Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Armed for Armley - Part 1

Armed for Armley - Part 1
Leeds Industrial Museum Reconnaissance

In preparation for a psychogeographical expedition with the Design School students at the University of Leeds, I set off on August Bank Holiday Monday to do a 'reccy' of the Leeds Industrial Museum (nee Armley Mills):

Leeds Industrial Museum

Armed with my phone-camera but not my usual notepad, I checked out the online museum map before I left and also took my Leeds A-Z.

Could you tell me where the Industrial Museum is, please?

This museum must be the least well signposted museum in the UK. I did not see one brown signpost denoting cultural-places-of-interest until I was right outside the museum car park which was already well signposted. This may be because most people drive and then you would need to approach the museum from the opposite side than I did. I walked and entered from Kirkstall Rd.

However, do not be put off by the lack of directions for walkers, as it is well worth the doubt once you get there and I have provided directions for you here, if you are walking from Kirkstall Rd. The walk from Kirkstall Rd is interesting and well-worth the psychogeographical experience, so if you drive why not park near the Vue cinema and follow my directions as well.

Mission: Armly Mills

1) Enter Milford Place from Kirkstall Rd - well, I've worked out it was Milford Pace, going by my A-Z, but as you can see from the image below, the road sign seems to be missing. However, don't worry as it is the road opposite the Rising Sun pub and also there is a sign that points to Kirkstall Industrial Estate.

2) You will know you are in the correct road once you see this sign, about half way down on the left:

3) At the end of the road there is a narrow bridge slightly to the left. Here is the view from the bridge:

4) At the other side of the bridge go up the steps to the road:

4) Once you get to street level, turn right across the bridge and keep right. The museum is a few yards along on the right.

5) There is a lane to the right of the car park which leads to the museum.

This plaque is outside the entrance to the museum and so are the painted metal bollards, one of which had a disabled parking sign on:

A Psychogeographer Undercover

It is really cheap to get in, only £3.10 (max) and £1.60 for students! I got in for a student rate but the nice chap at the reception later said that, as I was doing a reccy, I could have got in for nothing. However, £1.60 is a bargain and we need to support our local museums in case the government takes them away from us!

You cannot take photos inside the museum, but do not worry, as by far the best shots for the psychogeographer are outside. I took one photo from the inside, of the fabulous chimney. Here it is alongside a shot of the chimney from the outside, notice the difference in the sky of the two shots, only taken a short while apart:

Engine Room Surveillance

For me the 'Small Engine Room' was by far the most exciting section of the inside museum. Also, it was semi-outside, so I took this to mean I could take photos. The first picture is blurry, but I have kept it in as the machinery itself is so massive and interesting. Please just attach some artistic licence to the blurryness and pretend it was intentional:

This wheel has also come out blurred, but I like it as it looks like it is turning.

Hunslet was an engineering company and also the manufacturer of 'Jack' the steam engine that is located at the museum. Hunslet is also a region of Leeds and the engine company is named after it. The mini steam train is named Jack after Jack Lane, where the engine manufacturer was located in Hunslet.

EMDs: Engines of Mass Production

Here is the wiki page on the Hunslet Engine Company:

Hunslet Engine Company

Another engineering company located in Hunslet was J & H McLaren:

J & H McLaren

Here is a picture I took of Jack, just before he started moving:

This is a blog/website dedicated to the area of Leeds called Hunslet: Hunslet Remembered

The following images are of the engines, or engineering-related equipment, that I took outside. The first one looks like waves made out of iron. The grill is strange-looking but I like it as it has a warp and weft (woven) look about it; very appropriate for a textile mill:

The situating of the the original mill on the Aire, and in particular on a bend where there was fast-moving water, meant that this site was perfect for the wheels that ran the mill. Here is a photo of the river, and some kind of sluice, inside the museum site:

I don't know what this object is, but I like the shape and colour. It also looks like it is being caressed by the ivy:

