Friday, November 24, 2006

Heritage or ephemera?

click photo to enlarge
The question of what to preserve from our built heritage provokes as much argument as agreement. In the UK, government organisations like English Heritage and charities such as The National Trust are influential in deciding what remains from our past. So too are interest groups like The Victorian Society, or The Twentieth Century Society. However, when it comes to preserving individual buildings it sometimes seems that everyone wants a say.

The most famous (or infamous) piece of architecture in Gateshead is a reinforced concrete car park built in 1964. It came to prominence for two reasons. Firstly, many architects and engineers thought it a good example of the architecture of the period, and secondly, it featured prominently in the 1971 gangster film, "Get Carter", starring Michael Caine. When, in 2001, the demolition of the car park was proposed as part of a re-development of that area of the town, opposing camps vociferously argued the merits and demerits of the case. That argument continues to this day, and the car park still stands!

Some people want to preserve seaside amusement arcades. The author Nick Laister has been a tireless campaigner on their behalf. This year he has written a book about what was Britain's largest such arcade, "Joyland", at Bridlington. Partly this is a story documenting the arcade's foundation by a Sheffield glove seller, its phenomenal growth and transformation with the times, but also it aims to illustrate the part that amusement arcades have played in Britain's social history. I wish him well, but I fear the arguments about his passion will be polarised just like those surrounding that infamous car park. What do you think? Are arcades heritage or ephemera?

The facade of the "Lucky Star" amusement arcade in my photograph above is certainly the brightest and fanciest that Blackpool can offer. A strident cacophony in red, blue and yellow, it shouts what it is to every passer-by. I photographed it out of season, selected a part of the frontage, and waited for a person to walk to the left of the frame to provide a visual counter-weight to the large star on the right. I used a zoom lens at 56mm (35mm equivalent) at ISO 200, f5.6 (Aperture Priority) at 1/250. My standard "under-exposure" of -0.3 EV was set, and colours were rebalanced and given a bit of "punch" when I developed the RAW file. P.S. what were the chances of the first person to pass this multi-coloured building being dressed completely in black!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen