Hole in the wall 3
1 February 2010
Some serious job creation money must have been going into this part of the South Coast, or the council must have taken an almighty plunger to its planning permission clogjam. As I’m walking past the civic centre to the supermarket, there’s sky where the horrid old office building ought to be – that office building, the one that throws a shadow twenty hours a day over our town hall and art gallery, darkening the civic centre’s incongruous facade that really seems to belong to the careworn ayuntamiento of a municipality in southern Spain.
The horrid old office building won’t be missed. It had shopfronts or showrooms that had never been shops, and a thin tunnel cut into its ground floor which ran into a park where, during my first month there, one woman was assaulted every week. The only economic concern on that side of the street is a cavernous pub with the minimum of seats, where they use every ploy they can think of to supply the student rugby players and old dog-owners with a female clientele.
The black-and-white framed building to its left – now home to a nail bar, a community café, and a skate shop where a Sunday boy decorating the window once left a can of spray-paint in direct sunlight – doesn’t know what’s hit it. The demolition on the right-hand side, dwarfing the little hole in the wall where I live, has uncovered a brick structure like a Victorian warehouse that nobody expected to be there.
The cultural quarter is rising. Until the finance runs out.
Immediately to the south of the new building site is the police’s designated bar for away football fans. Before, during or after the last Cup tie, one visitor escaped the cordon to spray a message on to a stretch of tarmac that’s still to be dug up. It’s not that offensive, as these things go, although it’s in the council’s immediate vicinity, so they’ll have it cleared up a lot quicker than the fascist symbol that spent the winter on the window of an empty office down my road.
The slogan has some choice things to say about ‘the lads,’ but at least stands for one thing the planners have forgotten: that culture is what happens off-plan.