It’s been on my mind for a few years to create an Flâneur on Swansea’s High street. I wanted to record the amazing architecture that is only just hanging-on and to photo-document the rapid change to the shop fronts as the sad, neglected heritage buildings are torn down to build something new and transient. (fig.#1)
My friend Sarah-Jane was holding her MA exhibition at 211 High Street, so it seemed appropriate to combine a visit to her show with my planned Flâneur. I met Sarah on the BA Photography course at Coleg Sir Gar a few years ago; it was immediately evident that she had a natural, creative talent; I’m therefore delighted to see her completing the MA course with a magnificent exhibition. “Good luck Sarah-Jane”.
I experience a very creative energy in Swansea High Street. There are some very talented and committed people and organisations that are determined to celebrate and energize the High Street. With a little research I established that Art Across the City had painted the amazing building-murals (figs.#2~#5) and Swansea School of Art had decorated the BT boxes (figs.#7~#10), which were originally dull green. A few years ago my friend Mel took-over a dilapidated building on the High Street, originally it was R&Z Fashions, and created the most amazing pop-up art gallery. I visited the exhibitions on several occasions and met some wonderful and talented people. It was a breath-taking experience. “Great work Mel” (fig. #11 ~ Sept. 2015). I’ve been a friend of gallery owner Jane Simpson (fig. #12) for a few years; it was she who gave me permission to photograph Molly Parkin at her gallery in September 2015. In collaboration with Swansea College of Art and the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Jane organised an amazing ‘In Conversation’ evening with one of my heroes Sir Peter Blake. I was fortunate to meet Peter Blake and engaged in a conversation about his art works displayed in the Glynn Vivian; he was such a warm and generous man, eager to talk about his work and art in the wider sense. I am very grateful to Jane for arranging the Sir Peter Blake ‘Conversation’.
The Volcano Theatre makes a bold statement with the enormous Liz Taylor mural by Pure Evil on the front facing wall with striking artwork on the King Street wall. The Volcano is a Contemporary European Theatre ‘The building hosts performances and events by Volcano, and a range of work by other artists and companies’. In the main reception area is a collection of intriguing puppets created by my friend Dili Pitt (figs. #13~#15)
On the corner of King Street and High Street is situated The King’s Arms Tavern, it has the appearance of being an old building, but I’ve been unable to ascertain any information on it. Adjacent to the King’s Arms is the ever-popular Figaro’s Barbers; whenever I’m in the High Street this barber’s is always ‘buzzing’. Next to Figaro’s is a scruffy, fading billboard, which appears to have no message, meaning or purpose. There is such an eclectic mix of buildings, businesses, rubbish and billboards on the High Street; that there is always something to interest the casual pilgrim. (figs. #16~#21)
I feel very sad to see the neglected and abandoned heritage buildings in the High Street; with my very cynical viewpoint it looks as though there is no interest in retaining or renovating these historic buildings. (figs. #22 & #23)
There are still some very attractive architectural buildings and structures that hopefully will survive, but sometimes the shopkeepers don’t help themselves by allowing their shop fronts to become scruffy and unappealing. (figs. #24~#26)
At one point it seemed as if old buildings are barley tolerated; it appears as if the Coral and Argos buildings are squeezing the Unitarian Church out of existence. (fig. #27). It’s as if the building is there, but no one sees it or is aware of it.
I did however mange to find subjects amongst all my doom and gloom that intrigued and interested me (figs. #28~#38). It’s the randomness of an Flâneur that drives my passion to wander about for a few hours to capture the essence of the location and the day.
However, in spite of the innovative art and the redevelopment of the High Street there appears to be no shortage of litter and rubbish to detract from the aesthetic. (fig.#39)
And at last I’ve found a use for slab-sided curtain-wall buildings ~ to reflect the magnificence of Swansea’s architecture. (fig.#40)
At the end of my quest I enjoyed a welcome meal in Jack’s Café (fig.#41) opposite the awful, paint-peeling Argos building.