Read the chapters ‘ Wire ’ and ‘ Power’ in Farley, P. and Roberts, M.S, Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness (2011) Vintage Books. Available in your student resources.LP&E, p.92
These short chapters will help prepare you for some of the themes in Part Three.
Record your responses in your learning log.
[20Jan22] I did not know what to expect with this book, especially when the copy I bought online for a few pounds turned out to be LARGE PRINT for the hard of seeing. But it is a delight.
A fascinating stream-of-consciousness ramble through the heads of Farley and Roberts as they respond to the various chapter headings †, occasionally mentioning relevant photographers.
As a barrier to passage, this ranges from a sagging, rusty single strand on an abandoned industrial sight, through barbed wire (brambles), to crenelated (I don’t mean crenelated, it’s half a Y angle), razor wire and razor synapses-off to Greenham Common, early hand-wound mainframe computer memory storage
Frank Watson photographing disused military bases for The Hush House
and roadside floral memorials.
This is mostly about cooling towers and their disappearance.
I used to pass those at Ratcliffe-on-Soar occasionally, but not since my mother-in-law died ten years ago and I never photographed it. Their beauty (in my eyes) has largely disappeared and their reputation is now tarnished by eco-awarenes.
The Bechers and Eggleston merit a mention in Farley & Roberts as building “their careers on these overlooked landscapes”.
And John Davies who included cooling towers in A Green and Pleasant Land (1987). We’re told that they were “demolished in the Nineties” (Farley & Roberts, p.255).
The Davies is in Parr & Badger, The Photobook: A History, Volume II.
Cooling towers seem to fascinate writers of a certain age and I think I am at the higher end of that age range.
Writing in 2014, Tony Bonnici described how “[h]undreds of people” ignored safety warnings and waited overnight to see the destruction of the Didcot A towers.
Martin Gayford (August, 2021) wrote in reaction the the demolition of the Rugeley B towers,
The mighty cooling towers of mid-20th century power stations were monumental features of the British landscape for half a century. Huge thought went into their siting by landscape architects such as Brenda Colvin and Sylvia Crowe (author of The Landscape of Power). Now they are disappearing fast. Didcot A and B are both gone. Four of the eight at Eggborough were blown up the other day…Gayford, 2021
The chances of preserving even a few of those cooling towers are probably slim. To retain something we will need to find some use for it, even if it is to be a museum or monument. In a world without coal-fired power stations it is hard to imagine a role for their cooling towers. Perhaps some contemporary artist might take one on (Anselm Kiefer considered transforming a decommissioned nuclear plant on the Rhine into a vast work of art). But the odds are not favourable. Probably the towers are as doomed as the woolly mammoth. But when they are gone, I’ll miss them. And I don’t think I’ll be alone.
What Farley and Roberts have effectively done is listed a series of their own punctums in a variety of topographies.
† Cars, Paths, Dens, Containers, Landfill, Water, Sewage, Wire, Gardens, Lofts, Canals, Bridges, Masts, Wasteland, Ruins, Woodlands, Venues, Mines, Power, Pallets, Hotels, Retail, Business, Ranges, Lights, Airports, Weather, Piers (Farley & Roberts, 2011, unnumbered)
[14Mar22] The Times reported that,
The government is exploring whether old coal-fired power stations that are due to close this year could be kept open to ease the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…Gosden, 2022
However, any request to keep coal-fired stations running would be controversial because they are far more polluting than gas. The UK committed to stop burning coal for power by October 2024 as part of its climate strategy.…
There are only three power plants still burning coal in Great Britain. West Burton A and the coal-fired units at Drax in Yorkshire are due to shut in September. Uniper is due to shut part of its Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant in Nottinghamshire this year, with the rest operating until 2024.
LPE Exc 2.5 References
Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.
Bonnici, T. (2014) Sightseers defy warnings to see power station towers demolished [online]. thetimes.co.uk/. Available from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sightseers-defy-warnings-to-see-power-station-towers-demolished-7fw5fp7jfh7 [Accessed 28 February 2022].
Davies, J. (1987) A Green and Pleasant Land. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications.
Farley, P. and Roberts, M. S. (2011) Edgelands: journeys into England’s true wilderness. London: Jonathan Cape.
Gayford, M. (2021) Why I will miss our mighty cooling towers – and I suspect I am not alone [online]. spectator.co.uk. Available from https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/why-i-will-miss-our-mighty-cooling-towers-and-i-suspect-i-am-not-alone [Accessed 28 February 2022].
Gosden, E. (2022) Plan to keep coal power plants open [online]. thetimes.co.uk. Available from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/plan-to-keep-coal-power-plants-open-vnszxcfc5 [Accessed 14 March 2022].
Parr, M. & Badger, G. (2006) The Photobook: A History Volume II. London: Phaidon.