Tag: Oakengates

Can I find beauty in Telford?

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.

Even Oakengates recognizes that they need help

Even Oakengates recognizes that they need help

A typical Oakengates retail outlet

A typical Oakengates retail outlet

Somehow black-and-white photography fits Oakengates

Somehow black-and-white photography fits Oakengates

The town that the 21st-century forgot

The town that the 21st-century forgot

The rubbish of Oakengates

The detritus of 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.

A fallen flower in Oakengates

A fallen flower in Oakengates

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.

Telford town from afar

Telford town from afar

A colourful Telford

A colourful Telford

A lovely old sign

A lovely old sign

Just like Oakengates, Telford lends itself naturally to arty black-and-white photography

Just like Oakengates, Telford lends itself naturally to arty black-and-white photography

Bored of looking for beauty, I stopped for a coffee

Bored of looking for beauty, I stopped for a coffee

The people of Telford, through a reflection

The people of Telford, through a reflection

The fag ends of Telford - I think these have beauty

The fag ends of Telford – I think these have a certain beauty

A plethora of colourful bags

A plethora of colourful bags

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.

Why don’t I like Telford?

This is a weird thought I had, not on the toilet, but in Telford today.

Every six weeks my middle son attends a writers’ workshop co-run by author Kate Long in a small settlement in Shropshire called Oakengates. This workshop lasts 2 hours. Oakengates is 20 minutes from our house so it isn’t really worth me coming back home again before I have to fetch him. The first time I took him, I tried to hang around Oakengates for 2 hours. I failed as I couldn’t find enough to amuse me in that time (I had two coffees in two cafes). Oakengates, in case you don’t know, consists of a theatre (where my son was), a scattering of sad-looking charity shops and two cafes.

The Theatre in Oakengates

The Theatre in Oakengates

The second time I took him, I went to Telford shopping centre to find amusement, which is 7 minutes away. There is indeed enough to amuse me there (at the very least, a Zara, two Costas and a Waterstones) but I don’t like Telford. I go there with a heavy heart and a cross brow. So my weird thought is: why don’t I like Telford? Plenty of people do like Telford. People even live there. Why does the thought of going to Telford make me feel cross? Why do I profess to hate it so much? What has Telford ever done to me?

The town with no soul

The town with no soul

There are a number of reasons for my antipathy towards Telford:

  • I always get lost in Telford as it seems to consist solely of  roundabouts and ring roads and all lead to each other. There is no logical way out.
  • I always get lost in Telford because my sat nav thinks it is mostly fields.
  • There is no middle of Telford. It is just roundabouts (yes I know I should love these as I love roundabouts) and a shopping centre.
  • Telford has no soul (not having a middle).
  • The Waterstones, although a highlight of a visit to Telford, is fairly crappily stocked (it only has one floor).
  • Telford has no black-and-white buildings. I like black-and-white buildings.
  • The people don’t look happy. They must be, they are in Telford. They don’t look it though. They drag themselves around the shops as if searching, yearning, for something indescribable. I don’t think they will find it in Telford. I feel as if I ought to tell them to go to Shrewbsury instead.
  • I always get lost in the shopping centre.  It is quite big and it all looks the same.
  • All the houses in Telford are new. I don’t like new houses.
  • The sun always shines in Telford. That can’t be real. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Telford in the rain.
  • Telford reminds me of Seahaven from The Truman Show. Everyone looks as if they are acting (they couldn’t possibly be there by choice, could they?) and the buildings look artificial. Is Telford a reality TV show?

I hope I haven’t upset anyone who lives in Telford with my disparaging words. I’d be happy to engage in some lively debate with a Telfordian and be convinced that Telford is actually a nice place. Please do feel free to try if that is you. It has an ice rink, after all. So it isn’t all bad. I think the main reason I don’t like it is because it isn’t very old and I live in Shrewsbury which is very old (we have a lane called ‘grope lane’ where the ladies of the night used to hang out in medieval times – and a very interesting history is attached to such streets).

My favourite street in Shrewsbury - no ladies of the night here now

My favourite street in Shrewsbury – no ladies of the night here now

I keep thinking I need to learn to love Telford and perhaps I should start an art project about the town so I can grow to love something about it. I suspect that there is something about it that part of me loves (like when you fancy someone and you are mean to them). I have a love-hate relationship with Telford. It just seems such a sad place where the only leisure pursuit is to shop in the search for happiness or a meaning to life. Shopping is just not the path to happiness though, or is it?

These people live in Telford

These people live in Telford