Thursday, 3 December 2009

#7 Meeting the Grindleys, Friday 13th November, 2.0 pm

When John Grindley showed me round the underground passages at Lingfield Point he mentioned the family’s employment on the site that now spans three generations and I asked him then if it would be possible to meet his father. I’m really grateful to him for organising this and to Eddie for providing a room for the meeting.
John’s father, George (seen here on the right in Alistair Morrison’s terrific photograph – John is on the left.) first worked for Lingfield Point as an employee of Sir Alexander Gibb who with the contractors Laing’s designed and built the factory in the late 1940’s. George spoke of his experience during the war and how he was assigned work.

At the end of his assignment he had two job offers and his father advised him that Paton and Baldwins would be the best one to take because of the care and regard they had for their employees. Patons was a firm with generous pension benefits which George is enjoying today.

George’s whole working life has been taken up with commissioning and operation of the turbines connected to the power house building and the supply of steam around the site.

George’s retirement party was held in the turbine room in 1992 with the turbines themselves being cut apart with wrecking torches just two years later and sold by the receivers in 1994 for a paltry £10,000. Contemporary images show the ‘exhibition quality turbines’ at their peak in the 50’s. George is letting me have a video of this party which I hope to post on this blog eventually.
Although he did not expect the equipment to have a second lease of life during the British American Tobacco years he was devastated to learn of their destruction and glad that it followed his retirement and it had not been his job to supervise their decommissioning.

Talking to him I became acutely aware of the way in which employment practices have changed, the no expense spared approach at the time of the construction giving way to time and motion studies and cheeseparing by management consultants.

When we shot Futurescope 2 Beeman in the Turbine Hall we discovered a suspension file which recorded the procurement of the replacement components up to the 1970’s George knew the files much of it I suspect in George’s handwriting.
George worked at the site for over fifty years and it is inconceivable to me how anybody could work in a single location albeit for two employers for this duration of time. I hope he won’t be offended if I say that I almost feel that he lived in a different world. During our conversation which was full of anecdotes about people who could tell the breed of a sheep simply by touching a fleece, people who did not want to work the night shift, himself included (‘the night shift is for owls and prostitutes’).

The key issues were that in 1947 when the factory was built it was commissioned with machinery which had been ordered before the war and placed in storage until hostilities were over so that this somehow makes sense of the art deco feel of the design and the Ruth Ellis era (Rock and Roll just about to happen/teenagers not invented/hanging still a punishment for the
crime of murder) feel of the implementation.

He described not as I had expected a slow curve of decline to the dereliction which makes today’s development possible but a volatile sequence of plateaux and drops. Boom and Bust. Not decay.

When it was built Lingfield was ideally placed to benefit from the baby boom and the confidence as well as the paranoia of the cold war 1950’s and early 60’s rather than the gentle curve that I had expected of decline he described how the company had failed to anticipate how the textile market would respond to the introduction of synthetic fabrics.

These products precipitated a collapse in sales for wool product and led to the almost complete re-tooling of the production line.

George also explained how the company had stockpiled wool as a commodity and benefited from movements in price as a speculator.

When the Russian army decided to renew its entire stock of uniforms the world price for wool went through the roof and Lingfield’s stockpile gained £1 million of value over night.

The wool came from all over the place but most specifically from Paton’s interests in Australia. It was retailed through volume sellers specifically Marks and Spencer whose frequent inspections of production facilities were apparently the cause of a good deal of shop floor anxiety.

After the demise of wool production at the site George had expected the equipment and machinery to be decommissioned but the site was given a reprieve by British American Tobacco (Rothmans) who used the steam produced by the power house to manipulate humidity in their production process. It was only after BAT installed their own equipment that the power
house was finally decommissioned.
Amongst the anecdotes he mentioned one thing in particular which has been preying on my thoughts ever since:

On the crown of Unit 5 now re-branded Memphis by Marchday and let as accommodation for the Student Loan Company stood a huge golden and green neon beehive. Both John and George remembered seeing it from their sitting room windows and I asked them if they had any photographs in which it appeared - but they do not. I will be honest I am hunting for an image of this. If anybody in Darlington has a picture of this neon sign which was apparently thrown to the ground (decommissioned) I would be really grateful to see it. My contact details are

When I asked George what the beehive meant there was no doubt in his mind that the image itself referred to the productive industry of bees as a social metaphor for how Lingfield Point worked and was conceived. The Beehive was an image of society.

