This blog is:

This blog is:
A living sketch book for the ideas generated during our Creative Halton Project in 2011. On this blog you will get to see the ideas as they pop up and see where the inspiration has come from. These are the ideas of the artists Beth Barlow and Jason Sheppard, informed by those we have spoken to. It has also grown to include the ideas sent to us by local residents . If you want to contribute please e mail

This blog is not:
A finished product. Many of the ideas here will be tested and seen to be the wrong for the place, time and its people. We hope that the ideas we take forward will be the correct ones, giving Runcorn a taste of its rich past, the positives in its present and notions about its future.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Treasure hunt around Runcorn old town

At the moment we are looking for any groups who want to be involved in a treasure hunt, art workshop and history walking tour probably on the 18th June. You will get to use a sat nav to locate hidden boxes in which will be treasures to use in the creation of our Runcorn Today moving sculpture. If you are an individual or have a group and want to take part e mail us at

Some photos from Runcorns Past

If you have any photos of Runcorn's past which you would like to feature on the blog such as those sent to us by Chris please feel free to e mail us at

Lost Shops


Doris' was a small shop in Devonshire Square Runcorn. They sold groceries and cooked meat and cheeses.

She made lovely boiled ham sandwiches the best in town, and the best butter was to die for, her cakes used to melt in your mouth.

I think this is the reason I spent most of my hard earned wages in her shop on my dinnertime, I worked at Unsworth's Bros, also on Devonshire Square.

Another attraction at that time was most of the girls from the solicitors went for their dinner too, so it gave us lads from the men's wear shop a chance to chat them up.

In fact my workmate married one of them many years later.

So it was love among the boiled ham, buns, and cream cakes that smiled on him that day.

Doris also owned a ladies dress shop next door to her sandwich shop.

What happened to our corner shops?

What happened to the good old corner shops?

They were real life savers in their day. Many times when our large family didn't have anything left to eat we relied on them.

If it wasn't for the tick these places allowed you, how would lots of families have made ends meet?

In the terrible winters we had then, when travelling was difficult, not everyone had cars, how would we have managed without them?

How many times has the little corner shop helped us out?

Then what do we do? We desert them in droves, all for the sake of a few coppers less on the price at the supermarkets.

Strange few of us feel any pangs of guilt as they close one by one, and are turned back into houses. After all they have done for us!

The best of the corner shopkeepers knew most of their customers by name and sold just about everything.

These open all hours places are now sadly few and far between. People didn't just go in for food, it was the best place to hear the latest gossip or news of what was going on in your neighbourhood.

People cared about each other then and you could leave your backdoor open without fear of anyone nicking your telly, if you were lucky enough to afford one.

I can't help but think how empty our streets look without the good old corner shop.

I remember the orange sign on the outside of the now sadly gone Ivy Street stores, how it used to welcome us up the steep hill, for two ounces of sweets on pocket money day.

The Demise of the English Chippy

When I was young lad, a sixpenny mix, was made up of chips and peas, squashed together and covered in salt and vinegar and was wrapped in old newspaper, it filled many a local child's hungry belly.

Somehow the ink from the newspaper made the chips taste better, I can taste them now!

These days you would be hard pressed to find an English Chippy, why have they all but disappeared?

Maybe there is just too much competition from fast food and Chinese takeaways.

In the old days chip shops had the monopoly and there was very little other fast food.

In my opinion you can't beat the good old fish, chips and mushy peas cooked in the traditional way.

There was certainly less mess then because people were really hungry and glad to be fed it was their main meal.

Maybe we are spoiled for choice and over fed why else would so much food be wasted and thrown on our streets?

Or maybe people had manners then and took their rubbish home?

Whatever the reason, the English Chippy has almost gone and so has the romance of that time, of walking home in the rain holding hands and eating fish and chips the simple pleasures in life magic.

