Teaching Crisis

Greece will again be unable to open dozens of schools and kindergartens across the country due to a lack of teaching staff despite the scheduled start of the new school year. The new school year begins in Greece in September, but because of insufficient funding tied to the country's economic crisis, Athens cannot pay salaries to the required number of teachers. It is also reported that in the southern Greek region of Laconia, where schools have resorted to inviting volunteers to teach classes. The Greek authorities allocated additional resources, from the European Union and public investment funds, to hire additional teachers and attract more volunteers but they were unable to fill all the gaps. The ongoing staff crisis in the Greek education system resembles 2014, when there was a shortage of some 12,000 teachers in Greece before the beginning of the new school year.

The problem, according to the head of the Federation of Primary School Teachers, Thanasis Kikinis, stems from cost-cutting policies that have resulted in few new hirings. According to figures, 8,500 primary educators have retired in the past five years and only 850 new teachers have been hired, with none of these being in the past two years. “The data do not do education any honors,” said Kikinis. “Putting off problems to the future has resulted in the downgrading of education.”

High Royds Clock Tower

Visitors to High Royds Asylum, now disguised as an extensive residential development, are at first impressed by the striking roofline complete with fairytale towers. Depsite its history now being hidden, the site was once a psychiatric hospital founded in 1888 and for more than a century, dominating all was the great clock tower, it’s solid bulk sparsely decorated with low battlements and heavy gothic arches.

The clock was manufactured by the great clockmaking dynasty Potts & Sons, who had been involved in the business since 1790. In 1847, William Potts was commissioned by Lord Grimthorpe to manufacture a clock for Ilkley Parish Church. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship which produced many introductions for further work with which Lord Grimthorpe was involved. The latter part of the Victorian era saw many large clocktowers being built. This was a pioneering age of order and discipline and the clock at High Royds was inescapable for inmates and staff alike. It served as both a landmark and practical feature. Try as they might, patients and workers could not escape the clock. Time had to be kept: this was an ordered institution.

Architect’s Narrative: "The Roof hipped with decorative iron finials has central tower (former water tower) which has 2 transomed windows to lower stage; clock in painted arched recess of several orders to upper stage; and machigolated, embattled parapet (formerly surmounted by timber framed, gabled water tank)."

Despite standing alone as a single reminder of the infamous West Pauper Lunatic Asylum institutions, much of the old building is still largely intact, including original mosaic tiling and majestic carvings. The gigantic clock tower has been restored to full working order, providing a sense of splendour from its stance over the other buildings. It remains locked away amidst the derelict, crumbling interior to present visitors with a truly unique statement of architectural authority as they enter the grounds of the residential estate. Within time, most people who live here will have forgotten what it once stood for.

Janubio Salt Flats

Once a thriving industry on the Spanish island as far back as 1895, the windmills pumped the sea water to huge reservoirs and it filtered down through narrow channels into the stone lined flats where it was left to crystalise, the salt then raked up and shovelled into piles for export. This work was and in some parts still is, done by hand by ‘salineros’. The salt, harvested several times between June to October, needs a temperature of 25 degrees to crystalize so lies unattended for most of the year. Despite almost 30 salt farms once running at its peak in 1940, only three are left. The sea water now freely wades through many of these abandoned man made panes.

The Ballroom

Liverpool Olympia, originally purpose built in 1905 as an indoor variety and circus theatre, was converted into an ABC cinema and used by the Royal navy as a depot during ww2. It is one of very few (if not the only one) if its kind left in the country. The animals would appear in the auditorium by being lifted from the basement where they lived. Evidence of the lift mechanism and living areas for elephants and lions can still be found under the theatre. It has seen numerous spouts of abandonment throughout its years after 90% of all grand cinemas were demolished before the turn of the century, it somehow survived and remains on its last legs but still standing after being used on rare occasions as a ballroom and venue for gigs and wrestling matches in more recent years. A struggle with funding for maintenance has brought forward more fears for its future.

