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The Accumulator, at Leeds International Pool

Posted: March 19th, 2008, by Daniel Robert Chapman

The Accumulator
At the end of the nineteen-sixties Leeds proclaimed itself ‘Motorway City of the Seventies’ and opened an Inner Ring Road to connect the M62 and the M1. Edging the Inner Ring Road in the west end is a one-two of brutalist architecture which has defined the entrance to the city since that time but which will soon be reduced to one. The gritty concrete of the Yorkshire Post building, with its digital clock tower recently refurbished, seems secure; but the inverted black pyramids of the International Pool will be gone in a matter of weeks.

Like the claim to motorway supremacy, the ‘Central Baths’ have their roots in the once great city striving for new prestige in the post-industrial era. A pet project of the ruling Socialist Group of the late-fifties, the pool was to be of an Olympic standard and enjoy an international reputation. There was talk of holding a design competition, before a private sub-committee of the Leeds Corporation apparently arbitrarily appointed John Poulson as architect. They would say later that Poulson was just ‘the man you went to for everything at that time’. His firm, established in Pontefract in 1932 but eventually spreading as far as Malta, Lagos and Beirut, was just completing it’s first major project in Leeds – City House, a monumental office block placed above, and below, and within, Leeds City Station. In keeping with the new style of architectural practice his firm was pioneering, J.G.L. Poulson was appointed as “architect, structural, heating, lighting, ventilation and filtrations consultant in connection with the proposed central baths“. He also acted as quantity surveyor.

John Poulson had become the English sixties prototype of today’s ‘starchitects’, without ever even qualifying as an architect. He could live either in the mansion house of his own design, declared ‘House of the Year’ in 1958, or at his suite at the Dorchester Hotel. He was a millionaire, with growing political influence, welcomed in the higher echelons of British society; he owned a Rolls Royce, a Mercedes, and a Jaguar. His firm employed 750 people and held awards for the designs of several motorway bridges and flyovers, and had built public buildings and works throughout Britain. Hopes in Leeds must have been high for the construction of their new status symbol. Poulson was paid £109,000 for the design of an Olympic pool. The building, which cost £1.25m, was futuristic and flashy and was open before anybody could realise that it wasn’t Olympic.

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Commencement Address

Posted: March 3rd, 2008, by Daniel Robert Chapman

A week ago I was not a writer for Diskant and there was an earthquake. My name is Daniel Chapman and I am now a writer for Diskant and there have not been any more earthquakes here. The earthquake was initially very confusing. I feared that the roof of my attic flat was being blown in and so I got out of bed and surfed the floor for a while. When this novelty was over I opened my window to see if the street held any hints. One of the many rules one observes in Leeds Six is that people will come out onto the streets at the merest hint of an event, such as a fire or an earthquake or a power cut (although I think it’s nice that wherever you are in the world people will always gather to look at a fire; in lonely moments I’ve considered the advantage of arson as a way to meet people). I knew for certain it had been an earthquake when I heard a tremulous and youthful voice shout “I felt it all the way over on Ash Road!“  Now, Ash Road is well over a mile away and with no time to have made that journey the young man must have meant Ash Grove; normally I would find this unforgivable but in the circumstances I’ll allow that perhaps he forgot his geography under stress and was not just some witless student wanker who has never bothered to learn the names of the streets he lives on.

Last summer I wrote a fairly long article for a fanzine and swore it would be the last writing I ever did about music. This spring the prompting of Chris Summerlin and the indulgence of Marceline Smith has placed me in a position where I will have to write about music again but I still think I can stay true to the principle I had in mind. The particular moment which made me swear my frustrated oath was when, pen poised, I was about to describe what Sonic Youth sound like. The whole situation was ridiculous and I am anxious to avoid a repeat. Perhaps striving to that end can be a theme of my writing for Diskant, and my brutal failure a theme of your reading.

At the weekend I visited Newcastle for the preview of the Little Chops exhibition at the Star and Shadow Cinema. Although I have a thunderous bias in favour of one of the artists involved I feel confident that nobody visiting the show over the next week will feel nepotised at my hand. Interesting things are on display there in photography, drawing, Amy Winehouse’s hair, piss, film, and the floor. While in Newcastle I also was oblivious to a pub brawl and nearly run off the motorway by a fool. I regret that I did not fully investigate the radio panel with ‘snooze sensor’ in my hotel room.

I live in Leeds and I am twenty-seven years old and I hope to hit a stride to fit Diskant soon.