All the Best Chris Darlington.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Seventies Runcorn by Chris Darlington

Seventies Runcorn, Didn't You just Love It?
Its hard to believe that Runcorn Old Town was once a throbbing fashion haven for teenagers?

Boasting two wonderful boutiques Turnstyle and Banjo and its own thriving record shops. From the open neck striped shirts to the widest trousers in town, we had it all! because of (Unworths Bros)Devonshire Square Runcorn,

What did we look like? With our long hair, brightly coloured clothes and platform shoes.

Who owns up to wearing denim flares these days? Brown and blue striped V neck jumpers, tank tops bold striped like deckchairs, tartan trimmed trousers or Oxford Bags with pockets to burn.

The music was loud and funky, Glam Rock ruled, and seems to have stood the test of time, for the last thirty years.

How cheap things were then, 50p for singles a piece of vinyl heaven, £1-75p for an LP.

Did you flock to the Orchard Rooms in Runcorn to hear the latest disco records? and turn the dance floor in to a Disco Inferno.

Beer was only about 30p a pint, a fiver went a long way and we thought we owned the world!

Girls wore tight Hot Pants ,Midi or Maxi skirts, leather panelled mini skirts with knee length black leather boots.

Wide leather belts and firemen's belts were also a must have item.

These amazing fashions make a come back every decade or so.

Do I miss the Seventies? Yes! the prices and the stick thin twenty eight inch waist I had then.

The clothes I'm not sure, I still have a nineteen seventies lumberjack jacket From Unsworths bros in a wardrobe somewhere and it fits, just about?

I try it on now and again, then stand in front of the mirror and remember those great old days, when the old town moved to a very different beat to the sad decline we see today.

Sent to us by Local resident and writer Chris Darlington

Chris' Idea for a Missing Shop Spot

How about a Lost Shop’s Spot, shops people remember from childhood that are no longer going.
I can start them off with a few and get people to write in or send photographs.

La Rendezvous

The old town market café was called La Rendezvous, every Friday dinnertime I had the wonderful sausage chips and beans, the sausage were big thick pork ones, delicious.
The speciality of the house seemed to be the toasted bacon sandwich, and the ladies would call the meals out with practised voices, that echoed round the small packed café on a rainy afternoon in Runcorn.

After dinner I would sit by the window watching the buses go by and wish I could go home early from work.

Then I would go back to the shop with bean stains on my shirt and tie and toast crumbs round my chin so they always knew what I had been doing.

As a footnote the first owner had to sell up a few years back because they the local people go the silly idea he was the Yorkshire ripper, because he went to Yorkshire a lot.

Lots of stories behind the shop fronts, like a well known sweet shop owner ended up in court for straggling his dog.

Runcorn has its darker side sometimes.

Sent to us by Chris Darlington, local resident and writer

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Shopping for Ideas

About two years ago local resident and writer Chris Darlington set off around Runcorn old town to write a poem about all the things you could still get in Runcorn Old Town. You can see the full poem, "Oh, there's nothing to do in the old town" here. Despite the missing and empty shops scattered fairly liberally around the town its a fairly diverse list with lots of specialised shops which you wouldn't find in other town centres, everything from a guitar to an aromatherapy treatment. As a way of really looking at the town and getting some of the materials we needed we decided to take the poem and use it as a shopping list to see if, two years on the same shops were still surviving. The rules of the process were:

  1. Shop for the goods in the order they appear on the list-this is daft in terms of logical shopping but it meant that we walked in different ways and often up and down the same street many times. It took much longer but meant that we spent more time in the town getting to know t better.
  2. Ask each shop for a little something they could either donate to the project or which we could buy for under £2.00. The item could be broken or ready to be thrown away.
  3. On leaving each shop ask them to direct us to the next shop on the list-this led to some really interesting links where we were sent on to see their friend with the message "Tell them I sent you."
  4. Photograph us with each item in or near the each of the shops.
The results were pretty conclusive you can buy all of the things on the list in the old town and below are the objects which the kind shop keepers of Runcorn have donated to be made into a moving sculpture some time soon.

