Three Years

I saw that mark on a floor of a health centre yesterday. I took someone along to see a podiatrist. That’s one of the few remaining places where I can still see the old 2020 Lockdown signage still in place. Elsewhere it’s been removed for so long that I can no longer make out the markings on the floor where the warning circles used to be.

It’s been 3 years this week since that time when I looked around Victoria Station, emptier than I’d ever seen it on a day when it wasn’t officially shut down. Before lockdown commenced there was an odd prelude when it was a possible event but not confirmed. The last public occasion I went to before it became an actual event was at Rough Trade East, and as the crowd made their way out at the end I wondered: should we have masks on now? For a long time I didn’t wear any, as I thought the big emphasis was on distancing.

Now it’s all gone, and lockdown is even disappearing from a topic for protest stickers attached to bus stops. The people who put those up seem to have moved on to Ukraine (against it), wider anti-vaccination campaigning, and now also trans-rights (against), judging from the latest stickers in the bus shelters in Hammersmith where I’ve seen the most consistent and regular stickering.

To get to the podiatry appointment, I had to drive with my friend down Fulham Palace Road, and I saw a picket line outside Charing Cross Hospital protesting during the strike. I’ve also been up to the Midlands. Here are the latest newspapers – from The Redditch Standard, Friday March 10th:

From Birmingham Mail, Wednesday March 15th:

In Redditch, the old Labour & Trades Club is now long gone and the site fully redeveloped as a big new block of flats, a superb symbol of the legacy of Blairism. I went to Birmingham as I hadn’t been in the city centre in years and wanted to see how redevelopment had advanced there.

Got the train to New Street, exited on the Station Road side.

They have embraced Peaky Blinders, at least I can recognise it though I never watched it.

I wanted to go to the Ikon Gallery. It used to be at the end of this street:

The monstrosity of the new New Street Station (it’s been there for nearly a decade now, but it’s still “new” to me):

Now we have trams:

The Town Hall and Victoria Square, featuring works by Anthony Gormley:

Amazing to think we could once finish a project in just 23 years:

Newer things, towards the Central Library and Symphony Hall:

Towards Gas Street Basin, over the canal:

Near Brindley Place, a Popworld:

….but the side entrance still has the original name of the building:

And so I finally see the new/nearly-new Ikon Gallery that I had not seen before:

The last time I was in the old Ikon Gallery at the previous location was in 1990 to see an exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies, which comprised works made by artists in response to the AIDS crisis. Ikon Gallery was one of the few venues to take the exhibition; around the country there was a reluctance by places that were managed by local authorities that this would put them at risk of prosecution under Section 28. This is something that gets easily forgotten about that legislation, wherever defenders say that “no one was prosecuted” – the simple existence of the threat has an effect on expression and platforming, without ever being tested. Not everyone has the time or resources to wage an heroic fight for free expression, at least not in the old pre-digital world where mobilising an army of supporters and spreading a message that help was needed was not straightforward.

So I went in Ikon and saw the latest show. This is good and deserved its own Note, which follows next.

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