raspberryfool: (Decorating)
In March, I wrote about the impending loss of our beloved Fishmarket. I have many happy memories of it and shall be sad to see it ripped down - another piece of Northampton's heritage will be lost and although it wasn't listed, English Heritage recommended that it be spared the bulldozers.The building is still there, though it's due to be demolished very soon. I've been photographing the building from an unusual perspective; by poking my camera between the bars of the shutters I can see reflections of the building's environs - Cromwell's Cafe, the bookies across the road etc - the shutters themselves and the contents of the building, especially the huge, old, three-faced clock that hangs from the roof girders. So we see three layers of detail, which I find quite interesting. It's part of an ongoing series about the changes in Northampton; the buildings and structures we've lost to so-called progress.

Anyway I digress. I've been helping NAC to smarten up their new home at No. 9 Guildhall Road; since August I've been part of a group of volunteers who've been removing old fixtures and fittings, and painting the walls and woodwork of this former Victorian hotel. It was most recently used by the County Council for their offices and vacated in 2009, and it's a beautiful old building. They're planning to house artisits' studios, a performane space and workshop spaces. I've really missed the huge, open and airy art space of the Fishmarket, but things are looking more positive for out local arts scene now.

I've also been painting my bathroom. it was previously lemon yellow, which was quite nice but a little gloomy and was starting to flake off in places. I've painted the walls pure white and it now looks much better; the woodwork will be poppy red and the door panels white. It's part of my plan to smarten up the house for potential buyers; I'm not planning to move next year, but maybe soon... Anyway the hallway, landing and small bedroom all need decorating, so I think I'll be busy next year!
raspberryfool: (The wind changed...)
Northampton's Fishmarket venue, which was once a bustling market hall where vendors sold fresh produce, is about to be demolished. One of my enduring childhood memories is of going shopping amongst the sounds, sights and smells of the building. It was opened in 1930 and was very successful - on Saturdays it was packed with people. But when supermarkets and the internet took hold, its business declined until, in 2005, the last traders left the Market Hall, and Northampton Borough Council closed it down.

However, the following year it was refurbished and re-opened by Northampton Arts Collective (NAC) and opened as an arts venue. It had its ups and downs, and almost lost its council funding in 2009, which would have forced its premature closure. It survived though, and since then has hosted performances, science fiction conventions, music events, comedy nights and the local Iron Cupcake group. A series of Blues and Folk music afternoons were put on, free of charge. There were small shops selling records, books, homemade items and crafts. And the Nook cafe, which comedienne Josie Long said she thought was the best cafe in the world, served a mean black coffee!

The Fishmarket became a hub for the independent arts sector in Northampton; it highlighted what has been missing in the past. Northampton has two multiplex cinemas, an arts cinema, two first-class theatres (Derngate and the Royal Theatre), an award-winning Museum and Art Gallery, the Roadmender music venue and many music pubs and clubs. But what it lacked was a space for independent artists to display their work and for performers to perform. The Fishmarket provided that space; and what a space it was! A huge, L-shaped venue with lots of natural light, 25ft-high walls that stretched the length of the hall and a lovely, echoey ambiance. Check out
this link to see a performance in the Fishmarket.

Fortunately, the NAC has been offered new council-owned premises close to the town centre and the aforementioned theatres. It's a spacious, Victorian office building and I think it'll make a fantastic arts space. The NAC has also secured council funding of £25,000 per year for the next three years. Local commentators in the pages of the Chronicle and Echo newspaper argue that this is poor value for money and that large companies like Carlsberg and Barclaycard should finance the gallery, but I think that would not only create an environment where the gallery had to make money, it would also prejudice the independence of the venue. Could you imagine Carlsberg sponsoring an exhibition about alcoholism, or Barclaycard sponsoring an exhibition about debt? Artists should be free to criticise and condemn where necessary. This is why I think that publically-funded, independent arts spaces are so important.

Last Saturday, I went to to the Fishmarket's closing party, titled 'So long, and thanks for all the Fishmarket'. With live bands, a disco and wall-painting, it was a wonderful way to say farewell to the Fishmarket. The building will be demolished to make way for a new bus station - the existing Greyfriars station will be demolished to make way for an expanded shopping centre. Since Northampton has no shortage of empty shops, we all know who will be the real winners. That's right, Grosvenor Centre owners Legal and General. It certainly won't be the bus users of Northampton, or the shoppers - unless they want to spend all day in a betting shop!