A few weeks ago I was up in Goldenhill (top end of Stoke for those unaware). I don’t paint or draw these days as there’s barely any time left after writing but when I do I’ll be drawn to places like these in Stoke. The city has a wealth of beautiful buildings but sadly many are decaying and unloved. They are often stripped of anything of value and may become used for storing waste – which may be toxic or highly flammable – or growing cannabis.
Some, like the Leopard pub in Burslem, once the meeting place of Wedgwood and Brindley, and tragically torn apart by a fire last week, get the headlines. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-60117043
Many are simply forgotten. But even if they are not aesthetically as pleasing or historically significant it is worth considering their stories and how many lives passed through them.
At first glance I smiled thinking this was Feelgood Lane. It’s a shame to see buildings falling down but it’s important not to be too sentimental. In one of my favourite film docs The London Nobody Knows James Mason argues this point. The Victorians tore down the work of previous generations and yet we admire much, if not all, of what they did.
Buildings need to be used and they need to be loved. Solutions need to be found. While I understand the need to be heard the noise on social media or in Parliament soon becomes a whisper and then this pattern of neglect will only continue. Perhaps people appease their guilt or make wider political points by doing so.
Part of the solution may be to understand that decisions have to be made. So, similarly to deciding which stretches of the coast will be left to rising sea waters, perhaps we should decide which buildings we renovate and then use and continue to love. Not an easy decision but surely better to manage some conservation of our precious past than to give in or make little progress in argument.
I’d like to see one of Stafford’s many old buildings used as a venue for teenagers to play and learn music, paint, try stand-up comedy and performance poetry for example. In this way a building becomes full of life and stories and laughter and a future generation can make its mark in the arts. There are plans I believe for the one below (I don’t know whether they are) but a venue for the arts would be perfect….