Star date: 12th June 2011 


`It's a kick in the teeth isn't it?...It's disrespectful and spiteful' Salford tourist

A whole coach load of tourists arrived in Salford yesterday to see Alan Boyson's grade II listed mural, the Tree of Knowledge, plus his fab concrete screen at Pendleton College.

Their awe at Boyson's work was only matched by their horror of Salford Council's attitude towards visitors to our city. You might think that charging them £50 to undo the padlock to the Tree of Knowledge was bad… but it gets worse…

Click here to see how worse it gets!

Alan Boyson Bus Tour Salford Alan Boyson Bus Tour Salford Alan Boyson Bus Tour Salford
Alan Boyson Bus Tour Salford
click image to enlarge

On Friday we reported how great it was that tourists were coming to East Salford, to Charlestown, to see Alan Boyson's magnificent mural, the Tree of Knowledge, sited on the old Cromwell Secondary School near the Cromwell roundabout (see here)

We also reported with disbelief how Salford Council had, firstly, completely snubbed the would be tourists, and then, via its joint venture company Urban Vision, had further insulted them by charging £50 to undo the padlock to the derelict grounds where the Tree of Knowledge currently stands.

Yesterday the Salford Star went down to greet the coach and maybe to have a word with the bloke from the Council who had the fifty quid honour of opening the gates. Instead we found the tour organisers struggling with the chains and padlocks themselves…

"Er, I've had to pick the key up from Eccles yesterday" said Aidan Turner Bishop, Chair of North West Twentieth Century Society "And I've got to take it back to Eccles too – I'm a repeat tourist!"

Aidan had to travel from Preston on Friday to pick the keys up, do the coach tour and then has to travel back to Salford to hand the keys back. That's £50 for the key plus all the travel costs. It left members of the coach party who we spoke to absolutely horrified.

Eddie Rhead, originally from Salford and now living in Manchester, was the person who first alerted the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society to Salford Council's intended demolition of the Tree of Knowledge and helped to get it nationally listed. He was angry that Salford Council had charged £50 just to open a padlock…

"It's a kick in the teeth isn't it?" he said "I don't think any local authorities do that. It's an asset and the fact that people from all over the country have come to see it shows that. I wouldn't have given them the £50. It's disrespectful and spiteful and the fact that we even had to go and get the key ourselves just adds insult to injury.

"I would say that if Joe Martin [ex Salford Council heritage officer] was alive today he would have arranged for us to get in for free"he added "There just doesn't seem to be any will within the council to help, it's typical narrow mindedness."

Salford Council's attitude didn't detract from the day itself, as everyone on the Alan Boyson Bus Tour was well impressed with the Tree of Knowledge…

John East had come from London to admire Boyson's work…

"I'm interested in murals and the work of this guy" he told us "And I also came because I like to get out of London, see what happens in Manchester and see all the good things happening in Salford as well.

"This is Boyson's biggest work that we've seen and it's listed so yes I would say it's the highlight of the day" he added "The fact that it was listed means that nationally it was acknowledged as being a work of importance and I think that now it's beholdent on the local authority to think about what they could to do with it and how they can make a feature of it, rather than just fencing it off…or rather, hoping it will go away or fall apart."

Anne Lintott, a new member of the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society, admitted she knew nothing of Boyson's work and had come on the tour out of curiosity. She ended up comparing his work to Picasso…

"It takes a bit of getting used to I think but it feels very much like the 50s and 60s, and a bit like some of the Picasso owls and birds and fishes" she explained "It's classic of its period…it's been a marvellous day, I'm very impressed."

The `Boyson By Bus' Tour took in the artist's impressive works at a multi-storey car park in Stockport, a greengrocer's in Denton, a church in Stalybridge, the Queen's Hotel and St Ann's Church in Manchester, as well as two stops in Salford – at the Tree of Knowledge in Charlestown and Pendleton College…
"We're into murals, which are fantastic art works of the 50s, 60s and 70s and ended up in things like car parks and shopping precincts" said Aidan Turner Bishop of the Twentieth Century Society "People sort of turned their noses up at them but they're from an era when public art was a decent, noble thing to do and a lot of fine art work was being made at that time.

"Councils don't seem to realise what's under their noses and they lack the vision and the imagination that their grandfathers had back in the 60s when they were running the councils" he added "They knew how to do things with style and they treated the working class with dignity, that's the point. It wasn't just another property deal, it wasn't just another speculation, it was a social service for the people and nothing but the best was suitable for the working class. And that's the thing that shows through when we're visiting sites now. It's a sort of reversed class distinction – now they're too scared to say `Nothing but the best for the workers!'"

