Richard Barrett



the cause and the effect
like a Dick Whittington myth
imagining cities
setting for alchemical opportunities
sweat into gold
actually: sweat into grime
poverty and squalor
chose rather than to deal with the problem
to ignore it
head overlain by strips and strips
of garden-centre fresh turf
create an alternative
which either survived
or was the site of
from the high ambition of its birth
a rapid descent
then the Whalley Range model
fore grounded in the imagination
the peripheral
contrasted to the European demolition ideal
slum-rebuild expense
which meant that on the continent
they moved one way, while we another


tattooed arms
hands ticking paper
cargo checked
trade routes flowing freely

bass shudder
of beats
vibration of heavy industry
this building
contains the history of
the national economy

keying errors
a symphony of phones
ambient chatter

the office has
a music of its own

rents are high
by the canal side


regarding the placement of buildings
cash efficiency determining decisions
a development due to realism
so no cause for complaint

an absence in the municipal corridor
interest in the quotidian no more
utilitarianism left egalitarianism
on the floor half-way through the fifth round
towards the end of the 1970's
beaten by the count

now I've stopped making plans;
arrangements with friends;
when to visit the supermarket
and the laundrette
I just wait on a call
then do what I feel

long time since anything worked out okay
most times
I have no food or clean clothes that day

the questions which exercise
today's liveliest minds
are along the lines
can a city be a brand?
no one though could really care less
all they want
is to be able to stand
in the light and smell air that's fresh


ring-fenced estate
someone's nan died
three weeks passing before her discovery
no one wants to go there
and the ones who are
want to leave

sustainability the ambition
hope placed in dilution

of tenants downwardly mobile
with those aspirational

achieving an

and no postcode stigmatisation

tenure blind design
and the shape of the public sphere
talked about often here
but no internal corridors

In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s the housing of the poor was a central concern of politicians, professionals and designers (admittedly with disappointing and often disastrous results). Today these issues are being . . . left to private house builders.1


right to buy downsides:
not often discussed. As though
they didn't exist.

1 From Issue 1 of Urban Scrawl, published by Urbed.