The nature/culture dichotomy is something I have written about in a previous blog:

The Disinhibition of the Persistence of Gaia

Here is a nice picture of a plant growing in the pointing of a wall on the museum land, along the same lines of the above blog:

Peripheral Observation

The following images are taken on the edge of the museum site, just before the steps that take you down to the river and back to the industrial park. The first picture shows some piping that runs parallel to the bridge that you cross to get to the steps. I like this image, with the pipes in the middle, the bridge one side and the trees the other:

But, I think the following photo is my favourite image of the trip. I'm guessing this wooden outbuilding will either fall down or get pulled down at some point. However, in the meantime it potentially makes for a good composition. I have named it Water Shed:

I also like this roof, with the interesting chimneys and the dilapidated sign:

Homing Device

On the way home I didn't take too many photos as I didn't want to make this blog any longer than it already is. Here is a nice piece of paving(?) in Milford Place. I have called this image Chocolate Pavement:

I bumped into a cat I know from working in the area a few summers ago. Her name is Mimi and here she is on the wall of her garden in Argie Rd. I like it when cats do that arched-back-cat-thing that they do when they rub up against something. Mimi is quite friendly, with a little bit of encouragement, and according to her owners she likes corn snacks:

And, finally, here is a sign outside a convenience store in the Burley area:

I really like these newspaper pull quotes that get placed in signs. I'm guessing this one might well sell some papers as people would be interested to see if Leeds noisiest neighbour lives in their own street or, maybe, if they are indeed Leeds noisiest neighbour!

A Psychogeographer Decommissioned

I enjoyed my mission to Armley Mills and would recommend it to anyone. I consider it to be one of Leeds best kept secrets. I know people who have lived here for years and have never been. Please buy the guide book when you are there, it is under two squid and will help keep the museum going. It also has some lovely images in it and a concise history of the mill. Also, coffee/tea is only 75p, although it is help yourself. I think you can take your own picnics and eat outside.

The area surrounding the mill is particularly interesting for psychogeographers as it runs along the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. These waterside areas often contain signs of our industrial past (and often present) and also conceal all those interesting liminal spaces. For a previous blog in the same area please click here:
Kirsktall Valley Subdub or The Prozac Walk

I would like to conclude with some quotes from the psychogeographer Iain Sinclair. They are very pertinent to how psychogeography can reveal the history in the palimpsest postmodern urban landscape. He states that the most hackneyed of objects appear intriguing when examined from a new perspective:
“These sites, come upon by accident, prick our imagination, provoke reverie.”
“When you don't see it, it is still there. And when you do, it is on the point of disappearance.”
From: 'A world you never new', 'Secret Britain', The Guardian, April 2009

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Paths to Romance: A Psychogeographer Walks to Wuthering Heights

Last weekend I went up to Top Withins. As a true 'psychogeographer' should, I took photos of the signs. The following are the ones from the closest car park up to Top Withins itself. For anyone who doesn’t know, the walk begins very near to the village of Stanbury, which interestingly has as its Wiki page an image of a speed restriction sign:


Here is the wiki page on Top Withins. I love the fact the the sheep appears to have posed for the photo: Top Withens on Wiki

The first two signs I photographed are relatively early on in the walk. They are both stating that it is a private road and highlight the restrictions. They look like they emanate from different origins, even though they have the same text. The second one states that it is from Yorkshire Water and one can recognise the logo on it:

The following one was on a gate, saying that the camp site was closed. It is the 'height of summer' so I was a bit surprised, but I guess there could be many reasons why it was closed:

The next one was a nice carved stone for Upper Heights Farm:

This lovely old wooden signpost looks great against the blue sky. Notice the Japanese(?) text:

The final sign I photographed is the one on the wall of Top Withins itself. Placed by the Bronte Society in 1964:

There were lots of people at Top Withins, many more than were there when I used to go in the 1970s. However, I was impressed at how well kept the area was: no rubbish at all, and it looked the same as it did 35 years ago.

