ICA into a nightclub, the focus of the project is not just on demolition, but on action, creating a cycle of activity that will help bring people together to celebrate the past at the same time as looking to the future and channelling the DIY spirit which drives places such as nearby arts venue Islington Mill.
English Cities Fund and Urban Vision, which is responsible for overseeing the regeneration of the area. She says the regeneration firms “took a leap of faith” in supporting her ideas, seeing the project as a positive way of empowering and involving local people in the changes taking place their immediate environment. The buildings were due to come down in February 2013, but demolition was delayed – and then around May time the council started to get cold feet due to health and safety concerns and the changes it would entail to the original demolition contract. Now the fences have gone up and demolition is imminent, meaning Jen faces a race against time. She has been meeting with Salford City Council and Bagnall, the demolition contractor, to find a solution so that the events can take place in September rather than July as originally planned, but the future of The Wall is still uncertain; the latest news is that it looks like Bagnall will have to take down the wall and save Jen the bricks, meaning the community action will be just the reconstruction. Jen says:“A compromise, but at least it can still happen!”
Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester which started late in 2011, where she researched the history of Manchester's former musical landmarks which have been demolished, such as the Hacienda nightclub (now rebuilt as apartments – Jen “kept wondering why I couldn't recognise it – it's depressing”) and the notorious Hulme Crescents, which were once the venue for famous parties. She also went out on Manchester's club scene and met those suffused with DIY energy in Manchester today, from Unity Radio and Islington Mill to Kraak space and the Volkov Commanders, finding that “there is something real about it. It's not like it's just setting itself up as an alternative”. Jen became interested in the ways in which spaces where people used to come together, such as nightclubs, have been destroyed and started to explore narratives of regeneration, demolition and starting over again. She documented the demolition of buildings such as the former seaman's mission and Salvation Army centre Stella Maris, which stood just behind Chapel Street next to Islington Mill, becoming interested in both the material process of demolition and the communal psyche of what the building meant to its former users. Despite both Islington Mill and Manchester Modernist Society proposing future uses for the building, which once boasted facilities such as a sprung dance floor, the council was insistent on its demolition, and it is now used as a storage space for building work in the area. Jen made a film about the demolition which was shown at suitably avant-noise band Gnod's Gesamtkunstwerk night at Islington Mill, and Gnod will reciprocate by playing at the parties accompanying The Wall events, closing the circle of Jen's convergent interests in rave and regeneration.
M3, and the local residents' association, to gauge interest in the project, and it is hoped that the wall, rebuilt nearby, may then become the starting point of something new, such as a community centre (in an interesting parallel, one local resident was involved in a similar project to save a wall in an old aircraft hangar, which contained a half-finished wartime mural, interrupted by its artist being called up to fight, and succeeded in moving the wall to a museum).
For the latest news on The Wall keep an eye on www.islingtonmill.com/visual-arts-events.php.
Jen is hosting a 'supper' at Islington Mill on Saturday 13 July from 6-9pm. She will be talking about The Wall for around 45 minutes, then use the rest of the time to get feedback from people about how to re-think the work. For more information visit www.facebook.com/events/467844653307944.