Thursday, 27 January 2011

Elephant and Castle 68

A brief stopover with C.E. Fudge at the new shopping centre in London's mysteriously named district, and first impressions are not good. Still unfinished when these two pics were taken, C.E. reckons it's the most unsuccessful precinct s/he has visited. The rememedy? "..coloured handrails as in Milan's underground station." I think it would take a bit more than that, though the place seems to have a bit of attitude about it, more Burgess than Ballard.

Dingy, hard-edged and roughly-finished, it makes me pine for Stevenage and Wembley - you can just picture the youths craning over the balconies and delivering long silkworm trails of spit onto the shoulders of innocent shoppers below.

Who is this droog clowning for the camera? One-legged dervish aside, this is pretty bleak stuff again : the E&C looks more like a converted multi-storey carpark than a shopping precinct. It is definitely more 'outside' than 'inside', and you can imagine some of the old ultraviolence taking place behind the photo-me booth. Look at the hospital ceiling-style striplights, and remember that this edifice was still under construction!

We'll be going somewhere a little closer to (my) home next time. See you there...

Sheffield 1960

A brief interruption to the 1968 series of pictures comes in the form of these two lovely colour snaps of Sheffield city centre from 1960, and in glorious Kodak colour too.

The first picture is taken from the top of the pre-pedestrianised Fargate, looking up towards Barker's Pool.

This picture is looking back towards the point of view of the first photograph, from outside City Hall. On the right is the lovely old (and not so long demolished) Gaumont cinema. You can smell the pre-Clean Air Act atmosphere, ripe with factory smoke, Players cigarettes, Boots perfume and mentholated lozenges. We must fast forward in time for the next post though...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Ivey Balderson

I recently happened upon the work of New York artist and sculptor Ivey Balderson. Check out the website here - there's a mixture of hermetic imagery, industrial construction and a bio-organic feel that brings David Cronenberg to my mind. The drawings have a Ballard meets Bacon look that particularly intrigues me.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Cumbernauld 68

For our latest installment of the round-Britain 68 tour with C.E. Fudge, we head up to Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire's new town and home of Cumbernauld Shopping Centre. I must warn you now, the first couple of photographs are a little ... bleak.

For a long time I wondered what this picture reminded me of. Now I have it - it's like the colony where Ripley discovers the little girl in Aliens. A bizarre mix of hospital crematoria and the Royal Festival Hall on stilts, bear in mind that this building was under 10 years old when this photograph was taken.

C.E. describes this as 'a sombre scene'. Locals shelter from the rain while the children stand outside and challenge it. Note the cavalcade of prams parked outside, pre-stranger danger era.

Nicely framed by C.E. and I think it has stopped raining. Look at the bleak, block-house type dwellings lurking in the background.

More elevated walkways and flyovers.

Look once and then look again. The shoes, the brooding boy up on the walkway above Galbraiths and a middle-aged Michael Caine peering through the smeary windows.

Meet me outside the fish and chicken bar at two. Rain settles in the sagging floor, and even the barbershop's pole has stopped turning.

Scan books. "It is the oasis in a desert of concrete." (C.E. Fudge).

As a couple is wed in the background, three wee boys mug for the camera. When did children stop looking like this? Black shorts, wrinkled socks and woollies. They could have stepped from the Blitz, into this concrete playground.

The main hall captures some weak sunlight as the jazz band play. Previously unknown cigarette brands No.1 : Kensitas.

A jolly illustration by the talented C.E. - note the little Alan Bennett inserted shiftily at the front. Cumbernauld - modern, complex, damp and unprepossessing, but extremely interesting nonetheless. A brief flit down south next, before heading back up north to a place I have visited in a previous post. Be seeing you...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Stevenage and Wembley 68

When C.E. Fudge arrived in Stevenage it was raining. Still, he / she rather liked the place, although we only get a few quick pics of the town centre.

A man and a van. Austin A30 / 35 based? Wish I knew what those posters were advertising. Probably wrestling.

A bit wayward from Fudge - perhaps he / she was distracted by the noise of that person buffing the paving slabs in front of Woolies.

There are some amazing posters in the window of Fine Fare - if only C.E. had got in a bit closer ...

That's it for Stevenage. It's now off to -

Jesus. There are so many vertical and horizontal axes going off in this picture I don't know what to do. At least there's Richard Shops to calm us all down.

