Levenshulme Close Up #1

Having become a resident of Levenshulme recently, I’m going to undertake series of blog posts over the next year or so, that look at the neighbourhood in close-up, in detail, at textures, patterns and surfaces.


I saw these collages on Albert Road, opposite the train station. I don’t know who made them, but I really enjoy their placing on the railings, like an impromptu art gallery, and their juxtaposition with other posters about local events.



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Intimate photography exhibition – ‘Separate + Together: bringing June Street to Miles Platting’

On Friday 16th June, I attended the opening day of a significant photographic exhibition Separate + Together: Bringing June Street to Miles Platting taking place in the church hall of Church of the Apostles in Miles Platting.

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It brings together photographic works by Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr taken in 1973 of people in their homes in Salford, alongside photographs of the local area and new portraiture of local people in Miles Platting, taken in 2017 by David Jones (who is also the curator of this exhibition).

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There are some powerful portraits in the exhibition: a fascinating glimpse into a moment in time in 1970s Salford, alongside intimate of portraits of local older people in the Miles Platting area in Manchester. The event was attended by a gathering of local people, some of whom were in the recent portraits by Jones.

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Image credits: Sarah Spanton, showing works by Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr and David Jones
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InspiralLondon – re-imagining the built environment #4

This is the fourth and final post from InspiralLondon Festival, held in September 2016.

Another presentation at the Friday event was French architect Julie de Muer. Julie and her two colleagues Baptiste Lanaspeze and Paul-Herve Lavessiere came over to the festival to speak at the Deep Topographies event at Swedenborg House, Bloomsbury on the Thursday evening.

Julie talked in detail about the artist-led Metropolitan Trail which links Marseille and the Provence region, formed of a figure of 8 shape, linking countryside and coastal areas. Julie described how citizens should have the right to practice the city in a certain way. Linking to Alberto Duman’s talk on marketing the London Borough of Newham to foreign investors, Julie described how during the Marseille Capital of Culture year, the Metropolitan Trail – which artists developed – allowed inhabitants to tell alternative narratives of the city and wider area. She highlighted how walking can be a methodology for creating these narratives from and with local people. A publication accompanies this project, and InspiralLondon has also become a Metropolitan Trail.

Julie de Muer speaking at Stave Hill Ecological Park

Julie went on to describe a second project she’s been part of, alongside a group of young architects, planners and landscapers entitled ‘Dimanche a Foresta’, after the land it has taken place on. The land is a 26 area of open land, known as a park (although not officially) between the sea and a ‘deprived’ area of Marseille. Most of the area has been bought by developers. Much of it can’t be built on as its during WW2 the land was bombed and parts of it have collapsed. It is also contaminated from earlier industry (including clay tile making), however for years local people have hunted and foraged there. The area around the park land has serious social issues.

An unusual partnership between artists, architects etc and local developers has been formed. A project called ‘Yes We Camp’ collective –  is inviting people to walk in, picnic in and explore the land together, finding the commonalities, shared histories and stories in order to create a new kind of urban park together.

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Image of ‘Foresta’, from https://yeswecamp.org/

Image credits: Sarah Spanton and Yes We Camp




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InspiralLondon – re-imagining the built environment #3

Several artists spoke at InspiralLondon’s Friday event, including Alberto Duman and Claire Qualmann.

Artist Alberto Duman described his recent Leverhulme Trust Funded project ‘Music for Master planning’. It focusses on the area of Newham, London – which he described as having a ‘marketing pitch’, where it is being promoted in a homogenous way internationally by the local authority to attract inward investment. The area is described as an ‘Arc of opportunity’ and a ‘London regen supernova’ in a promotional video Alberto recovered via a Freedom of Information request.

The project takes this promotion for inward investment as a starting point – it seeks to identify music made locally in the area, this ‘Arc of opportunity’; Stratford, Canning Town, London Docks – and to create an alternative narrative. The project aims to research, collect and record a compilation of soundtracks all produced within the boundaries of Newham’s Arc of Opportunity, compiling this place-based music online, creating a publication and a public event. On a personal note, I found this interesting, as one of my grandfathers was born and brought up in Canning Town.Alberto Duman 1

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Images from ‘Music for Masterplanning’ website – http://albertoduman.wixsite.com/music-masterplanning

Another artist talking at the festival was Claire Qualman. She described some of her projects including her initiation of the Walking Artist Network (alongside artists Gail Burton and Serena Hoarder) in 2004.

