The industrial/post-industrial as unreliable indicator of the Northern landscape

Darwell, John (2018) The industrial/post-industrial as unreliable indicator of the Northern landscape. In: Northern Light: Critical Approaches to Proximity and Distance in Northern Landscape Photography, 2-3 July 2018, Sheffield Hallam University, UK. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In this paper I discuss the idea of the Northern landscape as both a fable and a fictional creation that began with the industrial revolution and Blake’s Dark Satanic Mills. I will begin my discussion by looking at the art works of one Roger Hampson, who spent much of his artistic life depicting the mills and streets of the northwest of England most notably around Manchester and Bolton. This work, produced with an almost photographic eye for capturing a sense of place depicted the mills and the working-class families who lived in proximity to these cathedrals of industry. (In many respects George Shaw could now be regarding as carrying the torch that Hampson ignited in terms of the painterly depictions of the liminal and every day). My first exposure to Hampson was as a student in the early 1970s attending the Foundation Course at Bolton College of Art. Hampson was Principal there and I vaguely remember a quiet austere man, not unlike Toulouse Lautrec in stature and appearance who would occasionally pass through the studios. Of course, it was many years later that I began to understand the subliminal effect Hampson’s work had on my own practice and looking at them now from a distance of forty years I can instantly recall what it was like to grow up in those streets hearing the factory whistle calling the workers back following dinner (dinner is now lunch of course, whilst tea is now dinner and supper is evening meal, as the terminologies change, so the environment that created them). My early work is fundamentally shaped by this context and the first decade plus of my career looked to the post-industrial legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s redefining of British society. This work took me from a de-industrialised Manchester with the all but closure of the Manchester Ship Canal (The Big Ditch) to the reshaping of Sheffield (Regeneration) and the closure of many of its steel making plants, and subsequent knock-on effect within local communities, to make way for shopping centres and stadiums. Of course, many of the declining manufacturing/heavy industries I photographed could be found in other parts of the UK and, yet, they are somehow always associated primarily with the North of England. Following these projects, I subsequently found myself in rural Cumbria where I still live and work and it could be argued that areas such as Cumbria and Northumberland are the true north of England, certainly geographically, yet, I would argue that the historical ‘North’ has always tended to encompass the region that includes Sheffield, Bolton, Manchester and at a northerly point maybe Preston (in a Lowryesque nostalgia maybe?) and has essentially overlooked the rural regions of the true north of England (that in my particular geographical area ends at the Solway Firth and the Scottish border). This paper discusses these aspects of the creation of Northerness and attempts to present the case for this blind spot of the rural north.
- John Darwell.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Graphics and Photography
Depositing User: John Darwell
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2018 11:19
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2018 12:20
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4215

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