Salford now has one the finest examples of the genre in the whole country, recognised in its national Grade II listed status. It was saved by the local community, by artistic experts and the campaign was kicked off by Eddie Rhead who used to live in the area.

"The Tree of Knowledge is so distinctive and of its time" he said yesterday "What's so great about these works of art is that they were always on quite mundane buildings but it was always with a vision to lift people intellectually, and I don't think they'd do such a thing nowadays

"It is big, and, if I can get a bit arty farty here, it looks a bit like Stonehenge, surrounded by nothingness. In its isolation it's even more impressive."

Salford's Picasso? Stonehenge? Take your pick. If Salford Council had its way the Tree of Knowledge would now be rubble. As it is, the Council's raking in £50 a time for tourists to open the chains and padlock themselves to view this "rare surviving example of a bespoke 1960s ceramic mural" with a "high level of aesthetic and artistic quality" (Department of Culture, Media and Sport).

"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.

* After the Boyson Bus Tour had visited the Tree of Knowledge the tourists headed off to Pendleton (now Salford) College where there is a rare example of a decorative concrete screen by Boyson. One of the screens has been boarded over by the college, but another is still on view at the back of the building. The college's caretaker happily opened up the building and led the bus party through the college to see it. There was no charge for this.

UPDATE 15th June 2011

Salford City Council has now refunded the £50 charged for the keys to the Tree of Knowledge



