Wednesday, 4 April 2012

#13 April 2012

John and I have been discussing how to end the series of eight photographs originally commissioned for Futurescope at Lingfield Point and we have been looking back. Earlier in the series we made an image about bee keeping which featured Lingfield’s then landscaper in his newly acquired beekeeping suit.

Since then the hives have thrived. Lingfield Point has made its first honey and beekeeping has been established close to the grow zone where Friends of the Earth maintain an allotment on Marchday’s land.

Since my earlier Blog entry (September 2009 #6 Beehive yourself) about Paton and Baldwin’s logo. Beekeeping has continued close to the 'Grow your own' allotment site and there are now discussions about other beekeepers operating in the area.

The allotment itself has been the site of extensive development since my photographs published on this blog (April 2011 #11 Grow Zone). Friends of the Earth have been very successful in raising funding for trainees to build raised beds and they have made a road (?!). By comparison with the photographs in the earlier blog these photographs show how much has been achieved mostly by the efforts of young people in the transitional labour market using the work as a training opportunity.

At the heart of the allotment is a fantastic plot maintained by a local resident whose year spent digging and composting is improving the soil into a brilliant growing medium in what were originally the subsoils deposited here after the construction of the site itself. His greenhouse is beautifully ordered as if it were a factory production line. I have put some photographs in, because it just has to be shared.

We are beginning now to work towards the seventh image in the Futurescope series and we have been thinking about agriculture and industry and the political and economic and social heritage of the last century which this factory represents.

As the original buildings are refurbished and let, new users and new companies using technologies not invented when this building was made are slowly filling the space.

The most recent area to be refurbished and let is on the top floor of the old main office building which has been called and marketed as 'Yarn'. By and large the companies are small, savvy, office based SME’s - sharing corridors, lobby space and an area for downtime. The floor has been fully let.

There is a huge economic gulf between what these businesses do and both scale of the industry that once happened here - and - the agricultural source of the raw material it handled.

The wool, cloth and yarn factory Lingfield Point completely expresses the 'modern' (That is to say 1930's to 50's) worlds of agriculture and industry a point made gloriously in Laing's fabulous letter press publication celebrating the completion of the factory.

which boasts:

“This factory for Paton and Baldwins Limited at Darlington is the largest and most up-to-date knitting wool factory in the world. It is of outstanding importance firstly as a great industrial venture, secondly as a fine example of factory design and thirdly as an achievement of constructional skill”.

On page five the book comes alive with a simple picture of a man’s hands handling unprocessed fleeces. It is an astonishing and arresting image chosen for rhetorical effect. The photograph reminds me of an earlier tour of the factory with John Grindley - the third generation of Grindley's to have worked here - as we stood in the warehousing he explained the effect of humidity on the handling of the fleeces and spoke of men who could tell the quality and breed of sheep simply by feeling the wool. Now economic conditions are such that farmers in the UK may burn fleeces as the cost of getting the wool to market means that wool can sometimes be supplied at a loss to the producers. I have even heard it referred to as hazardous waste. What a change from the 1950’s when Paton's and Baldwin's received an order from the Russian army for fabric for great coats and so on. The size of the order was such that it affected the global commodity price of wool. Paton’s & Baldwin's stockpile at Darlington increased in value on that day by £1M.

This factory building is an image of productivity from a different economic and political age. Branded with a beehive as a metaphor for the social vision that underpinned its building it stands now as an environment reclaimed from dereliction.

No comments:

Post a Comment