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Mapping Nelson

Michael Powell

Over the last few years my practice has increasingly involved creating collaboratively produced illustrated maps, as a way of engaging people with the landscapes and places around which they live. So when I was commissioned to participate in research around Nelson town centre and its underused and commons / community spaces, it made complete sense to make a map of Nelson town centre.

Michael Powell, Nelson Map

Nelson Map
Download PDF • 52.69MB

This map has been created over several creative mapping sessions in spaces across Nelson town centre. It has involved sessions working at Nelson Library and on Scotland Road outside Building Bridges as well as a one off session with participants at Pendle Yes Hub; some of the characters you will see on the map, have been designed with through drawing games we played.

The map is a documentation of Nelson’s underused spaces and favourite places based on responses from local people across these sessions. Moreover the mapping activity allowed me to have more in depth conversations with local people, asking them about how they use their town and what they feel needs to change about it. To accompany these sessions, I also led creative activities that involved making recycled tin can planters and the creation of a pallet herb garden as simple creative actions that created space to talk, discuss and listen to peoples ideas and thoughts about the town centre and its underused spaces.

Images: Michael Powell

Mapping Workshop, Nelson Library

Opportunities for Reimagining Nelson

From the conversations I have had with local people. I feel there are several opportunities for creatively reactivating the town centre spaces. These are the main opportunities I have observed:

Nelson has a rich variety of upper architectural features that are underused and often unseen- an arts programme of creative, colourful and projected interventions that bring these features to life could be a great way to bring people together from across the community.

Colourful signage and wall art have also been mentioned regularly as a possible way of bringing touches of colour and life to the town centre. Especially if derived through projects that link up artists with local people to create works.

The redevelopment of Pendle Rise shopping centre is key to lots of things, and is a clear opportunity to offer free to use community space to people within it, as well as being a positive reboot for the town if done in the right way.

Reactivate the pedestrianised spaces - without the life of local shops and people interacting within them, the pedestrianised areas often feel dull and underused. They could be better utilised through simple things like colourful seating, as well as playful interventions (one resident mentioned table tennis) as well as being used as a place for regular community events, such as local produce markets or a pop up cinema.

Image: Michael Powell

Mapping Workshop, Nelson Library

Alongside these broader observations, there are five main spaces I have identified based on common responses from local people.

1. The garden and car park within the ACE centre has been the topic of conversation with several people as an underused space with great potential for community growing and hosting outdoor events that bring people together within the town centre.

2. The courtyard space at Building Bridges has also been discussed as a space to collaborate with and bring together local residents, business owners and young people from the Yes! Hub, to increase use of it be local people.

3. The library and its staff are already doing a great job as a space for people from all parts of the community to come together, offering events that are well attended and acting as a community hub. It really does feel like there is much more potential here, if they were better funded and supported to do greater engagement work across the community.

4. Also the space around the Viaduct on the way into Nelson, if cleaned up and brought to life has the potential to be an iconic symbol of the town and the green space around it could be reactivated as a key entry point into the town centre.

5. Finally, the disused platform on at the train station, is a real opportunity. The view of the town from here is fantastic, and as one of the first places people see when entering Nelson, could be a great space to be developed creatively with local people at the core of its redevelopment.

Images: Diane Muldowney

Michael Powell, Guided Walk

As an end point to my research, as part of the artist sharing weekend held in Nelson on 29/30 April. I led an artist talk around these five main spaces, to discuss observations and as an opportunity to have further conversations with people who came along. I also programmed a series of small pop up performances along the way, to try to bring alive some of the thoughts and observations people have shared with me along the way. This was a fun day of spoken word, singing and sound works; and even the Sun came out!

Images: Diane Muldowney

Michael Powell, Guided Walk

The illustrated map is a documentation of this process, and could not of been made without all of the thoughts and ideas from people across Nelson, who stopped to talk over the last few months. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Michael Powell is a socially engaged artist, writer and creative producer living in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Although he works across a broad range of mediums, over the last fifteen years he has focused his practice specifically on collaborating with people on community centred projects, with a particular interest in making use of and regenerating derelict spaces in collaboration with community partners and people.

About This Is Nelson and Nelson Reimagined

This Is Nelson is the cultural strand of the Nelson Town Deal led by In-Situ and Building Bridges. It will engage with Nelson’s communities through a programme of activities and events and the reactivation of places and spaces.

As outlined in the Nelson Town Deal website and literature the £25million investment offers a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to improve the future of Nelson, promising new hope and a brighter future.

Nelson Reimagined, the artist-led strand of the This Is Nelson programme will embrace this forward-looking aspect of the Town Deal - focusing on the longer-term impact the investment could have; creating a sense of shared ownership and pride around the future of the town; and making space for bold and brave collective imagination and speculative world-building in the programme.


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