Other work also linked to walking the city, included East End Jam – inspired by walking around Stratford and finding many edible fruit trees and bushes (plums, sloes, apples) –  foraging then making jam and holding a public feast (Jamboree) to celebrate and eat what was made. Again, as in post #2, this artist project links to the CPUL approach which highlights the value of a productive cityscape.

Image credits: Alberto Duman

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InspiralLondon re-imagining the built environment #2

This second post unpacks some of Rebeka Clark’s presentation at InspiralLondon Festival in September 2016. Rebecca is the site manager of Stave Hill Ecological Park in Rotherhithe, London, where the Friday events for the festival took place. The park has been in existence for just over 30 years and was built in this former dockland area of South London, on what was Stave Dock. I have written briefly on Stave Hill before.

Rebeka described how the park has been about re-landscaping, that it is a made landscape, elements created have included a chalk bank and a chalk stream. The whole project has been made possible by volunteers, local people who’ve made the ecological park what it is – meaning children can come and make dens and catch stickle-backs in a jar in the middle of London. I was very interested her description of the area having had human settlement for over 2000 years, how before the docks, the area had cherry orchards and market gardens. The project has created hop gardens, to reflect the experience of local people travelling to Kent to pick hops, which is still in living memory and went on for generations. She described the importance of connecting people to the landscape, to place.

This made me reflect on the concept of CPUL (continuous productive urban landscape – Bohn and Viljoen), which I first introduced to by Chiara Tornaghi, research lead on the Urban Food Justice project (University of Leeds) in 2011-2013.

Continuous Productive Urban Landscape (CPUL) is a design concept advocating the coherent introduction of interlinked productive landscapes into cities as an essential element of sustainable urban infrastructure. Central to the CPUL concept is the creation of multi-functional open urban space networks, including urban agriculture, that complement and support the built environment’.[1]

This approach where networks of green spaces of all sorts (parks, brownfield, verges, allotments) are all valued as food growing spaces and wildlife habitats is significant in seeking to achieve resilient and prosperous, sustainable communities in cities and towns. A CPULs approach could see much more locally produced healthy food grown in urban areas in the UK (see Steady State Manchester, for a recent Café Conversation on this topic).


Stave Hill Ecological Park, InspiralLondon Festival

Rebeka also described the project’s ongoing efforts to increase biodiversity in Stave Hill Ecological Park. They have increased plant species from 40 to hundreds in 30 years, and have new knowledge about how to do this. And now have 100 species of micro-moth in their meadows. However, the park is in danger of being ‘loved to death’ by local people, through the constant walking over it (compacting the soil and accidental killing of insect species for example) – so reluctantly some areas have recently been fenced off to protect them. With the wider area being a key site for ongoing housing development, there are plans for a massive 70% increase in population, with high density tower blocks planned. Interestingly the park is being seen as a valued selling point for new development, recognising the importance of green space for wellbeing. However, this obviously creates a strong tension where many more people will want to use the park.

[1] http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/research/sustainability-network/cpul – Accessed 28.3.17

Image credits: Sarah Spanton


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InspiralLondon Festival: re-imagining the built environment #1

This post kicks of a short series about InspiralLondon. This is an urban trail developed and led by artists, spiraling out from Kings Cross and ends at Gravesend, it enables the public to experience the city as one vast art space in which to re-imagine the built environment.

My colleague Richard Sobey and I attended InspiralLondon’s Festival last September. Attending  events over this long weekend, in Bloomsbury, Greenwich and Stave Hill.


Discussion at Stave Hill, Clare Qualmann speaking


Rachel Gomme performance at Greenwich

Image credits: Sarah Spanton

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Visual activism in the urban landscape #3 – questioning how women’s bodies are displayed

The third post on visual activism in the urban landscape, I found this one day in September outside Marks and Spencer’s on St Mary’s Gate in the city centre of Manchester.

This Pussy Riot-styled and carefully placed translucent sticker (I presume intentionally positioned), is both seen and not seen. I have no idea how long it had been there, or how long it stayed in place. I thought it was great: how the image really interrupted the shop’s branding and asked questions about how women’s bodies are looked at and displayed as part of our consumerist culture.





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