Please see below for relevant links:
Photo of Top Withins
Bronte Parsonage Museum and Society
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Headingley Hole

A hole appeared in Headingley High Street today. I'm not sure if it leads to Hades or Atlantis, but the workmen found it when digging, rather than it being discovered by a surprised motorist while driving over it. I spoke to them and they let me take photos:

Apparently the workmen simply found a "void" when they were digging for the purpose of working on utility pipes.

You can only drive one way along the High Street and cannot enter from the lower side of Headingley.

Here is the traffic report from BBC online:

Headingley road hole causes traffic delays

The Disinhibition of the Persistence of Gaia or Nature Finds a Way

During the Owl Trail Walk, which the Leeds Psychogeography did on July 27th, we spotted a number of plants emerging out of the brickwork of the buildings in Leeds. Mark Jaffe took some great photos of these, despite the fact that some were many floors up from street level:

I love these images and am always fascinated about how it is that despite man's attempts (intentional or not) to silence life, it manages to find a way. Deleuze and Guattari talk about this when discussing the 'molecular' and they give an example of a particular rhizomatic nettle plant that can work its way through a wall, a molecule at a time.

Here is a really nice film that Gregory Reveret has made on the subject:

Nature Finds a Way

I'm always reminded of Chernobyl when I see plants emerging through some seemingly impervious material. I saw an amazing documentary on TV of how Chernobyl looks today. Here is a photo that I found online:

Nature Consumes Radioactive Chernobyl

It literally looks like a frozen moment in time. You can almost hear the fairground noise and see the people having fun driving into each other in the bumper cars.

This image is particularly interesting for a number of reasons, not least because it shows a place of 'pleasure': a fairground in a region that subsequently has the notion of 'tragedy', even 'horror', attached to it. I would love to do a psychogeographical project at Chernobyl. If any funding bodies out there are reading this, please contact me.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Wish You Were Here!

On August 4th 2010 I bought a postcard from the Beach Cafe in Old Hunstanton and sent it to myself at my university address. I chose a 'typical' seaside image: a sunny day with people enjoying themselves on the beach. It turns out the image was from the 1970s at the latest, as the photographer had to have been standing on the pier. The pier was originally built in 1870 and destroyed by a storm in 1978.

The Wish You Were Here Concept
While wikipedia has a whole section on the Pink Floyd album of the same name, it doesn't have a section on the concept. This might be because it is obvious or because it merits its very own thesis. However, Jacques Derrida has written about the postcard in The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, and other philosophical texts seem to be available on discussions of the postcard, but not much on wish-you-were-here.

The Postcard as Sign
In Britain the seaside postcard is synonymous with the rise of the Victorian seaside resort. According to the OED a postcard is "A card designed to be carried by post without an envelope". However, the holiday postcard is much more than that. Amongst other things it is a sign of remembering and a recognition of absence. While this could also be applied to a letter, I think the holiday postcard has a different kind of significance: it is celebrating the pleasure of the sender in the absence of the receiver.

Reading the Arcades/Reading the Promenades
This mini-blog is part of the above project. All my seaside schizocartography posts are available here:
Reading the Arcades/Reading the Promenades

Or click here to link to my previous blog on the Norfolk seaside resort of Hunstanton:
A Strange Psychogeography

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

An Unconventional Leeds Owl Trail

(thanks to Leeds Owl Trail for the above image)

Tuesday July 27th 7.00pm. Members of the Leeds Psychogeography Group (10 of us in total) set off from the steps of the Civic Hall in Millennium Square, Leeds. We were following the established walk created by the Leeds Owl Trail group.

