Staniforth Road, Darnall, 29 June 2018

Darnall Staniforth Road 29.06.18 6

If you look closely (you don’t have to look that closely, you just have to go beyond the immediate surface appearance), you can see what appears to be the reflection of bricks and tiles in the spaces between the cloth adorned mannequins that form the main subject of this photograph. I have no idea of how this reflection came to be captured and I attribute it vaguely to the mysteries of light. The tiles and the buildings must exist somewhere, but the picture was taken from the edge of the bus stop at the bottom of Staniforth Road, waiting for a 52 to Crookes. So, despite appearances, the photo can’t have been taken straight on, because if it had been, the bus shelter would have been visible. It must have been taken from an angle, looking from right to left, but this doesn’t explain why the bricks and tiles reside behind the fabric without there being the slightest trace of their reflection on top of what appears to be a line up of dresses. You would think that the photographer is looking past the cloth to a building behind them, but that’s not how things work on Staniforth Road in its real world manifestation. Maybe the photo has transcended the limitations of the physical world to reveal some apparently purposeless mystery in the form of a building where no building could be. A slit opens up, we travel through it, we arrive at another Staniforth Road, only to find that it is even more dull than the road that really exists, or existed.

These artfully arranged bolts of fabric displayed a fabulous range of colours, which were clearly depicted on the original image, but which were subsequently discarded because the use of colour is disdained in the unfolding of the SPG project. The shining of the original reds, greens and oranges clearly indicate that the photograph was taken in summer, but the black and white version does not encapsulate this seasonal coding. And that is how it should be, because the essence of the bottom of Staniforth Road exists outside of space and time.

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Commonside, 29 March 2018

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I believe that the path revealed by this open door leads nowhere. It doesn’t really extend beyond what can be seen. The path itself contains nothing of note and it’s bounded by high brick walls on both sides of its narrow width. This being so, the purpose of the cruel looking barbed wire above the door and the security light pointing backwards just beyond its entrance is a mystery. Considering the matter rationally, I must be mistaken in my assumption regarding the terminus of the passageway.

The path is situated between the Springvale Tavern and the shop next door to the pub on Commonside, which sells ‘sporting goods’. The Springvale has been going downhill for years and it was never a destination pub to begin with. It’s too far away from major centres of population and to get there from the houses that are nearby would involve a challenging walk uphill, either going out or returning. A succession of tenants have come and gone, none of whom have remained for very long. My guess is that the owners of the building are biding their time, waiting to receive a suitable offer that will see the place transformed into student apartments. The sporting goods shop used to be a vaguely interesting second hand book and record store, but it hasn’t served that purpose in decades.

Not all open doors are enticing. Some of them repel, rather than attract. I hear the lyrical hook of ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ by Joy Division: “This is the way, step inside…” I decide to give it a miss. I walk to the top of Commonside, descend onto Barber Road, and I’m gone.

Crookes, 20 July 2018

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There aren’t many houses on Crookes. Quite a few of the shops have flats above them, many of which seem to be converted storage areas. There are the flats between Wesley Hall Methodist Church and the Ball Inn, but that’s a self-contained development, somehow divorced from the rest of the road. Most of the houses that there are can be found clustered together in a little strip down towards what was the post office at the junction with School Road, consisting of a few terraced properties and a single larger dwelling, a set up that’s familiar in many former industrial areas, contrasting the foreman’s property with the less grand habitations of the ordinary workers. This little flight of concrete steps can be seen outside one of the terraces; I don’t believe the neighbouring residences share a similar feature.

I’ve walked along Crookes so often that I should be able to number the houses between what was the post office and the place where the shops begin in earnest, but I have no intention of putting my mind to the pointless task. I’d be able to recollect many of the changes of business that have resulted in a gradual shifting of shopfronts over the past 30 years, but I can’t be bothered to do that in any systematic way either, preferring to let the ghosts appear to me as they choose to, to be remarked upon in passing. Overall, there’s been a marked increase in the number of coffee shops, restaurants and takeaways, many of which appear and fade away without making much of an impression. Time changes everything, but it’s not really time that operates as the agency of change.

