This chapter takes as its focus an open-air, ‘pop-up’, site-specific cinema in the car park at Marshall’s Mill, Leeds, a Grade II* listed former flax spinning mill. In the shadow of the official heritage of the mill, this was a Do-It-Yourself event.
Introduction: Counter-mapping heritage, cinema and place
Neither of us has much experience in cinema or heritage projects. We started out, for different reasons, simply hoping to enjoy an open air screening of our own making. Brett had grown up during the 1970s with drive-in theatres in the USA; he lectures on youth arts and urban leisure. Simon was planning on showing films in his garden and, as an architect, his practice centres on urban design; he is based in offices at Marshall’s Mill. After weather postponed another small scale back garden attempt we sketched out our initial ideas in the most hallowed traditions on cocktail napkins over pints in pubs. Fuelled in this way our ideas escalated and Simon’s back ground as a practicing architect prompted, ‘Direct action’ not to talk and dream but to act! As our plans for the site-specific cinema grew, we had a series of fortunate windfalls, including a partnership with the UK Green Film Festival. After nine months of planning (and pints), in May 2012 we hosted a screening of the filmHappy(2011 Dir. Roko Belic) in the Marshall’s Mill car park. In sum, the event became something far more interesting than we had initially envisioned. Schofield and Szymanski (2011: 7) suggested that heritage might come alive when “artistic practice connects people to place in imaginative and often unforeseen ways.” This chapter celebrates the sometimes surprising possibilities for counter-mapping cultural heritage involving cinema under the stars and heritage from below. In many respects we had created a, ‘Derive’, simply defined in 1958 as a ‘mode of experimental behaviour linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of transient passage through varied ambiences.’ ‘’Debord, Guy, ‘’ theory of derive’’ in Andrettotti and Costa, theory of the derive, 1996
Rather than focus solely on the mill’s history or on the cinema event, we explore the relations between the two: a centuries-old building and a one-night event in its car park. Following a discussion of concepts including the Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Council of Europe 2005), counter-mapping (Harrison 2011) and heritage from below (Roberston 2012), we introduce the chapter’s dual contexts: Marshall’s Mill and our pop-up cinema event. We then make links from the cinema at the mill and the sensuous experience of place via Non-Representational Theory (Thrift 2008). Throughout the chapter we aim to highlight how cultural resources might be mobilised as a means of “place-shaping” (Fairclough 2009) through which heritage becomes “something vital and alive ... a moment of action” (Smith 2006: 83). Such moments might alert broader publics to the value of heritage landscapes in the spirit of the Faro Convention – that heritage communities have a right to local places of cultural significance.
The chapter resonates with many themes of the Faro Convention (Council of Europe 2005). De Vos (2011: para. 4) described the convention’s principles as “an invitation to think differently – more openly, more widely, more flexibly, more collaboratively – about heritage.” The Faro Convention offers to shift heritage consciousness away from reliance upon elite experts to actively include wider heritage communities, in more open and democratic processes of defining and realising ‘heritage.’ For Robertson heritage “is about people, collectivitity and individuals, and their sense of inheritance from the past and the uses to which this sense of inheritance is put” (2012: 1). Robertson (2012: 2) described such activity as the means through which a sense of place identity is made through a “landscape of activity ... Landscape made meaning full by the tasks performed in it.” That is, heritage is something that peopledo, often in everyday contexts. In these often overlooked contexts it is also important to consider “alternate, ‘hidden’, or non-mainstream social geographies” that provide “counter-mappings” of cultural heritage (Harrison 2011: 79).
Such a shift has been referred to as “heritage from below” (Robertson, 2012) through which active, participatory practices are counter-hegemonic or resist dominant expressions of heritage. For us, however, trajectories ‘from above’ or ‘from below’ follow complex, knotted, and at times simultaneous lines. Marshall’s Mill, the largest building in the Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds (site of over 30 listed buildings), is a post-industrial space converted into offices for creative industries. There is little that is new in this narrative. In brief, it is a beautiful, vast historic building not unlike hundreds of other mills that have been treated in similar fashion across the UK. Yet, the unofficial use of the mill’s car park for a site-specific pop-up cinema runs, in many directions, counter to dominant or top-down notions of cultural heritage, offering direct, open and engaging ways of experiencing both an historic and regenerating urban landscape.
