Reflections on Stories Of Storage: a walking tour

A man in a cherry picker working overhead looked slightly bemused as we gathered by the Coltman Street Phone Box for the The Aimless Archive alternative walking tour of HU3, using the YOU CAN cards as prompts. Cards that have been made to help us understand a process of slowing down and asking: Where are the things we love being kept?

The last thing I had planned for was a cherry picker to be hovering over the phone box.  There were cones all the way around it – closing the whole pavement off.  The plan was to stick the cards inside the box so that the prompts were against the glass facing outwards.  Layla had given me the red tape when I’d admired it in a workshop with Hull Zine Library.  I’d created packs of lined A4 notebooks in red envelopes, made by G.F. Smith but found at Scrapstore, to give out to the people who would show up.

We began on Hessle Road using a card that said: “Look out for the window with the winches, ropes, and lifting gear. What would you lift up or elevate round here?” 

The cards recorded a mix of the ways I’d encountered Hessle Road and the ways that I hadn’t encountered Hessle Road.  The things I’d done – but also the things I’d planned to do, but, for one reason or another, didn’t get around to.  Perhaps other people could do those things or even think of further prompts – further things that YOU CAN do.  They act as an open invitation.

We talked about the businesses hidden in sheds and huge units and wondered “Perhaps it’s a celebration of what they do – it seems important and international”.

The original proposal leaned towards the things we love – but I twisted it to be spiralled around the places we keep the things we love.  One version of the title was ‘Stories Of Storage & Love’.  The boxes, the cupboards, the wardrobes, the sheds, the garages, the units, the units, the units.  The keepings that unite us.

We then, with encouragement from a YOU CAN card, explored the shop Nice Party and in particular their small Verse – 5 for £1 – cards. 

Much of my time was spent browsing shops on Hessle Road.  They are places for thinking – they generate ideas.  I was attracted to the idea of the walking tour entering into a shop – a place where things are bought – we become consumers.  But on the tour we would be using the shop as a social and reflective space.

We shared the verses when we congregated back on the street – a sympathy, a happy birthday, a good luck.

Reading the Verse Cards aloud changes them from a private note of love and care into a public declaration.  They sound insincere read in the street.  Performed sympathy.  

We met Daniel who, curious about us and our tour, joined in sharing wise words – he seemed to understand the importance of looking and approaching life differently.

Another part of the tour unplanned.  Later on we found the branded Stella pint glass that Daniel had held, stood underneath a tree.  A piece of Daniel now a part of the storage of the street.  A little piece now part of our story.  A few of us speculated on what had become of Daniel.

We looked out for benches where we might sit and watch, considering how things changed as we moved around.

I thought about a pause in the tour where we could have done some writing or some drawing.  This could happen next time.

We saw artworks and shop window displays.

Shop window displays were also a recurring area of interest.  Each one becoming an archive in itself.  When I lived in Spain, I remember the majority of shops displaying nearly everything that the shop had in stock, in the window.  On Hessle Road, a few places hold that system in high regard.  Pegboard.  Endlessly reconfigurable.  Stock sun-faded.

We went off road finding new graffiti and memorials never seen before.

I knew that we would have to loop back to the phone box again – so we ducked down a side street.  This whole strand of research and recording seems to have been about looping back.

We saw yards full of things, others empty of stuff.

It’s the empty ones that are really valuable to me.  A place with the potential of storage.

We discovered a specially placed poster that encouraged us to think about exploring words.

The text-piece on the back of that shipping container mapped out the flow of work via four-letter words – from HEAD LINE NEWS to TAPE LOOP.  The text forms an hourglass.  It maps how these words have fallen through the time I’d been walking the postcode.  From wide to narrow but now widening out again.

We jumped between bollards – talked of histories and long-past egg-stealing misdemeanors. 

The egg theft newspaper article from 1923 was found by my Dad at the Carnegie Heritage Centre.  He’s really interested in our family tree – egg importers who came down from Hartlepool to Hull for the deeper dock.  Thomas Robinson, Sons & Co. Ltd.  What he’d really like to find is an egg crate marked with the company name.  A little piece of storage to keep for himself.

We thought about who was here before us and if we could walk in their footsteps?

The family history stuff, the personal history stuff, I really tried to kick against it.  But it has a pull on you – as an artist it’s hard to resist making your work personal.  It tags on an easy resonance – an easy emotion.  We’re familiar with the tear-inducing personal stories that get raked-up in archives.  But what’s surrounding those stories?  My original poetic question “Where are you keeping me?” became a device to remind myself to ask that question on behalf of others.  It allowed me to be everyone.

Along back streets and out-the-way roads we talked and looked and photographed and then…. back at the phone box there inside, if we lifted the receiver to hear songs and beautiful sounds all recorded by The Aimless Archive we stopped and listened.

Written in collaboration with The Encyclopedia Of Us – a shortened version will appear in a future edition. Stories Of Storage: a walking tour took place on 07.10.2023.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *