Pomona, our ongoing object of affection here at Skyliner, has garnered quite a following in recent years - all of whom quietly enjoy the haven of greenery that steals itself away behind the curves of the city's bridges and river bends.
Whilst some see the land as isolated and nefarious, the people who love the lost island of Manchester recognise that isolation as a paradise.
Among the Pomona appreciators there is a group that have truly left their mark - the graffiti artists. They too recognise the beauty of the desolate. Even if you haven't been to Pomona you have probably seen the building emblazoned with the graffiti "AMP", each letter perfectly nestled among the triangular peaks of the roof they were sprayed onto. Well see how it, and all the graffiti around it for the vast length of the Irwell, now read "Satow"? This was an overnight movement by the graffiti artists of the city, led by Danny LSD, to pay tribute to the death of "Satow WKY" from a drug overdose by tagging over each of their own tags with his. For them, Pomona Island is a larger than life memorial.
Peel Holdings who own the land plan to develop on it eventually, and there's no doubt a majority of people who only see the land out of the corner of their eye whilst riding the tram home probably welcome this - believing the area to be nothing but wasteland, but what about campaigning for a more intelligent use of the land? A Mini-Eden Project?
Pomona is the legacy of industry, docks that died and vanished, but before that it was a staggeringly popular location for citizens of Manchester and Salford - it was home to a botanical garden, a palace, a camera obscura, and a place for leisure activities such as archery. It was the countryside within in a city.
Now, filmmaker George Haydock (We Are Invite, Generic Greeting Collective) has completed a short film exploring the area and what makes it special.
Why Pomona Island?
George Haydock: "What fascinated me about Pomona Island is that somehow, through the cracks of hyper-development and regeneration, here lies a totally unmanaged, largely un-used and unnoticed area of land, over a mile in length, just quietly sitting a stones-throw from both Manchester and Salford. It just exists in a strange limbo between its former industrial use, and it’s inevitable destruction and future development. It’s existed in this limbo for 41 years, since the Docks closed. At first glance it does look a mess. However, take a closer look and you’ll see beauty in the chaos. It might seem like wasteland, but it carries a wealth of cultural, environmental, political, historical and philosophical implications. When I began researching it became clear that there is a very niche but varied fan-club of Pomona Island and spaces of a similar nature. I found this range of perspectives fascinating. Many implications and discussions can be drawn from this piece of land – and most people don’t even notice or realise it is there."
What do you hope to achieve by bringing Pomona to the public eye?
GH: "The Island is home to many biologically rare and important flora and fauna. It’s teeming with life and nature. If the development happens, it will be tragic. Hopefully this film will encourage people to go and take a look around while it still exists.
And of course, Peel. As it stands they seem to produce a report every half a year or so with new development plans for the area. The film however, is not political in its intent, making only one reference to Peel. My main intention was to capture the essence of this unusual space, to glorify it, live with it and let it dwell for while. I wanted to celebrate the areas state of limbo – and see it with open eyes.
A lot of people who look at the space see and feel nothing, they might see this film and think it’s trivial, but in a way that tension is what interested me. The film is ultimately an attempt to challenge and cause friction against most people’s perspective. For me, film should speak at an intuitive level – and this is what I aimed to do with Pomona Island."
Pomona is currently in a state of disarray after Peel sent in the diggers to turn the land over earlier this spring, it's still well worth checking out (and you can see the flowers that have grown from our seed scattering protest!) and I'd advise you do so and love it for as long as you can.
Contributors to the film include Richard Brook, Luke Blazejewski, James Walsh, Luke Bennett, Hayley Flynn.
Skyliner would like to thank George and the crew from We Are Invite for being such a pleasure to work with during filming and for the chance to premiere the film.
Skyliner runs tours of Pomona, if you don't see any scheduled just drop me an email!