A few weeks ago, I blogged about my issues with Telford. The argument I raised about the delights, or not, of Telford caused quite a stir. A few friends agreed with me and stated that in their opinion Telford is quite a soulless place; others (mostly Telfordians but not all) reacted quite defensively. I was told that Telford beholds many beauties including Ironbridge, Much Wenloch and the like. However, my definition of ‘Telford’ doesn’t include those locations (even if the official definition of Telford does). I was talking purely about Telford town centre and the old ‘villages’ that it engulfed when it was founded (Wellington, Oakengates, Madeley and Dawley among others).
So today, as I was destined to return to Telford once again while my son attended his writers’ workshop, I decided to take my camera and try to find beauty in Telford. I want to love Telford. I don’t like being negative about the place. I want to be proved wrong. I really want people to argue with me and say ‘How can you say Telford has no soul!’
On one level, I found photographing Telford quite a challenge. The Telfordians seemed to regard me, a lone body photographing their shops and signs, as a bit of an oddity. I was on the receiving end of quite a lot of strange looks. Secondly, I saw so many fabulous photo opportunities which included the Telfordians themselves as they slouched around the shops in search of happiness but I was just too shy to snap away. I really, really want to be as confident as the likes of Martin Parr. So due to shyness most of my photographs centred on objects rather than human life.
I started my search for beauty in one of Telford’s old ‘towns’: Oakengates.
I conclude that I was able to find some beauty in Oakengates. I found old shops, dated signs, lots of flower baskets, and a charming outdoor market. Perhaps to me this was beautiful because I love urban decay. Oakengates has charm. However, I still wouldn’t want to live there.
Next, I tackledTelford Shopping Centre and surrounding area. I found more similar beauty as a lover of urban life but didn’t really have the confidence to capture most of it. However, I did manage to capture some elements of Telford’s attractiveness.
I think I found some beauty in Telford, and much more than these photographs indicate. If I’d had the courage I would have taken many, many more photographs. Does that mean, then, that beauty can be found anywhere if it is sought after? Even in Telford? I’m inclined to think that the answer is ‘yes’. As someone who likes to find and highlight the extraordinary in the ordinary (and the more ordinary the better), I now truly believe that Telford and Oakengates have much to offer. The beauty might not be the same as found in Shrewsbury with its Grope Lane and Quirky Coffee Shop, but it is there nonetheless.
Shrewsbury may have traditional beauty, but somehow the beauty found in a town like Telford is that bit more precious.