Time Please on the City

wpid-img_20140527_135542.jpg

I don’t normally respond to comments on other sites but I couldn’t resist this one.

The Culture Vulture invited Ronnie Hughes from Liverpool’s A Sense Of Place to introduce May’s #cityseriesleeds film at Hyde Park Picture House, which Ronnie wrote about this morning. We were showing Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City, a beautiful, occasionally infuriating, but always fascinating account of the film-maker’s growing up in Liverpool and how the city has changed – not always for the better if you swallow everything Davies would have you believe. Before the film I met Ronnie at the station and we spent a couple of hours wandering about Leeds before walking up to Hyde Park. I didn’t really have a plan where to go, I just followed my feet – I knew Ronnie was an avid city walker so it wouldn’t be a problem.

The route we eventually took began on York Place at the hotel. We cut through a small, enclosed square and crossed St Paul’s Street and Park Place, ending up going through Park Square. We crossed the Headrow and went up the side of the Town Hall, pointing out the old infirmary as we went. Our first stop for a pint and a quick chat about the evening’s event was in The Victoria. Then out St George’s St, over Victoria Gardens, down Albion St, through the Trinity Shopping Centre, over Briggate, through Central Arcade, calling in the Corn Exchange and walking through Kirkgate Market, around the Victoria Gate development and Millgarth and the “Arts Quarter”, across Eastgate, up through the old China Town, Grand Arcade and Upper Briggate, along past Trinity Church and the Merrion Centre, then a stop in the Hedley Verity – from where we could see the new Arena and the BBC building and lots of ‘60s Leeds brutalism – for a bit of a rest before we tramped up through the Uni to Hyde Park. It may not have been an exhaustive exploration of Leeds, but it was certainly exhausting. And obviously anybody else would have done it different.

We chatted along the way. Ronnie often stopped and took pictures. His post is a selection of the pics he took, our chat as we walked, the question and answer session after the film, and the conversation in The Reliance pub after.

Here’s the comment:

What a strange and one-sided journey. Think I have heard the anti-art stuff before from Phil – everyone’s an art critic eh?. But, lets get the facts straight. The empty Corn Exchange lower floor is certainly not the result of the issues caused by the refurbishment (almost 10 years ago), but by major Leeds restaurant Anthony’s closing down last year. The centre is now full of independent retail, cafes, specialist music shops etc. and is finally getting itself back up after being talked down for years – these independent retailers deserve more support than this. And Hoagy’s?? A really nasty little pub that will be missed by a few, but certainly not the likes of Mr Kirby.

Three things struck me about this comment. Firstly, that anti-art insinuation. I’m assuming this is in reference to my Minerva post (the only “art” mentioned in Ronnie’s piece) where I explicitly said that my criticism wasn’t of the art – though I do find it execrable – it was about the gormless message the sculpture embodied. It made the city that little bit more stupid. Secondly, the “facts” of the Corn Exchange, what are they exactly? I do have a strong opinion on what has happened to the Corn Exchange, and I’m happy to debate it – but what the comment above states as a fact is just so much baseless opinion. I’d like to see the commenter try to substantiate it. And thirdly, and I think most importantly, that snide, snotty, insufferably snobbish comment in the last sentence … please, don’t tell me what I shall or shall not miss either.

Actually I shall miss Hoagy’s, for a number of reasons. It was a grand building on a good city street – I’ll miss the symmetry and understated style of Eastgate, even though what is replacing it is far grander architecturally. It was a good and welcoming place for the sort of people the city centre is increasingly inhospitable toward – I’ll miss that something genuinely Leeds, a proper piece of public space in the city centre is being replaced by something from the suburbs (a shopping mall, no matter how pretty, is not civic space, it’s only there for a certain section of the population.) And it had the most used outside seating anywhere in Leeds city centre – I’ll miss that the last good old wooden chair and bench sets we had, seats that were always occupied no matter the weather.

No, I won’t be missing the bad beer and the worse food and the occasional sweary old bastard at the bar. But then, does every pub in town have to serve craft ales from a microbrewery in the basement and cheeses that come with live maggots to customers with regulation facial hair? Why does everywhere have to be upmarket, tasteful and terribly style conscious?

Yes, I shall be lamenting the loss of Hoagy’s, another concession to the homogenisation, hipsterisation and bleeding dry of Leeds’ civic history. And I’m happy to be called “one-sided” if the side I’m on is losing.

12 comments

  1. Hoagys will most definitely be missed by the sections of society that the city centre does not cater for. After doing the shopping in kirkgate market a spot of lunch was a treat for a lot of people. I always found both the staff and customers very friendly.

  2. Regarding the Corn Exchange:

    The owners of the building *did* vacate the previous tenants as they tried to turn the place into one big food hall. Unfortunately they tried to do this just as the economy tanked, and only in the last couple of years have they reversed this ‘food only’ policy. Those vacating tenants were hit especially hard in some cases – at that point in time rents in the city hadn’t yet deflated and the city was in fact short of retail space as the tenants of the former Burton/Trinity Arcade had also been evicted as the first attempt at building Trinity Leeds started around about the same time.