Cloth, 30 April 2018

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The humblest of materials can be a source of wonder. I can’t remember what these objects are with any degree of certainty, but I believe the striped component of the composition is a pair of pyjama bottoms and the other item is a dressing gown. I see a conjunction of roads and a rough representation of the starry firmament.

There’s something about the look of those pyjama bottoms that seems very calm and peaceful and there’s something about the meeting of the two items that I experience as harmonious. The feeling produced by the image would be vastly different if the positions of the pieces of cloth were reversed; it would acquire a dynamism threatening to degenerate into chaos. The flecks of the dressing gown would no longer be reminiscent of stars, but rather signifiers of something disquieting, like blood splatter or evidence of organically grounded disease. And the destination indicated by the stripes of the pyjamas would change; they would lead to an uncertain void, an absence, a state of death-accompanying-dread.

And this is why you should always wear your pyjamas beneath your dressing gown, rather than wearing a gown beneath your pyjamas.

Carver Place, 15 August 2018

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I believe that the creator of this LOST SOUL graffito (I hate it when people use that word) is responsible for several other interventions in the vicinity of the work. One is a bold statement proclaiming FUCK THE COUNCIL, another is a text suggesting that ‘Justin Bieber shits like a cat’, a third is the addition of the legend SATAN! to a large poster advertising the National Lottery, or Lotto, and a fourth and final example consists of a felt tipped annotation to an image of Donald Trump reminding the viewer that THIS IS NOT AMERICA. All of these guerrilla art works can be found within a 30 second walk of each other and there are several others that the artist might be responsible for that have appeared over the years in the same small area.

Carver Place is a short alleyway between Rockingham Lane and Carver Street, located behind the Walkabout pub on West Street (which was formerly a combined Methodist and German congregational church). There are moveable barriers consisting of metal poles at both ends of the alley and there are two or three cars parked here during daytime. I have no idea who owns the land, or what commercial imperative explains the presence of the motors. Rockingham Lane is a generally overlooked short cut between West Street and Division Street, featuring a gated apartment complex developed from old Methodist buildings and a large collection of student flats on one side and the Voluntary Action Sheffield owned building called The Circle on the other. Carver Street contains restaurants, bars, a nightclub and a large vintage clothes shop in the stretch between West Street and Division Street before carrying on down the road in the general direction of The Moor. West Street is the weekend resort of the clueless and unthinking young hedonists of the city and Division Street likes to think of itself as Sheffield’s answer to the Latin Quarter.

I suspect that the maker of the LOST SOUL sign could be the psychiatrised bongo player who can be found at the junction of Rockingham Lane and Division Street, slurring salutations at me as I pass on my way to my prison of wearisome toil, but I have no concrete evidence to confirm my suspicion. It could be one of the inhabitants of the apartments or student dwellings, but that seems less likely when one considers the inherent conformism displayed by the vast majority of students and young professionals these days. It could be the work of one of the junkies and petty thieves who haunt the area at night time, moonlighting from their main preoccupations, or it could be the field work of some independent conceptualist who has marked out the territory in the course of their wanderings around town and has chosen to make it their own.

Whoever the author of the collection is, they’re to be praised for their authenticity and capacity for astute observation when compared to the vapid muralists who are paid to decorate the post-industrial wastelands created in the wake of so-called urban regeneration schemes with pretty pictures that don’t mean anything at all.

Buddha’s Golden Arse, 15 May 2018

buddha's golden arse 15.05.18

You get lots of Buddhists in areas that have been colonised by former polytechnic students. They travel from Buddhist centre to yoga palace to whole food shop with an air of smug complacency that they like to think of as the visible and outward sign of impending enlightenment. They smell a bit musty, like, they wear purple shoes and they’re likely to sport flashes of pink and green in their otherwise utilitarian hairdos. It’s the acceptable face of spirituality, innit, offering all of the benefits of groundless in-group elitism and that precious knowledge that one is special (and all is one) without recourse to the rigours and discipline of a properly established religious tradition.

