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November 13, 2019

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Drawn to the Coventry Ringroad

September 12, 2016


I was born as they were building it. As a child, I walked under it or travelled around it. As a woman, avoided it, though it's circle contains all my memories - the remains of a medieval city and within ear-shot of its traffic, the remains of my parents. It's first section was built by men listening to Frank Ifield singing "I Remember You" on the radio and it was completed as Mud were storming the singles charts with "Tiger Feet". 

Through it, around it, there are no roundabouts, no pauses to stop - just a blur of Sky Blue fans chanting on their way to the railway station, men leaving the factories, the excitement of kissing under concrete on dark nights,  buildings demolished and memorials to martyrs, forgotten rivers, graves unearthed, the ghosts of a blitzed city, the chants of Whitefriars monks, the forgotten stanzas of Philip Larkin and the remembered lines of Jerry Dammers; buses bringing us in to school, to Saturday jobs, to the Telegraph Pink, to swim in a pool inside an elephant, to loiter, to get drunk, to wonder at a fallen angel and a risen cathedral, to ska-beat at The Locarno and the po-going of punk, to the Three Spires, the Belgrade and Bass beer. To buses that took us out again to social clubs, Irish republicanism,  semi's with massacred lawns and a few bushes, to parades of shops, parks, poplar trees and M&B pubs with gardens where we sat with pop and crisps, to dreams of Saturday nights back in town, meeting outside Owen Owen. To parents who never had it so good. To be polite to the doctor, the teacher. To the risen Phoenix, the conformity of the white-heat of technology, the knowledge of watch and ribbon-making, the certainty of manufacture, of school, of modernism. Irreverent, encircling, never-ending revenance.


Those of us working on Disappear Here, a collaboration between poets and film-makers drawn to the Coventry ring road, know what's calling us back. It's less clear to anyone else. ( You are doing what?) My first return home will in a few weeks, to walk around the ring road, under it and to research it at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. I shall be thinking, writing, looking for people's stories and memories, straining to hear the ghosts, recording photos and sounds on my phone, until the words come - and sharing them here. My fantasy? To meet someone who built the road. I'll be meeting and introducing Jack, the film-maker, who I discover went to the same schools as me, and Emily - a budding documentary maker - who will also walk some of the same streets with me. 


And at the end. There will be poetry.

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