Locating Marshall’s Mill: A Potted History
Although only a short walk from the city’s central train station via Water Lane, Marshall’s Mill is somewhat isolated, located south of Leeds’ city centre and across the River Aire. Situated on the edge of the Holbeck Urban Village regeneration area, it is removed from the more accessible and heavily trafficked areas of Leeds, such as its Victorian central market, Edwardian arcades, and high-profile shopping areas. The site is bordered, to the west, by existing and disused rail lines and viaducts, and from a bird’s eye view the mill sits at the south-western edge of the city centre. The dual sense of proximity and remoteness is evident as the area is marketed as being close to the heart of the city, yet is part of its own officially distinct ‘urban village’ (Holbeck Urban Village n.d.). As part of Leeds’ heritage landscape, Marshall’s Mill isn’t well-known or visited by many beyond those with direct links to the site. The area is notorious as one of the city’s red light districts; it is close to the city centre, yet set apart. Jones and Mean (2010) reported on an earlier Holbeck arts initiative during which artists created an art trail “to encourage people to explore the heritage city, poke into its nooks and crannies, and open spaces that had long fallen out of use or into disrepair” (31). As a consequence, “spaces that were previously no-go areas were brightened up and given life beyond the menace that they had previously held for many local people” (ibid). Our event at Marshall’s Mill shares similar aims to celebrate and make use of the character of the place.
On its website the mill is heralded as “retaining the wealth of character and soul you would expect from one of Leeds’ most important historical buildings” (Marshall’s Mill, n.d.). While this is perhaps a bit of hype, Marshall’s Mill with its adjacent buildings was once one of the largest factories in the world. In December 1843The Penny Magazineof the Society for theDiffusion of Useful Knowledgereported:
Messrs. Marshall, of Leeds … have a flax mill in that town which is among the largest factories in the empire. … The buildings comprising it are scattered over an area of many acres, and exhibit to view an assemblage of structures of different sizes and ages, resembling a little town which has grown with the growth of its manufacturers, not on any very symmetrical plan, but as convenience from time to time suggested. The older portions of the factory [i.e., Marshall’s Mill] present the appearance which is so familiar in respect to factories generally, viz. a broad height and lofty front studded with rows of windows to a height of six or seven stories; and the interior, in like manner, presents the customary factory features of long galleries and rooms filled with machines attended by operatives of both sexes and various ages; with an accompanying noise and bustle...” (502-503)
The story of the mill epitomises conditions of the industrial revolution in Britain. The “various ages” attending to the flax-processing machinery included children, as the mill employed children as well as operated an on-site school for them: “all the children in a factory are bound to attend school for a certain period each day: those who work in the forenoon must attend school in the afternoon; those who work in the afternoon are at school in the forenoon” (ibid: 504). There were some small luxuries, as the school rooms were “comfortably warmed by hot water apparatus; and there is a large plot of ground outside the building which serves as a playground” (ibid: 504). While certainly no children were employed to help us organise the pop-up cinema on site, the regenerated landscape of the mill’s courtyard does include plans for a playground. The plans are intended to create a social landscape in which the workers from various offices within the mill can unexpectedly come together, connect. There is intent to create a landscape of surprise, fun and opportunity. The space is hidden, semi-private yet overlooked by all of the offices. The activity of play; be that, basketball, table tennis or just relaxing on the lawn in the sunshine as a break from the routines of work establishes a sense of individual empowerment. This is in contrast to the place described in the ‘Penny Magazine’. Now there is a sense of choice. The ethos of the design approach is to move beyond function and towards a celebration of possibility, to engaging with the building users as you would residents who have a sense of ownership and pride.
The mill’s heyday was in the early 19thCentury. As noted above, by 1843 the mill had been enlarged and extended several times (in 1817, 1827 and 1830) from its original buildings of 1791 until it formed a U-shaped plan with north, east and south ranges built around a central courtyard. Rising to six storeys, the steam-powered mill housed approximately 7,000 spindles, which replaced numerous hand-driven, cottage industries across rural Yorkshire (Fletcher 1918). With the adjacent Egyptian-style Temple Works, where flax was processed for use in the spinning mill, the complex employed over 2,000 factory workers and was considered one of the largest factories in the world (Fletcher 1918).
English Heritage has listed “Marshall Mills” as “the first successful water and steam powered flax spinning mill.” Such was its success during the mid-19thCentury that the mill “processed one-tenth of the country's total import of flax” and this “success inspired the establishment of 59 flax mills in Leeds by 1839, most centred on Water Lane and East Street” (ibid). However, due to overseas competition by 1890 the flax industry had collapsed in Leeds and in 1886 Marshall’s production had moved to the USA (West Winds Yorkshire, 2008). The mill served a mail order company during the 1950s, and was then converted into offices. Marshall’s Mill was given Grade II* listed status with English Heritage in 1989.