The Welsh Streets

Today I travelled to my favourite city, Liverpool and along the way visited the infamous ghost village that consists of row upon row of around 450 empty houses where Ringo Starr once lived as a child. They have been part of a ruthless campaign to halt their demolition after the local government condemned the entire area as part of the city's regeneration. The area is full of grieving poems plastered on walls, signatures and art installations but the only noises heard around here are the birds.This particular street has been used to film the tv drama 'Peaky Blinders'.

The threat to Ringo Starr's birthplace announced in 2003 prompted uproar in parts of the neighbourhood and among fans all over the world. A proposal was made in September 2005 to take down the house brick by brick and rebuild it as a centrepiece for the Museum of Liverpool Life. This was a reversal of Liverpool council's earlier claim the house had no historic value. However, as of 2012, number 9 Madryn Street and several hundred other houses still stands, although most have been emptied of residents. Starr said it was not worth taking the house down simply to rebuild it elsewhere, as it would not then be his birthplace. Many suggested demolition of the area surrounding Starr's home was unsatisfactory, claiming "People liked the city's character, not packaged replicas". Council survey data published in 2005 showed the Welsh Streets were broadly popular with residents and in better than average condition, but were condemned for demolition because of a perceived 'over-supply' of 'obsolete' terraced houses in Liverpool. The land was offered to private developer Gleeson's and social landlord Plus Dane and proposals published for lower density houses. Some residents were happy to be offered new homes, while others were determined to stay.

The proposals have divided the local community. Clearance has proved highly contentious, with some taking the view that the houses are beyond rescue, while others believe they are fundamentally sound. Campaigning charities led by Merseyside Civic Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage have asserted that renovation would be preferable and cheaper. By 2009 over 100 residents had been rehoused together into a neighbourhood nearby which they had helped to design. Others had left the area altogether.

In 2011 the Secretary of State quashed planning permission for demolition and required an Environmental Impact Assessment. In summer 2012 new proposals for demolition of 250 houses were endorsed by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and Housing Minister Grant Shapps, who visited the area to announce retention of 9 Madryn Street and 15 adjacent homes. Local residents in the Welsh Streets Home Group have consulted on alternative renovation proposals that retain the majority of the houses, remodelled as environmentally friendly eco-homes.

Tapestry Decay

The peeling walls inside a derelict school for deaf children that still sits along the west coast of England, and operated between 1904-2003.

Arson at the manor

Then and now - Daresbury Hall manor, built in 1759 fell victim to an arson attack on Saturday 25th June 2016 which completely destroyed the interior of the building. The photo below taken last year was part of my two-piece documentary project on the site that has been derelict since its owner died two decades ago. Planning permission had been granted earlier this year to build 31 homes on the site and part demolish most of the outbuildings. Restoring a manor of this size to its former glory would be a costly ordeal, leading to suspicion of the cost-saving advantages that would warrant the 'accidental' destruction of this brilliant grade II listed building, potentially allowing the plans for redevelopment to be brought ahead far sooner than expected. In layman's terms: this wasn't just a bunch of kids playing with fire.

It deeply saddens me how daresbury Hall has been treated since its owner left it behind some 20+ years ago. After the cannabis farm siege and numerous vandalism incidents the site has never been given any level of security. With the area deemed one of the more up-market villages in the town, I have to say that the listed status has reluctantly held back any potential developers and incidents like this are all too convenient for the land to progress to the next stage of conversion for new properties and the entire removal of its historical value. Whilst countless people have been allowed to wander the site scrounging any kind of valuable materials and ruining what was once such a great part of daresbury village, I now realise I was lucky enough to document this place before the inevitable was allowed to happen.

EU Referendum

EU referendum day for the United Kingdom. I'm not an overly political person but whilst travelling the country visiting the places I photograph, I inevitably meet people, hear stories and find evidence of how businesses and forgotten institutions, hospitals and factories were pushed to breaking point by EU legislations that worked against their favour and those are the places I admire with a certain degree of sadness. From the outside many people might think that London represents the UK but that could not be further from the truth, and today's result signifies the faith people have in that the economy can stand on its own two feet. Leading the way towards a stronger future, thereby finding moments like the one pictured below will be far rarer than before. The union may be diminishing but Europe will always be United. One day we might all be like Switzerland..

