Graphic commons: End of year dérive

Date: 29.12.2020
Distance: 5 miles
Steps: 10,812
Start: 13:34
Ground covered: Residential to industrial area to dockside, return via town centre side-streets and residential areas

As the end of the year looms I felt it was appropriate to head out into Tier 4 territory for one last dérive of 2020. Fearing a Tier 5 being implemented, given the dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases in Ipswich, this may also be my last chance for a while.

While I didn’t set out to end up at the quay again, my feet took me there anyway. And as familiar as this territory is after my last drift only 19 days ago, I took a wider berth there and back this time. Doing so has opened up to me an area of Ipswich I haven’t explored for many years and I have made a mental note to steer myself in that direction next time I head out, whenever that may be.

Side streets lead to a main road out of Ipswich with a parallel access-road for the semi-detacheds that run alongside it. Handsomely tree-lined, with a generous grass-verge, it exemplifies one of the things I love about Ipswich, its green spaces. This road gives access to a park I have only been through once before, on one of The Rough Band’s psychogeographical silent walks, Strand, performed as part of Spill Festival in 2016.

This park, by turn, leads to one of the major industrial areas of the town, inhabited by large storage units for the Port of Ipswich and decommissioned gasometers, and the site of a long demolished power station which is now home to contaminated land unfit for building on.

I love this area of Ipswich—an important historical part of the town that resolutely refuses to become part of any heritage trail or attempt at gentrification. One that, despite this dogmatic steadfastness, sits alongside the area of the town that has been, somewhat successfully, regenerated. There are no coffee shops here though, and even the proposal for a community centre, business units and eateries in the old Tolly Cobbold brewery site that sits between here and the waterfront area has been thwarted by a fire some years ago. The lovely old building is now in a sorry state, with holes in the roof, just waiting to collapse in on itself. Once housing a decent pub serving good food, it is now a fitting metaphor for the hospitality industry in these pandemic times.

It is from here that I start to pick up territory trod on my last walk as I head towards the tourist quay, passing the still working dock.

These edgelands are appropriately shabby as working docks, and as they progress towards living spaces and the repurposed quayside, there are no clear boundaries between these different uses. A boarded-up pub sits alongside a industrial unit so vast you can fit a ridiculous amount of articulated lorries in it, which sits alongside apartments blocks with ground-floor garages, lounge bars and expensive yachts.

My attention is drawn to the disposed, decaying and industrial, rather than the architecture of modern flats and their very-pedestrian paving.

As I approach more populated walk-ways, even for Tier 4, the vain attempts at trying to regulate the virus are clear and signs of the times litter the streets. Bollards attempt to keep apart walkers as joggers and cyclists negotiate the pavements with double pram-pushers and masked couples out walking.

Here, an hour into my walk, rather than take a turn and head back along the same path as two weeks ago, despite being desperate for a mug of tea, I press on along the quay. seeing things slightly busier ahead though, and wanting to avoid joggers and prams, I veer down an alleyway where an art gallery with a particularly miserable owner once stood. I cross a usually busy ring-road, and head up a town centre feeder road and its associated temporary entrepreneurism of pop-up car washes.

The aesthetics of temporary hand car washes have interested me for a while, and I can feel another themed investigation stirring as I stop to take a photograph. When asking for permission to set these up, assuming permission is asked, the associated signage is rarely discussed, I suspect. As I wrap around these feeder roads I pass a church and its noticeboard, intrigued by its somewhat haphazard Christmas display, but liking the grunge typography nonetheless.

As I reach the residential streets of my neighbourhood, I note a triangular sign around a lamppost imploring us to make environmental changes for the future. This sits outside a primary school and is presumably aimed at parents who still insist on dropping their children off for school by car. I wonder how many have reconsidered their petrol fuelled journeys as a result of this, and question why those with good intentions think that graphic design can save us from ourselves? I would propose that legislation would be more effective, but in these neoliberal times, diktats are unpopular. The hope that people will do things unilaterally on the back of being asked by a sign is the order of the day.

All of which neatly brings me back to rising coronavirus levels—time to hunker down for the new year with a cup of tea.

iPhone shuffle selection
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry—Rattling Bones and Crowns (feat. Vin Gordon)
Bo Ningen—Kyutai
Melt Yourself Down—Yazzan Dayra
Penny Rimbaud—Part Eight
Warmduscher—Midnight Dipper
Junior Byles—Fade Away
This Is The Kit—Was Magician
Lone Ranger—Apprentice Dentist
Four Set—Parallel 8
Nice Cave & The Bad Seeds—Hollywood
Mogwai—Rano Pano (Live)
Legowelt—These Phenomena Are Not Well Understood
Damaged Bug—Lovely Gold
Nisennenmodai—A’ Live In Dub (Edit)
Good—Donovan’s Daughter
Melt Yourself Down—Jump The Fire
Fat White Family—Kim’s Sunsets

Published by Nigel Ball

Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design

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