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The invisible landscape of memories

In June of this year, I was interviewed by a mature student from the University of Gloucestershire, working on an MA in Landscape Architecture in which she was researching the ‘invisible landscape’ of memories, stories and associations and its potential uses in urban regeneration and landscape design projects.

“Landscape designers are often strongly influenced by the visual and tangible aspects of a place, but I am interested in the idea that the intangible traces of peoples’ lives, industrial processes and everyday experiences could be an effective source of inspiration for designers, and deepen their understanding of what places mean to people.”

Today she contacted me again to say that her dissertation is finished, and asked for permission to include my poem The day the weaving stopped “as the introductory quote at the start of my chapter on Kidderminster.  Each chapter starts with a quote that I hope reflects the substance of the chapter, and I love the way your poem captures so much of what I’m trying to say about Kidderminster (and other places) in my research.”

I found our conversation very stimulating and interesting and am delighted that my work will be represented in this fascinating research.

The day the weaving stopped
for Bernie

There are flights on the floor,
remnants from a loom that filled the air
with noise and colour.

I had friends in this shed,
weavers who laboured in freezing cold
or stifling heat too hot to work.

I’ll take a broom and sweep
clean away the skill, the sweat,
the tears in grown men’s eyes.

© Heather Wastie
First published on this blog 11 Jun 2013

Here is some additional information about Melanie Clemmey’s research:

The invisible landscape

Towns and cities across the world are struggling with the legacy of rapidly declining industries. Often, as in Kidderminster, the industrial past has influenced every aspect of the urban fabric, from streets and buildings to railways and canals. As industries close down or relocate, they leave behind abandoned buildings and fragmented landscapes, whilst spaces are often filled with brutal highway engineering and poor quality infill developments.

Local authorities anxious to attract investment, jobs and opportunities for their towns often embrace regeneration schemes which offer the prospect of new and better uses for these apparently unloved places. Government policy encourages ‘brownfield development’, but frequently there are difficult issues of pollution, flood control, and other remediation work to overcome, which add cost and complexity to developments. Industrial architecture has not historically been valued by our society, and research into post-industrial sites is in its infancy, leaving them vulnerable to demolition and insensitive development schemes.

Landscape architects are frequently involved in the design and implementation of urban renewal schemes. During my training I began to wonder about the stories, memories and experiences of the people who lived and worked in these landscapes, and whose lives are still bound up with disappearing industries. I wanted to find out if exploring and mapping the invisible landscape of human experience could contribute to the work of professionals involved in urban regeneration, so for my MA I set out to explore its potential to enhance understanding of a place, influence plans for development and generate design ideas.

Melanie Clemmey
June 2014

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4 thoughts on “The invisible landscape of memories

  1. Your poem is beautiful, Heather, and Melanie’s approach is laudable – a wish to leave something of worth behind as we all move on …

  2. Heather, this looks like really interesting research. Would you mind if I forwarded it to the Heritage Lottery Fund who often fund regeneration projects in the kinds of areas she describes?

    Sorry to miss all your summer gigs and projects – lousy legs – but we will meet in the autumn doubtless!

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