Creative Arts Book of the Week, 25/01/16

How do you choose a book? Do you judge a book by its cover? Do you look for something light enough to carry in your bag? Well, I was drawn to this book, partly by the cover and partly by the title, Our House. It took me back to happy teenage days listening to Madness records and watching videos on Top of the Pops.  I loved their video of Our House portraying a family, not at all like my own.

My mild curiosity of seeing into other peoples lives is rewarded within the pages of Our house: Stories of regeneration in Salford, Manchester and Tameside. Purchased for photography students, six photographers document the people, housing and environment of these areas. Accompanying stories and quotations of residents provide an insight in to their lives, emotions and passions – a world that many of us will never know.

Jimmy O’Brian, one of the rehoused Salford residents recalls, “You used to see dogs on street corners. They don’t let you have dogs in these flats. When you see a dog you think, ‘Ooh – a dog!’ I haven’t seen a cat for donkey’s years.” I can’t imagine a community without dogs and cats.

One of the photographers, Charlie Burns, was spotted by Liz Lock and Mishka Henner (whose photographs are also included in the book) as they conducted their resident workshops around Hattersley in Manchester. They recognised his natural aptitude and interest in the subject, giving him a camera and helping him to develop his photographic skills to document the regeneration there. His chapter includes handwritten notes, ‘Quotes for my photos’ which gives a personal slant and deeper sense of understanding of the photographic subjects.

The book may also be of interest to architects and urban planners. The final chapter, Building holes and making trees, is written by Paul Griffin an architectural writer who gives his views on regeneration, setting social housing within its historic and geographic context. He leaves us with the thought that regeneration is helping to keep cities alive and thereby sustaining its citizens. “… Something has to happen. For better or worse, in Salford and Manchester, something surely is.”

You can see similar books in the photography section of the library.  There are also lots of books relating to urban renewal in the UK and social housing.  If you are interested in documentary film and television, you may enjoy In View which offers a window on Britain’s changing political, economic and social landscape in the age of film and television. The ‘environment’ theme includes documentaries relating to architecture, planning and housing.

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