One mans legacy

In my college days I'd pass by this farmhouse on the bus twice a day, catching a brief glimpse through the gates enough to notice the collection of old volvo's and countless piles of auto parts amounting to over fifty years of one man's work. Recently I returned here only to realise the man had surely passed away and the house for some strange reason had not been sold on.

The farmhouse is empty and most of the cars are gone, whilst the yard now seems a shadow of what it once was, but I can't help but feel somewhat glad that it hadn't been cleared out and wiped of all its history before I had time to revisit. I'll always take a messy back yard full of old memories over a modern building with no stories to tell.

St John the baptist' primary school

Built in 1887, St John the baptist primary was built as a voluntary aided school for infants that coincided with the formation of the adjacent St John's church, and although it only had four classrooms, managed to maintain its place at the heart of the community for almost 120 years. It's doors were closed along with a number of local schools in 2004 when a new school was built in order to bring the pupils into one place. The nationally famous comedian Frankie Randle was born next door in 1901 was known to have been a pupil at the school in his infant years, and the labels of the last group of children's names still stand above the coat hangars in the cloakroom. The building has now been locked up for more than a decade but is on the market for any future restoration, however its listed status restricts the possibility of redevelopment and thus the school has started to decay heavily.

County police station

Basement cells of a victorian county police station in Northern England abandoned in the early 90s after Margaret Thatcher proposed that all local stations merge into regional bases to severerely reduce costs thereby changing the structure of the police force entirely. Stations like this were purposefully kept as a way for the community to remain connected with their local 'beat' and could only keep a small handful of criminals temporarily overnight. The ones that are still standing are reminiscent of a time when local policing was a much more intimate affair.

Black Mountain Secret

Hidden within the black mountains of central wales, this nursing home once housed up to 50 nurses who lived onsite whilst working at the asylum across the way. Having reached full capacity during world war I, the entire site was eventually closed less than a decade after the NHS was introduced, having felt the stresses of the new health law legislation. The buildings have now become some of the most beautifully decayed examples that I have ever seen.

Sunnymede

Sunnymede primary was founded in 1964, and was the last remaining independent school in the coastal town of Southport when its doors closed at the end of term in 2010 after celebrating its 50th anniversary. Due to the combination of falling numbers of pupils joining the school, increasing costs and the sheer amount of red tape and paperwork from the overbearing interference of the governments education policies. Day pupils aged from 3-11 paid £5100 per term, and the school could cater for 141 pupils at full capacity.

The much loved headmaster was Mr Simon Pattinson who lived in the out-house next to the school on a permanent basis, and had kept the school running after five decades of family ownership. Simon’s father Alan and his wife Katy began Sunnymede’s educational odyssey in 1960. They arrived from Cambridge with high ambitions of developing every facet of the school possible. Within a decade they had moved from Grosvenor Road to its present site. With a number of local independent schools operating locally at the time, competition was strong, but the business flourished, and the number of pupils on the roll grew rapidly.

Until the boundary changes of the early 70s the school was part of the lancashire county education board, but then ended up in merseyside to the dismay of some of the childrens parents, leading to the start of its initial demise. The further reason for this sad demise is due on one hand to a failing roll over in it’s last 12 to 18 months of operation, and on the other to an increase in expenditure created by the various regulations and legislations imposed by the government. After celebrating the school's 50th birthday, just six months before it's eventual closure, Simon Pattinson wrote: “This family school has literally been my life’s work, and it is to the testament of pupils, past and present, our wonderful teachers and the constant support from many parents and friends that have allowed us to reach this fabulous milestone.”

