Monday, March 01, 2010

Terry, Ken, the Tremeloes and the Concrete

Terry and Ken were two students were walking through Leeds University campus, sometime in the 1960s.

"What on earth is that going to be?" asked Terry.

"I've absolutely no idea," said Ken, "but it's hideous. Turn the transistor radio on, will you?"

Terry turned it on.

"Ahhhh," said Ken. "The Tremeloes. Groovy, baby".

And thus we have Daphne's Theory of the Nineteen-Sixties. Why was the music so good? It was actually a government-sponsored plot to distract the population from the buildings that were going up at the time.

"By 'eck!" said Prime Minister Harold Wilson. "Have you seen those blocks of flats they're building? Vile, aren't they? Get me Brian Epstein and tell him to get another Beatles album out before anybody notices. Call in the Hollies. Get the Stones back in the studio, quick! Give Dusty Springfield a ring! Hey, what's that American band that teenagers like? Bring them over here. Hey hey we're the Monkees!"

These days, of course, we're not Daydream Believers any more. And we're stuck with the unspeakably horrible Sixties buildings.

Here's a walkway that I go along a lot. I went along it when I was a student in the Seventies, and I go along it at least a couple of times a week.

I ask you, has it any redeeming features? - - - and before you have a chance to say anything at all, the answer is NO. Let's look to the left, shall we?

So are we supposed to look at that twisty bit on the outside and think it's a thing of aesthetic beauty? Well, I'm telling you that it's NOT.

I spent three years looking at this lot, because the School of English was in a temporary home next to Genetics. Whenever I see the word "English" now I picture "Genetics" below it.

And although it was temporary, it wasn't for me. I was stuck with it for the whole three years I was at University. And I hated every moment of looking at it. Once there was a fire and I hoped that there was nobody in the buildings and that it would spread uncontrollably. Sadly it didn't. It's the old joke - - you could drop a bomb on the place and do several million pounds' worth of improvements.

At least a couple of generations of doctors and dentists have been trained in the building at the end of that walkway. I love the work that I do there.

Of course, the buildings function reasonably well - - if you don't mind lots of soulless, windowless rooms and endless gloomy corridors. And of course, they couldn't justify pulling them down and rebuilding them, because it would cost squillions - the buildings are absolutely huge.

But when I'm In Charge, I'm going to have the whole lot razed to the ground. And then I'm going to rebuild them, probably using - for starters - bonuses appropriated from bankers in a Robin Hood-type manner.

Some people would say it doesn't matter, as long as the buildings work. But I think it does. I think they're depressing, and dispiriting, and inhuman. And I don't think it's just that times have changed - I think they were like that since the day they were built.

The Sixties. Marvellous music. Bloody awful buildings.


Blogger Ailbhe said...

The cheapest way to brighten them up would be to hold a Local Yoof competition and get a team of good graffiti artists to cover them in something brighter and more worthwhile to look at, like a big basilisk all the way down that external staircase.

6:18 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Mmmm... I agree that a lot of ugly buildings were thrown up in the sixties but there were also some gems. In Sheffield we had the much loved "Wedding Cake" or registry office - now sadly demolished. And there was the visionary "Hole in the Road" (Castle Square) now sadly filled in. It is important that some evidence of nineteen sixties functionalism is preserved for posterity - though not necessarily your old concrete companion.

6:30 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I would simply say that your remembrance of the sixties is a satisfyingly succinct summary.

8:37 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

Finally.....The Tremeloes get mentioned in a blog other than mine. I'm an old happy hippy. Thank you, Daphne.

Now if you could just slip Pinkerton's Assorted Colours in sometime....

2:13 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ailbhe - a good idea especially the basilisk. Definitely worth a try.
YP - when I'm in charge you can choose two examples of grand-scale Sixties architecture in every city to be kept. The rest are getting flattened.
Bob - thank you!
Silverback - I've always liked the Tremeloes as you probably know!

7:09 am  

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