“Masterpieces of Baligh Hamdi” in Riyadh receives Egyptian and Arab interaction

2023-11-10 20:14:13

Old British factories culturally recycled: something magical that dispels the darkness and cold

A large number of old factories in the north of England have brought back cultural activities and shops, a glimpse of the good old days of these buildings that were the beating heart of global trade, before they became derelict and became obsolete as British industry declined.

According to Agence France-Presse, the owners of textile factories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries took the initiative to construct huge buildings that they wanted as “eternal” testimonies of their authority, drawing inspiration from great names from the Italian Renaissance, such as the Medici family. In building their factories, they used the local York sandstone, which is available in a variety of golden colours, thus drawing the features of the urban landscape in West Yorkshire near Leeds.

Embracing old factories in northern England with cultural activities restores the shine of these buildings (AFP)

But with the gradual decline of the textile industry after World War II, and the resulting decline in economic activity in the region, obsolescence and dilapidation struck a large number of these symbols of British industrial history, and some of them were demolished. However, others were saved and transformed into cultural sites that house world-famous artists, such as the painter David Hockney or the singer Sting.

The most prominent of these places are “Salts Mill” near Bradford, which was the largest factory in Europe when it was opened in 1853, and “Peace Hall” in the neighboring city of Halifax.

These factories were the beating heart of global trade before they became abandoned (AFP)

The number of Salts Mill workers at its peak was 5,000, but the number of those interested in buying the huge, long factory was small when the site closed in 1986. Bradford businessman Jonathan Silver saw an opportunity in the situation, so he took over management of the site the following year, turning it into an art gallery. With the participation of his friend, the world-famous painter David Hockney, who is also a member of the faith.

“Salts Mill” near Bradford was the largest factory in Europe when it was opened in 1853 (AFP)

His brother Robin, who until recently was director of the Hockney Museum, said: “What he (Jonathan Silver) saw here was a well-maintained building, and since he was in Bradford, (he thought) it would be the perfect place to create a Hockney exhibition.”

Silver, who died in 1997, presented the idea to the painter during his stay with the artist in the United States. Hockney agreed to lend some of his paintings, even though he found the idea “very strange,” while the businessman’s family members thought he was “crazy,” according to his brother.

“No one came,” according to Robin, to attend the opening of the hall in November, as they had to come to “a dark, satanic factory, in the midst of heavy rain, fog, and cold winds.”

But the plan to transform the place into “an artistic and cultural institution the likes of which did not exist in the north of England at that era” eventually bore fruit.

The subsequent influx of visitors passionate about culture made companies discover the potential of the area, and realize the importance of benefiting from such a symbolic building, which now also includes shops and restaurants.

At its peak, the number of Salts Mill workers reached 5,000 people (AFP)

As for the “Peace Hall” building in Halifax, which is a huge square dating back to the year 1779, and in the middle of which is a wide square surrounded by arches, it was a market for the textile trade and met a similar fate, as it was transformed into a concert site that witnessed concerts for a number of stars and bands, such as the former “Oasis” singer. Noel Gallagher, Sting, New Order and Nile Rogers.

After the site became a public market following the decline of the textile industry, and then a place to hold some activities, it was saved from demolition in the 1960s, and then again in the 1980s by a margin of one vote during the local vote.

The demand for visitors passionate about culture made companies discover the potential of the region (AFP)

However, the building regained its splendor after its restoration at a cost of 19 million pounds (22 million euros), and its director, Nicky Chance Thompson, had the idea of ​​organizing concerts since 2018.

Noel Gallagher was quoted as saying that “it was his best concert of the summer,” while Nile Rogers said that “there is something magical about this place.”

As is the case with “Salts Mill,” the success of “Peace Hall” as a cultural venue quickly attracted merchants, resulting in a return on investment of 6 pounds for every pound invested, according to independent experts, which provided valuable resources for the city municipality.

Factories were saved and transformed into cultural sites housing world-famous artists (AFP)

If organizing rock concerts seems a long way from the original vision of the factory’s founders, Nikki Chance Thompson hopes they will be satisfied, because it “means we have succeeded in preserving this wonderful building.”

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