Courtesy of a trust fund established by an ex-employer, I’ve been doing a lot of learning in recent weeks with a view to finding more employment.  It’s six months since I lost my last job.  I’ve also been exploring the options for generating money through my photography, and getting onto the opposite side of the lens by working as an extra on a number of TV series.

The latter has been a revelation, as most of my work has been on location, but locations totally transformed to become something different for the camera.  In this respect I’ve undergone some transformations too!

A printer showroom was rebranded to become a high street bank, the private ballroom of an old sea captain’s mansion evolved into a nightclub, and best of all an empty high street department store in Lancashire was reborn as The Royal Northumberland Hospital.  Regrettably I’m unable to share the evidence as the use of cameras on set is not permitted so that producers can keep avoid leaks on social media.

The Biscuit Factor is now a gallery

It did get me thinking about ways of dealing with redundancy though.  As great buildings are no longer suitable for their original purpose they face demolition if unprotected, or stagnation if new owners can’t be found who are willing to comply with the regulations covering listed buildings.  Churches in particular are at risk as we become more secular.

No more Maynards sweets, but a creativity village

One of the productions I’ve worked on was shooting in the former Head Office of Martins Bank, a building with an interesting history, but some outstanding architecture, and yet because the building is largely empty, the gems it contains are hidden from view.  As a former banker who worked for the company that took over Martins in the 1960’s I felt some affinity of course, but anyone with an eye for craftsmanship would have loved the opportunity that I had.  Perhaps occasional guided tours may be possible?

There would doubtless be lots of objections to this on the grounds of security, cost, health and safety and so on, but the alternative is to see these artefacts of beauty and history wasted and decaying.

The bank had been due to begin a new life as a hotel.  Those plans seem to have fallen through.  Doubtless had they gone ahead there would have been damage and loss as a result of the alterations, but with care and sensitivity much could have been preserved.

On one of the learning events that I attended courtesy of that trust fund I stayed in a hotel that had revamped an older building.  The former Co-op department store in Newcastle was built in the 1930’s with many art deco features, and on the ground floor a glass and cast iron arcade.  It has been converted to a hotel now, and many original features remain, though close observation reveals where modern replacements don’t quite match the original!

With no room for that arcade what were they to do with it?  Stick it on the roof and forget about it it seems.  Hope that’s not a metaphor for another unemployed but otherwise perfectly serviceable relic!

*For the reasons described above many of these images were taken on iPhone – apologies if they’re not up to usual standards!




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