Friday, 19 February 2010

Should Abbey Road Studios be a National Trust treasure?

UPDATE 23rd February

It has just been announced that Margaret Hodge has agreed to the spotlisting of Abbey Road Studios at Grade II.  HOORAY! 

Thanks to English Heritage, here's the full listing description:

Now Minister, how about all that backlog of listing recommendations (and delisting challenges...) you have still to decide?

UPDATE Sunday 21st Feb EMI now says it won't sell Abbey Road Studios:

That still leaves, however (see below) the matter of the listing recommendation made by English Heritage to the Secretary of State in 2003; it would be a great pity if this was not now acted upon...

Apologies for the gappy blogging, there's a great deal to catch up on but I'm not feeling my usual ebulliently (over) wordy self at the moment so here's a brief one.

Abbey Road Recording Studios is under threat. The National Trust has asked for views on whether or not it should attempt to 'save it for the nation'.

For anyone who has been marooned on a desert island for the past fifty years this may be a cause of some surprise, but the Trust has moved with the times and feels this could be added to its property holdings in order to safeguard its historic and cultural significance. The Trust owns the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and there is of course the Beatles connection with  Abbey Road.

In the Trust's own write (sorry about that, small Beatles pun for the uninitiated):

An astonishing outpouring of public emotion has greeted the reports of a plan by EMI to sell the Abbey Road recording studios, with many calling on the National Trust to campaign to save the iconic studios for the nation.

On hearing of EMI's plan, listeners to the Chris Evans show on BBC Radio 2 and to BBC Radio Five live contacted the programmes to urge us to take on the property made famous by the Beatles' Abbey Road album. A possible role for the Trust was suggested on the radio when presenter Chris Evans and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney both raised the prospect of support from the National Trust. Their proposition triggered an immediate reaction from listeners, with many emailing support for the idea. The public have also been adding their voice on Twitter.

'It's not often that the public spontaneously suggests that we should acquire a famous building”, said a National Trust spokesman, “However, Abbey Road recording studios appear to be very dear to the nation’s heart - to the extent that we will take soundings as to whether a campaign is desirable or even feasible.'

We're asking you to let us know whether you think the studios should be saved. No price has been put on the building in the affluent St John’s Wood district of North London, but there has been speculation that it could be worth between £10 million and £30 million. If there is enough momentum, we may launch a campaign to save the studios.

Our Director General, Dame Fiona Reynolds, took time out to talk about the campaign and ask the world what they thought on the Chris Evans show on BBC Radio 2.

That short section of radio broadcast from yesterday can be heard here:


and the Trust is asking people to log on to its website and vote here:

English Heritage has made the following statement:

Abbey Road Studios

We applaud the public enthusiasm and support for safeguarding the future of the Abbey Road Studios and call on Ministers to turn their attention to the advice that we provided in 2003 and endorse our recommendation to list the building at grade ll.

English Heritage believes that the Abbey Road Studios possess outstanding cultural interest as the world's earliest purpose-built, and still the most famous, recording studios. Its importance as the leading force in popular music is perhaps greater today than ever and is revered internationally.

Listing would recognise that the building is special – it is not a tool to frustrate change or even a possible sale, but will mean that any decisions affecting the building’s future would need to be considered very carefully.

We welcome the National Trust’s exploration of options regarding a possible acquisition.

Unfortunately, the current crop of politicians at the DCMS appear not to have a great deal of understanding  of listing and its benefits; however, no doubt a few e-mails to the Minister Margaret Hodge at the DCMS wouldn't come amiss.

Beatles 1969 album cover Abbey Road

Apologies to readers for this link which (red alert) is to a Daily Mail story today,  in which it claims that Andrew Lloyd Webber is promising his millions to help buy the studio:

so there is hope.

For those who are unaware of the Beatles (pictured above) phenomenon (a once popular beat combo M'Lud) then this past post may or may not bring some enlightenment, and amusement:


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Saturday, 13 February 2010

A hug for poetry and UNESCO

I'm really chuffed– it's like having my name in lights above a theatre. And what a theatre Douglas Dunn on our plans to project his poem @carryapoem Twitter

Update Feb 15th - here it is, from yesterday, courtesy of where it can be viewed extra huge

Update Feb 19th it seems one couple got engaged in front of the carryapoem projection! Fabulous!

and this is astounding - a 360 panorama of the castle, Princes Street and the 'carry a poem' line projection:

As I mentioned earlier this week, February is 'Carry a Poem' month in the first UNESCO City of Literature, the World Heritage Site city of Edinburgh.

The promo film is magnificent, and I particularly like the starring role of the Edinburgh Police Box, designed by the once City Architect, the splendidly named Ebenezer MacCrae.