Simon successfully promoted the opportunity and benefits that the cinema event could have at the Mill and aligned the activity with other stakeholders interests, notably, the opportunity to celebrate the completion of mill’s most recent regeneration phase. From 2011-2012, Simon oversaw the refurbishment (for igloo regeneration fund) of the mill, including 70,000 square feet of commercial space for new office suites, reception and entrance areas, and the forecourt landscape and courtyard (see Figure 1). The pop-up cinema event marked this completed renewal, as well as anniversaries of firms involved in the mill’s redevelopment – igloo regeneration fund (10 years), and Quarmby Construction (40 years); that is, we were celebrating not only the site but the people who had worked to bring it back to life.
Site-specific pop-up cinemas are part of a wider phenomenon of creative Do-It-Yourself, temporary and potentially transgressive performances in spaces that were not designed nor intended for such use. Pop-up cinemas have taken place in motorway underpasses, scrap yards, brownfield sites, train stations and car parks – they may ‘pop-up’ almost anywhere. Many pop-up cinemas take the form of drive-in film screenings. Like many American cultural innovations, the concept of the drive-in continues to hold interest in Britain’s contemporary culture and cultural memory. Indeed, the drive-in concept is experiencing renewed interest, amidst an increase of ‘pop-up’ events more generally. Pop-up shops, pop-up restaurants, pop-up festivals, and pop-up ballrooms are also occurring across the UK. These events occupy temporary, and perhaps surprising, locations.
Because site-specific, pop-up events should be considered as part of “place-shaping” processes. Fairclough (2009: 153) wrote that place-shaping values “the local, ordinary, contextual, typical, everyday, small, personal, intangible things that create a daily sense of place.” Although pop-up events interrupt the everyday, it is precisely their ability to do so that is important in calling attention to what might be easily-overlooked and otherwise mundane places of daily life. Jones and Mean (2010) referred to “resilient places” such as disused and hidden sites where innovative and creative uses might contribute to and develop heritage landscapes to the benefit communities. Disused or interstitial places may become temporary pop-up shops; pop-up restaurants occur in unlikely spaces, usually simply in the out-of-doors, and all of these examples offer opportunities to experiment with ideas and innovative uses that might be considered too financially risky for more established environments. Otherwise empty night-time spaces may become lively sites of films, themed dances or other momentary events.
At Marshall’s Mill, we were interested in the temporary transformation of a regenerated space and the opportunity to see and sense the mill through a night-time, one-off cinema event. We invited people to drive-in, walk-in or cycle-in to the film screening. We could accommodate as many as 40 cars, and 100 deck chairs were hired for pedestrians or cyclists to use while watching the film (see Figure 2).
Our event sits within a spectrum of site-specific pop-up cinemas, ranging from drive-ins on the grounds of stately homes, to industrial wastelands, or car parks:Starlite Urban Drive-In, a boutique cinema event held in July 2010, took place on the site of a disused brewery in Shoreditch, London, and provided cars for viewers via a sponsorship deal with Volvo. It additionally offered 1950s-themed dancing, music, and dining. Harewood House, a historic estate near Leeds, has hosted annual drive-in, having shown iconic films such asTop Gunin 2011,Dirty Dancingin 2010, andGreasein 2009, with plans to screenThe Italian Jobin September 2012; tickets are £25 per car (more for larger vehicles). In contrast,CarparkDrive-Ins, with events in Nottingham, provide less salubrious facilities, simply adapting multi-story car parks to suit purposes (and charging £7.50 per carload). Many site-specific events invoke creative and topical themes, such as “Films on Fridges” (2011). This event presented a series of classic sports-centric movies projected onto a screen made from a 20-foot-high pile of discarded refrigerators cleared from a site for the 2012 London Olympics. These operations are only a few examples from a range of infrequent and relatively small-scale events, typically involving 25 to 40 cars and a couple of hundred cinema-goers.
According to a DIY guide to pop-up cinema published in the Guardian newspaper (Jamieson 2011), creating “context” and offering “a venue that will engage your audience” are hallmarks of site-specific cinema. In short, pop-up cinema is about an experience produced via the mix of relations between people, the creative use of landscape, and cinematic art. In alignment with other pop-up events and Robertson’s (2012) concept of heritage from below, our event was not driven by economics, but rather aimed to activate and enhance sustainable cultural resources in the area. Costs (e.g., for the screen and projector) for our event were covered through in-kind contributions from our partners, including igloo regeneration fund, Quarmby Construction, and Leeds Metropolitan University. Through igloo, we partnered with the UK Green Film Festival and had a choice of films to screen. In line with the environmental theme of the film festival, we encouraged walk-in and cycle-in arrival on the site. Admission was free; 148 people were in attendance. Most sat in the deck chairs provided.
