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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Writing On The Wall At Bells Court

During the 1970s, Bells Court in Newcastle was the home of Spectro Arts Workshop. This was a hotbed of artistic activity that encompassed music (from prog to punk to folk to avant garde), performance art, photography, literature, touring exhibitions, screenprinting, film, artists studios, rehearsal space for rock bands, a café bar and all sorts of comings and goings.

I was a regular at the place, eventually being employed there to programme live music and work in the recording studio for a couple of years.

It couldn’t last of course. Sometime in the 1980s Newcastle city council decided it needed to have another car park and so the old warehouse building was demolished and Spectro became a ghost of a memory destined to haunt the search engines of a future it would never see.

When looking for some background information on Bells Court on those very search engines, I’d picked up references to something called the flickrwall. At a time when the city now belatedly trumpets its affiliation and commitment to the Arts with a capital A, this alleyway entrance to Bells Court has sprung up as some kind of samizdat communiqué, Pynchonesque in its anonymity.

Having visited the alleyway a couple of times now, I like the way the messages change as more things are added and overwritten; a babble of chalked comments moderated by the elements, chance and a sense of playfulness.

When I was there today I strolled amongst the rows of parked cars where Spectro once stood. All that remains of the place are the walls of its basement foundations. I have no idea whether the people who chalk on those walls and those who document it have any sense of the history of Bells Court.

But walking back up to the flickrwall it occurs to me this activity echoes and obliquely honours the tradition of expression, the exchange of ideas which was such a part of Spectro’s brief life, and there’s something gratifyingly poetic about that for me.

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