Friday, 11 September 2009

#6 Beehive yourself

‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness’ is the legend that appears beneath the corporate logo of Lyle’s Syrup and Treacle. It is hard today to think of any advertising agency who would allow the image of a bee colony in the rotting corpse of a dead lion and a turn of phrase that might be considered a bit ‘pulpit’ to be considered as a brand image and survive in post… but times have changed.

There is in fact a long tradition of bees in marketing. Bees are ‘productive’ and ‘well-organised’. They make sweet food out of flowers and they pollinate plants. We call them ‘workers’, ‘soldiers’, ‘drones’ and of course they have a bit of royalty! In naming them we transfer an image of our own society to them along with recognition of our own values, systems and hierarchies as if to say that they are like us and we are like them. One big happy family where everyone knows what they are doing. The image of bees has been a metaphor for productivity in commercial hands to an extent where it is almost a part of the language of corporate communication. It should of course be obvious to anyone that we are nothing like bees.

It is no co-incidence that it was for a long-time the corporate symbol of the Co-operative society. Bees and people bonded together in a virtuous cycle of production and exchange. A symbiotic relationship in which status is exchanged between the parties…Producers and consumers. Obviously I’m a bit unclear on what it is exactly that we as consumers put back into this relationship!

Perhaps bees are also a metaphor for social stability and I wonder if this was behind the choice of a beehive as the corporate logo for Paton and Baldwin former owners and developers of the Lingfield Point site.

The brand is now owned by coates crafts so I’ve called to ask them what its origins were and I’ll add to the blog if and when I hear back.

Paton and Baldwin was created by the merger in 1920 of two companies founded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries based in Alloa and Halifax. The two brands ‘Paton’s Rose’ and ‘Baldwin’s Beehive’ survived and you can buy Patons knitting products now (They are emblazoned with a beehive). If you don’t believe me look it up!

At Lingfield the legacy of this brand is still felt in the naming of buildings. ‘The Beehive’ is the former theatre building. Now let as offices to among others, the naafi, a mezzanine has been constructed in the former auditorium to provide office space but the proscenium arch is still visible and the glorious plaster cartouche that emblazoned the hall has been restored beautifully. There flanked by the masks of comedy and tragedy the beehive corporate logo of Paton and Baldwin graces what was formerly a theatre venue.
Perhaps too there is something slightly transgressive or at least indulgent about bees and honey. We know when we eat it, that like Winnie the Poo, we are gluttons spoiling ourselves but that our greed could come at a terrible price as the swarm seeks revenge. Am I going too far? Think about this the next time you are asked for your nectar card!

In China, where agricultural practices are different to those relied on in the west, pollination is often done by hand which in view of the colony failures happening now might well become part of our future in agriculture too. The huge road trains that drive bee colonies around the Midwestern states are in commercial trouble. The Bees are dying… This forms part of that group of stories around our changing ecology which is such an important component of our current cultural and media environment. It is clear that when we talk about bees we are quick to find a moral narrative - isn’t that odd?

Bees of course know nothing about all this nonsense! (A.) They can't think and (B.) the only symbiotic relationship they have is with flowers.

People are nothing to them.

John and I first started thinking about bees when an architect called Joshua Bolshover presented a competition entry to Tees Valley Arts and Middlesbrough Council for a treatment of the ruderal verges of the A66 in Middlesbrough around the Cargo Fleet interchange in which he proposed bee keeping as an urban farming project which could feasibly be carried out on a trunk road. We were encouraging this line of thinking which is to say we had written the creative brief in a way that allowed a design response about productive urban landscape, but didn’t dare suggest livestock and hadn’t thought of bees! Bees he suggested would cause no damage to moving vehicles and there would be no need for fences and so on. He devised an elaborate ‘toolkit’ for verge maintenance to include hives as part of a suite of outdoor furnishings together with interpretation and of course wildflower planting. He called his proposal A66 nectar! It was a great idea beautifully expressed, exquisitely designed and although it won him an interview it didn’t get picked because (A.) it wasn’t a thing on a roundabout by an artist and (B.) it would probably have been too much trouble and for some other reasons that (er) I just can’t get into here. Anyway it was a fantastic proposal and he deserves a plug so check him out at

From this point on Beekeeping became a subject of interest. My next door neighbour keeps bees and makes honey and I’ve had a good neb about at them and all the kit that is involved. She charges £4.00 for a jar which is a bit rich considering that it is probably made from our flowers.

