Check out these real website traffic images:
16 July 2013. Trompe l’oeil junction box in Goods Way, Kings Cross London.
On the left of the photo you can just glimpse the narrow bridge over the Regent’s Canal. In the background, on the north side of the canal, is Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design; in Granary Square London N1C – part of the University of the Arts.
Art on Street Furniture
This photo is also part of an occasional series. When I happen to see an interesting use of those often overlooked cabinets and boxes in our streets which are part of the telecoms cabling network. Or which operate traffic signals etc.
The links below are not intended as in any way comprehensive. They’re simply ones I’ve come across. Or been told about by other people.
§ Link to the website of Central St Martin’s College of Arts and Design.
§ Decorated Virgin Media phone cabinet in Whitecross Street London EC1.
§ The Curious Cabinets of EC1 & SE1. in the blog Spitalfields Life.
§ On 2 December 2010 the Islington Gazette reported: Finsbury street furniture hit by Art Attack.
"Neal Walshe, of Virgin Media, which supported the scheme, said: ‘We’re delighted to be part of this fantastic project – normally our street furniture is designed to blend into the background. These stunning looking cabinets bring real identity to the area and we’re really delighted with the results.”
Links about Brisbane and Urban Smart Projects
§ Website of Urban Smart Projects shows the boxes and the names of the artists who painted them.
§ ABC TV news item on "Brisbane’s traffic art".
§ Painting a Brisbane Traffic Signal Box (TSB). Details from Brisbane City,
§ YouTube Promotional video slideshow using Brisbane’s TSBs and Pachelbel’s Canon.
§ Documentary video ArtBox about Urban Smart Projects based in in Brisbane, Australia.
Hillingdon’s Street Art Project
§ Video on YouTube about the Hillingdon Street Art Project 2013 painting BT boxes in Uxbridge. Lots of comments from passers by.
Brighton Artscope Project
§ Thanks to Pam Isherwood who mentioned the Brighton cabinets and posted her photos on Harringay Online Community website.
§ Examples of the Brighton boxes from Heart Radio website.
§ Brighton Argus interview with Cassette Lord "On graffiti, art and brushes with the law" . This showed Virgin Media agreeing that art on their phone cabinets was far preferable to graffiti. They were happy to have young people on a Youth Offenders programme working with Cassete Lord from Artscape.
A Civic Heart
13 April 2013. Sign on the railings near Holy Trinity Church, Tottenham Green.
It was there from Autumn 2012, to inform and consult residents and businesses about changes being made to Tottenham Green and adjacent spaces. As the headline in red suggests, this was a part of Haringey Council’s overall plans for "Regenerating the High Road".
Why I’m not cheering
Over the years I’ve taken dozens of photos in and around Tottenham Green. Please scroll down for a photo of a model showing the two parts of the Green. There’s a roughly triangular shape on the western side; and a smaller semi-circle on the east. Together they are emerald ‘gems’. The High Road divides them and they are surrounded by some attractive buildings. It’s an area we can be proud of and should cherish and safeguard.
So why not cheer when a colourful sign announces that we are: "Regenerating the High Road; Creating a ‘civic heart’ at Tottenham Green" ?
I’m often sceptical about “regeneration” plans in Haringey. On this plan I’m just cynical. Here are some of my reasons.
Let’s start with the words used. I call it regenero-babble. The sign is full of the usual upbeat phrases which could mean anything — or nothing at all. So we learn that the works on Tottenham Green will:
● ”act as a catalyst for change in the immediate area”. and
● “create a much better focus to the area”.
Sprinkled in this fluff and guff we find those current buzzwords "sustainable" and "legacy". If only it mentioned: ”kickstart”; ”iconic”; and “signature”, we’d have a full bullshit bingo card.
We’re told: “the surrounding institutions [will be] more visible from the Green”. Has anyone really had a problem spotting them? Please take a look at my photos of Tottenham Green over the years in different seasons. Have the leaves of the trees really hidden the buildings?
Changing the Character of the Green
We’re told that after the changes “the Green will become an area that supports and promotes performance, events, commerce and a café culture”.
Should the character of the Green be significantly changed? For example to become a performance space? Or an open-air gallery? Or shops and a market? Or a café?
I am not opposed to such temporary uses as subsidiary parts in the overall mix of how Tottenham Green is used. But I also think it should keep its prime purpose and character as an open space with grass and trees in the heart of a busy built-up urban area.
In my view the western part of the Green is sometimes simply beautiful. We should insist that, above all else, it should be made and kept beautiful. Always.
The role of institutions nearby
Oddly, the new functions listed for the Green are those which some nearby buildings are already supposed to be carrying out. If they are not currently doing this successfully, the solution is not to let them to spill over and export their failures onto the Green.
