Stage 2

You can probably guess what will go on three sides of each block… the fourth side is more of a mystery.

I’ve now progressed quite a long way into Stage 2 of the project so I feel that the blog deserves an update.

So far I’ve taken the film to five different care homes in the Ashford borough together with a series of four one-hour activity plans. 

As with everything in life at the moment, it was pretty odd: messages at the door instructing me not to enter the building; a very brief chat to the receptionist or the activity coordinator; a retreat to the car.

How difficult it must be for the residents, cut off from the outside world as they are, and for the staff who know that one false move could result in Covid entering the home and lives being at risk. 

The activities are based around viewing the films; poetry; craft (helping to make the abacus); and finally drawing/painting. 

I’ll be visiting the homes again in the next week or so to deliver packages for the residents containing wooden blocks that have been made by WoodnWare CIC. They cut the blocks but are still drilling holes in some of them. 

It will be interesting to see how everyone gets on. I anticipate that I may have to call on other care homes and other members of the community to help with the abacus. Just not sure that many 90-year olds will want to do any drawing and painting… we will see!

Superficiality

Listed buildings in the centre of Wye (From http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk)

During the week I was talking to my sister about the project. My brother-in-law had mentioned Pevsner’s history of Kent buildings.

“I can’t read that,” I said, “My project has to be superficial. I don’t have time to go into much depth.”

I explained that this identification of 100 local buildings is really just the first stage of a project which will also involve working in care homes, eliciting memories from some of the older members of the community. I have to crack on.

Listed buildings in the centre of Tenterden (From http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk)

To me the most important thing is to get representation from as many areas of the borough as possible. I don’t want to find myself confronted by a 90-year old from Rolvenden, for example, who feels that there’s nothing for him in my project.

If I really stopped to think about any of the communities that I’ve been working on, I would get horribly bogged down. Tenterden alone has nearly 200 listed buildings. Wye and Charing have over 150 each. And there are more listed buildings in the borough of Ashford than any other borough in Kent.

So I’m going with superficial…

I’ve been driving about like a mad thing sometimes accompanied by my wife or son or daughter. Together we’ve now visited most far-flung corners and have taken photographs of about 250 buildings.

Listed buildings in the centre of Charing (From http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk)

I am bracing myself for the pushback… ‘why haven’t you included such-and-such? Such-and-such is one of the most vital buildings in Ashford…?’

The answer will be that I was driving too fast.

Anchor Garage

John Childs’ garage in Smeeth. A petrol pump in need of preservation.

I spent the day taking photographs in Brook, Brabourne, Smeeth, Mersham, Park View, Kennardington, Appledore, Reading Road…

The buildings that I took photographs of were often quite random like this great petrol station in Smeeth with an original (or at least very old) pump.

‘It was Anchor Garage to start with,’ said a guy working there, pointing at the sign on the wall, ’30s, 40s.. don’t know.’ He was eyeing up my Hyundai, hoping it would spring a sudden leak and that he’d have something serious to do.

I took a picture and then fretted about how I was going to put a date to such a building. Historic England and British Listed Buildings were unlikely to give me much joy I thought.

And putting Anchor Garage Smeeth into Google isn’t very productive either. I just get hundreds of MOT offers and other garages in the local area. No-one suspects that what I really need is a date for a building.

In the end, Ashford Kent Remembering How It Once Was comes up trumps. Not only with details of owners going back to the 1930s but also people who worked there as pump attendants and pictures of the building on postcards.

So it might make the list of 100… will have to see what other 1930s buildings we come up with.

Brambles and borders

I’ve spent part of the day talking to activity managers from care homes which I hope will participate in a later stage of the #ashford100buildings project.

It’s sometimes difficult to reach them because they usually work part-time and, when they’re in the care homes, they tend to be busy leading their activities. And today has been sunny so I imagine that they’ve been talking to residents in the homes’ gardens, drinking tea perhaps or indulging with an ice cream.

I’m hoping that, once I’ve selected 100 buildings, I will be able to take a short film of the buildings into the care homes – to illicit memories and to encourage participation in a collective artwork.

That is why this project has been funded by the Kent Community Foundation – to help alleviate the isolation of those living in care homes during the pandemic. While I have some personal goals associated with #ashford100buildings, as far as the funders are concerned, this is what counts.

So far I’ve got two homes definitely signed up and another three looking at my proposal (which includes such activities as sticking and drawing as well as writing and reminiscing).

I spoke to Jan from Brambles which is in my home community and where I have worked before. She manages to sound as if nothing is too much trouble – which is quite an achievement in these Covid times.

‘Just send over the proposal and we’ll take a look,’ she says.

Too hot to do it today. I headed off to Godinton with Alice to take some photos. What incredible herbaceous borders.

My bugbear

The archway shows the entrance to North Street. You can walk through – if you knew it was there! And the four little spikes above that section of the building shows where the tower of St Mary’s Church is…

Northgate House…

I really want the majority of this project to be positive – to open all our eyes to the amazing buildings in this area. To this end, I have been asking people joining the Facebook group about their favourite local buildings and have been delighted that many have responded with buildings which I never knew existed. Such places are now entered in the timelines (51 buildings in there at the last count).

However, on applying to join the Facebook group, I also ask people about their least favourite local building. Not surprisingly perhaps many have already mentioned Charter House (the Panorama building). It is certainly dominating, brutalist, a real symbol of its time.

