What is Salford Star on about? Always sounding off, and here we go once again…about a poxy pair of twin cranes standing, as if on guard, over Salford's legacy as a major sea port.
So what? It's only steel and glass, and a last vestige of 120 years of maritime history.
So what? People working and visiting the Quays (don't say `Docks') will now be able to come without their sensibilities being troubled, or informed that this nice shiny acreage was anything else but home to studios, retail outlets, offices and apartments.
The black waters lapping below the pontoons and quayside walls will present an existential question - if those waters are not for the benefit of the shoppers and job centre visitors then why are they here? Are they just a big drain for the collective waters of the South Pennine hills? Are they anything other than an overgrown fish tank to soothe the crowded minds of TV execs as they stare into their creative abyss…the default decor to facilitate maximum creativity... or at least the impression of it?
Consider the difference with Liverpool, and its Maritime Museum and current Titanic exhibition, which I visited recently while over there to see family…
The Museum is housed in former dock buildings standing on the dock piers, whose waters are chock full of - now here's a surprise - boats. Old boats, new boats, working boats and pleasure boats.
Liverpool, a great harbour - which admittedly has some 150 years on Manchester as a port - has tapped into its maritime past and made it a virtue.
That past has left it with an amazing architectural legacy of superb Georgian and Victorian built warehouses and customs buildings. It is one of the few things that Liverpool has going for it, but boy do they take a pride in it. Preserved buildings, cranes, lifting gear, museums and heritage trails, mixed in with a little Beatles shmoltz.
Sunday morning, and it was packed full of people taking in this vibrant monument to what made Liverpool and sustained its people. The whole area was a testimony to the watery history of Liverpool and its river, and the boats continue to demonstrate to current generations the utility of the water to the city.
In Salford the average visitor would see the water as nasty inconvenience and barrier to their journey between the Imperial War Museum and The Lowry theatre. Every vestige of our rich and intense maritime history that was, up until thirty years ago, the life blood of thousands of workers and residents has been eradicated.
The listed customs house, the dock sheds, grain silos, cranes all demolished.
Four of the five dock berths occupying Pomona Docks filled in with building waste. Given the redevelopment we could not preserve it all in aspic but to lose all trace is cultural and historic vandalism.
Keen observers of the canal and the port, such as myself, couldn't fail to notice the 5,000 tonne Alana Elvita discharging its cargo just by The Lowry recently. The ocean going ship had transported six massive brewing silos for Harp Lager, and they managed offload them just by the skin of their teeth. Had they not been able to discharge those huge stainless steel silos, the size of Saturn rockets, they would have had to been low-loaded from Liverpool to Moss Side with all the incumbent road chaos that would have entailed.
The point is that it just goes to show what an amazing facility this is. Furthermore, when it's gone, it's gone and there's no going back. It's the same with these cranes. When they're gone, they're gone and it will cost millions of pounds to put something of a similar stature and resonance in their place in the future. That's why it's completely short sighted to demolish them.
Now instead of demolishing the last monument to that rich history, for want of £25,000, we should be adding to it. A Manchester liner berthed up, working models of the discharging and loading of cargo, the trade routes, a statue to a merchant seaman, a docker… this would be a brilliant educational picture encompassing Salford's economic, geographical and maritime connection to the rest of the world.
Don't tell me that for all the spurious objects of council expenditure twenty five grand could not be found down the back of the Mayor's settee? Of course it could, if there was a will! But Ian Stewart - like the other great vandal of Salford's identity John Merry - is not a Salfordian.
Like Merry, he is an outsider. They have no emotional connection to our older neighbourhoods, pubs, public buildings and industrial heritage. That does not forgive them for the destruction. Especially when they are confronted by what cities like Bristol, Hartlepool and Liverpool have done with their redundant docklands.
Ian Stewart, I ask you to think again about the cranes demolition, even at one minute to midnight. `Do you really want this destruction to be the legacy of your leadership?'
How important is it? Extremely! I ask you, `What is a city without a seaport to the rest of the world?' I will tell you...`Birmingham'....
I rest my case.
• The Salford Quays cranes are set to be demolished by Salford Council this weekend, and replaced by a mobile phone app costing £150,000.
• Ironically, as these iconic heritage items are being trashed, this weekend also sees a Quays Culture Open Day at MediaCityUK and The Lowry. Quays Culture is the organisation which is creating the £150,000 app to replace the cranes.
For full details and background see previous Salford Star article – click here.
* Nigel Pivaro is the guest speaker at the Nineteen Eight-Four themed benefit night for the Salford Star and blacklisting campaigner, George Tapp on Thursday 21st November. Tickets are £10 (£5 unwaged) and the price includes a full meal at top Asian restaurant Saffron's in Cheetham Hill. Further details to follow or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Update 27th October 2013 - Salford Quays Cranes Trashed in £100,000 Execution - click here