The Re-imagining of Sutton Scarsdale Hall, Derbyshire
Project title: Preposterous Encounters Out-bye
A collaborative proposal in response to the call from the
Centre of Attention for the Pavilion of Postcontemporary
bricolagekitchen & oneoftheroughs
In the area around Sutton Scarsdale Hall, coal mining thrived into the mid-1990s. Since that time all coal mining in Derbyshire has ceased. The legacy of the industry remains, though, in continuing impoverishment, industrial disease, disability, pollution and a number of other socially related ills such as poor physical and mental health, high alcohol use, drug use, lower than average educational attainment and marginalisation of young people. According to national statistics, wards in local villages are commonly in the top 1% of most deprived neighbourhoods nationally. These tightly concentrated spaces of profound exclusion often sit concealed in what is now an area undergoing development and demographic change.
In coal mining the subterranean measure was taken in two directions ‘in-bye’ – in the direction of the coal face – and ‘out-bye’ – in the direction away from the coal face. This proposal works from the in-bye of the erased coalfaces of this part of Derbyshire to the contemporary out-bye of a cultural space denuded of an importantly insubordinate counter-history. The immediate locale of the hall is pleasantly rural and prosperous – in sharp contrast to the local former coal mining villages of Duckmanton and Arkwright Town and the Victorian ‘model’ village of New Bolsover. It is this present, revenant, contrast, ghosted from the history of the industry and, particularly, its exploitation under private ownership (as symbolised by the edifice of Sutton Scarsdale Hall) that our proposal dramatises and lampoons.
Our dialogical, utopian gesture aims to explore and preposterously call for the reversal of the parasitic histories of the former coal-owning landed aristocracy of North Derbyshire. We propose a project which would employ ‘dialogical aesthetics’ to initiate cross-community and inter-generational critical conversations, interrogating historical and contemporary boundaries of class and economy.
Preposterous Encounters Out-bye would activate seanced voices of the ‘uncounted’ , bringing them from underneath (as both subterranean and subcutaneous) to the surface. It would aim to re-inscribe and re-connect the skeletal remains of Sutton Scarsdale Hall with the host, now spectral and (dis) connected, mining communities in which it resides. Using the ‘hauntological’ re-occupation of the Hall to initiate a process of ‘redemptive remembering’ , we re-imagine it as a container for ludically preposterous encounters. These contest the theft inherent in the private ownership of property and the allocation of mineral rights. Our proposal is counter-nostalgic and refuses the romanticising of ‘lost’ communities: conversely, it seeks a critical excavation of the radical histories and practices of resistant and utopian thinking sedimented into the culture of coal mining communities and the material fabric of the North Derbyshire coalfield.
We propose two linked phases :
Phase One : Cacophony of the ‘uncounted’
Having garnered sounds, inter-generational voices and imagery from the local community and built environment we will transpose them onto the architectural remains in an engineered cacophony of noise and visual spectacle. This would aim to both confound the Romantic notion of the ‘ruin’ and openly contest contemporary discourses of ‘heritage’. Voices of local youth – the uncounted – would be physically embedded into the nooks and crannies of the structure. Sounds from the streets of Arkwright and Duckmanton would be installed under the floors and footfall would activate them. Working with notions of class history as injury and cicatrice, we would work to overlay tracings of coal-dust scarred skin and the remnant marks of industrial archaeology in a palimpsestual cartography, projected onto the interior walls of the ruin. A stream of moving images would be projected (via live webcam from Duckmanton Miners Welfare) onto the outside walls of the Hall.
Phase Two: Giving it [away] back
In a symbolic culminating gesture, we would stage a raffle to give back Sutton Scarsdale Hall to the local former coal-mining communities. Preposterously, onlythose proving a family connection to coal-mining would be eligible for tickets. Tickets would be free and the prize would be the Hall. The winner could do with it whatever they wanted – use it as space for graffiti, turn it into a youth centre or even, perfectly acceptably, squander it in much the same way as mineral wealth was squandered historically. Primarily, this utopian giving-away-back would be a momentary, if inherently impermanent, act of restitution.
Preposterous Encounters Out-bye is provocative, disruptive, impractical and utopian. In Paolo Virno’s terms it is insubordinate and disobedient – it refuses to be balefully aquiescent.
Preposterous Encounters Out-bye, while concretely realisable in full, equally offers a viable conceptual curatorial project. It could be produced as a printed foldout leaflet which could be displayed as a wall exhibit with a cacophony of voices on headphones/soundpost. The proposal could also be worked up for reproduction in a print publication.
1 Graffiti, 18th and 21st C , Sutton Scarsdale Hall (SSH)
2 Boarded-up shopfront, Duckmanton
3 Scratched stonework, SSH
4 East-facing frontage, SSH
5 Brickwork, Duckmanton Miners Welfare
6 View towards Arkwright, SSH
7 Wall marks, interior, SSH
8 Derelict shop, Duckmanton
9 East-facing frontage, SSH
10 Wall graffiti, SSH
11 Duckmanton Miners Welfare
12 Locked area, SSH
13 Grassed colliery spoil-heap, Arkwright
14 Skyward view, SSH
15 Smashed sign, Duckmanton Miners Welfare
16 Planted colliery spoil-heap, Arkwright
17 Graffiti, 18th and 21st century,SSH
18 Wind-worn stonework, interior, SSH
19/20 Fenced methane outlets, Arkwright. Arkwright Town was completely demolished in the 1990s because of methane pollution, strip-mining was carried out and the village was re-built.
All photographs were taken on location at Sutton Scarsdale Hall, Arkwright and Duckmanton by bricolagekitchen and oneoftheroughs December 2009