Although the idea for Commit This To Memory came to me seemingly very suddenly, I know that really, it had been something that has been simmering within me for a very long time. Being lifelong resident in Plymouth, I have spent as long as I can remember seeing my surroundings slowly but surely changing drastically around me. Plymouth Art Weekender, with its citywide platform and national outreach, was a perfect time and place for the project to have breath.
The last 2 months have presented their challenges, but through these, I have learned so much more about a city I thought I knew well. I’ve met new people, and found out about new organisations (for example the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office), but as well as this, and maybe more importantly, given me reason and opportunity to draw on wealths of knowledge I have had very close to me, without even realising.
Commit This To Memory is a creative look at some of Plymouth’s at risk sites. I selected a total of twenty-three locations to be featured across the center of the city, many of which were on Plymouth’s most recent Buildings At Risk (BAR) register. This may be as a result of building redundancy, lack of ownership, location or cost of repair – although one or two sites are a look to possible futures – for example Millbay Park Recreational Ground. Once the marine barracks or citadel become disused and the military personnel who currently inhabit them leave, the recreational ground could well become a prime piece of flat, green space available to property developers.
The BAR register details the strategy as to how the buildings were identified as being at risk in the first place. It identifies all heritage assets that were considered at risk in 2005 (including non-designated ones) but by 2011, as a result of the loss of resources including staff, the decision was made to take off buildings of townscape merit, which were not listed so that resources could be concentrated on the structures that were either listed or scheduled.
Along with the BAR register, and other online registers also accessible to the public (SAVE, English Heritage, National Heritage List for England) I started to do as much research as possible and put together a final list for inclusion, on a walking route. Sites were selected based on their accessibility and central locations.
Since learning the aforementioned, the project has now become as much about the fact that the city no longer has the staff and resources to do this job as it was about the sites themselves.
The project captures Plymouth’s ever-changing image through the eyes of public bystanders, depending upon chance happenings, and a stranger’s curiosity. This is an opportunity for local people to be a part of the on-going construction conversation – the project is about the here and the now, engagement in the present and the little things that go unnoticed. To find out more about a particular site, a passer by needs to scan the QR codes on the stickers with a smartphone and use the hash tag #cttmplymouth to repost, share and get involved on Instagram and Twitter. Follow the project @cttmplymouth on Instagram, and use the hashtag #cttmplymouth.