Tag Archives: politics

Back to The Future

The Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee New Town, Victor Pasmore, 2002

The Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee New Town, Victor Pasmore, 2002

This is one from the original concept for this blog; one of the hundreds of slides that i took while working at the A**s C***cil in the late 1990’s and early 2000s.

The work afforded lots of opportunity for travel and because I’m nose-y, also allowed me to poke my nose into places where people didn’t often go. I can’t remember how I first heard about Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion (probably while working at the H**ry M**re Foundation in the early ’90’s) but it had always been high on my list of interesting places to visit. Virtually inaccessible except by Geordie public transport or by car, the sculpture (sculpitectre? (c) Sir Anthony Caro) was a bastard to find in those far off pre-google maps days. I drove twice round Peterlee first, far too intimated to ask for directions to something that I already knew that the locals hated…but there it was, nestled in a grassy dell of the Sunny Blunts estate, surmounting a rancid lake, the Chapel Perilous by way of A Clockwork Orange: something heroic, Arthurian and abandoned, a pissy, graffitti-ed castle. The sculpture (completed 1969) was named for the moon landings, and represents the fag-end of British Modernism, as the sixties curdled into the 70’s, Alfie growing into Jack Carter. The Pavilion was a symbol, not of the heroic age of modernism, but of the slow decline of British visual culture into the 1980’s, into the apotheosis of middle-class philistinism, Margret Thatcher.

The Pavilion is now restored, having been refused listing by New Labour’s ‘Tony’ Banks in 1998 (Cool Britannia rejecting the visual culture of Old Labour in all its forms), a Community Association having been formed to protect it (how wrong I was) in 2003 and  £336,000 awarded to Peterlee from the HLF in 2008. The steps have been reinstated, the fence and ‘softening’ planting removed, as befits an icon of British modernism. In 2011 is was awarded Grade II* listed status, the second highest level of listing by English Heritage. I link to a image of it restored, but, secretly, I still prefer its abandoned state when only I, like Sir Percival, knew the location of the grail, and whom it served.

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Windy Miller

CAMBERWICK GREEN
Peter Hazel collecting the Post
L6/8412
Series No. BBC19
(c) Gordon Murray Puppets ltd 1969 from the BBC tv series Camberwick Green and Trumpton

My mum sent me this from Wales to Oxford in 1986, because she knew, because she’s my Mum, that I used to love Camberwick Green. Like all right thinking people my favourite character was the de facto narrator Windy Miller, but Serjeant-Major Grout and the boys from Pippin Fort will do, as will Peter Hazel, emptying the boxes as quickly as he can. To unpack this image is to unpack everything about being English and being born in the 70’s (even down to the colonial uniforms of the cadets from Pippin Fort) No wonder that Life on Mars used Camberwick Green in an episode. Of everyone loved Windy because he not only had the best machine to work in, but he had the good life, self-sufficient and permanently drunk on his home brewed cider; try getting that into a nursery school programming today…I suppose that it makes me sound both old and privileged, but the village that I grew up in was just like Camberwick Green (bigger that Chigley, smaller than Trumpton), with a baker, two butchers, a greengrocer and a least 4 pubs. So, far from being some kind of prelapsarian fantasy world, the setting for these Gordon Murray programmes was intensely relevant for me as a child. I don’t know what we’ve lost, why we decided to lose it, and what we’ve gained in return, but I’m not sure things are better. As usual, I blame Thatcher. Which is ironic (and how my generation loves irony) since wasn’t it that kind of change what Thatcher was protecting us from?

One personal note, the postcard came from the Walnut Tree Stores in Llangynidr, and that is still there, and I’m pretty sure that you can still get these postcards. My mum addressed it to me at Worcester College, Oxford. Not sure that addressing would work today. And GET OFF MY LAWN!

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A kick up the Eighties

This one always made me laugh. This was up all through college and several places since, hence the coffee stains.

Part of the point of this blog is to post images that don’t seem to be available anywhere else. This postcard was purchased from one of those small second-hand bookshops in the Covered Market. Does that kind of shop even exist anymore? Last time I was in the Covered Market it was all souvenir shops for coach parties.

Anyway, this was the era of Biff and Daisy Pulls It Off, and for me the card perfectly captured the sense of entitlement to past and present that was the hallmark of the Thatcher government. We’re all supposed to admire what the chemist from Somerville did for us all now, but the smug suburban self-satisfaction of the Thatcher gang was what stuck in my throat, and made them so unbearably English. Maybe it had to be done; but why did they all have sound so pleased to have to do it?

The Boyhood of Norman Tebbit, recycled images, Oxford Covered Market 1986

The reference is to Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit’s response to the 1981 riots that he “grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking ’til he found it”.

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