I have the dual delight and privilege of living in this amazing neighbourhood of Rusholme, 100 metres from Platt Hall and also working as part of the team at Platt Hall. Having dawdled past it with my children as toddlers and rushed past it with my children on their scooters it has always been there on my routes around the neighbourhood.
Inside the Hall there are many parts that evoke huge physical reactions in me, from the elegant staircases to the large windows overlooking the park, but also the small rooms, the creaky floorboards, and the smell of it. Parts of it smell just like my grandparents' house, and I only have to go into certain rooms at Platt Hall and I feel like I am eight years old again, and memories of summers in Dublin come flooding back!
Even though it has been shut, the outside of it still has huge presence and character. I found myself looking closely at the door handle last week. The Hall draws me to it, makes me ask questions: What has it seen? Whose lives has it impacted and what could it be in the future? Questions we are exploring with people as we work out what it could be.
I cleaned the ground floor windows a couple of weeks ago. It was early in the morning and the park and streets were lockdown-empty. I started thinking about Platt Hall when it was just sat among fields and trees on the very edge of Manchester. I had a physical connection to the fabric of the building as I was cleaning the windows, feeling like I was repeating a chore many had done before me.
During this period of lockdown we are all thinking a lot about our relationships with friends, family and colleagues - the things we are missing - from the hugs to the small nuances of people’s body language. But I think perhaps we are also missing the physicality of spaces other than our homes. Our homes have become everything - workplace, school space, play space, not to mention all the usuals - eating, sleeping, washing. Everything now has a domestic scale to it.
What I realise is that I miss spaces that are different from my home: indoor spaces where my footsteps sound different, where the ceilings are a bit higher, where the views in and out are broader than the views in my home, where there is an opportunity for a conversation with someone outside of my immediate family. We need other physical spaces - spaces for our bodies to be in, to think differently in. I realise how many other spaces there are in my life - my children’s school, the swimming pool, galleries that I work in and those I visit, my parents' house, friends' houses.
Platt Hall could be that other space. It could be a big living room for the residents of Rusholme, Fallowfield, Moss Side. It could be a space to get away from home thoughts, to sit in a bigger space, to smell and feel something different.
Meg Parnell, Platt Hall project team and local resident.