Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Electricity Sub-Stations of Stoke-on-Trent - Anwyl Cooper-Willis

One of my earliest poems, for which I even got paid, was about an electricity sub-station, contrasting its well-manicured lawn and cypress trees to the run-down estate where it was situated.

These little buildings, which usually sit in their own fenced enclave, with grass, gravel or paving slabs, and neat shrubs, are often met with on walks in strange or familiar places, and despite their outwardly functional character seem to exude an air of quiet mystery.

It is somehow hard to avoid the notion that they are not quite what they seem: that there might be something else other than electricity manifestation going on inside them. You wonder whether they emanate curious colours at certain times of day or night, or if sometimes sinister figures emerge from them and engage in enigmatic transactions.

So I was just the right sort of reader and collector to appreciate a find at an artists' book fair: Anwyl Cooper-Willis’ A6 booklet of photographs and captions portraying some of The Electricity Sub-Stations of Stoke-on-Trent (scroll down to view: to order use the contact page).

The electricity sub-stations of Britain are to be found in a pleasing array of architectural styles – Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Tudorbethan, Modernist, Brutalist, and simply Downright Odd. They are often now rather scruffy and neglected, adding a further element of decay and semi-dereliction to their appeal.

This engrossing publication reflects pretty much the full range of these styles and adroitly captures their curious character, and rather lonely beauty.


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