We are thinking about letting someone else keep bees in our garden (but what happens if the kids get stung?) and various artists have mentioned it. Olaf Nicolai for example once spoke to me about his commissioned designs for hives from various architects and there is a great project currently going on in Liverpool with artist Kerry Morrison for the New Heartlands area. Bees and bee mythology are clearly ‘on trend!’

When the first Futurescope was going up we were looking at the land in front of the Power House where a significant quantity of subsoil from the construction of the new road was being dumped/stored. (Road traffic engineers never think about what to do with the waste produced by their ‘designs’ and they don’t want to pay £6.50 a ton for landfill if they can avoid it! So with poor fertility and no established sward of grass we suggested that it might form a good growing medium for either wild-flowers or Sunflowers (but we were too late with this idea).
I am suspecting now that Eddie Humphries site manager at Lingfield is possibly not grateful for this suggestion because all did not go well… The scattered seed was immediately eaten by the wretched pigeons that live in the Power House. When it comes to ecosystems it’s a dog eat dog world. However, now that summer is drawing to a close the wildflowers are in bloom and (except for the places where they been eaten) they look beautiful. There is a broad mix of cornflowers, poppies and daisies and plenty of butterflies too.

There is another intervention as well - for Lingfield Point is branching out into beekeeping for real! The first three hives are installed at a top secret location on site (I have to say this for security reasons) and there are plans to produce and sell the honey. To which end the grounds team (Aka Willy) has kitted himself out with beekeeping gear, gloves, meshes, smokers (which make them drowsy) and has been reading up on it. Watch this space.
There is a magic in the incongruity of beekeeping on an industrial site but it is a fact that the brown-field is a haven for wildlife and part of a productive landscape whose potential for development needs to provide for and respect living things.

Christian Barnes
August/September 2009

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

#5 A walk with John Grindley on the 19 August and some other thoughts.

We have been thinking about the people who work at Lingfield Point for the October/December 2009 Futurescope image. At one point when we were doing the Sunflowers we discussed the idea of working with a group of people who work on the Lingfield site. We had thought about asking them to stand around in a circle and taking a photo looking upwards so that the picture would look very like the sunflower picture. Who works at Lingfield is very interesting. A few of Lingfield’s people have worked there for a very long time.

I described the idea for the image to Marchday’s people and they suggested I ask John Grindley to show me round.

John Grindley’s family has worked at Lingfield Point for three generations. John’s Grandfather was clerk of works on the build after World War Two. His father was the Chief Engineer and John works as part of the Lingfield Security Team.

It’s an understatement to say that he knows the place well. He knows it like the back of his hand and then he knows some more about it.

That concept of long service is something that I really have not got any experience of and it’s a tragic that it’s so hard for people to work this way now sustaining a commitment to a place for such a long time and that’s not to say that John was sentimental.

I described the idea for the picture to John and asked if he could think of good locations to stage it. I drew him a quick sketch of the Beatles ‘Please Please Me’ album cover as a starting point.

He suggested looking at the soap dock lift. The Soap Dock is the first building that faces you as you drive in from the east on the new road. When Paton and Baldwin’s ran the site this is where the fleeces would be delivered, sorted and according to their grade sent to the right floor. Like a lot of the old interiors at Lingfield it is brilliantly painted in blue and yellow which the flash on my camera made more vivid.

We moved on and John showed me the vast network of underground tunnels (miles of them) whose job was to carry services and steam around the site conditioning the atmosphere and giving the right humidity in different places to maintain the right level of moisture in the wool in the factory floors above.

John described in detail the electric vehicles used in the passages and explained the expansion pipes, and fittings. He explained that this control of humidity is what had made the site attractive to Rothmans and that after wool production had ceased tobacco became the new business on site with the steam from the power building and turbine hall being piped around like a giant humidor.

The conversation has changed my understanding of the site. Like anyone who looks at it from the outside it looks like a collection of buildings to me but from the labyrinth below it looks like a machine clad in brick curtain walls.

We stopped at a bay where he pointed out a chalked up inscription ‘END OF THE LINE 1978’. It marks the spot where the last batch of wool was stored before going up to the factory above. He regretted that someone had brushed over it and that a little bit of history had been lost.

