Wednesday, 28 January 2015

1236 : Fat Cat Talisman


ALMA STREET, SHEFFIELD : ALAN BURNETT (Circa 1983)

Back in the early 1980s the Kelham Island district of Sheffield was only just discovering that regeneration wasn't confined to religious deities and science fiction heroes. The old factories and workshops were closing and falling down but new life was beginning to seep into those old stone streets. The talisman was the old Alma pub - the building centre right in my photograph - which had just been bought by Dave Wickett and Bruce Bentley and transformed into the Fat Cat, one of the first and finest real ale pubs in the country.

Monday, 26 January 2015

1235 : The Wind And The Windows

GABLE END, BRIGHOUSE : ALAN BURNETT (Circa 1965)

All that wall and so little window. Not because windows were taxed - we are a century and a half after that curious time in fiscal history. But because windows let in the cold, played host to the east wind as it made its way from the steppes of Russia to the Atlantic.

Friday, 23 January 2015

1234 : Dirty Old Cut

BRIGHOUSE FROM LILLANDS LANE : ALAN BURNETT (Circa 1965)

Canal folk always call it the cut. That precise, no-nonsense term for a canal provides a wonderfully efficient description, especially in the industrial north where the murky water seems to carve a path through the soot-stained stones and bricks. How can you not look at such a scene and not hum Ewen MacColl's Dirty Old Town?

"I met my love by the gas works wall,
Dreamed a dream by the old canal,
Kissed a girl by the factory wall,
Dirty old town"

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

1233 : Look Back In Halifax

MARKET WORKER, HALIFAX : ALAN BURNETT (Circa 1966)

I think his name was Jimmy Porter, but I can't be sure. I know Jimmy Porter was a character in Look Back In Anger, but he was also a lad who was at school with me who had a Saturday job in the market. There was nobody who could fill a bag of spuds with the speed of Jimmy Porter. That might be a quote from Osborne and it might not be.

Monday, 19 January 2015

1232 : Greyscale Market Warmth

HALIFAX BOROUGH MARKET : ALAN BURNETT (Circa 1966)

So long ago. It seemed like a black and white world. There would have been colours I suppose, but those colours would have looked all wrong, like they did in early technicolour movies. Northern markets were greyscale places, but there was a warmth to them which came from more than the overhead electric heaters.

Friday, 16 January 2015

1231 : Electric Sparks And Sea-Salt Air

CORRIGAN DODGEMS, BRIDLINGTON : ALAN BURNETT Circa 1981

Albert Corrigan came to the seaside resort of Bridlington in the early 1960s and developed a fanfare along the sea front. Brid amusements never had the scale of their larger cousins in resorts like Scarborough or the west coast resorts of Blackpool and Morecambe. But the speed and the lights, that smell of the electric spark mixed with the sea-salt air, that over-loud music: all those are common to all northern resorts, irrespective of size.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

1230 : Bridlington Bottoms

BRIDLINGTON BOTTOMS : ALAN BURNETT Circa 1982

I am not sure what all these people were watching, but it would appear that I was watching their bottoms! In my defence I would point out that I was merely interested in the composition, the way that the eye is pulled up to the middle of the photograph and then thrown off into the sea or the sands or whatever lies over the wall.

Monday, 12 January 2015

1229 : Sluggishly Creeping Through Stoke


TRENT AND MERSEY CANAL, STOKE : ALAN BURNETT Circa 1971

“It was a breezy Friday in July 1872. The canal, which ran north and south, reflected a blue and white sky. Towards the bridge, from the north came a long narrow canal-boat roofed with tarpaulins; and towards the bridge, from the south came a similar craft, sluggishly creeping. The towing-path was a morass of sticky brown mud, for, in the way of rain, that year was breaking the records of a century and a half. Thirty yards in front of each boat an unhappy skeleton of a horse floundered its best in the quagmire.”

Excerpt From: Arnold Bennett. “Clayhanger.” iBooks. 

Friday, 9 January 2015

1228 : The Scar Remains

TRENT AND MERSEY CANAL : ALAN BURNETT Circa 1971

The Trent and Mersey Canal bisects the Potteries - the Five Towns of Arnold Bennett - like a deep scar. But like so many scars, it is a sign of life, for it is the canal that brought industrial life to the area.   It was the canal - financed in part by Josiah Wedgwood and build by James Brindley - that made it economically possible to bring the heavy China Clay into the district and safely transport the delicate bone china out to markets throughout the world. So many of the pot banks have now gone. But the scar remains.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

1227 : Five Towns Back Street

FIVE TOWNS BACK STREET : ALAN BURNETT Circa 1971

So much about this particular photograph says West Yorkshire to me. It is a back street and - mathematical impossibility or not - West Yorkshire always seems to have more back streets than front streets. There are inclines, and West Yorkshire always seems to have cornered the market in inclines. But those are bricks and not stone. And my old negatives always come in strips of five or six - and this particular shot is surrounded by pictures of Stoke or Hanley or Burslem. So we will content ourselves with the Arnold Bennett description of the "Five Towns" and in that case it must date back to the early 1970s.