For future reference

Each time I do one of my circuits of one of the Eastsides, I think to myself I should really make a return visit with a camera and properly document the area.

Then I think to myself: I am documenting the area.

Then I think to myself: yes, but some photos would be nice.

Then I think to myself: it’s too much for one person to do; too much for one person to take responsibility for.

Then I think to myself: but if I don’t do it, nobody else will.

Then I think to myself: you’re not going to get paid for it and you can’t afford the time.

ad infinitum

This evening I went to suss out what’s happening with all the recent road closures and I ended up taking some snaps.

Right now they look like a batch of slightly dull images of a non-landscape.

In ten years’ time they’ll be a crutch for our fading memories of what it was like when Curzon Street was here. (Assuming the plans to re-route Curzon Street alongside the railway lines are still going ahead.)

Panorama along Curzon Street showing its original location (click for full size).

Panoramic view from the canal bridge opposite the Lock Keeper's Cottage (click for full size).

I remember when all this was fields. Kinda. View from near the junction of Fazeley Street and New Canal Street (click for full size).

Recursive loops

Current view of Millennium Point forecourt and Curzon Street. According to the ginormo balloon thing in the atrium, MP is now 10 years old, so that's an impressive collection of scars on the carpark already. Looks like road closures in the lead up to carpark becoming City Park start next week.

Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em! It sank into the swamp, so I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, and then it sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that’s what you’re going to get, lad – the strongest castle in these isles…

The British Library’s Legal Deposit Office gets Document One

*glows with pride*

[also]

The Spotted Dog reference library gets Document One

The Spotted Dog pub on Warwick Street is home to John Tighe and an impressive collection of texts, maps, posters and other printed matter that get produced from locations unseen when relevant to the conversation. Interesting conversations have a habit of happening here…

Whilst not within the Eastside boundary I have been investigating, The Spotted Dog (and I know there are two in the area!) gets a mention both in Ben Waddington’s November 1st 1860 and and in Joe Holyoak’s Eastsiders. These are the texts in Uncertain Eastside – Document One

It seems only right and proper then that there is now a copy of Document One housed at The Spotted Dog. Feel free to pop in, have a browse and have a natter.

Should you wish to invest in a copy of your own, the publication is available to buy from here.

Uncertain Eastside – Document One: 2009

It’s a very great pleasure to be able to announce the release of my first publication.

Having a quick flick through the 112 pages.

As shown by the rather long list on the title page, other people have put loads of effort into this as well. Thank you to everyone who has supported this project.

Uncertain Eastside – Document One: 2009 brings together activity from my first year of investigating my relationship to BCC‘s ‘Eastside’ regeneration zone and logging the micro and macro changes in the landscape as time passes. It’s Eastside in three parts: past, present and future.

Bursting with goodness over three acts!

The book starts with a manufactured history contributed by the indescribable Ben Waddington: a day as seen from the perspective of a family living in Digbeth. Pay attention – this text is as much about the present day and October the 18th, 2009, as it is about November the 1st, 1860.

Next, now firmly in 2009, the book gives an overview of my alternative cartography of the regeneration zone’s perimeter and a selection of 83 lush colour photos selected from the 1000+ submitted by participants of the Walk and Talk event.

The book finishes off with a text from much-respected architect and urban designer Joe Holyoak and Tracey Fletcher from the Eastside Sustainability Advisory Group. Written 8 years ago it describes a day in the life of a family inhabiting an Eastside of the future. 2012 now seems both just around the corner and impossibly distant.

You can buy copies of Uncertain Eastside from http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Issue/131607 where there is also a link that allows you to preview the book’s contents.

Magcloud are running a special offer until the end of the year that means you only pay $22.15 (≈£14) rather than $28.00 (≈£17.50). Your order is then printed up and delivered to you within about a week, so there’s time to get some as Christmas presents!

Again, a special thank you to everyone who has taken part in the making of this publication: Pete Ashton, Karen Cameron, Mike Cummins, Ida Deodathsingh, Emma (editorialgirl), Tracey Fletcher, Joanna Geary, Nicky Getgood, Michael Grimes, Marian Hall, Libby Heighway, Mark Hill (cybrum), Joe Holyoak, Alex Hughes, Nancy Langfeldt, Ben Mabbett, Steve Scott, Tim Stock, Chris Tomlinson, Ben Waddington and Simon Whitehouse.

Plans are afoot for Document Two. Watch this space…

Pete Ashton’s Living in the City presentation

Uncertain Eastside gets some seconds in Pete’s Pecha Kucha style presentation at the Landscape Institute:

Can’t remember what I was doing in that photo, but I think it involved someone’s hat…

Preparing to publish

A while ago I talked about getting closer to finishing the Uncertain Eastside publication triggered by my work in and around Birmingham City Council’s Eastside regeneration area.

In the intervening weeks I have registered as a publisher (under the name Present Position) and have been duly uniquely identified and allocated ISBN numbers etc etc. I have had adventures with barcodes, sent off for and received a proof print, and tweaked, augmented and improved the contents.

A quick flick through the first proof copy

Over the last few days I have shared the first proof with a handful of people and had some nice, encouraging responses in return. A good example was last night, chatting with Nicky Getgood and Digbeth publican John Tighe. (John’s pub, The Spotted Dog, is mentioned a couple of times in texts by Ben Waddington and Joe Holyoak, so I’d wanted to check a few details with him.)

