Wednesday 15 June 2011

Friars Square Shopping Precinct, Aylesbury. Part 2

Welcome back to the between channels Aylesbury extravaganza at Friars Square shopping precinct, courtesy of Sean Hancock. More pics of the place in various states of decay as well as a couple of examples of local colour. Lets press on.

Very nicely composed picture - it almost looks, well, quite nice.

Garments galore at the market, although judging by the heavy attire of the punters I reckon it's a little early for short sleeves (to be fair they are old ladies and as we've seen before on this site, old ladies tend to wear overcoats in all seasons).

Could be a photograph from an old Cabaret Voltaire album cover. Businesses that wouldn't do very well these days Number One: Visionhire.

Peering through the Instamatic murk we have the Friars Square facade. It has some nice municipal sculpture-y bits underneath the lettering, but apart from that it's as cold and unyielding as a former Soviet remand centre. I like old photographs taken on overcast days. They seem to say 'Remember - the past was also this.'

Looks like things are slowing up a little - when the big shops start to shut you know you've got problems. Some japes from the blokes who were whitewashing the windows and also note the large quantity of weeds roosting in the concrete planters. Really sets the place off don't you think?

Cheer up, it could be worse. It might NOT be a unisex hairdressers. Where would you get it cut then, eh?

The strain is etched onto the faces of these people as the siege of Leningrad dragged on for another month. Things are still ticking over, despite the utter devastation that has been wrought in the background. It's interesting to see how the phased demolition has spared some parts (presumably the less sepulchural and profitable ones) and bashed the rest down whilst the shoppers go about their business. Tea, Coffee? No thanks pal, I'll have a drink.

A modern re-imagining of 'Quatermass and the Pit'. The old market square is gone, but at least they've left the Wimpy bar with its bold, raked windows and decorative flanking towers.


More mayhem and dismemberment as the demolition teams move in. Not even Granada was saved.

A pigeons-eye view of the redevelopment. Note how Friars Square stands out from the rest of Aylesbury - those rendered and pebble-dashed concrete slabs are in stark contrast to the rest of the town huddled to the right of the picture. The Wimpy and Granada are no more. But I won't leave you with sad memories..

The Olympics have come to town! Well, not your town because they're in Los Angeles but they've sent out an envoy. I've never seen an Olympic mascot sent out as PR before - I wonder what London will be sending for 2012 (insert bit of politics here)? This American Eagle is definitely making himself at home, swaggering round outside Wimpy. I like the synchronicity of the large white patch on the ground behind the 'bird', as if it has just made a man-sized excretion at the feet of the two unimpressed looking young men standing adjacent.

Milton Keynes has its cows ... and that's about it, but Aylesbury had its ducks. I say had, this one seems to have survived destruction, propped up as it is in somebodys garden. What would you do with it when you moved house? And seriously, if Aylesbury had any sort of civic pride, surely it would want to reclaim its concrete duck for a nominal free? As an aside, this picture is a companion to the 'Seventies Recreation' post, featuring as it does one of the most badly sited children's swings in Christendom. Yeah, put it next to the hardcore on the pallet. Next to the duck. On top of the remains of the industrial waste we burned. That's it.

That is also it for Aylesbury. I've enjoyed posting these pictures as they really give a flavour of a long-gone sixties precinct. I may never visit Aylesbury in the future but I can say with certainty that I have visited its past. Until next time...

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Friars Square Shopping Precinct, Aylesbury. Part 1.

Morning! This is quite exciting for me because the pictures posted here have been sent by between channels' first ever contributor. Take a bow Sean Hancock, who sent me this motherlode of pictures depicting the rise and dear decline of the Friar's Square shopping complex in Aylesbury.

An example of early sixties 'brutalist' design, Friars Square was used by Stanley Kubrick for some of the location shooting on 'A Clockwork Orange'. It's not there anymore, at least not in the form shown in the photographs here. There seems to be a peculiar undercurrent of dread running through the place - the local duck breed was originally wiped out by 'duck fever' in the nineteenth century (although it sounds a bit like a David Essex album title) and in the seventies a pamphlet called 'What's Happening to Aylesbury?' was produced, which detailed tales of unemployment and bored youth causing mayhem on the streets and concrete underpasses. I think we'll be right at home here, then...

This ticks all the right boxes for this website, I think.

The biggest Woolies in the country.

How's this for a central feature? A damn great wedgy, glass-fronted cafeteria horned by two retro-futurist Mayan towers. Note how dark and dingy the surrounding area is, even in bright sunlight.

A market AND a sixties brutalist shopping precinct? Marvellous. All told, it looks a bit - well, bleak, bringing to mind post-war Dresden. At least the 'cafeteria' has gone and turned itself into a Wimpy. It'll be a burger eaten with a knife and fork first, and then down to the square where a young John Peel will sell you a wicker shopping basket on wheels from the shadows.

Pretty impressive, nice and clean - nothing can make this square look cluttered and untidy.