I remember coughing my guts up on Stratford High Street following a poor night’s sleep in the Westbridge Hotel, smoking my first cigarette of the morning in the days when I didn’t know how ill I was, and being approached by a saffron robed baldie of Tibetan appearance who didn’t speak English but still managed to extract the better part of £20 from me in exchange for a couple of elasticated bracelets consisting of fragrant red stained wooden beads and a shimmering gold prayer card depicting a serene Buddha overcoming the problems of the world through the studied adoption of indifference that passes for compassion. Baldie had flashed a scrap of printed paper suggesting that he was collecting alms to feed the poor and it was only after returning home and discussing the experience that I realised I’d been the victim of an organised scam. Still, £18 is a small price to pay when compared to the going rate for meditation classes in Commonside or Walkley, and at least I came away with something real.

The Blind Man’s Here, Barber Road, 4 April 2018

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His first appearance was on Moscow Road

The poster came first

At first I thought it was just a poster

I was talking to Jane Seymour

Eyes wide open

The neck was slightly dislocated

But then I walked up the street

There was

A repellent plastic

Said poster with a picture

“Do you work?”

I was on one leg

At the top of the street

There was a poster

A plastic front

From Moscow Road it came

From Deansgate it came

From Narnack Records it came

I was on one leg

I had to be in by nine-thirty…

Paper everywhere and not a drop of water to be seen

I said

I was by the ocean

I saw a poster

I am licking my feet

I am licking my feet

Everywhere I look

I see a blind man

I see a blind man

Everywhere I look

I see a

I, I can’t get my eyes checked

My blues eyes can’t get checked

I’m only on one leg

 

I said to poster, “When’s curfew over?”

I said, “Blind man, have mercy on me,”

I said, “Blind man, have mercy on me,”

Blind man have mercy on me

 

Oh Great One, I am a mere receptacle

The egg tester for your sandalwood and other assorted woods

In dark green

Blind man

Have mercy on me!

I got a metal leg, truth!…

 

Mark E Smith was rarely if ever clear and direct in his communications, but I’ve always associated the lyrics of ‘Blindness’ with David Blunkett. This association is confirmed in an interview with MES conducted by Pitchfork in October 2005:

It’s about the blind politician we’ve got here in Britain. He wants to set up camps for people, camps for dysfunctional fathers, and camps for dysfunctional kids. Luckily they got rid of him, but he’s come back now, so that’s quite timely. And he’s blind, as well. From Sheffield. [laughs] 

But you can’t take everything (anything?) that MES says at face value.

Blunkett was a Sheffield City Councillor from 1970 – 1987, and leader of the council from 1980 – 87. He was elected MP for Sheffield Brightside in 1987 and continued to represent the constituency (which became Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough in 2010) until 2015, when he was awarded a peerage and became Baron Blunkett of Brightside and Hillsborough in the City of Sheffield.

It’s a shame he turned out to be such an oppressor, because he came from a poor family living in a deprived urban area and he had to overcome major obstacles to achieve success. People are deformed by the struggles they engage in to make their way in society.

Blunkett was Home Secretary from 2001 – 2004, when he was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had used his position to fast track a visa application for the nanny of a married woman he was having an affair with. He became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for a six month period in 2005 but he had to leave that position for breaking the ministerial code of conduct over paid work he took while out of the Cabinet.

As anyone with the slightest local knowledge knows, this Blind Man’s showroom on South Road in Walkley is in the Sheffield Central constituency, but this constituency borders Brightside and Hillsborough and the driver of the van could travel from his showroom to the centre of Hillsborough in a couple of minutes.