But I think that the recent improvements have made a difference. At least one of its huge faces looks as if it will be partially hidden.

My own least favourite is Northgate House, the former Kentish Express building which spans the end of North Street. This was built in 1990 when the Council should have known better.

Driving into Ashford along the A28 it completely obscures the view of North Street itself and of St Mary’s Church. According to a builder who I met yesterday, it also blocks off the view from one of the windows of the Masonic Hall.

Although only 30 years old, it looks tired and dated. A few years ago I believe it was converted into flats. I wouldn’t miss it…

One of the more interesting streets in the town – completely hidden by Northgate House

Catching up with other people’s work

I wonder why they planted those trees?

One of the enjoyable things about doing a project like this is that you uncover work that other people have already done. 

This morning for example I was looking for information about Charter House, the huge triangular brutalist building that dominates Ashford and came across Niccio who had written about it on his blog a few years ago.

His blog is called Ashford Heritage and hasn’t been updated for a while – but it’s a great source of information. He’d done some great research into the Masonic Temple, the College (of Priests) in the Churchyard, and Dr Wilk’s Hall.

Then there’s another great blog, this time called Ashford’s Heritage, which has been set up by people connected to Ashford Museum. Understandably perhaps this is more focused on the listed buildings than on the more modern (and controversial) architecture. But it’s a great source of information.

I’m putting links and photographs into the relevant entries in the timelines. But sometimes there’s pretty little information to go on. 

This afternoon’s challenge was to find information about the 1970’s carpark on Edinburgh Road – definitely a building of its time but not one that many residents will treasure. In the end I came across a press clipping that said that it was built in the early 70s but it would be good to have a precise date. Does anyone know?

And I also spent a while looking at and photographing Northgate House. Now there’s another building I personally could do without. But I’ll save that for another time.

WoodnWare CIC

Darren’s wing atop the Ella Harling display stand

Today I had a chat with Louisa from WoodnWare CIC – a great social enterprise in Ashford “providing opportunities for vulnerable adults to learn wood work skills, up-cycling, re-purposing and environmental awareness whilst building confidence, social networks, enterprise and a sense of community”.

That’s taken from the facebook page. 

I had dealings with WoodnWare a few years ago when one of their vulnerable adults (Darren) helped me make a wing for a first world war project I was working on. 

Abacus design – not Leonardo

The wing was amazing and became part of a display stand which I carted round the local area.

Now I’m looking for some wooden blocks similar to those that I used in the promo. I’m going to need 100 identical wooden blocks – 96 for a four-sided abacus and then four spares…

I drew the design earlier today. Hopefully it will make sense to WoodnWare. It would be fantastic to work with them again.

Friday timelines

I’ve entered some buildings into the draft timelines. Some of them were buildings that I used in the promo video (Ruckinge Church, the Outlet, the Clock Tower for example).

Others have been suggested by people on Facebook. Mersham Le Hatch for example, Westwell Mill, Eastwell Towers.

It’s interesting to me that I live only a few miles away from Westwell Mill but knew nothing about it. Similarly I drive past Eastwell Towers practically every week but knew nothing of its history.

In fact, if I think about it, prior to starting this project I only really knew the history of my own village – and that I sort of take for granted.

This has caused a minor problem.

People haven’t been suggesting buildings on their own community Facebook groups because ‘everybody knows about them’.. I might not put Wye College on the Our Place Wye site, for example, because to the residents of Wye (and readers of the Our Place Wye facebook group) it’s too bleeding obvious?

But the project is about the whole borough of Ashford. As a Wye resident I’m probably not alone in not having the foggiest about buildings in Tenterden or Lenham…

I think publishing the timelines fairly frequently would be a way to rectify this problem. If people see that buildings in their communities haven’t been inserted, they might suggest inclusion.

I think I will republish the timelines on this site every Friday afternoon – and on the Facebook group as well.

Here goes:

Ashford 1000-1300: https://time.graphics/line/396597

Ashford 1300-1500: https://time.graphics/line/396605

Ashford 1500-1700: https://time.graphics/line/396609

Ashford 1700-1900: https://time.graphics/line/396610

Ashford 1900-Present Day: https://time.graphics/line/396611

Project launch

It feels slightly strange to be launching a project by just sitting at my desk in my office, pressing numerous ‘share’ buttons on social media… but at 11.20 am that’s what happened.

I did actually post the animation on the Funder Films facebook page last night. It was seen by about 40 people, liked a couple of times, shared twice…

It’s difficult to predict what will happen. Maybe only about 10 people will join the Facebook group.. or maybe 10,000? I hope it’s somewhere in between. 10,000 is definitely too many.

Nothing has happened yet anyhow. Perhaps everyone is thinking of their favourite buildings…

Ashford in 100 Buildings Promo from Funder Films CIC on Vimeo.

Very animated

I spent the morning making an animation for the launch of the #ashford100buildings project which is tomorrow.

The film features the logo which I featured yesterday and then several local buildings that I photographed earlier this month. There’s the Curious Brewery, the Outlet, the Archbishop’s Palace at Charing, the primary school in Woodchurch, the Clock Tower in Ashford… In total I think there are about 12 buildings in the animation and I’ll be putting them in the timeline later today to start us off… only 88 or so to go…

In the end I did two versions. The second was a great improvement on the first and I daresay that a third version would be even better.. but I’ve got fed up with shifting little blocks around. It does the job.