Instead some independent people need to take a cold hard look and ask hard questions about why they are unsuccessful. Including questions about public money poured into them.
Haringey’s lack of care and maintenance of the Green
Another set of hard questions need putting specifically to Haringey Council. Because in recent years both parts of Tottenham Green – especially the western part – have been poorly maintained. This is one strong and practical reason for my cynicism about the current regeneration plans. Below are some examples. They show that far too often in recent years, problems on and near the Green have been either ignored or overlooked.
Some local residents are involved in the "regeneration" plans. They love the Green. They live nearby and see, walk across and stand enjoying it far more often than me. So if they approve the new plans aren’t they likely to get it right?
I invite these sincere well intentioned people to ask themselves some questions. They know Haringey Council’s poor record in monitoring, reporting and maintaining this emerald gem. However well-designed and elegant the new landscaping, lighting, play space and paths, how long do they think it will take before the glitz vanishes? And why will this plan work any better than previous plans?
In summer 2009 it seems Haringey staff – and the council’s local "partners" – hadn’t noticed people sleeping rough on the western side of Tottenham Green. Some rough sleepers appeared to be using the electricity substation building as a latrine. No, it wasn’t dog turds. Unless Tottenham’s pooches have learned to use toilet paper.
Dumping, Broken Street Lights and similar neglect.
In March 2011, Cllr Bernice Vanier and I had to report dumped litter and rubbish, commercial wastebins and traffic barriers routinely left on the Green for many weeks.
Take your “Partners” for the Mayor’s Money Minuet
The grand "regeneration" plans now underway are the result of umpteen meetings with important "partners" about Tottenham Green; leading to reports and recommendations. By April 2013 when I took these photos, none of this "partnership" work had resulted in even temporary replanting of grass areas trampled to mud patches on the Green.
But while these high powered "partners" couldn’t get something simple done – like planting grass in a park – they were highly successful in securing agreement to spend £1.2 million of public money. This was channelled through the Mayor of London, to create a "Civic Heart" – whatever that means. No it doesn’t mean a real Tottenham Town Hall. That’s long gone.
The new scheme also includes work on the eastern side of the High Road; and installing a play area. That, at least seemed positive. Though the space available is very limited. Maybe if they gave the task to Haringey Parks’ Service that could be successfully completed.
On the other hand, a successful play area needs more than simply installing some equipment and hoping that children (and their parents) will use it.
A previous makeover of Tottenham Green a few years earlier cost around £100k. It included some new paving and English Heritage approved lights. As I’ve said, the 2013 regeneration plans were originally £1.2 million. More than ten times as much.
(Added note: 1 April 2015: A Haringey press release announced the cost had risen to £1.5 million.)
Cultural Quarter, Café Culture and other fantasies
I haven’t yet mentioned the aim to make the wider Tottenham Green area into a Cultural Quarter, with a café culture, and other nonsense on stilts. Fashionable concepts for frittering away scarce public money. Though anyone serious about establishing pavement tables in a part of Tottenham might be curious to talk to the successful Latin American and other traders at Wards Corner near Seven Sisters Road Station.
Though I was sceptical about that and they proved me wrong. So may be wrong about Tottenham Green as well.
§ Click to download Haringey’s Tottenham Green consultation leaflet. (Or scroll down this page for screenshots of it.)
§ More information about the plans from Haringey’s website.
§ 9 July 2012 Tottenham Green community engagement presentation and report (PDF format 9MB).
§ "Since the introduction of the Licensing Act there has been growing concern that the original vision of a vibrant “café culture” has failed to materialise. Rebalancing the Licensing Act. para 1.02. Home Office Consultation 28 July 2010.
§ "Why, if virtually every local authority in the land says they want to adopt a ‘café culture’ approach to their high streets, do they make it so difficult for café operators to trade that way?" Caffe Culture website.
§ "The rise of café culture across the UK has been exceptional in recent years. Café Culture Magazine.
§ King’s Lynn Tuesday Market Place gets ‘café culture’ look. Lynn News 23 April 2013
§ Café culture comes to London Guy Stagg, Daily Telegraph 24 Jan 2012.
§ “A city sidewalk by itself is nothing. It is an abstraction. It means something only in conjunction with the buildings and other uses that border it, or border other sidewalks very near it. The same might be said of streets, in the sense that they serve other purposes besides carrying wheeled traffic in their middles. Streets and their sidewalks, the main public places of a city, are its most vital organs.” – Jane Jacobs. Death and Life of Great American Cities. Chapter 2 The uses of sidewalks: safety.
§ Zane Selvans blog posted 19 October 2012. Making Boulder into one of Jan Gehl’s Cities for People.
§ Coffee culture: wake up and smell the chatter. Article by Nancy Whittle, Financial Times 4 April 2014.
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