Re-Visiting Cottingley Beck: Trash-Fairies in the Urban Gothic
This paper presents and contextualises original artistic responses to the site of the Cottingley Fairies hoax produced as part of a practice-based research project exploring the spaces and places of fairies in 21st century post-industrial settings. Both authors (researchers/artist-practitioners) grew up in neighbourhoods close to the original geographical site of the famous Cottingley Fairies photographs: a site which both historically and in the 21st century is layered, complex, and challenging. In 2003, when the A650 dual-carriageway was re-directed to bypass the town of Bingley, the site was cut in two by a flyover and storm drainage system. The now remote and difficult-to-access lower part of the valley, while retaining much of its natural beauty and mystical feel, has become a site for waste and fly-tipping and the forgotten detritus of a post-industrial urban environment. In January 2020, the authors re-visited the site to create a collaborative series of site-specific poetry and photography with a view to exploring the Cottingley Fairy heritage in the context of town planning, waste management, class and the urban gothic. What does fairy mean in the contexts of litter and the underpass? What might it mean to re-discover lost places in the urban gothic and in the age of the anthropocene? This paper and practice presents a range of imagery in documenting the complex site across histories and draws together seemingly disparate representations from urban and waste-management to fairies and childhood memories in nature. The paper draws on psychogeography and urban gothic studies to present social and critical findings emergent from original creative practice and consists of a journal article and an extract of a sequence of poems and photographs.
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