So, not one to allow an opportunity to pass to blog about architecture connected with poetry, first of all here is my 'carryapoem' for St Valentine's Day, as kindly sent to all Twitter Followers by @carryapoem and I trust that it brings pleasure to those who have come upon it new, although I suspect it is an old friend to many.

It's reproduced in a number of places on the internet, so I hope I'm not too badly breaching copyright to repeat it here, in the additional hope it might be more widely loved still.

There is a delightful little poem called The Hug. "Some kind of hardcore poetry people wanted me to take it out... In the United States, if you have any jollity in a poem, it can't be a poem capital P." A line at the end goes, "When you hug someone, you want it to be a masterpiece of connection." Tess reads this with a wicked sense of full-blooded fun in her eye, raising those pencilled-in Modigliani eye-brows of hers - not centralised by romantic love any more, but still in the hope zone.

The Hug is also anthologised in what is one of my favourite reads, STAYING ALIVE - real poems for unreal times, Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe.

The Hug

A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too,
with our arms around each other.The poem
is being read and listened to out here
in the open. Behind us
no-one is entering or leaving the houses.

Suddenly, a hug comes over me and I'm
giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light
off to make itself comfortable, then
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding
you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn't
come out of nowhere, but if he could, he
would have. He looks homeless because of how
he needs. "Can I have one of those?" he asks you,
and I feel you nod. I'm surprised,
surprised you don't tell him how
it is - that I'm yours, only
yours, exclusive as a nose to
its face. Love - that's what we're talking about, love
that nabs you with "for me
only" and holds on.

So I walk over to him and put my
arms around him and try to
hug him like I mean it. He's got an overcoat on
so thick I can't feel
him past it. I'm starting the hug
and thinking, "How big a hug is this supposed to be?
How long shall I hold this hug?" Already
we could be eternal, his arms falling over my
shoulders, my hands not
meeting behind his back, he is so big!

I put my head into his chest and snuggle
in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes
into him. He stands for it. This is his
and he's starting to give it back so well I know he's
getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly
we stop having arms and I don't know if
my lover has walked away or what, or
if the woman is still reading the poem, or the houses -
what about them? - the houses.

Clearly, a little permission is a dangerous thing.
But when you hug someone you want it
to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button
on his coat will leave the imprint of
a planet on my cheek
when I walk away. When I try to find some place
to go back to.

Photo found at:

A performance installation series by Julie Troost (worth reading the site).

So, a hug to all who read this, and a hug to poet Douglas Dunn especially, whose work I have admired for many years.

A line of romantic poetry is to be projected onto the rock beneath Edinburgh Castle for Valentine's Day.

The words "Look to the living, love them, and hold on" will shine on the north face of Castle Rock.

The line is from the poem Disenchantments by the award-winning Scottish poet Douglas Dunn.

The spectacle, which will last five-and-a-half hours on Sunday evening, is part of the Carry a Poem campaign run by the City of Literature Trust.

Ali Bowden, director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said: "We are delighted that Historic Scotland is supporting the Carry A Poem campaign, and joining us in bringing poetry to Edinburgh Castle, the iconic cultural image of Scotland's capital city.

"This one-off projection joins five other poems shining throughout the city - two onto the City Chambers, the new extension of the Usher Hall, the National Library of Scotland and at the foot of Leith Walk - all of which can be enjoyed until March."

Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said: "Douglas Dunn's lines are so appropriate: they say that love endures, like the Castle Rock which they'll illuminate for a night."...

Indeed. Joyful and enjoy!

And a small plug again here for this:

The Scottish Community Foundation can now reveal the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and Edinburgh College of Art as the successful projects to progress to Stage 2 of the £3M Arts Funding Prize for Edinburgh.

The three short-listed projects fought off competition from 10 other Edinburgh based arts organisations to be in the running for the £3M prize. The prize – administered by the Scottish Community Foundation on behalf of an anonymous donor - is to create an arts facility of cultural and architectural merit in the Capital, in either a new or refurbished building.

I'm rooting for this:

The Scottish Book Trust’s proposal is to significantly improve the Trust’s premises at Sandeman House, off the Royal Mile. With a more useful space, the Trust hopes to work collaboratively with neighbours and colleagues in the literature sector, such as the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, the Scottish Storytelling Centre and the Scottish Poetry Library, to create Scotland’s Literary Quarter. The Trust also aims to create an education centre within the nearby historic Trinity Apse (currently the Brass Rubbing Centre).

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: ‘This is a really important step for us. Whether we win or lose, we’re delighted our proposal stood up to the competition. To progress to the next stage of the competition is not only exciting for the Scottish Book Trust, but for all those who have a stake in literature in Scotland, including readers, writers, publishers and our colleagues in the literature sector.’

