diamond geezer

 Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sometimes, when I visit somewhere, I'm not there long. For example I went to Derby yesterday but I only had 40 minutes to look around, and I spent half of that 40 minutes walking from the railway station to the town centre and walking back from the town centre to the railway station. So today's post on a major East Midlands city is based on dashing around in 20 minutes flat trying to see everything, and therefore woefully shallow.

20 minutes in Derby

Iron Gate
What I thought: Now that's very English cathedral city.
What transpired: According to publicity, this is the Cathedral Quarter - Individual, Diverse, Inspiring. Apparently it "has it all". Not at half past nine in the morning it doesn't. The "award winning delis" haven't really got into their swing, the "wealth of cultural venues" haven't opened, and "the heartbeat of the city" is as yet absent. It's quite pretty though, as "retail destinations" go, and there's a monument halfway down on the left commemorating local painter Joseph Wright.

Assembly Rooms
What I thought: Ooh, my readers like a bit of brutal concrete.
What transpired: The original 18th century Assembly Rooms were destroyed by fire in 1963, so a jarringly different style of building was opened on the same site a few years later, but this too was incapacitated by fire in 2014. The council now have plans to build an even more jarring building on the same site, a 3000 seater music and entertainment venue, maybe by 2021, aided by a £5m insurance payout.

Market Hall
What I thought: Perhaps I can buy some Bakewell tarts.
What transpired: There are some damned lovely Victorian market halls across Britain, and Derby's is the first purpose-built undercover example, opened in 1866. The roof is impressively high and wide, and was designed by the same bloke who did the single span at St Pancras. The identikit fairground-style stalls are attractive, if a little characterless, and a paltry number of them sell "proper" market stuff like fruit, veg and meat. Footfall was extremely limited at half past nine in the morning, and I failed in my Bakewell quest.

Rings of Derby
What I thought: Someone's plonked some metal rings in an empty piazza.
What transpired: This is the showpiece sculpture at the heart of the redevelopment of a rundown square, called The Spot, replacing a clocktower and some public toilets. The four stainless steel rings are each 7 metres in diameter, and are intended to become "a symbol for Derby." The Mayor was most effusive when she unveiled them last year ("London has Big Ben, Newcastle has the Angel of the North and now we have the Rings of Derby") but also somewhat misguided. I completely missed the 30-metre bench engraved with a timeline of Derby’s history.

The Derby Ram
What I thought: Why is there a big sheep outside the Co-op?
What transpired: A popular folk song called As I was Going to Derby emerged in the 18th century, telling the tall tale of a ten foot ram seen on market day. This is as good a reason as any for the local militia to have a ram as their mascot, and for the local football team to be nicknamed The Rams. The large sculpture at the junction of East Street and Albion Street cost £30,000, and was gifted to the city by some property developers in 1995.

I also saw...
Derby Cathedral (from the outside at least)
• the Guildhall Theatre (originally Derby's Town Hall, hence the big clocktower)
• intu Derby (a huge over-chirpy shopping mall, much like anywhere else's)

I did not see...
• the Silk Mill - a big industrial museum on the site of Lombe's Mill, the world's first factory (closed for renovation until 2020)
Derby City Museum and Art Gallery (that's where the porcelain is)
• any immediate reason to rush back

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