    The basement floor is indeed currently vacant after the demise of Anthony’s empire (it being the only part of the former empire now vacant as Dish took the Boar Lane restaurant and Filmore & Union the VQ patisserie). What some people are forgetting is that the basement has been vacant on and off since it’s reopening as a shopping centre in the early 90’s. Yes, there had been various bar/club operations in there but very few of them ever took off – certainly Anthony’s was the first to actually make a name for itself in that location).

    *exhale*

    Myself and a group of friends were once assaulted in Hoagys whilst playing pool. The miscreants were barred from the place. Still see one of them smoking a roll-up outside the Three Legs now and then.

    Hopefully the Spirit Group (who ran Hoagys and the Templar Hotel) do a good job with their new pub The Griffin (opening in the former Boar Lane Hotel), I might pop in so long as there isn’t any snooker cues lying around.

  3. I must protest that I don’t wear a beard, regulation or otherwise, but nonetheless feel constrained to enter a word in defence of maggots. My grandfather wouldn’t countenance a cheese unless he had watched it crawl across the board. My Mum tells me he also enjoyed his pint so I imagine he would have been right at home in Friends of Ham or the North Bar or wherever. I think he’d have been happy in Hoagy’s too. It shouldn’t be either or; surely there should be room for both.

    But the real reason for intruding on this thread is to point out a rather happy coincidence. The topic immediately before this one is entitled “Leeds Big Bookend Begins”. When Sir Reginald Blomfield drew up the designs for Eastgate, Hoagy’s and the building across the road were designated as “bookends”, presumably as they looked as though they were holding up the rest of the terrace rising up the slope either side of the street. So this thread could have been entitled “Leeds Big Bookend Closes”. I’ll get my coat.

    1. I was thinking of your post on Victoria Gate when I wrote this.

      I quite like the design of John Lewis – though totally agree with you about the shameful PR twaddle. Embarrassingly phony. But we all may get to like the building? I think we will.

      But I am genuinely sad that Hoagy’s has gone. It got a lot of stuff right for the people it served. And if we want Leeds to be diverse and be great for everyone then where will the people who drank there go? Hardly VQ material. They’d get shoo’d from Trinity. So, where?

  4. Good question, Phil. I think we should be concerned about this sustained “upscaling” tendency (by the way I noticed the word again on the hoardings of the Hilton building site at the top of Cookridge Street).

    Nothing inarguable about replacing the Millgarth Police Station or the buildings on Eastgate with something more challenging and pleasing on the eye but the deliberate targeting of an “affluent” constituency inevitably militates against inclusivity and that should raise worries and questions about the direction and inclination of the planning for the city centre.

    1. Have you noticed how every new development is “vibrant”? Soon Leeds will be so bloody vibrant we’ll all need shades.

      I also like the way the new development on Wellington Street is described as central … has nobody shown the developers a map?

  5. I’m struggling with your double negative grumpius but if you mean there is no argument in favour of milgarth police station I must disagree.

    You have to take on board its fortress like appearance – form follows function after all. At the time it was built the design guidelines suggested that these buildings should be bomb resistant with no ground floor windows which partly explains the public access at the first floor level

    N.B also one of the last vestiges of the leeds skyways project to build walkways above street level – see also former bank of England building.

    otherwise totally agree all the comments on exclusivity and urban social cleansing – city centre management companies also need to watched.

    Whenever I see the word vibrant I replace it with the word visceral – makes life just that bit more exciting

  6. Now then, Sour, good to hear from you. What I meant (clumsily it would appear) was to suggest that the argument for Millgarth and other buildings at the bottom of Eastgate is neither won nor lost. I make no bones about disliking Millgarth – it’s an eyesore; but your defence of it from a functional point of view is pertinent, although that function has now disappeared. Perhaps it could have been reconceived as a nightclub (or a betting shop).

    Meanwhile, “vibrant”. Yes it gets everywhere. There is a truly emetic banner heading on the Victoria Gate homepage which reads “Victoria Gate – a unique and exciting addition to Leeds’ vibrant shopping scene”. It almost constitutes a duty of care to the future of civilisation to bridle at every word in that construction. The thought of being trapped in a giddying scene of vibrant shoppers is enough to make one long for some easeful quietus. Visceral for vibrant, yes. A visceral shopping scene; vibrant shoppers eviscerated as they emerge heavyladen from upscaling adventures in John Lewis.

  7. Hello again Grumpius – “eyesore” is not a word I would expect from a person of your taste and discernment – but I totally agree about a rework of Milgarth as a night club.

    Your idea is totally “inspiring” and the result could well be “vibrant” – I will suggest it to Luminar who I gather are looking for new outlets in the region after their reworking of Oceana.

    regards

    Sour

  8. The loss of Hoagys is disgraceful and I really want to name and shame those responsible~!!! Wasnt it JOHN THORP our apparent CIVIC ARCHITECT who sanctioned this urban vandalism!!!! Our maybe the leadership of #LeedsCityCouncil as a whole who apparently will ‘do ANYTHING’ to get John Lewis here!!! An absoloute disgrace! Lets just hope that the rest of Eastgate doesnt get bulldozed for another giant surface car park!

Comments are closed.