Pete Martin wrote
at 07:33:53 on 14 March 2015
I was just surfing the net thinking about our Joe (it was the 5th anniversarry of his death on 24th of last mont, when I found this article. I would just like to offer a much belated thank you to Eddie Rhead for the kind words he said about our Joe. He is absolutely right about Joe saving countless buildings that would otherwise have been lost to Salford. He joined the council straight from school. He was the youngest of a family of 12, all of us Salford mad and maybe Joe, being the youngest, was even more Salford mad than the ret of us. He absolutely loved his job and would have done it as a hobby. I'm sorry, I have just realised that I am "going off on one" so I will stop here and now. Thanks again Eddie.
Fadge wrote
at 17:01:27 on 17 June 2011
This greedy lot refunded the fifty pounds only becauses they were shamed by the publicity . Greedy , inept ,arrogant, waster council .
RWL wrote
at 03:46:07 on 17 June 2011
Occasionally, mistakes happen within a bureaucracy and something like this happens. That's in a normal council. But with Salford Council, discouraging local culture has GOT to be deliberate, because they keep doing it - witness the 2 year battle just to keep Eccles Community Art Gallery open, for one example. I was going to suggest that people who are treated like this should be presented with a certificate saying something like "We apologise for our crap council. Yours, the *people* of Salford" and shame the council into getting its act together. However, I suspect we'd just be presenting it to ourselves every day and the council still wouldn't give a shit :) Well done to Eddie Rhead and friends for doing what the council should be doing.
mary ferrer wrote
at 03:46:01 on 17 June 2011
The money Urban Vision get from Salford City Council they could go a little bit more up market than Spec savers. Just been reading the Advertiser about another 19th century building in Broughton that has now closed down as a social club. I wonder if in the coming months an application to knock it down is not on the cards. I hope not.
Paul Starr wrote
at 21:42:54 on 16 June 2011
Hi Steve, Re "Urban Vision", I think a visit to "Spec Savers" might improve their "Vision ???
Val Broadbent wrote
at 15:38:26 on 15 June 2011
Thanks for finding that article Eddie. The gates were stolen sometime during 2006 and the article didn't appear until Oct. 2008. It took 2 years for them to admit they had gone. Not once in that article did Countryside apologise to the community or offer any compensation. It's another cover up giving the impression that they had been stolen that day. Total disregard for the community and their feelings. Just another example of the 'Ignore it and it will go away syndrome' they all suffer from.
mary ferrer wrote
at 09:41:27 on 15 June 2011
Well all is well Cllr Merry the leader of the council has stepped in and returned the £50, but what about the long term damage something like this can cost the city and its bid to bring people to here. I feel the council needs to work with our touriest,heritage and culture departments and start to get their acts together, before we become a laughing stock
Eddy Rhead wrote
at 09:27:50 on 15 June 2011
In the interests of fairness i must point out that John Merry himself has stepped in an ordered we arent charged the £50. This is most welcome and we thank John for the gesture. Its little consolation im sure to Aidan, who had to travel from Preston to Eccles (twice) to pick up and drop off the key and for the endless dead ends he went down to try and secure access. Although the waiving of the £50 fee is welcome it does seem a case of the bolting the gate after the owl has fled.
Eddie wrote
at 22:05:59 on 14 June 2011
I found the story on the M.E.N. about the gates that Val mentioned, sadly the picture on there is the best picture of the gates, and it just does not do the gates any justice at all, they were very special indeed. http://tinyurl.com/5r328ls
D.Savage wrote
at 11:53:33 on 14 June 2011
Thanks to Val Broadbent for yet another insight into the way this pathetic clowncil and chums treat the Salford people .With utter contempt .Small wonder we hold these clowns in the same regard . Truly pathetic .
Val Broadbent wrote
at 07:42:36 on 14 June 2011
It reminds me of a few years ago when the same disregard was shown to the people of Salford. The Lowry High School (Albion) gates went "missing"... These gates spanned the width of Duke St near the schools main entrance. They were designed by local artists and the pupils of the school at a cost of many thousands of pounds. Built and erected by a firm in Trafford Park. Along came Countryside Properties in partnership with Salford Council. The school was ripped down to make way for the toy town now known as New Broughton. We were told that the gates had been put in storage and the residents worked for a time with Countryside to decide where they would be erected when the building work was finished... They were supposed to signify the gateway from the old to the new. 2 years down the line we were still being told they were in storage. When the time came and the residents wanted to know when the gates were going to be put back we were told in a very off hand manner that they no longer had them, they had been stolen some two years previous. No one said anything, they weren't insured and the theft hadn't even been reported to the Police. By storage they meant that they had been thrown in a corner of an unsecured building site and someone had walked off with two 10' x 10' iron gates plus two side panels that had formed the pedestrian gates on the pavement at either side. Replacements were out of the question as Countryside Properties couldn't afford it.
mary ferrer wrote
at 11:41:27 on 13 June 2011
I sat on the planning panel of Salford city council for over two years and during that time we had applications for listed buildings and property's within conservation areas. In all that time the council only had the conservation officer there once. Now that tells you a story, we have had the TPO officer,Traffic,enviroment officers but just one visit from the conservation officer,not his fault. As other people have said on here Joe Martin worked very hard for this city to try and keep our heritage intact but as the saying goes "HE WAS PI--ING AGAINST THE WIND" I don't know what we can do, but we must do something. This latest cockup just shows this council in its true light. Steve thank you for doing this story,again you are on the ball. I can see why you got no funding from the council, you are too bloody good at your job, so keep it up.
Joe O'Neill wrote
at 09:52:54 on 13 June 2011
