With the trashing of the blue Salford Quays cargo cranes still fresh in the memory (see here), another vital piece of Salford's heritage, the former Docks Totem Pole, is also to be exiled from its original site with a proposal to export it to Swinton, and put it inside the new Gateway building near the Civic Centre.
The Salford Totem Pole was originally commissioned by Robert Stoker, Chairman of Manchester Liners, in 1969 as a reminder of the area's trade links with Canada. Carved by Canadian Indian Douglas Cranmer of the Kwakiutl tribe, it stood outside the company's offices on the Quays until 2005 when it was removed and slung into storage in Kent where it was re-discovered by Councillor Steve Coen, now Assistant Mayor for International Relations.
The Totem Pole was brought back to Salford and stored in an Ordsall lock up unit, before being carefully restored to its former glory recently by Kevin Cranmer, the nephew of its original creator.
Salford people expected the stunning Totem Pole to be put back on the Quays as a precious heritage item – indeed Salix Homes actually put out a press release stating that it was "a proud sponsor of a Totem Pole that will stand tall over the new Media City Development" – but not one single Salford Quays company that Councillor Coen approached was willing to take on the Pole, which had to be displayed indoors.
Peel Holdings own both MediaCityUK and, since last year, the Lowry Outlet Mall where the restoration of the Pole first took place in a shop unit so the public could watch... "I asked them several times over several years but they thought it wasn't right for them" Councillor Coen told the Salford Star this afternoon. Peel notoriously re-branded MediaCityUK as being in `Manchester' recently (see here) and has been getting an average of £1million per month in public money over the last year (see here).
The Lowry art centre itself, subsidised by Salford Council, was also approached but declined the offer… "I've done an exhaustive search of buildings in the old Docks area without success, I've been trying to get it on the Quays but couldn't" Councillor Coen explained.
Now there is a proposal to house the Totem Pole inside the new £5million Swinton Gateway building, and Salford's eight Community Committees have been approached to fund the £30,000 costs, at £3,750 each, with the Gateway developer, Kier, contributing any shortfall.
Irlam and Cadishead Community Committee has already refused the application, which was submitted by Salford Council Culture and Leisure Team, on the grounds that `in the current climate this is not a priority'.
"To save the Pole and have it in a building that's what these things cost" explained Councillor Coen "I'm not an engineer or a builder, and it's a unique project, there's no manual out there saying what to do with a totem pole. The Pole has been recognised now by Canadian Government and British Museum as a fine piece of work, and they advise that it should be inside, because if it was outside it wouldn't last long in the elements
"Manchester Museum requested the Pole and I'd rather it was in Swinton, Salford, than Manchester" he added "At least we've got an option to put it inside a building, a public building, and it's the best I could find. It's going to be a library and a health centre and is open to the public and that seems to be the only option that we have. Putting it in Swinton gives the artwork access to a wider community.
"It's not what I would have loved but it's the best result I could get" he said "Ideally the Pole would have been on the Quays, and I can understand that people will be angry that it's not on the Quays, but it hasn't been there since 2005 – it was in Kent..."
The only sight of the Totem Pole on Salford Quays will now probably be through the £150,000 mobile phone app that Quays Culture is developing with between £50,000 and £100,000 of Salford Council money (see here). It will join the blue Quays cargo cranes as a virtual ghost on the former Docks `heritage trail' that Mayor Ian Stewart is so keen to develop.
Maybe it will have a map too, pointing out Swinton as the place to go to see Salford Quays culture.
Main photo shows Kevin Cranmer performing a ritual over the pre-restored Totem Pole at the Lowry Outlet Mall in 2009