"There's never been a better time to visit. We look forward to seeing you in Salford soon"
From Salford City Council's `Visit Salford' tourist website.
Alan Boyson's Tree of Knowledge mural, granted Grade II listed status by the government two years ago recognising its historical and architectural importance, is now drawing tourists.
A coach is due to arrive on Saturday afternoon to see the fab sculpture close up, the highlight of an Alan Boyson Bus Tour around the North West organised by the Twentieth Century Society with the Manchester Modernist Society and the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. It's a major honour for Salford's heritage to be recognised by such prestigious organisations, as Boyson's reputation grows and grows.
At the moment, the Tree of Knowledge stands in the middle of the derelict, padlocked site of the former Cromwell school and can only be viewed from the pavement over 100 yards away. So the organisers of the trip wrote to Salford Council asking for access…
Salford Council's Regeneration department, we understand, didn't bother to reply to the request. Next up was the Education and Young People's Service which also ignored e-mails. Perhaps the Tourism department would be enthused? They didn't want to know!
After months of e-mails flying at Salford Council, the council's joint venture company Urban Vision wrote back with this dismissive reply: "I'm advised that although the site is secured, The Tree of Knowledge is clearly visible to visitors from the pavement, and entry on to the site is not necessary."
After further protests, Urban Vision finally conceded to open the gates – for a fee of £50!
If this is how Salford treats its tourists, god help Ordsall Hall etc.
Perhaps the Council finds it all a bit embarrassing. After all, it was about to bulldoze the priceless mural before the Salford Star, its supporters and the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society stepped in to save it (see here for full details).
The Tree of Knowledge was commissioned from Alan Boyson in the 1960s for the old Cromwell Secondary School near Cromwell roundabout in Charlestown. In summer 2009 Salford Council was about to demolish it, literally the next day, when people from the community demanded that it be saved.
An e-mail and facebook campaign was swiftly launched against the Council's cultural vandalism, demolition was deferred and within weeks the Tree of Knowledge had been Grade II nationally listed by the Government - the Department of Culture, Media and Sport recognising the work as a "rare surviving example of a bespoke 1960s ceramic mural" with a "high level of aesthetic and artistic quality".
The Alan Boyson Day Bus Tour is being led by Christopher Marsden, of the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society, who also helped to secure listed status for the Tree of Knowledge.
"I think it is great fun, a magnificent piece for any community" he says "However Salford's Tree of Knowledge is important as a major piece of art demonstrating top class ceramics, graphics and mixed media to great effect in school environment. I hope it was inspirational to pupils.
"It is very much a piece of its time; a competent artist working for the benefit of a school community - no community involvement, no consultation, no interpretative material and unsigned. It is also significant as the community gave it support when it was threatened, and that affection led to it being listed when the building it was on had no real architectural merit."
"Alan Boyson's work is now being recognised and appreciated across the country" he concludes "His work in Hull, Derby and Corby is intact and has local support. Since so much has been lost it is lovely to think the Tree of Knowledge led the interest. Some of the people on the tour will have seen his work in Hull. Others will have seen his work in Corby. Some will recall his lost work in Lichfield and Liverpool. The work is important for tourism. I hope Salford Council realises it."
Perhaps next time a coach load of tourists come to see our heritage Salford Council will be more welcoming. Even if the Mayor of Salford won't be turning up to greet the tour bus, the Salford Star will certainly be there…
There are still a few places left on the tour bus for anyone wanting to see Alan Boyson's other work around the North West. It runs 10:30am-5pm this Saturday June 11th (meet Fairfield Street entrance of Manchester Piccadilly rail station at 10.30am cost £25/£23)
• There's still no word from Salford Council on what it intends to do with the Tree of Knowledge
• There is one other work by Alan Boyson still remaining in Salford – some concrete screens on the side of Pendleton (now Salford) College. They were covered in advertising hoardings. Last year the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society successfully got the college to remove them after submitting a planning enforcement request.
• There was another Alan Boyson work on Swinton Precinct, opened by Ken Dodd in 1969. It was a huge abstract fibreglass sculpture on the Upper Level which, unfortunately, ended up on the Lower Level after local kids tipped it over. Salford Council workers then put a chain around it and dragged it off, apparently causing more damage to the sculpture than the original fall. No-one has ever seen or heard of it since. If anyone knows the sculpture's whereabouts or has a photo of it please get in touch.
Main Photo: shows the view the tourists would have had from the pavement of the Tree of Knowledge
UPDATED 12th June 2011 - click here for details