As we walked about underground exploring I couldn’t help feeling that the whole place was like the kind of air raid shelter that people had turned the London Underground into during World War Two and it was then that he said something that astonished me. He said that as Clerk of Works his Grandfather had been involved in the specification of the buildings in 1949. The factory site had been constructed to withstand bombing. These tunnels would have been available to workers and nearby residents as bomb shelters in the event of attack and were designed with this secondary purpose in mind and that the whole factory was also designed to be used for the manufacture of munitions and aeroplanes in the event of war. Its proximity to the air base that is now Durham Tees Valley Airport was key to this. He said that during World War Two it had been understood that the impact of bombing on the Axis powers had been to reduce their industrial output to a point where they could no longer maintain their war effort. This had informed the layout of the buildings and open spaces on site. They were placed and engineered to withstand, contain and deflect explosions.

Lingfield Point could have withstood direct aerial bombardment and maintained production.
This was part of the performance specification to which the original designers had worked.
The design of Lingfield Point can be directly linked to the Cold War period, which is obvious but I just hadn’t thought of it that way.

I have always felt that from the outside Lingfield Point looks a little like a cross between an air force base and a holiday camp! But everything about the building has a quality to it. The brick is an engineering grade with an unusual fleck in the surface and hard to break. The finish is high quality but as we had been looking at the unused air conditioning plants and the interiors (We had come out of the underground passage and onto the mezzanine floor of the turbine hall.) something else really struck me - the confidence of the builders and the energy of the 1950’s. The specification of the interior materials is lavish. The mezzanine of the turbine hall for example is laid with terrazzo and the walls are part tiled with an elegant Italian ceramic tile while the paint schemes are pastel blue coloured with strong accent colours in red and ochre.

Nothing here was sorry for itself when it was made!

If it looks like a wartime base on the outside on the inside it is as lavish as a Hillman car with two tone paint job and white walled tyres… I’m even wondering if there are interior designers who specialise in Power Stations!

John said that it was deafening when the turbines were running and he explained the use of now discarded pieces of equipment in supplying the national grid. There is nothing there now other than the odd pigeon and the hum of the still operational substations. It is like standing in a library.

I remember being told how much it cost to supply the coal for the boilers that ran the turbines (Of course now that I’m writing up my blog I can’t remember how much exactly it was but it was either thirty or fifty thousand pounds a day at least it was a lot of money and if anyone wants to put me straight on the exact figure email Lingfield and I’ll update it!)

As John Kennedy and closed the door on the building today after location shooting John said that it felt like we had been in a building that was built as a temple to energy. Energy and particularly sustainability issues are a big theme in our work and have a lot to do with our ideas for Futurescope.

I think a lot of people in Darlington will know this place and perhaps that those that don’t would be interested in what is on the inside. One thing is certain the buildings need showing to people somehow. As well as being about people working at Lingfield and the changes that are afoot we want the next image to show the inside on the outside.

Christian Barnes
9 September 2009

Friday, 19 June 2009

#4 A blow to the eye!

When John and I were discussing what the first picture should be we felt that it should have several properties. Although we want people to become involved in making the pictures the first one has to set a standard and level of expectation about what could happen with these pictures as their content is not pre-determined. So for us first of all, the entire image itself needed to be different from a normal picture.

The idea of Futurescope is that it would be like looking through a distorting mirror and would not be like looking at a 'normal' picture.

John and I wanted Futurescope to have something of this about it as if , when you looked, it might appear to be looking through a hole in the building itself towards a distant framed vision of a future landscape and environment.

We were thinking about reflecting pools, we were thinking about telescopes, we were thinking about distorting mirrors and we were thinking about technology. There are some great panoramas of Mars that have this distant and remote manipulated character about them. The odd thing is that a very small machine made the baseline imagery from which these images are composed but it is possible to imagine, whilst looking at them, that the machine is big in relation to the planet it is photographing!

We liked the idea of a distorting ‘Trompe l’oeil’ effect so that when people saw the picture it would not have the usual pictorial impact but would still have recognisable content. We also wanted to deal with how the image could be ‘composed’ in relation to a circular shape.

Trompe l’oeil means ‘a blow to the eye’ - a term used in art to describe a picture that is so ‘real’ it can deceive people into thinking that they are looking at real things and it has a great tradition of being used in paintings that relate to architecture.

At some point in these discussions one of John's assistants came up with a device that would manipulate the polar co-ordinates of square photographs and turn them into circles. So we started working with the idea.

One of John's photographs of the sky with meadow grass in the foreground really hit the spot and this was the starting point for the first image. It makes a great comparison with the Martian picture!

Then we got back to talking about energy crops - finally - settling on Sunflowers.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

#3 Sunflowers

One of the themes that we identified for picture content in Futurescope is growing crops for both their appearance and their food value. Productive parkland if you like.

We have as a family quite a bit of experience of growing sunflowers and first tried it on our allotment at home. My eldest son was four at the time and alongside the onions, potatoes, raspberries, cabbages etc. that we were growing for the table we made him a flower bed full of the kind of plants that like to ‘show off’, pumpkins, sweet peas and, of course: sunflowers. It was a boiling summer and we went away on holiday so when we came back the allotment was massively overgrown. Most impressive of all was my son’s flower bed.

When he saw it he turned round and said that ‘all his plants had escaped!’ The pumpkins had climbed out from beyond the border of the bed and the sunflowers were at least twice as tall as he was. It had all looked very different only a fortnight earlier.

The energy of plants is fantastic and thinking about the idea of plants that could be used as a crop something that would look both decorative and be productive we thought about several for Futurescope like Hybrid Willow and Miscanthus which are grown as biomass crops for carbon free energy production. We thought about rape (and rapeseed oil) and flower cropping. We had discussed sunflowers specifically in relation to our ideas for the greenspace between Falkirk and Grangemouth.

I also remember driving through Italy on honeymoon over 10 years ago and seeing sunflowers grown as a crop for the first time.

During the day their heads would follow the path of the sun and it was almost impossible not to regard them as people with faces. We stopped and took loads of photos.
We settled on sunflowers in the end because they are so beautiful and because we felt that people would think positively about them. Hopefully people will think of them as something decorative and something natural that they themselves might have pleasant memories of.

We see this kind of planting and thinking as being a potential future for the management of urban green space and we think that there is a point where grounds management and productive farming could meet.

We think that this is the future of how the spaces between buildings in cities could be managed and we think that it is a positive future.

We are very optimistic about this future.

We have loads of Sunflower seeds to give away. Please plant yours and when you have photos post them to the Futurescope page on Facebook.

#2 What is Futurescope?

Futurescope is an outdoor exhibition of eight massive circular photographs one after the other over the next two years on the Lingfield Point power plant building facing the A66 devised by Christian Barnes and John Kennedy as Lead Artists in discussion with Tees Valley Arts.

Futurescope is intended to catalyse a ‘Cultural, Arts and Ecological Strategy’ for Marchday at Lingfield Point, Darlington and to inform long term thinking for the site.

‘Futurescope’ is predicated on the idea that we want to develop a relationship with Lingfield Point that lasts over time and to develop and share our creative vision for urban brown field landscape.

The images will be changed with the seasons.

The pictures will explore the possibilities of the site and its working environment in cultural and ecological terms. They will be selected/made during the life of the project (not predetermined) and could respond to developments on site.

The images will be cultural and ecological ‘propaganda’ about Lingfield Point intended to be visible to a wide cross section of Darlington’s residents and visitors.
We want to propose and envision behavioural change that will lead to the productive and economic use of the soft estate at Lingfield Point. From ‘Lingfield Organics’, to grazing by ‘Lingfield Lamb’, to wild flower and renewable energy cropping. We want to explore how such images can change our mindset and habitat and move to the negotiation of a new and stronger relationship with the people of Darlington and the Tees Valley for the Lingfield Point site. A relationship fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
We think these concerns are close to the development propositions that will make the site a success in the future. ‘Futurescope’ will also touch a building that is being considered for development as a cultural venue with a unique and highly memorable art project.

Put simply ‘Futurescope’ is about how we envisage that Lingfield Point could be reinvented, populated and managed. It is about the future and not the past. We really hope people enjoy it.

We see the opportunity for ‘doing business’ to continue into the extensive and under utilised soft estate in such a way that a perception of Lingfield Point and its accessibility to the community slowly negotiates new development propositions (including social enterprise) in a beneficial way that can be realised in the real economy. We think that the green parts have a greater value than is currently being envisaged and we feel that the soft estate (developed against an ecological, social and cultural agenda) can be central to the eventual creation of a live/work environment that realises the full potential of the site in an original and unique way.

‘Futurescope’ is wholly focussed on this idea.

We are excited and inspired by Marchday’s future vision for the site which projects an economic life for Lingfield Point beyond the oil age as an employment site where people live and play as well as work.

