Making Common Ground at Furnace Park: place, purpose and familiarisation



I’ve been increasingly exploring the stabilities of place. In recent years writers on place have tended to emphasise place’s flux: the way in which it is a momentary, fragile assemblage of the varied intentions, actions and desires of those who happen to be present in (or otherwise having influence over) any seemingly coherent action-space. I get this kick against formalism, but I think that it tends to present place as too fluid. My recent projects have been examining various ways by which places become stabilised (and replicated). My recent article (details here) on the role of law in shaping the form and proliferation of the ‘classic’ cotton mill published in Geoforum earlier this year is an early outing on this. And now – after three years of gestation, my article co-written with Amanda Crawley Jackson of the University of Sheffield has been published in Social and Cultural Geography

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Edinburgh (March 2016)

We walked along the river and I don’t remember any of our conversations, just that it was good to walk. My memories of this trip – starbursts: the café where we ate éclairs; the weak morning sun coming through the thin yellow curtains in our rented house in Pilrig; Ocean Terminal – empty, bluntly lit, shops closed; figuring out how the buses worked and travelling over and over between Princes Street and Leith.

I had not remembered that the trees were leafless, their branches thickly crosshatched across a pale grey sky.

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Flora of the River Don (on finding Salmon Pastures)

I walked to Salmon Pastures. A. told me he went to school and did his apprenticeship there. He explained how his father’s funeral cortège had travelled slowly along Carlisle Street and the men came out of the steelworks, doffing their caps as it passed.

To get there, I travelled by tram to Nunnery Square – a patchwork of car parks and police buildings, hemmed in by security fencing. I walked under railway arches, past carwashes and small factories, before crossing Norfolk Bridge (built in 1856) and taking a sharp right  along a small cobbled street to join the river.

An old man from Yemen was sitting on a bench watching the river crowfoot stream in long ribbons with the current. We talked for a few minutes and he told me how this is a good place. Quiet.


Sheffield riverscape (1)

I walked with Daisy along the River Don from the Wardsend cemetery to Neepsend. At Wardsend, we started off a little way down the railway lines that run stark and clean through the undulating and overgrown cemetery, then veered off to follow the river itself, along the newly surfaced track that cuts through the vast mounds of debris – spolia from demolished works? – that loom either side. The electricity pylons hummed and crackled overhead and the thunderous engines of quad bikes rumbled and reverberated in an undefinable distance.

Everywhere we walk, waste. And amidst the waste, lilac and jack-in-the-hedge. The river bank is strewn with tyres and bottles and fast food wrappers, mattresses and plastic chairs, podgy black bin bags. A sign screwed to one of the metal kissing gates put there to stop the quad bikes : fly tippers – we are watching you.

At Wardsend, on the hill amidst the silver birch, there has been a fire. Graves squat in scorched earth, black tipped tendrils clasping shards of stone, displacing fragments of Victorian ironwork.

The Hillsborough playing fields are to our right. A man in a vermilion jersey sparks across the pitch. A sheep’s skull – or perhaps it is just a carrier bag – is revealed, briefly, as the river washes across it. Bottle-green, muddy mallards drift.

Neepsend. Eviscerated drag cars and deserted roads, leading to an empty, elevated horizon.

Foundry – the album. Free download

We’re excited to announce the launch of our new album, Foundry.

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Featuring new compositions by Martin Hogg, Vanessa Massera, Chris Bevan, Adam Stansbie, Jordan Platt, Alex Gowan-Webster, and Jonathan Higgins, the album is made exclusively from found sounds and sounds recorded in and around Furnace Park.

Download the album for free and read the album booklet, including texts by each of the composers, Amanda Crawley Jackson, Martin Elms and Richard Ward.

The booklet also contains images of original works made by artist David McLeavy during his Furnace Park residency and a conversation between the artist and Amanda Crawley Jackson.


In the 1980s, Sheffield became known for its vibrant electronic music scene. Its luminaries drew on and made use of the industrial sounds that could be heard all over the city, emanating from the drop forges, works and foundries. Foundry – the most recent of the plastiCities projects – revisits the sounds of the city, in one of the areas most strongly connected to the now largely defunct industries which gave the 80s their soundtrack – Shalesmoor. The composers and researchers made a series of field recordings which have been archived as a sound bank for others to listen to and use. These materials also served as the basis for a series of seven commissioned sound pieces, which will be presented online and as a limited edition CD.

The compositions extract and re-frame quotations from the acoustic ecology of the area. They reflect months of deep listening and sustained attention to the sounds which are at once constant and everyday, but also, typically, ‘unheard’. Our aim is not to recycle these everyday objects and sounds. By re-casting ‘everyday sounds’ as ‘music’, by hearing harmony in the cacophony of rush hour, we are creating a space in which, quite simply, there is a possibility of imagining how all this might be different.

Chris Bevan, Amanda Crawley Jackson, Alex Gowan-Webster, Jonathan Higgins, Martin Hogg, Jordan Platt, Vanessa Massera, Adam Stansbie, Thom Wilson