Through the seasons

Having a place like Daresbury Hall on my doorstep means I get to fully appreciate how it changes through the seasons, and whilst it may not be as pristine as it once was when i first visited, it's still great to see how it flourishes at this time of year when nature fully takes back what's been left behind.


To see the site and its changes over the years, click here and here below to view both albums featuring Daresbury Hall from two of my full visits.

Douglas Skymaster

Inside the cockpit of a disused Douglas DC-4 skymaster, famously known for their use during the Berlin Airlift. This skymaster was used between 1946 - 1962 as a passenger plane before serving across the world as a freight plane until it was decommissioned in 2002. It was left to rot at the Arizona aviation graveyard for some time before finding it's final resting place in the UK, where it was kept at RAF North Weald before being dismantled for parts, and the cockpit seen here is now being prepared for display at the Burtonwood heritage centre.

The DC-4 (Or C-54 as it was known during the war) proved to be one of the most popular and reliable planes of the 20th century, with 1245 being built between May 1942 and August 1947, including 79 postwar DC-4s. Several remained in service as of 2011, and Douglas continued to develop the type during the war in preparation for a return to airline use when peace returned. The type's sales prospects withered when 500 wartime skymasters came onto the civil market, and many like this one were converted to airliners by Douglas.

It is particularly fitting that this plane is now to go on display here at Burtonwood, as the DC-4 has a significant association with the north west of England, being a frequent visitor to Liverpool and also in its military guise as the C-54 being a regular visitor to the Burtonwood Base Air Depot itself . These aircraft ferried parts and personnel to and from the US, and many of these aircraft eventually ended up being involved in Operation Plainfare a.k.a. the Berlin Airlift.

The crisis started on June 24, 1948, when Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin. The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in western Germany, and the Douglas Skymaster was one of the iconic aircraft used to take these emergency supplies to those in need on the Eastern side of Berlin. 

When the two DC-4s arrived at North Weald over 10 years ago, they were acquired for use in a planned film about the Berlin Airlift. The film never came to fruition and the DC-4s began to decay in their derelict state. In this photo you can see how one example still remained intact whilst the other was taken apart, most notably the cockpit which is now at Burtonwood. 

The cockpit has now begun its restoration and sports the iconic red lightning stripe associated with the Berlin airlift era that made the DC-4 so famous. Eventually it will be on display as a walk-in attraction for people of all ages to learn about Berlin airlift and to experience the aircraft up close as a sentiment to the history of the American airbase at Burtonwood.

Elm Tree Cottage

Hidden along the border of England & Wales, this holiday cottage was abandoned at some point in 2011 for unknown reasons. All post inside the property is dated past this point and left unopened, including five years of attempted contact from the tv license agency. This was a unique opportunity for me to explore a place unlike any that I had been to before, as it was as close to pristine as I could ever hope to achieve from a location such as this. The property was obviously suited to having people stay for short stays at a time, and didn't have the feel of a home that was ever lived in to as full an extent as I have seen in the past, as those homes more often than not end up littered with the belongings of their owners in one way or another. The two bedrooms each had only single beds, and guides to local walks could be found in the living room and kitchen. This was obviously a place for people to stay as a countryside retreat.

With the cottage having been forgotten so literally since its last use, the weather had made very little impact on the interior and it felt in many ways like we were seconds away from somebody coming home, but one of the strangest things about this cottage has to have been the taxidermy - at least three deer heads were found hanging from the wall, a cheetahs head casually rested on the bedroom cabinet, and two baby snakes were kept inside jars sitting on the kitchen worktop. I'm not sure I'd rest too easily if I'd paid to stay here for a week, but each to their own..

This was a real struggle to find, and any trace of the property was a well kept secret online. The gardens have consumed the majority of the property and it is hardly even noticeable from the roadside, but eventually the research paid off and we were able to spend a little time to ourselves appreciating the sentimentality of this place. I love how one week we can be exploring the vast industrialisation of an abandoned paper mill, and the next we can be inside a place like this. Just one of the reasons this is a project that just keeps on giving.