Beautifully composed. Just enjoy 1968, and how town centres used to number shop units on the signs overhanging the front.

Hmm. A bit Clockwork Orange. C.E. agrees and wonders whether the little vandal-tempting display booths couldn't have more brightly coloured roofs 'like in Paris'.

Lovely. Note the 25 year wedding anniversary horseshoe in the window of the card shop. That would be for a 1943 wedding.

I wonder what caught the girl in the stripy top's attention? Those children on the right? I wonder where she went afterwards? Leslie Davis'? Home? Is she still alive? These pictures pose so many questions - I think I may go out and photograph my own city centre, just to leave a record. And where are we going next? Ah, just have a look in a couple of days...

Friday, 14 January 2011

Trish Keenan

At an age when I have less time for music than I used to, I've started to cherish those bands that really capture my attention, or at least continue to follow the ones that I was absolutely crazy about when I was younger. I was absolutely crazy about Broadcast, and still am : their sound, their influences, their aesthetic - it was and is all a big YES. To hear the news of Trish Keenan's passing is so sad. All fans of her music (and of good music) will keep her, and her family and friends, in their thoughts tonight.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Birmingham 1968

We're staying in the Midlands for the second part of our trip back to 1968, this time going to Birmingham. Or rather, a particular part of Birmingham city centre.

C.E. Fudge found this part of town to be 'cluttered', which is something of an understatement. The air seems to hang heavy as the pensioners trek up and down the concrete stairs. I like the rococo roundabout in the background though.

It had to be here, really.

The jogged, blurry style is great on the escalator here. Check out how little Mothercare have changed their branding since 1968, although the ceiling is a little too 'Summerland leisure resort fire' for my liking. This picture actually puts me in mind of the start of 'Scanners', if it had been filmed by Michael Reeves in 1968.

Taken on the hoof in the middle of the thoroughfare, this picture gives us a type of fast food outlet that has now died out. Again slightly Michael Reeves-y, only this time it could be a still from that one where Boris Karloff and his wife take over Ian Ogilvie's mind.

Everyone on the go here except for the gentleman in the brown suit on the left, an oasis of calm in a bustling neon arcade. C.E. Fudge doesn't like the Bull Ring all that much and you can tell by his / her photos - taken quickly with little care for composition or detail. We're going down south next time. See you there!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Coventry 1968

These photographs are taken from 'Colour in Shopping', a portfolio entered for the British Paint Prize in 1968 by one C.E. Fudge. I found this and a 1970 entry in a Sheffield charity shop and they are full of Instamatic photos of British town centres, inadvertantly documenting the fashions, designs and general meander of city life. Nobody notices Fudge as he / she strolls around, snapping the Locarno dancehall and the GPO phone booth / stamp machine kiosk. It's an odd feeling to see these cityscapes, clean and ordinary, and completely stripped of their context. This is just everyday life as it once was, and never will be again. There are quite a few of these, so I'll start off with the first in the book, Coventry.

A dapper gent and his good lady having a rest by the roses in front of Marks and Sparks.

Is this lady wearing a surgical collar? The woman on the far left seems to think so.

A rotunda cafe for ice cream and hot dogs; it could be the Korova Milk Bar. Is any of this still in existence?

The Locarno 'entertainment suite' is situated next to a Police information box. The font is surely more appropriate for a perfume or sunglasses shop?

What I would term as 'futuristic shit' - this is the GPO centre with telephone boxes and stamp machines. Street furniture at its best, although a point is deducted for not having a street map featuring a 'You Are Here' point that lights up when a small metal button is pressed.

A businessman is snapped unawares as he strolls through the dappled sunlight to his Ford Consul in the short stay car park. This picture shows the potential for dinginess in all these new concrete developments.

The Three Tuns' wall looks as if it is alive, or studded with the fossils of rare and unlikely sea anemones. This was probably demolished years ago.

Clean, bright, no empty shops ...

You could actually be there, in that shopping arcade with all those sixties people. Next stop, Birmingham.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Interplanetary Revolution

A bit of Soviet stop-motion animation from 1924, 'Interplanetary Revolution' was written and directed by Zenon Komisarenko, Youri Merkulov and Nikolai Khodataev and tells the story of Comrade Cominternov, who smashes capitalism and fascism on Mars. It reminds me (in a non-literal way) of 'We' by Zamyatin and various bits of Mikhail Bulgakov. Music is by Pan Sonic. I find it all a bit frightening.