Tyre

As John had a good ol’ look through the proof, he came across the photo above by Mark Hill, one of the Walk and Talk participants. I’d wondered about the building in the background before, but never quite got around to finding out about it. Well thanks to Nicky I now know it was built by a breakaway (Catholic?) group who built their own building to worship in …but then made up with the main Church before it was put into use. As a result the building was never consecrated and is now full of tyres!

We’ve also established that my publication does not make Birmingham look like Barcelona…

A preview of Digbeth not looking like Barcelona

A preview of Digbeth not looking like Barcelona

I’ve just uploaded my modifications and am about to order what I hope will be the final proof.

All being well, Uncertain Eastside – Document One: 2009 should be available for purchase towards the end of next week.

19,264 seconds of qualitative and quantitative data (Curzon Street, 2010)

What started as an exploration into my relationship as an artist to a proposed cultural quarter has expanded to also include a significant amount of sustained investigation into witnessing and documenting the change in that urban landscape.

Last year my focus was on the perimeter of Birmingham City Council’s regeneration area. Since walking and gathering the GPS data for Uncertain Eastside and organising the Walk and Talk event (in which we gathered lots of visual and anecdotal data) I’ve been increasingly aware of buildings going up and coming down in the area around Curzon Street and Millennium Point.

The Google Earth view of the area (with imagery that seems to be from 2007) is already drastically out of date, but it gives a rough idea about the range of contrasting terrain there now.

As well as spending hours walking all the streets in the zone I’ve selected, concentrating on paying attention to the details of the spaces, I’ve been collecting and processing GPS data to use as a measure of how developed the streets are. I will repeat this over the years to come as a way of logging the changes taking place on both macro and micro scales.

Google Earth view of the area I've been investigating

Google Earth view of the area I've been investigating

At the bottom left of the image above there is a relatively green area: old factory plots that have now turned to grassy wastelands and the park on the corner at the top of Fazeley Street.

Bartholomew Street, now closed to traffic and without any buildings around it. The bottom right corner shows where my path passes under the railway arches at the corner of Fazeley and New Canal Streets

Bartholomew Street, now closed to traffic and without any buildings around it. The bottom right corner shows where my path passes under the railway arches at the corner of Fazeley and New Canal Streets

Here the GPS data is fairly consistent. Water-heavy buddleia bushes overhanging the pavements on closed roads induce a few wobbles and railway viaducts cause momentary loss of signal, but on the whole the open terrain doesn’t interfere much with calculations of position.

Contrast this with the data gathered from around the various Further and Higher Education buildings on and around Fox Street and Grosvenor Street.

Tall buildings closely packed together reflect and block the satellite signal, causing the GPS calculations for position to be very inaccurate.

Tall buildings closely packed together reflect and block the satellite signal, causing the GPS calculations for position to be very inaccurate.

At one point one of the GPS devices calculated I simultaneously had one hand next to the halls of residence and the other on Digbeth high street opposite the coach station! (About 800 metres away.)

If even a small proportion of any of the various plans for Eastside are realised we look set to get more lines like this in the future.

I’ve come to refer to those two areas respectively as the Green Zone and the Learning Zone. The third zone in the area is the Rubble Zone – the plots between Millennium Point and the ring road that have been razed with the exception of 3 buildings: Belmont Row Co-op works, the lock keeper’s cottage and the Moby Dick’s pub.

From left to right: Cardigan Street, Gopsal Street, Penn Street and a tiny piece of Belmont Row. Currently mostly rubble.

From left to right: Cardigan Street, Gopsal Street, Penn Street and a tiny piece of Belmont Row. Currently mostly rubble.

The presence of all three of these buildings can be seen to affect the GPS traces. The image above hints at Moby Dick’s on Gopsal Street. For now the lines are uniformly short, but stand by for Eastside Locks. [link to pdf of proposed developments]

So there we have it: a snapshot of a part of Birmingham before it changes beyond recognition. Quantitative data gathered over several hours of walking a set pattern of streets whilst paying attention to the details, the changes and the people – I’ll tell you about it on a walk or in a pub sometime. Qualitative data in the form of 19, 264 lines that speak volumes if you know how to listen – probably a limited edition print coming soon.

19,264 seconds of qualitative and quantitative data (Curzon Street, 2010)

19,264 seconds of qualitative and quantitative data (Curzon Street, 2010)

Preparing to publish Uncertain Eastside

I’ve given myself some time off from school projects etc to focus on getting to grips with pulling the Uncertain Eastside publication together.

Layout screenshot - Uncertain Eastside GPS drawing

Layout screenshot - Uncertain Eastside GPS drawing

One of the most challenging things has been to edit the 1000+ photos submitted by the Walk and Talk participants down to what is now a mere 84.

There have been some difficult decisions involved in trying to represent nearly 4 miles worth of varying landscape in a succinct collection of images. In very approximate terms we’re talking one photo per 75 metres. Is it possible to capture the essence of a place with so few photos? Well, I hope we have at least provided a few reference points by which the changes that will follow can be gauged.

Layout screenshot - Walk and Talk event photos

Layout screenshot - Walk and Talk event photos

I quite often drive on the ring road along the Watery Lane – Dartmouth Circus section of the Eastside perimeter and even in the one year since I started this project several buildings have been demolished and you can see multi-storey carparks going up not far away. Makes me wonder how fast things would have changed had we not have crunched our credit.

Layout screenshot - rear cover

Layout screenshot - rear cover

I’m nearly at the point where I can start sending off for proofs and ISBN numbers, so hopefully the publication will soon be ready to be released into the wild.

The rain eased.

Google Earth view of the first 3 circuits of the area around Curzon Street

Google Earth view of the first 3 circuits of the area around Curzon Street



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