While tapping into nostalgic notions of American drive-ins (we featured a soundtrack of drive-in themed music and early rock-n-roll before and after the films), the event was intended to be more than a drive-in. We did not want people to arrive in cars, sit in isolation while watching the film, then depart. We encouraged a communal spirit via an evening of cinema under the stars (Goldsmith, 1999; McKeon and Everett 1998). In addition to deck chairs for attendees, on-site catering was arranged: local pubs provided a barbeque, a draught beer van, a hot drinks van, and university students operated a cake stall. Vendors sold popcorn amidst the ‘aisles’ of deck chairs. Disappointingly we never quite managed to persuade Rose from the local coffee shop and juice bar to provide the popcorn from roller-skates. People mixed and mingled for an hour before dusk when the show began. To some extent, the film was not even the point of the event: there was a festive, street party atmosphere as people made use of a space that would otherwise be dead at that hour (or that they might never visit at all). There were, of course, several films shown. The evening first showcased two short films that were made in or inspired by Marshall’s Mill. The main feature was the documentaryHappy(2011, Dir. Roko Belic) that was chosen to further support the ambition of shaping a locally distinct, enjoyable and sensuous place (see Figure 3).
Perhaps few would use the term ‘happy’ to describe sitting in a Leeds car park at night. However, in symmetry with the film we were able to screen,Happy(2011 Dir Roko Belic), we question the connections between affect and place: what generates affinities for certain places? In turn, how does place generate affect? Having located Marshall’s Mill and provided an overview of pop-up cinema we now turn our attention to the sensuous experience of the mill as an active and affective place. Non-Representational Theory is useful as a means of coming to grips with “the geography of what happens” (Thrift 2008: 2), and it is in this sense that we engage with questions of cultural heritage as something people do and feel. These ‘doings’ and feelings are part of a vast repertoire of creative cultural resources that, according to Landry and Bianchini (1998), include arts and media activities, local festivals and other celebratory events, tangible and intangible heritage, and the diversity and quality of places where people socialise, including street markets, bars, clubs, cafes and restaurants. To this list we add pop-up cinema. It is worth noting that the landscape proposals that have been discussed earlier fit into a context of temporary. The site benefits from a long term masterplanned legacy. The current economy doesn’t support this long term investment strategy and Simon is place shaping using interim strategies to enhance the existing context and present a vital living and vibrant urban condition. This establishes a positive context rather than an abandoned dormant one which could be subject to anti-social behaviour.
Through our focus on the relations between the pop-up cinema and the mill we also aim to get at questions of affect – how heritagefeelsin this area of Leeds, and what processes are driving or structuring these feelings. Thrift (2008: 171) described cities as “roiling maelstroms of affect” – places where happiness, sadness, fear and anger percolate through the often mundane experiences of everyday life. Although examples abound, from the cheers echoing across sports stadia, to the laughter of children in parks, to solemn reflections at memorial sites, Thrift argued that there has been a neglect of the affective register, particularly in studies of cities: “To read about affect in cities it is necessary to resort to the pages of novels, and the tracklines of poems” (2008: 171). Schofield and Szymanski (2010: 7) argued such artistry offers an “eloquence ... often missing from heritage discourse.” While Reeves (2012) has chronicled poetry that promotes cultural heritage, other active and affective understandings of landscape might be considered more broadly through a range of playfully creative activities. Turning our attention via Non-Representational Theory:
The focus falls on how life takes shape and gains expression in shared experiences, everyday routines, fleeting encounters, embodied movements, precognitive triggers, practical skills, affective intensities, enduring urges, unexceptional interactions and sensuous dispositions. Attention to these kinds of expression, it is contended, offers an escape from the established academic habit of striving to uncover meanings and values that apparently await our discovery, interpretation, judgement and ultimate representation. In short, so much ordinary action gives no advance notice of what it will become. (Lorimer 2005: 84)
Non-Representational Theory allows productive ways of thinking about both the ‘real’ and symbolic through its emphases on cultural relations and active practice (Anderson & Harrison, 2010). For Thrift affect is “a means of thinking and thought in action” (2008: 175). Lorimer prefers to use the term “more-than-representational”, as “more-than” generates possibilities for research into “multifarious, open encounters in the realm of practice that matter most” (2005: 83). Such openness challenges research-practitioners to connect with affect in “more-than-human, more-than-textual, multisensual worlds” (ibid). This is important where cultural practice runs counter to heritage as “framed, fixed and rendered inert” and that instead might be “most lively” too, part of multisensual worlds – the sights, sounds, smells and affective experiences that envelop the emotions and embodied motions in engagements with the past and present (Lorimer 2005: 84-85). That is, people and landscapes move, are moved, and experiences are moving (Haldrup and Larsen 2006). In every sense Thrift conceived of affect asmoving, as “lines of force: emotion as motion both literally and figurally” (2008: 175).
