Tag Archives: “desolation row”

Meeting the Greens

Some of you will recognise the chap in the blue shirt from our last post about the Bridge Podcast. His name is Steve Keevil and he’s running for election as a councillor in River ward.

Steve invited Medway Eyes (that’s Rew and Anna on the left) to meet Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for the South East (foot on stump) and members of the Medway Green Party to talk about the new bus station that is to be built on the Paddock.  Trees have already been felled in preparation for this, despite reports that only 360 of Medway’s 250,000 population have actually been consulted about this (and even then, 69% of those canvassed didn’t want the station to be built on the Paddock). We discussed this lack of consultation and the environmental impact of the project.  We were surprised to learn that Medway Renaissance and SEEDA are no more (something that we hadn’t seen in the local press) and pleased to discover how Brussels can sometimes help to bring councils to account.

We took the Greens for a walk along Desolation Row to discuss our ongoing multimedia project, the area’s history, empty shops and the tragedy of the Theatre Royal. There was general agreement that what we were walking through didn’t feel like a city, and we went on to discuss the individual character of each of Medway’s distinct towns.

It was interesting to discover how much we all had in common, something that party politics will never quite be able to grasp – at least not while infantile point scoring, careerism and ideology are deemed more important than dialogue.

One last note:  At no point did the Greens ever preach policy at us or ask if they could count on our votes, and we – not being party political – found that very refreshing.

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Retro Post #3: March 2009 – Desolation Row

Desolation Row is an ongoing collaborative multimedia project that is Medway Eyes’ response to the regeneration that is taking place in Medway despite a lack of sufficient public consultation.

We believe that respectful management and preservation of a place’s heritage is the key to a successful regeneration, yet we have seen the Theatre Royal demolished, Aveling and Porter groundlessly condemned, and Sun Pier left to ruin. The council can see Sun Pier from their plush new offices. We’ve asked them when it is going to be fixed. We have not received a reply.

We also observe that regeneration in other areas has opened up waterfronts. Not here though. The waterfront will be covered in flats and closed off from the town by a bus station in the wrong place.

Sunday 15th March saw an assortment of creative locals – musicians, photographers, film makers, writers, artists and designers traipsing around the forgotten stretch of the Chatham/Rochester Hight Street. The plan for the shoot was to make it up as we went along and then go to the pub.

Our only disappointment was that the Bob Dylan which had been stencilled onto the side of the Jade Garden (by Redlock, we subsequently discovered) had been painted over. A real shame as it was the only thing breaking up the ghastly shade of Dull that the rest of the building was painted in. Anyway, thanks to our vigilant photographers, we’d heard of a second Bob Dylan painted on Bath Hard Lane. We found Bob to be wonderfully photogenic and a
real hit with the ladies. We did the second Desolation Row shoot two weeks later. We filmed some interviews and singing by the river and drank more beer.

Unfortunately, there was one thing missing; Bob Dylan. The second Bob had been painted over too. He’d been stencilled onto a filled-in railway arch on a scrubby bit of wasteland, so who would paint over it and why? Given that other graffiti had been left behind, including an indecipherable, artistically devoid tag about six feet high, we could come to only one conclusion; the council had been out with the whitewash again. It seems we were right, too. Medway Eyes photographer, Garry Jenkins was in the papes again for the second time in a week. The caption beneath his photo read “This Dylan image has since been painted over by council workers”. While they were at it, the council painted over another historic piece of graffiti; a tribute to Thee Milkshakes which had adorned the wall by the railway bridge for more than twenty-five years. You see, the council can’t have the general public seeing validity in vandalism. How will it manipulate us into believing that Medway needs regeneration if the crappy tags have to compete with artistic graffiti? So they painted over Bob and the Milkshakes leaving the rubbish behind in the name of making Medway a “cleaner and safer place”. The council whitewash is not for our safety, it is a tool of censorship, used to blunt our senses to its persistent cultural vandalism.

We’re letting this project find its own path and allowing it to take as long as it needs to to record change. There will be video, music and maybe a book. It is possible, but unlikely, that a physical gallery exhibition will accompany this project, so don’t be upset if there are no postcards of the hanging. The chances are we’ll manage another gig.

See the Desolation Row page on our website for more information.

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