It's funny steve i was walking one area in Salford putting out election leaflets,trying not to step in the dog muck and staying far away from the gangs who sat on one corner of an area i will not name,and my phone rang should i answer it,well i took the chance and surprise was it the wife? no it was a company the council had engaged to take the views of Local Councillors on what they could do to help bring in tourist,i had no idea on if i should have laughed or cried.The relity is in Salfords New Labour nothing matters in regard to tourism outside the quays.We have a past in this city,we have pride,but Salford Labour think it should be knocked down while it's homes are filled with freshblood TV executives, and computer whiz kids. The past is put into cold storage,John Merry once said to me when i spoke of jobs,what do you want me to do bring back the pits? no.But i wonder how many people would visit this city if we had the mining site,if our parks where kept in pritine condition with places for people to take their kids.If we helped small buisness,if we had tours of the city in the old green buses,i wonder,no perhaps in labours short term thinking charging £50 a throw makes more sense Joe O'Neill Salford Green Party
Eddy Rhead wrote
at 09:50:33 on 13 June 2011
Thanks to the other Eddie for his nice comments. I cant take much credit, Chris Marsden did all the hard work. What i would like to say is that i would hope the Tree stands as a tribute to Joe Martin who was Salford's conservation officer who sadly died last year. He worked tirelessly, in the face of much resistance from his employer, to save as much of Salford's heritage as he could and if you think Salford is bereft of historic buildings now then it would be an awful lot worse if it wasnt for Joe. Joe was one of the good guys and the Tree was one of the last cases i worked on with him before he died. Salford owes him a great deal and, as far as i know, the council he worked for all his working life has not dedicated any tribute in his name. I would gladly pay another £50 if i knew SCC were using it to put towards a lasting tribute to a lovely, lovely (and much missed) man. I dedicated the event on Saturday to Joe because i know he would have been very proud to see so many visitors enjoying Salford. RIP Joe Martin
mary ferrer wrote
at 22:16:41 on 12 June 2011
If this wasn't such a crime it would be funny. The council are trying to sell the city,they say they want to bring tourists to salford bring people here to live and setup business and this is how they do it. They can't look after our heritage and they can't look after the tourists so god help us poor sods living here.
Salford Star wrote
at 22:16:27 on 12 June 2011
See Eddy Rhead's comment below...On behalf of everyone at Salford Star please accept our humble apology for not getting your quote quite right. And we mean it...Mean...Mean...Mean it...
Eddy Rhead wrote
at 20:44:18 on 12 June 2011
Thanks for the coverage but i think you have misquoted me - im sure i said the actions of Urban Vision were "*mean* disrespectful and spiteful" :) Lets not forget the 'mean' bit eh? Anyway - even though we dont look it we are a tough bunch used to coming up against officious uncooperative local authorities so it didnt ruin our enjoyment of the day. In fact one of the fantastic bonuses came about when we interupted an impromptu cricket game being played by a group of Salford Uni students, of all creeds and colours, who i presume live at Castle Irwell. Despite them not having paid the obligatory £50 to enter the site we didnt hold that against them and much good natured conversation ensued. They admitted to be slightly oblivious of the Tree but once alerted to its beauty took a great interest and even requested a copy of the notes we had produced, to take away with them (after finishing their cricket match obviously). It was lovely to see their interest and just shows that the Tree, even in its current state of limbo is inspiring new generations of not just Salfordians but visitors from all over the world. Anyway, the fact no one else seems to be bothering to make this land available for community use didnt seem to put off out intrepid cricketers and the sight of them playing sport in front of the Tree made the whole £50 nonsense seem even more ridiculous. I cant speak for the whole group but i think we all enjoyed our time in Salford and thanks to everyone who made us feel so welcome. I'd love to be able to include SCC in this but i think you already know what i think on that subject.................. :)
Eddie wrote
at 20:44:10 on 12 June 2011
How lucky are we (Salford) to have this superb work of art, and how lucky are we that Eddie Rhead was on the spot to start of the course of events that ultimately saved the Tree of Knowledge? When I went to Irwell Valley School the mural was more of a curiosity object, "what is it?", "What is it about?"... We would also pass play times throwing stones or tennis balls up at the mural in the hope of landing one on the stone edges. But I can also remember times spent with mates just looking at it, pointing bits out and discussing what it could be. We never did know for sure what it was, but we did figure out it was a tree with a wise owl at the top, and so it must represent the building as a school of learning. We used to ask teachers what it was, who were just as none the wiser as us. Then a couple years ago I saw the building was being demolished, and a sad feeling came over me, because I knew the mural was going to be smashed up and never again will I pass the place and see that almost iconic mural, and it would have happened if it was not for Eddie Rhead & Chris Marsden. Yesterday I was quite moved to see so many people who had travelled to Salford and were in awe of the Tree of Knowledge. As I said at the start, “How lucky are we?” which brings me to Salford City Council, who should be on their knees and thanking Eddie Rhead & Chris Marsden for saving them from making one of the biggest mistakes they would ever have made, instead of charging them £50… Maybe the £50 could go towards one of those blue disks the council likes to put up at places of notable heritage with some info about the Tree of Knowledge and Alan Boyson??? Its better than being wasted on Urban Visions Xmas office party I would think!
Fadge wrote
at 20:43:59 on 12 June 2011
The 'executives ' must have been consulted regarding this , in a closed doors meeting .If this gang of traitors charge fifty quid for providing a key , any more tourists won't bother coming here .Then the world outside Dumpsalford never gets to see the rot , decay , hopelessness , joblessness and despair these turncoat traitors have created by their inept bungling .This city has always been a shitehole , and thanks to the clowncil's extremely nonsensical decision - making capacity , always will be a shitehole .One thing is certain , these arrogant clowncil goons care NOTHING for this cesspit- city .They care ONLY for what they can grab for themselves .BASTARDS , ALL OF THEM .
T. Potts wrote
at 18:04:55 on 12 June 2011
Proof once again that the inmates really do run this asylum Dumpsalford .
Ernie Tuft wrote
at 18:04:30 on 12 June 2011
To charge fifty pounds is a new low for this grubby , greedy , inept council . Truly pathetic. These parasites are shameless .
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