The initial funding came from Edinburgh World Heritage and the architect is Malcolm Fraser:

The category C listed building largely dates from 1916, and was intended for the use of the congregation of the Moray Knox Free Church, but it also incorporates parts of an earlier tenement on the site which dates from 1849.

Amongst other improvements to the building, the proposal suggests an extension to the front elevation of Sandeman House. This would enable level access to the building via Trunks Close, and also give the Scottish Book Trust more of a presence for passers-by. The scheme also proposes a redesign of some of the internal spaces of the building, enabling the Scottish Book Trust to increase their programme and grow as an organisation over the coming years.

With the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Canongate Books, The List, the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City of Literature all based nearby, improving access to Sandeman House could bring new life to the close and enhance this fantastic grouping of cultural organisations as well as Edinburgh’s offering to visitors. leaves we live... quote from Patrick Geddes, entrance to the Scottish Poetry Library


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Thursday, 11 February 2010


...seems a very long way away, and I'm sorta a little not feeling up to much blogging, so I thought I'd repeat this from last year, in the hope it might bring some small amount of cheer in what seems an interminable winter:

The picture above is of Earl Grey, of Reform Act fame, whose monument stands in the centre of Newcastle,  who is buried at Howick Hall, Northumberland, and the blog is partly about him (and tea, and snowdrops, and a rather pleasing historic building...)

And I'd like to add this link, to an English Heritage page, which not only has further details of the part played by Grey in the abolition of slavery, but tells a little of the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, whose family I am descended from I understand.

I'm pleased to discover that there is a plaque to his memory on a pub in Bristol, as well as a memorial in Westminster Abbey.


Saturday, 6 February 2010

'Edinburgh, Old and New'

Symson the Printer's House, Edinburgh (click to enlarge)

This morning I was browsing the Capital Collections website and this entry caught my eye:

I don't altogether agree with Malcolm Fraser that we 'traditionalists' should all be lumped together as naysayers, and some of us do have a little idea of the history of construction and the wide variety of architectural styles and forms that existed in the past (and Malcolm, your beautiful, intelligent, award winning Scottish  Poetry Library didn't get the thumbs down did it? It has that similar vigour and the sense of accretion...) although I won't argue that certain recent additions to the glorious city of Edinburgh are not all that we might wish.  Today, I'll be kind and not name too many names. (thumbnails - click to enlarge pics)

Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, pic credit MFA

See also * bottom of post

However, I thought I would do a short blogpost to bring to the attention of  those unaware of its existence,  the online website Edinburgh Old and New

from which the above image is taken (click to enlarge).

Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant was printed as a periodical in the 1880s and is now seen as a set of three or six volumes, and describes its history, its people, and its places by using anecdotal historical text with endless illustrations. These volumes were a gift from my uncle, Bill Smith. As someone who has lived in Edinburgh for more than 50 years, the illustrations still thrill and excite me no matter how often I look at them. For this reason I wanted to put them online in such a format that Edinburgh school children and students might easily download the images or text whilst researching the history, architecture, society of Edinburgh's Old or New Towns.

—Hamish Horsburgh

Thank you Hamish Horsburgh, for that fine and generous thought; I have derived so many hours of pleasure from browsing and hope others will also.

Here is the link:

That's not the sole pleasure from that site; there's a link to other digitised books:

You can now browse and search the complete collection of John Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time, and Edinburgh Past and Present on the Edinburgh Bookshelf

and a list of other useful links:

(click to read)

Another website full of useful and fascinating information, including the House Histories news and a number of podcasts, is that of Edinburgh World Heritage, although it takes a wee while to find all the treasures hidden there:

Here's a small sample:

and further links:

including one to where this all began:

And of course there is this:

and the excellent photographs here:

and here:


For further reading, I recommend Hamish Coghill, Lost Edinburgh:

I steal this poem from the website of Valerie Gillies, a past Edinburgh Makar, in the hope she won't object as it seems so fitting here:

It was written on the occasion of the opening of the new Edinburgh District Council building, Waverley Court, in 2007 (of which building the least said the better...)

To Edinburgh

Stone above storms, you rear upon the ridge:

we live on your back, its crag-and-tail,

spires and tenements stacked on your spine,

the castle and the palace linked by one rope.

A spatchcocked town, the ribcage split open

like a skellie, a kipper, a guttit haddie.

We wander through your windy mazes,

all our voices are flags on the high street.

From the sky’s edge to the grey firth

we are the city, you are within us.

Each crooked close and wynd is a busy cut

on the crowded mile that takes us home

in eden Edinburgh, centred on the rock,

our city with your seven hills and heavens.

