My Analysis of the Huddersfield 10 Year Plan
When I started shooting Huddersfield with the premise of documenting the Huddersfield 10 Year Plan, I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to be photographing. I had been so uncertain about all the other concepts that I had been shooting up until this point that I had the idea that this idea was something else that I wouldn't be entirely satisfied with. But the great thing about the project, is that it unravelled itself fairly easily as I shot it. It is a project that doesn't have much depth on the surface. You shoot, you explore, and the themes don't so much as present themselves to you, but when you're photographing a project that focuses on history and change, the things that you're photographing just seem to make sense. (That feels like a bit of rambling but hey oh, sue me.)
Huddersfield is a town that seems to encapsulate change. It pioneered the yarn industry back in the 19th Century, and then it became well known for its harsh brutalism in the 20th Century. It seems attached to the past in the sense that the town was great and it wants to be again. Obviously not for idealistic reasons but for its economy and its people. So to stay with the times, Huddersfield, like a snake, seems to shed its skin to reveal a fresh new coat of paint to the world. The only downside is that Huddersfield itself doesn't really seem to have a commitment towards the old buildings that it knocks down. It happened in the 1970's when a large majority of Victorian Era buildings got knocked down to make way for the town's new era of Brutalist structures.
It seems to be the case that Huddersfield acknowledges that its economy is nowhere near what it used to be, or near the levels of other towns and cities, so it generates the idea that by rebuilding its town, that its issues will be fixed. Maybe this is coming from a place of pessimism but I have the belief that if this is how they approach economic growth, then they'll be doing the exact same thing in another 50 years.
Obviously much of this commentary is devoid from the actual project so as to not inflict the ideas onto the viewer, instead letting them develop their own opinions on the matter, which is what this space is for. I also need to state that I'm making it sound like Huddersfield is doing this to relive some form of glory days, but in reality it is clearly: Huddersfield, like any other place needs business to contribute to the local economy. It's just that, to me, it seems like they only have one approach on doing that.
With the remodelling of the town centre, there is the chance to breath new ideas into these public spaces, and from the website it seems that there is an attempt to do that. For example, by making Queensgate a more open plot of land, it makes the area more open for public events, something that the general public can partake in. I just hope that there isn't a cutting of corners in terms of development, so as to say that they restrict what they build to save on their budget, resulting in a less interactive environment, or not properly utilising the sectors that they so desperately want to rebuild.
The one general concern that I do have is on the topic of property pricing (If that is the correct term?). I am going to start with an anecdote. Before I was born, my parents went house hunting, and they found a really big house. The house had a big garden, really spacious rooms and was in a good clean looking area. Then they asked what the pricing was on it, I can't remember what the pricing was exactly, but for a decently sized house, you'd expect to be paying a fair bit of money. Average cost of housing was around £89,000 back in 2000, so lets say that the house was £63,000. Big difference right? When they asked why the house was so cheap, the estate agent said that less than a half mile down the road, there was a halfway house. My parents obviously decided that they didn't want to be raising children in an area so close to people with criminal backgrounds, so they looked at other places. But because of a single building, the price of the property went straight down. Now, what I think this is all an attempt to do is act almost like an antithesis to the halfway house, instead looking at rebuilding the town centre as a way of bumping up the pricing of housing around Huddersfield. Eventually the boost in housing prices, as well as renting, which in turn leads to the big problem: Gentrification. Now for all we know, the council may have good and pure intentions, but I do worry that this attempt at revitalising the town centre is actually the start of a new age for Huddersfield, one that wants to be nice and friendly with the upper echelons of society. By gentrifying the area, it's going to lead to a pushing out of the people that already reside in this town, which as well as deconstructing the town of its visual identity, there is also the fear of stripping it of the people who physically occupy this area.
That may seem like a tangent in comparison to what my photo project is about, and in a way it might be. But after living in Huddersfield for the last 3 years, and hopefully if my masters application gets approved, then I'll get to live here for another, I have grown to appreciate this town. Essentially what I am trying to say through that last paragraph is that I like the charm of Huddersfield, so I want to appreciate this environment that I have become so familiar with before its ultimate demise. It's an appreciation of the things around you, choosing to see what you already knew in new lights so that you feel like you properly understand it in its entirety.
Essentially, this big post is how I have chosen to interpret my own project. Like I have previously stated, I like buildings because of their blank nature, and how we choose to project ourselves and our ideas onto them. People may use this project as a way of looking towards a new era of prosperity for the town, but personally, it represents the tipping scale of Huddersfield's people.