footbridge across the river! These have nothing to do with the developer and everything to do with the residents. For years, Margaret herself has been taping black bin liners to the fencing june13 004so that dog-walkers had somewhere to put their muck and litter… Bradford Council will take no responsibility for doing this, even though this path is part of a much-used right of way across the river, because Lower Holme is an “unadopted road”. A group of residents, however, have finally managed to get some money together to purchase 3 bins to put up down the length of the street (including this one opposite Margaret’s house). Slingsby’s, the retailer on the other side of the fence, agreed to sell the residents 3 of these bins for the price of 2, and even to install them professionally… A gesture of neighbourhood goodwill that the Council might do well to learn from? This simple change has made a big difference to Margaret – creating a sense that things are finally starting to look up in the area. She and other residents are still having to empty the bins though (and the dog dirt they hold), into their own wheelie bins… Talk about “above and beyond the call of duty”!

june13 012The most visible change to the path of our Red Route walk since last September is actually along the river path between Salts Mill and Baildon Bridge, where the “Aire Sculpture Trail” has just been unveiled. It was officially opened on May 25th as part of the Saltaire Arts Trail weekend, by Andrew Mason – the developer who built Victoria Mills (he also figures prominently in Red Route!). This is because the funding for the Sculpture Trail actually comes from him, via Bradford Council, who levied “Section 106” charges on the Victoria Mills development. These funds, it was agreed, were to be used in the restoration of the rather neglected footpath linking VM with Saltaire. There’s an irony here in that, currently, the gate from the VM complex onto the footpath is kept padlocked for security reasons… so residents can’t easily use the path anyway. But the rest of us benefit from the entertaining, colourful sculptures that were commissioned from the HIVE Studios (based downstairs from Kirkgate Community Centre in central Shipley).

june13 007I think my favourite is this little fellow, perched at the end of the footpath on Baildon Bridge in his yellow rubber ring (or dinghy?). (Given that Baildon Bridge has a history of flooding problems, he might well need that ring at some point in the future!) The sculptures were created by artist Mick Kirby Geddes in collaboration with children at Wycliffe Primary School – and apparently there have already been some complaints that the sculpture trail is “childish”. It’s not high modernist art, certainly, but that’s clearly not its purpose – it’s there to be fun and attractive and provide something for families to do on a quiet afternoons. Of course, I could pick holes and complain that some of the sculptures seem to have little to do with the riverside setting, and could perhaps have been a bit more consistently themed june13 015(this snowman on the wall of Victoria Mills is a little on the incongruous side!). But that may be to miss the point: what is clear is that this rather narrow, uninviting piece of footpath has been rendered much more inviting and friendly by the presence of these sculptures – there’s a sense of welcome and warmth here, which is no doubt what was intended. It remains to be seen, of course, how well the new additions to the setting will be maintained — and whether the footpath itself will get the continued maintenance it very much needs. For now, though, a round of applause for HIVE, Mick Kirby Geddes, and the children of Wycliffe Primary…

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2 thoughts on “Some things change, some stay the same…

  1. The story of the snowman is knitted into the very cycle of water you all love to tell stories about. Once melted, he is your river. Once landed, he is the cover for the endless bulbs that early Spring entertains.

    Place your Snow Man with your Pond Frog
    Love the paddling ring
    Smile with the child within you,
    For in telling the Story of Water
    Let nothing be excluded

    (World of Water)

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