Friday, January 21, 2011

(Come On) Let's Go To Birmingham

In the absence of any more of my own wayward meditations, here are some links to some interesting and vaguely related things I've been looking at this week.

Firstly, to the British Transport Film department. The BTF seems an almost impossibly civilised thing in these days of privatised misery, a state-sponsored film making unit celebrating technology, travel and infrastructure. It's funny how such products of the post-war welfare state strike one now as absurdly generous, luxurious almost, in contrast to the grim caricature of socialism we are normally confronted with. Certainly in relation to the pinched meanness of PFI buildings and poorly paid call-centre staff, the idea that laissez-faire capitalism is our only route to wish-fulfillment seems laughable.

I'm a sucker for a driver POV shot though and could watch them all day long. Or night. Many moons ago when I lived in Berlin, they used to show a loop filmed from the front of one of the city's S Bahn trains running continually through the night as an eerie urban cure for insomnia. It always had the opposite effect on me.

The clip at the top is actually made up of outtakes and unused sections from one of the BTF's most famous films, 1962's Let's Go To Birmingham. The cuts, crackles and flashes of overexposure (literally the white heat of technology?) only add to the magic for me. And the train never gets to Birmingham of course, but comes to a sudden and random stop at a small platform somewhere in the midlands.

Staying on a hauntological tip, via E&V a link to the sublime photographs of British cities being posted at Between Channels. The photos were taken in 1968, a period of generally far superior typography and the still fresh optimism of the windswept plaza.

A much older series of photographs of shopping arcades are collected at John Coulthart's blog, but with equal obsession.

Regular architectural twitterers are on to this already but David Knight and Asif Khan have a delightful website where they post up photos for each other and share with everyone else. The photos veer between odd, perverse architectural details and the random strangeness of everyday urbanism. It's called aandd and you can find it exhibiting some very nice 'woven columns' here.

Sarah Allan's Urban Vistas blog has had a run of enjoyably peculiar 'stories' about famous architects, designers and mystics, some made up, some not. I particularly liked the last one about a (barely) fictionalised classical architect living in Suffolk who spends his days designing imaginary casino signs, perhaps after taking a little too much Learning from Las Vegas with his lapsang souchong. 

And, finally, in belated tribute, here's the late, great Trish Keenan singing Broadcast's Come On Let's Go. They were from Birmingham too.


Matt Tempest said...

Great 1968 shopping plaza photos.

You notice going around say the Netherlands and Germany, a lot of similar-era arcades are still going strong, with original detailing and well-kept, rather than the British route of demolition, or steel shutters/poundstretchers/garish signage/puddles/leaks.

Charles Holland said...

Can't take any credit for the photos which Douglas Murphy has been linking to...but they are great yeah.

Britain is remarkably grotty I agree. It's a combination of meanness, philistinism (why would I spend money on that etc.?) and ingrained selfishness I think.