Ah. Looking a little more weathered a few years down the line, the market is in full swing. Lots of sprouts on offer - quite a few market stalls mark their prices up in that font even now. Any idea what it's called? I'll start us off with 'Brussels New'.

The Wimpey bar has been condemned and moved to redevelop are afoot. The spiral fire escape is rather lovely, like the inside of a whelk shell. There's a similar one atop Sheffield's Castle Market, next to the winding gear for the lift. I tried to go up it and then had to retreat quickly. God knows what the vertigo-suffering office workers of Aylesbury would have done in a fire.

Zodiac Toys in the background, when there were still toy shops in shopping precincts. Note the street furniture; prismic advertising posts and those deep concrete planters, nominally flower beds but actually a handy place to store soaked cigarette ends and crushed cans of lager.

Our Price, a chain much derided in its declining years, but try finding a record shop nowadays (HMV aside). To be fair most of the chain record shops all sold the same stuff, and when you did find that Jesus Lizard cassette you really wanted, it was £18.99. The only exception I found was the HMV down The Moor in Sheffield, which stocked an incredibly large amount of krautrock. You'd see people's mums flicking through the racks and looking at albums by Grobschnitt and Embryo in bewildement. So to conclude, Our Price was rubbish, good riddance.


More Aylesbury images to come. Don't have nightmares.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Covered Markets of Olde England - Rotherham!

I know what you're thinking. Ok, I don't - but I think people are thinking 'why so many covered markets and shopping centres?' Well a) I like them, and b) by taking a microcosmic look at unfashionable and neglected parts of a societies popular culture and infrastructure, I think you can learn a bit about them and 'enter the time machine' more easily than, say, looking at the same images of swinging london or that eighties clip of a yuppie in a bar thumbing loads of fivers. And c) I've got a lot of photos of covered markets and shopping centres.

But I digress. Here we are in Rotherham, and this is a covered market in the literal sense - a load of market stalls in a vast hangar. It looks quite futuristic - like the alien virus from The Andromeda Strain multiplying in your local town centre. Attractive too, with muted tangerine and mustard (did I say attractive?) pyramids topping each stall. And they're good stalls - Lees of Leeds (a jewellers that is still going strong), a toy shop, book shop, tree overall shop. Tree overalls? Must be a word that has been obscured, although it is a gap in the market.

I would describe this gentleman as 'solid'. More old ladies, one of whom has a jellyfish-skin cap.

The view from the walkway. Is it just me or can I smell damp cement dust when I look at this? Main thing of note is the yellow cabinet on the far wall - I have a distant folk memory of something like this being a children's ride, where you sat in it and lights went off and it rose up and down on a hydraulic arm. Is it a Yellow Submarine? Is it a children's ride at all? This seems to have contradicted my earlier statement about learning things from the past - perhaps I'll amend it to 'you can observe things from a distance and try to join up the dots'. If anyone can assist re this tantalising image, please let me know. We shall take our leave from Rotherham. Until next time ...


Welcome to Mansfield! I don't know why we're here, or when (though there is a sixties feel to things, I think you'll agree).

A trip to the Nat West first - same font and logo and everything, although what we're all looking at is the old lady in the foreground hanging a gold lame-suited Elvis pose in the middle of the road. Two of her colleagues trek back and forth across the junction a little further up like baddies in an old computer game: traffic calming measures, sixties style. To the right of the picture a woman seems to have perched her white-breeched infant on one of those trolleys that grocers use at the market. As an aside, I think this picture has the most old ladies in it than anything else ever posted here - a between channels record!

This is Mansfield Market, with the Bentinck Memorial in the background. Looks imposing, with lots of neo-Gothic fronds and frills but it looks like it's missing something. Well you'd be right to think that - as a memorial to Lord George Bentinck, fourth son of the Duke of Portland, you'd expect there to be a statue of him in the middle wouldn't you? Fortunately the burghers of Manfield saw sense and didn't stump up enough money for the statue (probably thinking, quite reasonably) that the Duke of Portland's son's estate should have possessed the means to whittle one themselves.

Anyway, he isn't there, although mum and daughter are. She gazes wistfully at the Agfhan coat and the tightly be-jeaned arse of the clothes stall proprietor. On the cusp of womanhood she is symbolically turning away from twin-set mum, as if to say 'Yes I am here, I am young and this whole status quo has to change'. Mum has seen some pegs on the next store along. Come along Cecilia, she seems to be saying, look at the pegs. There will be a swift backward glance, and then back to the Hillman Imp. What could have been, if only I were younger ...

That's what I think anyway. Best thing in this photograph? Well, it could be the lonely, kerb-poking Asian gentleman, keenly missing the country of his birth and yet determined that Mansfield, his new home, will be the making of himself and his family - a man apart, but not out of place. Or it could be the Michael Kitchen / Tom Jones crossover stood next to the old boy with the flat hat. Long leather coat, wide leg trousers and shell-toe trainers! The merry-go-round is sadly not in colour but it seems to have attracted a fair crowd of female spectators, despite being situated next to the bins.

That's enough sociological discourse in Mansfield. Time to press on with the rest of the backlog...