Heritage can echo strongly amongst such forces, motions and emotions. For Fairclough (2009b: 29) “heritage is object and action, product and process. … It means not only the things … that we inherit …. It can also be taken to mean the processes by which we understand, contextualise (physically and intellectually), perceive, manage, modify, destroy and transform the inherited world.” The Marshall’s Mill pop-up cinema allowed an opportunity for a temporary ‘community of interest’ to playfully, actively and affectively experience the mill’s location within the changing cultural landscape of Leeds (Chatterton and Unsworth 2004). It was an opportunity to “animate and activate” (Films on Fridges 2011) a somewhat ‘hidden’ and under-valued part of the city’s cultural heritage landscape.
Through a focus on the mix of relations between a site-specific pop-up cinema event, a meanwhile landscape and a Grade II* listed mill, a moment, a period and a legacy we are able to make some links to the principles of the Faro Convention, celebrating the industrial heritage of the Mill – via its continued use for (creative) industries – in an unconventional way that supported processes of sustainable (re)development of the Holbeck urban village area. A central thread of this chapter has been the idea of temporary uses (a ‘pop-up’ event) of a heritage site to animate and enrich disused/renewing landscapes. Our event drew approximately 150 people to the site – just for one evening – but was part of a wider slate of events (art exhibitions, etc.) planned for the mill. Such events make use of the temporary ‘meanwhile potential’ of tracts of the urban landscape that are idle, dis-used or under-utilised that might be celebrated through momentary arts, leisure, and cultural heritage events.
Such events, from pop-up cinemas to other creative site-specific activities resound with principles of the Faro Convention (Council of Europe 2005) to “enrich the processes of economic, political, social and cultural development and land-use planning.” That is, site-specific events may focus attention on heritage sites, stalled developments or vacant plots of land and their potential to be re-interpreted and used in temporary and creative ways. In this sense, heritage may become more sustainable, in that, to borrow from English Heritage (2008), it may become more widely available to the public, shared more democratically as a cultural resource, and the significance of place is not only highlighted but also is actively engaged. Jones and Mean (2010: 31-32) argued that creative events in disused places, such as car parks, “provide the threads to help stitch together the shared life of places and have a different reach than traditional public spaces of parks and squares or the urban renaissance landscape of urban malls and retail parks.” In similar patterns, site-specific pop-up cinema events connect with counter-mappings of cultural heritage and urban regeneration, even as buildings such as Marshall’s Mill fit snugly within official heritage and regeneration policies and practices in Leeds.
Who are the experts at narrating this potential? Hans Venhuizen in, ‘Game Urbanism, manual for cultural spatial planning suggests a new role, one of the plan master or a concept manager. This is a role which moves from the professional defining a solution based upon pre-conceived notions to creative innovators and initiators orchestrating a dialogue of the possible and the opportune. Tatajana Schneider and Jeremy Till explore these ideas in their text, Spatial Agency, other ways of doing architecture;
By working with the beyond, the everyday becomes an inescapable component of working in and with space simply because it propels the architect into the territory of encounter and the unfamiliar. These instances… open up a more variable understanding and interpretation of space: space that is open to changing conditions and space that allows choice.
(p70 Spatial Agency, other ways of doing architecture, Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till)
No-one defined a brief for the cinema or the interim landscape. Brett and Simon were proactive initiators working through negotiation with others to get a project started. Through their direct action they have shifted the perception of a place, created greater definition and consequently reset the context of a listed building possibly highlighting the structures qualities through the counter activity of a temporary event set in contradiction to a heritage asset.
Leeds provides an excellent and appropriate site for the exploration of the role of cultural heritage in urban regeneration and the evolving role of , ‘pro-active initiator’ According to Bramham & Wagg (2009), Leeds has witnessed a shift from industry to the service sector lead by “[g]lobal firms in retailing, hotel accommodation, and fast food [that] have invested in prime urban sites with the result that the mix of shopping and leisure experiences differs little from city to city” (2009, p. 1). As cities are regenerated within global, postmodern formulae, urban space is increasingly shaped and characterised by policies in which free-market capitalism, consumerism, and individualism have superseded communal, social urban practices. Bramham and Wagg cautioned that “one of the biggest problems of urban redevelopment is that people and communities demand involvement, democratic participation, and may actively resist these postmodern plans” (2009, p. 2). Such ‘problems’ for urban redevelopment are opportunities for cultural heritage from below.