The Menhir Motorway is the first film of 2016 and it should set the tone for the rest of the year’s projects. Having filmed in late December, a mere few days before Christmas in the freezing edge-lands of Wallasey on The Wirral with the help of my girlfriend, Lauren (who took all of the proceeding digital photos of the shoot), the film has been gently brewing for some time and should hopefully convey a brutalist, frosty trip to Ballard’s Concrete Island. Having grown up around the sites of the film’s location, the former of The Breck being behind my parent’s house and the latter of the M53 being adjacent to my secondary school, the film automatically takes on a personal note that is perhaps new for these short-form essay films. The Breck, which is a former urban quarry, is that typical sort of space in the North West that gets left for dead. In spite of being an incredibly green and interesting space – boasting perhaps The Wirral’s only fully-fledged menhir (albeit potentially man-made through industrial means) – it is rarely used for pleasurable ventures; not even by the local kids to mess around in anymore. I have fond memories of climbing Grannies Rock as it is called, though always weary of the “glass in the grass” as mentioned in the voice-over.
From filming and taking photos of The Breck variously throughout late 2015, it became apparent that the space is now one that is traversed through rather than travelled to. The entirety of the human presence of the area, aside from the graffiti which has remained consistent since I was a child, was represented by dog walkers, either on their way through to the local town of Liscard or through to Wallasey Village itself – perhaps the most anti-village village in the region. The connection to the more Ballardian space of the M53 cavern comes from it being in view of The Breck’s valley-like vision down the hill. The contrast between the two spaces couldn’t be further though there is an ironic connection in that they both share a relationship to roads. The cavernous Zone spaces under the M53 are obvious in this case but the topography of The Breck is such because its rock was scraped out for the building of Leasowe Road just down the coastline. Leasowe is, of course, the last place where the director, Alan Clarke, lived before he eventually emigrated to Canada in his late teens (in fact, his house was directly off Leasowe Road). My own relationship with the M53 space on the other hand is an odd one that was detailed in a dérive article earlier this year. Suffice to say though, it was a place of surprising refuge when wishing to avoid people at school as was the decrepit, adjacent allotment with its tattered mesh fences and easy access. There even used to be a variety of couches left in the space which, perhaps unwisely, were occasionally sat upon during a rebellious lunch time if only to avoid playing football or disappear away from aggressive peers.
The soundtrack is the usual mix of music by In Atoms and a reading by Paul Carmichael; the pair seeming to just fit together in my own mind now because of it being the 4th collaboration for each of them respectively. My usual thanks of course is extended their way. This is the first of a number of film projects this year looking more towards those edge-spaces, mixes between rural and urban, liminal landscapes, edge-lands and all of the other terms for such places. Though several reels have already been filmed for other projects at a variety of places, this will undoubtedly be the most personal film of the year as plans are afoot for a potential move away from the North West later on. Perhaps it can be seen as a strangely fond last hurrah to the place where I grew up though it’s somewhere that’s in such proximity to both of my parents that it’ll always be one that continues to play a huge role in the landscape of my own life.