Saturday, 10 November 2012

Revealing the Roch; Rediscovering Rochdale Bridges

THIS Activity Plan proposal below is interesting in so far as it is revealing more about the English psychology of the proponents.  The interest here is not in the beauty of the art or the architectural features of the medieval bridges but rather in the 'learning activity' and the 'partnership services' and the 'meeting the neighbours' and the breaking down of 'false divisions within the town's communities'.  Anything but the art and beauty of the buildings and riverside.  That may be because English people and politicians feel uncomfortable about aesthetic things and prefer to waffle on about politically correct slogans. 

Frederic Raphael, writing on the sculptor, Henry Moore, in the magazine 'Modern Painters' wrote:  'Art has become (or remains) separate from politics in England not because it is too difficult for politicians but because they do not have money for it and because whatever is not economic is not real to them...'  The English politicians only grasp the price of things, and thus we should expect that civil servants in Rochdale can only talk twaddle when go on about the medieval bridges of Rochdale, they have become cut off from the roots of our great architectural tradition and only now understand the simplistic ugliness that now adorns so many of the modern buildings in Rochdale town centre.  I urge readers to read the text below for what it reveals about the mentality of the typical English civil servant and politician.  God help us!

Activity Plan Proposal, stage 1: 
A Summary: 
Rochdale Bridge and the Butts Bridge are a crucial part of the town’s important cultural heritage and the river part of its natural heritage. They are valuable resources for learning and enjoyment and as such should be a shared resource, but at present are known and experienced by very few people. The success of the project will be shown by the extent to which it engages the diverse communities of Rochdale and its ability to fulfil the potential of the Bridges as a source of identity and symbol of unity for them.
By revealing Rochdale Bridge, the capital work in itself is a learning activity because thousands of people will discover the existence of this hidden heritage asset. However RMBC want to go beyond this broad engagement and complement the capital work with a programme of activities aimed at achieving high levels of learning and participation. The focus will be on engaging the surrounding communities in Inner Rochdale. The programme will link into existing initiatives to ensure a lasting legacy.

B Research/Consultation undertaken: 
Rochdale Council and its partners have substantial experience of working with the communities in Inner Rochdale and have built strong relationships and trust with local groups. Rather than ‘reinvent the wheel,’ the project seeks to build on this good work through by working across Council and partner services and utilising existing networks and frameworks where suitable. This section summarises the outcomes of consultation and research which has influenced the outline activity programme. 

B1 Township – the local RMBC township office works within local communities. “Meeting the neighbours” is an overarching concept used by the Township under which community projects have been implemented. It seeks to bridge false divisions within the town centre communities through events to encourage neighbours to meet and participate in activities together. An example of a project was a series of sessions held across communities to learn a dance. The dancers from each community were then brought together to perform at the Memorial Gardens in the town centre. A review of the project has shown a need to involve more inter-generational activities and people with a disability. There are clear opportunities around the symbolism of Rochdale Bridge at the centre of the communities for this project to operate under this tried and tested framework.

B2 Touchstones – Touchstones, managed by Link4Life, lead the provision of cultural heritage activities within Rochdale Town Centre and have proven expertise in this area. Their products are well received and trusted with schools and local groups- their schools programme, for example, is regularly fully booked. Meetings with the Education Co-ordinator and the Art Gallery Access Officer have explored what makes successful projects and how we can tie into their strategies for mutual benefit and to ensure the lifespan of the resources created as part of the project continue after the project’s completion.

B3 Rochdale Cultural Heritage Group (RoCH) – RoCH is an umbrella group representing the different cultural and heritage groups within Rochdale. They have been crucial in gauging public support, advising officers on the activities and how the capital work can reflect public aspirations.

B4 Additional research and consultation - It should be emphasised that this project has emerged from informal and formal consultation over many years and work within Inner Rochdale communities. To be discussed more within application form. Additional research and consultation includes;

▪ Rochdale THI (presentation to Whitworth community centre, support letters)

▪ MSc Dissertation on the extent to which heritage-led regeneration proposals in Rochdale engage and reflect the local Pakistani community

▪ MRUK report
▪ ……

2.5 Other projects/Best practice – We have researched and contacted a number of other HLF-funded projects that have similarities to our proposed project: The Lune Viaduct, The River Ribble, British Steel Archive Project. This will be expanded upon in the application form.

C Audience:

Due to its concealment, there is no audience currently engaging with the Rochdale and Butts Bridges and it would be premature to focus engagement too closely on a specific audience. The Bridges are in the centre of Rochdale; an area which is within the 1% most deprived areas in the country and has ethnically diverse, yet segregated communities.
The MRUK report, produced for RMBC, gives insight into the views of the people of Rochdale borough. It found that “One of the most striking attitudes that arose from all respondent audiences was the importance of maintaining a link with the industrial origins and heritage of the area. This was seen to be an important aspect of the identity of the people and the community in which they live. Those respondents living within the Borough displayed quite negative perceptions, which can be descried as being of low expectation, low self esteem, with little sense of local pride and a lost identity. 

D Concept: 
Rochdale Bridge contains a unique and dynamic record of human activity, shaped by generations of Rochdale people responding to the surroundings they inherited. The activity plan will record and celebrate the project, which is this generation’s contribution to that history. Under the framework of ‘Meeting the Neighbours’ the project will engage with these different communities through a series of workshops on the bridge, its history and its conservation that will be tailored to each group. The workshops will culminate in outputs created collaboratively between the different groups thus bringing them together in discovery, recording and celebration of the Bridges as a source of identity and symbol of unity.

The workshops/learning sessions are divided into ‘discovering’, ‘recording’ and ‘celebrating’. During the development stage the Project Officer would work with the community groups to arrange a package of workshops suitable for their audience. This system of workshops allows activities to be repeated with different groups, and adapted to their needs; making them effective and efficient. Similar frameworks used by Touchstones, Township and the Middleton Young Roots project have proved successful. This project would be more ambitious; reaching more groups, with a wide variety of workshops and continuation of some workshops following completion of the project. Participants will be invited to join RoCH and have long-term involvement in decisions about the cultural heritage.

To Do:

Identify groups

Put costs against sessions etc – realistic within the budget?

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