•    Art is fine in the right place, but it is no substitute for Industrial Heritage, as the following three pages show.

•    The first of these was written when all my alarm bells were set off on hearing Blaenau Ffestiniog described as a “Post Industrial Town”.
Page 1 : Post Industrial Landscapes and their Art
Page 2 : Moderator Wharf, Newport
Page 3 : Euston Arch and Cash’s Chimney

•     For my further views on this subject click on my Library Talk, especially the postscript.


All over Britain the grubby but genuine face of Old Industry is being scrubbed clean. Post-industrial landscapes with artworks are in. The culture of industry and working people is being replaced by an intellectualised version of it, which many of those people don't understand or want. It is a process which Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments describe as "a form of cultural cleansing".

Everywhere, the chimneys and mills, wharves and waste-tips, terraces of brick, and terraces of stone, which once distinguished one industry or region from another have been torn down.  And what little that remains is being systematically turned into a pick'n'mix look-alike landscape of brick pavers, fake Victorian, pebble-dash and picnic sites, trees and machine-made mounds of green, contrived art, and token heritage trails; heritage trails with interpretative panels explaining how interesting it all was before they filled-in the canal basin to make a car park, or pulled down the old foundry to build a shopping centre in the heritage style.

So much of it is now either artificial or simply no longer there. It's like going to an art gallery and seeing only copies, or the blank spaces where the pictures were, and having to be content with an illustrated caption beneath. It wouldn't work, and it doesn't.

It is astounding that such scant regard is shown for the products and achievements of a period of history, which did more in 200 years to improve the lives of ordinary people, than did the last 2000. There are many people who believe that the technological, industrial, engineering, maritime and architectural heritage of this period - both great and humble - is every bit as valuable, interesting and deserving of respect as the artistic and cultural heritage of earlier periods.

No works of art can replace a lost heritage. They simply don't have the integrity of the original. They are imposters - cuckoo art. The same is true of many post-industrial landscapes of which they often form part. They too lack design and historic integrity. Many are no more than a masquerade - a tidy way of disposing of the past rather than of taking care of it. It is time we spent less on artifice and more on arteFACTS.

Falcon D Hildred, Melin Pant-yr-Ynn, Bethania, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd LL41 3LZ    9 Nov 98