  • Wife to Be Bridal shop-two crystals, a tiara box, some dress straps and a pink veil.
  • Elaine Dillon Hairdressers-A hairbrush, some curlers, some nail equipment, hair grips
  • The Gas Store-Some wood and a ball cock
  • Highlands Curtains-A curtain tie back and some wallpaper
  • Runcorn Chiropody Clinic-some foot rubbers and maybe a plastic foot if they can find where it has ran off to.
  • Mullens Opticians-3 pairs of glasses
  • Lavenders- aromatherapy bottles
  • Runcorn swimming baths-some ticket arm bands
  • La Tattoos-Some tattoo magazines
  • Kwick fit-Some car screws and bits I don't understand
  • Motorworld-bits of an old bike being fixed
  • Monks-Two packets of marsh mallows
  • Joan Elizabeth's Florists-a silk sun flower
  • The Barley Mow Pub-beer mats and straws
  • Mrs D's Cafe-a broken tea cup
  • The Curiosity book shop-some book marks and a book on Runcorn's history by Liz Howard
  • Ideal sounds-Guitar magazines
  • Johnsons the cleaners-a carrier bag
  • The Money Centre-some beer mats and a pen
  • Best Wishes Card Shop-a balloon and a gift bag and other bits and bobs in the future
  • William Hill betting shop-some betting pens
  • Adams Michaels estate agents-some compliments slips
  • Pet Corner-2 cuttle large fish
  • Prescription port-a tablet box and a pill bottle

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Friday, 1 April 2011

Quote of the day 1st April 2011

"Obviously, how we see the future has everything to do with how we live in the present." From The Re-enchantment of Art Suzi Gablik

Little thoughts and ideas

  • A sculptural mobile unit to go into places we can't go and take on tours with us.
  • Something about Mrs Rutter's Basket. Mrs Rutter was talked about in Chris Darlington's book and the contents of her basket of the 60's mentioned. What would the modern day Mrs Rutter have in her basket?
  • Joke objects-in the past people sent apprentices and new employees for joke objects like a long stand or a tin or tartan paint. In these days of high technology what would the new joke items be?
  • Create something from Maurice Littlemore's version Runcorn Ferry.
  • Mapping the geograpically profoud shapes in Runcorn, like the golden triangle made from Church street, High street and Waterloo Road and the corner of life.
  • A short film featuring everybodies chosen objects.
  • A short film called "The Keepers of Social history" with footage of the people who tell the history of Runcorn.
  • A treasure hunt using geocaching.
  • A trail of leather good from tannery to tannery and exploring if leather could be a product of Runcorn's future.

Derive in Runcorn

A derive is a word coined by a group of artists called the situationalists. As far as I understand it means wandering around a place in a kind of drift, considering how the things in the place affect what people do and how they feel. Our recent trips to Runcorn have probably been a bit more driven than a pure derive should be but its sometimes the parts in-between moving from a to b which bring up the most interest. We have been asking people we see round and about to think of an object which represents Runcorn old Towns past present and future. Standing trowel in hand, half way through re-patching his patio Tom stood in the shadow of the bridge and told us of Chewing gum and pears thrown from the American liners as they headed down the cut after the war. Sharon from Savers told us how the thing they sell most of is toilet roll and for the future she would like to see the preservation of local youth activities so wrestling ring was her choice of a future object. The lady whose job it is to collect the rubbish chose bins for present and future and pointed out the litter which sat outside the prolifically dotted about dustbins. Leather is a big Runcorn object from the past and the things brought in via the canals. We filmed as much of this as people wanted us to and are looking about for other people to contribute their ideas about past present and future objects. Maybe we could do a derive where we are blown about by the things people tell us. Somebody mentions a tannery and we head to its old site, then a mention of a kebab shop leads us there, it would certainly get us about.