Happy reading!


*PS More poetry: Carry a Poem  Great stuff happening in Embra this month! @carryapoem on Twitter

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Monday, 1 February 2010

Elizabeth Pascoe is finally evicted

Update 5th February: Architects' Journal :

and update 9th Feb to add this website:

Sorry but there is no other word for it, it is eviction, and I feel so very sad.

Here is the latest news, and I took the above picture from here also, and duly credit Mr Bartlett with it and hope he doesn't mind me re-using it:

Not a lot more to be said, other than to send Elizabeth sympathy, and ask that people reading this read these links:

My past blog, with Elizabeth's own description of what she has gone through:

with links to further sources of information (including Adam Wilkinson's damning report for SAVE) and a Commons Select Committee report.

Here is the BEVEL website, with so much more information and videos, including Elizabeth's 'farewell to a home' party: 

 I appreciate this is getting to be a habit, but here's a blast from the past, Malcolm Fraser in Building Design, and I absolutely agree with him:

Pulling down houses is not sustainability

27 May 2005

The Pathfinder programme — government investment of £2 billion over the next 15 years to revitalise nine northern English urban areas — ought to be magnificent news.

 By Malcolm Fraser

Having lived through the urban catharsis of the late 20th century — institutionalised contempt for the built environments we inherited, followed by a reactive timidity towards them — we must have learned by now how to take a good, balanced view of renewal.

We might start by looking at the resources we have inherited, namely a mix of industrial and residential. Patrick Geddes’s concept of “conservative surgery” is an excellent tool here — the idea that you repair, alter or conserve the best of the urban fabric while introducing open space and new buildings in place of the poorer.

You might imagine that such “surgery” would be unlikely to involve the demolition of Victorian terraced homes, which represent a huge resource, in both social and physical terms, embodying enormous energy — in both the cultural and kilojoule sense. That the Pathfinder programmes are threatening between 200,000 and 400,000 of them with demolition demonstrates that something has gone massively, even obscenely, wrong.

The scale is staggering, the obscenity both in the detail (people who love their houses being moved out) and at a city-wide scale. In Liverpool, for example, the proposed demolition of 20,000 homes has an unhappy symmetry with the 20,000-person waiting list for social housing.
That there is failure in these run-down areas is indisputable: but it’s a failure of employment and the spread of wealth, of social housing policies that blight whole areas, of perception and context. To blame this on the buildings in these areas is crazy — especially when those buildings are such successes elsewhere.

Their demolition is supported by the standard government view that big, physically dramatic acts, and big business and construction interests are preferable to the sort of small-scale repair and renewal programmes that involve small spends, and small builders, architects and landlords.

The iniquitous VAT regime where 17.5% tax penalises repair and renewal over demolition and new-build of course skews all analysis of the value of our built heritage. But even here the economic benefits of small-scale renewal are so clear that it doesn’t dent the basic case — as demonstrated on ITV’s Tonight Special, where a “derelict”, “failing”, “surplus” terraced house was transformed into a modern, open, insulated home for £18,000, matching the cost of its proposed demolition and way cheaper than a £100,000 replacement.

Such makeovers represent one approach. The comprehensive nature of the Pathfinder programmes should allow us to look at others that combine or subdivide individual properties to achieve market diversity.

But the post-war regeneration-by-wrecking-ball model remains, albeit disguised by buzzwords and doublespeak where “slum clearance” programmes are rebranded as “sustainable communities”.

But the biggest crime is against the idea of sustainability, its apparent high moral authority abused to justify the wrecking ball. It’s a mystery that sustainability seems only ever to be expressed in terms of new building, rather than as a complete analysis of the costs and benefits. And it’s a disgrace that this has cast heritage bodies — arguing here for a proper audit of the resources offered by our built environment — as somehow anti-sustainability.

The greater truth in all this, that clarifies and guides all others, is that “conservation” and “sustainability” are not separate boxes to tick, not at war with each other, but are, properly applied, one and the same thing: a view of the world we have inherited as a resource that needs treating with care and respect.

Malcolm Fraser is principal of Malcolm Fraser Architects

and I hope all right thinking people agree also. That's not the government of course, whose Big Idea all this was...  (based on the most flimsy of evidence 'Housing Market Renewal' of this nature would work)

...and clearly not certain of the fuckwits who post comments* on the Liverpool Echo site, but you have to wonder at man's inhumanity to (wo)man and try to forgive their stupidity, although I'm finding it difficult. (*Update... I note the worst  comments have been removed... thankfully.)


Postscript: Another relevant post:

and another eviction:

and a further example of pointless destruction and a split community:

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