This blog is a subjective response to findings on the walk, not necessarily of an owl(ine) character, but rather more psychogeographical. It in no way replaces the brilliant trail charted by Leeds Owl Trail group who can be found here:

Leeds Owl Trail


We started our trail in Millennium Square, home of the big golden civic owls that are so familiar to Leeds citizens and visitors. As you can see from the image below, a sign on the edge of Millennium Square has a long list of byelaws attributed to this public space:

The link below takes you to the Leeds City Council byelaws for public spaces. It's 60 pages long. However, it does have a nice image of the Leeds coat of arms – and obviously our lovely Leeds owls – on the front cover.

Byelaws for Pleasure Grounds, Public Walks and Open Spaces

I scanned through the contents page to find the most interesting restrictions. This is what it says under 'missiles':

“No person shall throw or use any device to propel or discharge in the ground any object which is liable to cause injury to any other person.”

And 'grazing':

“No person shall without the consent of the Council turn out or permit any animal for which he is responsible to graze in the ground.”

Blue Plaques

I photographed two blue plaques on the walk. The first one was for Samuel Smiles and was outside the museum:

It seems Samuel Smiles, despite being a Victorian, wrote some quite hippyish books, one, in fact, called Self Help. According to wikipedia he was the editor of Leeds Times and was a supporter of women's suffrage. So, an all round good egg who probably could well have been a hippy before his time.

The other plaque was outside the Quebecs Hotel, a lovely building of red brick. It had previously been the Leeds and County Liberal Club. The very kind concierge let us go in and look at the owls on the stained glass window on the fabulous staircase.

According to wikipedia Quebecs Hotel is a Grade II listed building. It seems to be a 'boutique' hotel and the reviews look excellent. The interior is lovely. Apparently it was voted by the independent in 2007 as one of the best 50 British Hotels. I wonder if they have a public bar:

Quebecs Hotel - Review

Here is a good picture of the foyer I found online:

Quebecs Hotel - Foyer

An Owls Eye View of Leeds

Since this was an Owl Trail I feel I should include the only two relatively good photos that I pulled off my phone. The first one was in Millennium Square.

The one below was on the fence outside the library in Calverley Street. These owls were all along the fencing on that side of the building

Apparently there are real owls at Leeds Royal Armouries. According to the website they have an Eagle Owl and an African Spotted Owl.

Birds of Prey at Leeds Royal Armouries

I typed 'Bungle' in to the Leeds Royal Armouries search engine to see if I could find the owl that is mentioned on the Owl Trail site, but nothing came up. I do hope this doesn't mean that the lovely Bungle has gone to the great owl barn in the sky. Bungle is a European Eagle Owl, so I think he must be the one mentioned on the Royal Armouries site. Here is a picture of Bungle looking very proud:


According to the Leeds Owl Trail site Bungle likes: “To have a bath and he bathes himself by splashing around in water” and spends 5 months of the year chilling out while waiting for the season to start again at the Royal Armouries. It's alright for some...

The Leeds Tapestry

Leeds has its own tapestry in the Leeds Central Library: Leeds Tapestry 2000 http://www.leedstapestry.org.uk/index.php. It consists of a number of tapestries made by the local community. The tapestries are beautiful and must have taken a great many hours and much care to create:

Leeds Tapestry 2000

Here is Barbara Walker's blog on the Leeds Tapestries:

Leeds Tapestry Blog

Barbara has kindly given me permission to include the following owl images from her site:

Good Night Owl

We finished our evening at the Scarborough Hotel pub, which is near the station. It is Victorian pub that is tiled on the outside. This is a great photo:

Scarborough Hotel

If you are into real ale you can see the beer ratings below. There is also a good picture of the pub sign:

Pubs and Beer

I'd like to finish with a short video of a European Eagle Owl and a song by Gerry Rafferty. This is one of Bungle's relatives who lives at the University of Bristol. Here is Oscar doing his daily ablutions:


And here's Gerry Rafferty's Night Owl and an interesting yet bizarre image, from the album cover, of Rafferty with his guitar lounging on the back of an owl:

Night Owl