A few years ago I did an online artist book course called Aspects of the City that took participants through a visual arts process where we had to chose an urban site as our starting point, I picked the derelict site on Halifax Road upon which is now built the new Lidl store that awaits opening once action is agreed regarding a flood defence scheme.
The book was a carousel book that had drawn and painted images from various viewpoints on the edge of the site to mirror the experience of walking around it.
On contemplating why I’ve been walking the same route for the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that I had needed something constant during a period of change in my personal life. I have a range of walking routes inside and outside of the area so it has been strange to anchor myself into the same walk week after week.
I’ve been reading Steve Hanson’s “Small Towns. Austere times. The Dialectics of Deracinated Localism”. To summarise, very simply, the book argues that there is no urban rural divide and that small towns, like Todmorden, are as much influenced by global capitalism than anywhere else. The book is about Todmorden and so I’m finding it fascinating. In the book Hanson describes an employee of a local bank who used the back of his redundant business cards for his cheese making business when he left work months before the economic crash in 2008. The business cards were issued as part of a continual restructuring process in the banks prior to the crash, the employee realised that someone in the organisation was aware of the looming economic disaster. His use of the cards represents a trace of history that is “live” i.e. it has not been rationalised and subsumed into “heritage” i.e. the cards have not been sanitised into an official view of history and are a trace that is linked to the individual.
This intrigued me and I realised that my prior investigation into the derelict site was a part of the town’s geography that had been ignored. Right now the land is still being contested; it is in a liminal state. It has been developed into a site of economic activity yet it remains inactive with a huge piece of undeveloped land right next to it. I parked in town and walked along the canal and around to the front of the site taking images. I’m particularly interested in the place where the developed area meets the undeveloped section.
On the canal I met a large walking group from Leeds, I stopped to chat and gave them some of my walking interview cards. I’m hoping they get in touch and have promised to buy them coffee.
Once I had finished taking photographs I decided to walk a new route which took me on Key Sike Lane and up to Kilnhurst Hall where William Holt once lived.
I passed the gravestone of his pet dog.
From there I followed a path that brought me onto Oldroyd Road. I followed it down, joined Woodhouse Road, turned right and walked a few hundred yards to New Mill dam on the left and found a wooden dog tag hanging on the fence.
I walked around the dam hopeful of spotting a Kingfisher but instead took photographs of a burnt out portacabin. On the way back I took another footpath I had noticed years ago so keeping with my resolve to explore I discovered it connected up to the route I had taken via Oldroyd Road.
My plan is to revisit the new Lidl site and go through the same visual process I did 3 years ago with the possibility of layering up new images and previous work. Unfortunately, I will not be able to enter the site whilst it is still contested although I may try and talk to the security guard. Otherwise I will continue to walk around the edge. At last I can feel something shifting deep within and the creative process awakening after a long time of hibernation and, after all, it is the Spring Equinox.