Sunday, 15 June 2008

killing castlefield? journeys through a forgotten urban treasure...

the castlefield basin is the original Mamucium, largest single contributor to the prosperity and growth of manchester, its influence spanning 2 millenia – home of the Roman fort, the world’s first passenger railway station, the Museum of Science & Industry, as well as epicentre of our very own Granada TV!

the transpennine railway was the last element in the economic and industrial infrastructure that gave the region its global importance in the 19th century. the castlefield basin connected the leeds - liverpool canal to this new ‘superhighway’, making the region one of the most densely populated and urbanised places in the world: its network of warehouses, canals and viaducts a vivid palimpsest of the city, its cobbled streets a rich repository of 2000 years of enigmatic lives, escapades and adventures, unknown heroes of the industrial revolution.

until recently hailed as the Jewel of Manchester on the city’s tourist websites, boasting a dedicated Castlefield Visitor Centre and with teams of specialised urban rangers on hand to guide visitors and tend the upkeep of this precious archaeological heritage park, its future seemed secure and bright. bustling with al fresco restaurants, loft apartments in listed warehouses, its own annual carnival and boat rally and a community of narrowboat owners, it was a mini venice or amsterdam, a model for manchester’s cosmopolitan aspirations. now, once again faced with neglect, dereliction and an uncertain future as developers close in and for sale signs proliferate, the shortcomings of similarly acclaimed flagship developments are put under the microscope. the predicament of castlefield is symptomatic of prevailing policies of urban branding and regeneration, effectively taking the cityscape out of the public sphere and into a precarious privatised realm.

for arttranspennine08 i will record my explorations deep into this forgotten treasure - heritage centre, Roman settlement and heart of the transpennine rail-and-waterways, exposing the fragile fortunes of our urban topography on my dedicated blog killing castlefield, an examination of this granddaddy of urban renaissance and success story of the nineties triumphantly designated ‘Britain’s first Urban Heritage Park’.

join me on this journey to explore narratives of the city past and present, interrogating accepted orthodoxies surrounding dominant models of urban renewal. i shall post my photos, my thoughts and itineraries, the things i find out, and the people i meet throughout the length of this summer's exhibition.

follow this link to killing castlefield:

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