Sunday, 29 June 2008

A Zimbabwean haven and Victorian dream

David is from Zimbabwe and in a small workshop on the side of The Lenton Centre he captures his memories and images of home in stone. He has been there for some time now and last Wednesday he gave me permission to take some pictures of him at work. He has recently taken part in an exhibition of Zimbabwean sculptures in London and from 1 July visitors to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens will be able to see his work as well. His workshop has a few rough hewn sculptures which may be works in progress, whilst some others are very smooth in appearance. I am drawn to the former. I don't know how or why David ended up in Lenton, but the fact that he is here is our good fortune. Zimbabwe is in a state of turmoil and many Zimbabweans have been forced to flee for their lives and some have come to England. I see David at work and imagine that when he looks up from his stone and out of his workshop he sees not a brick wall but, through the dust of his sculpting, the wide open plains of Zimbabwe. For now he has found a haven in Lenton.
Last week I put together a CD of Lenton images for some consultants who are about to commence work with Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum on a future vision and development strategy for our ward. The exercise made me realise that since taking up picture taking in earnest at the beginning of 2007 I have not taken any photographs of the ward's streets and neighbourhoods in a systematic way. All the pictures I have taken have been in relation to a particular topic.

So I have decided to work my way around the ward taking pictures of the streets. I will get some exercise at the same time which will be a good thing. The above rear view of Holy Trinity Church is the first picture in my new series. To me it looks 'Victorian and northern'. A feeling brought about by the grime and dirt which, over the last 166 years, has taken away the natural light colouring of the stone. If cleaned I am in no doubt that Holy Trinity would look absolutely fantastic. Back in the early-1980s when I was a county councillor I suggested to the church they should apply for a grant from a 'clean-up' fund I was involved with, but they seemed to like it as it was and didn't take up my offer.

These pictures above and below are of the east side of Lenton Boulevard between Hart Street and Osmaston Street. The one above is of the shops on the corner of Hart Street and the last building on the right is the first building on the left of the picture below, which shows the Lenton Liberal Club on the corner of Osmaston Street. It was formally opened in January 1862 by Cecil Foljambe, the then Liberal MP for North Nottinghamshire. Today the Club has no links with the Liberal Party.

This short stretch of road is typical of the Lenton Boulevard neighbourhood, an area which, with not much commitment and a relatively small amount of money, could be returned to its Victorian glory. I would love to have the time to campaign for a Heritage Lottery Fund Townscape project to restore the Boulevard to and, as a final touch, I would find the money to enable the Crich National Tramway Museum to open a branch in Lenton and run a historic tram service* from The Forest via Hyson Green, Gregory Boulevard, Radford Boulevard, Lenton Boulevard and Castle Boulevard to the Brewhouse Yard Museum and Nottingham Railway Station. This would not only give visitors a sense of what it was like to live in late-Victorian England, but would help to re-generate Lenton and Radford in ways presently unimagined! *I would build a tram depot at the back of the old Raleigh offices.

Songbirds in cities are damaging their health, exposing themselves to predators and weakening their gene pool by trying to be heard above the din of urban life.

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