Industrial Decline – social commentary in bricks

Written beneath us, spelt out in bricks, is what many on the train are thinking.


It’s picked out against greying, cracked concrete the colour of putty. Dusty, reclaimed bricks spell out the words, man-sized, for all to see.

The creator’s message brings nods, grins or the weary shake of a head from passing commuters.

He or she has chosen the foundation of some long-demolished factory. Fault lines run through the concrete – buddleia and thistles break through, half-bricks and bottles are strewn about, a drift of skeletal leaves and crisp packets gathers.

Crumbling walls are sprayed with graffiti tags. There is support for Wolves and, perhaps curiously, ‘Freedom for Famagusta’ sprayed in the blue and white of Greece.

Beyond the walls an untended bonfire of pallets and crates crackles and spits. The mercury waters of the canal are blurred by heat and licking flames.

Anchored far above a bubble-gum pink balloon, shaped like an airship, advertises MOTs for £35.

The site is hemmed between the Birmingham Canal and the railway and clearly in need of development, but it has been chosen by the creator more for the canvas than the context.

It is a vast empty space overlooked every hour by thousands of rail passengers staring out over their laptops, steaming lattes and Metros.

They cannot fail to miss it and point or nudge fellow travellers.

At first sight INDUSTRIAL DECLINE is cheeky, unexpected and amateur. It’s not sophisticated or skilled or subtle, but it reaches out to a captive audience marketers can only dream about.

Perhaps we’ll never know the creator’s motivation or thoughts, but they clearly cared enough to share them.

The Black Country has a fascinating industrial heritage and it seems the creator wants to ensure it has a future too. The creator wants us to care.

Some years back an enterprising adman shaved a well-known German lager brand into the crops in a farmer’s field.

Trains sped past this field in the Chilterns and passengers admired the skill. They may even have bought the lager, but I doubt they thought much about it.

The bricks made me think and many others too.

Weeks passed, but they remained. Then one frosty morning they were kicked apart, scattered like dashes and colons across the cracking cement.

Perhaps it was a local councillor or business chief that dismantled them, embarrassed at this act of social commentary.

For months after the bricks were used to swear and shaped as a giant cock. In the spring the buddleia and thistles overtook them.


About richlakin

I write about things that interest me
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