It is this that gives us our subject.

What will this habitat really look and feel like?

We want to engage with the company and local people in imagining and projecting this future. It is not a simple future.

Thursday, 28 May 2009


Futurescope and the first big picture might come as a surprise to people who see it for the first time and knew nothing about it. So it’s maybe important to describe how it came about. It has been quite a long time in the making.

In 2001 Marchday who now own Lingfield Point invested in an opportunity for an artist to light their seventeen story office block building ‘Centre North East’ in Middlesbrough. The company had acquired the building after it had lain empty for years after its biggest tenant the Secretary of State quit the building.

Marchday spent millions re-cabling the building and equipping it as a call centre but were worried that its visibility in Middlesbrough had fallen away. At that time I was approached by what was then Cleveland Arts (now Tees Valley Arts) and Arts & Business on the recommendation of Commissions North to manage a process to recruit a lighting artist to create an innovative lighting scheme for the building.

This process lead to the appointment of Ron Haselden whose proposal called ‘Rose’ (a new pink neon colour) saw neon strips installed through the seventeen stories of the tower. Although the project attracted a lot of comment, and not all of it favourable, the building looked for the first time in a long time as if it were open for business and shortly afterwards it was let to Garlands.
Centre North East now provides an important employment site for Middlesbrough and has been a contributor to the regeneration of the town centre. Marchday were pleased with the result, felt that the artwork had supported their investment and helped make their building a source of conspicuous interest.

As we were completing the commission in Middlesbrough they brought me to their newly acquired property in Darlington, Lingfield Point. I remember the visit well, because I could not see how anything could be done with it. It was so vast and so derelict. The sheer scale of it and the knowledge that so many people (10,000) had been employed there was astonishing as was the scale of its dereliction.

We discussed the idea of trying to raise the visibility of the site from the A66 by creatively lighting the eastern perimeter but I knew it would not work because the fields between the A66 and the site were in separate ownership and unless we could get the owners to cut their hedges and keep them low all our work and effort would be wasted!

The site was vast. I have never been under such a big roof and although a lot of it has been remodelled now I still remember a ‘secret’ but vast acreage under one roof let to British American Tobacco.

I also remember walking round with Marchday looking at the ‘Beehive’ which was then derelict and it felt like I was walking round a place built during the war although it is actually a bit newer than that. It was like a mix between a massive RAF base and Pontin’s. I loved the ‘Art Deco’ grandeur of the HQ building and took photo’s of the beautiful lamps in the main entrance!

I came away with absolutely no idea of how anything could be done… and that…. 8 or 9 years ago was the starting point for Futurescope!

Since then I have continued to work as a public art consultant in Middlesbrough and have regularly driven past it looking across the fields and thinking about it - still not seeing what could be done for a couple of years and also feeling a bit embarrassed that I had been presented with this opportunity and failed to make anything of it.

During this time I worked on other projects in the north of the UK and in Scotland and then in 2007 I saw that along the line of the former Stockton to Darlington railway a new road was being built. I thought about it and I realised that it changed everything about the site.

This new road might replace Yarm Road as a new gateway to Darlington from the East. Instead of being the last thing you saw in Darlington (and that from across a field) Lingfield Point had become the first thing you would see on your way in.

I wrote to Marchday and asked if I could have another look at it and they were kind enough to say yes.

When I went back to the site everything about it had changed. When I first went there were only a handful of caretaker staff now at least 2,500 people work on the site. Big companies like Capita and the Student Loan Company had taken significant leases. The derelict theatre had been completely refurbished and was now a constituency office for Alan Milburn MP it is also let out to some great creative businesses, architects and so on.

Marchday had transformed the McMullen Road end adding colour renders to the walls, naming and segmenting the buildings into letting units. The site was really attractive and bit by bit I could see that by doing business it was being brought back to life. I was (and I still am) astonished at the scale of this achievement.

However, all the work that had gone into the McMullen Road end made it look like a ‘front of house’ and the back of the site with buildings like the Turbine Hall around the area of the Soap Dock on the Eastern side still feels untouched by regeneration. However this back end had somehow now become the front of the site because the new road opened up access to it on the approach to Darlington and this created a great opportunity for more development.
Marchday talked about their vision for the site in the future as a live/work environment and I came away feeling that we had lots to think about. I think it is important to say this because people often think that creative projects can be commissioned just like that. This one had plenty of false starts and has taken eight years to get together.