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Friday, 26 December 2014

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Romance and nostalgia count for little in the end

I didn’t know Carlisle when the old Lonsdale was doing her heyday thing. Neither as theatre, cinema nor bingo venue did she impress.

By the time I’d settled into north Cumbrian life, the 1930s art deco building was already an empty focus for anger, protest, prevarication... and becoming an inconvenient eyesore.

Faded glory, ageing femininity, an elderly obstacle to progress. The Lonsdale was a puzzle to a newcomer impatient for an end to indecision and anxious for a moving-on plan.

I didn’t even find her terribly attractive. Couldn’t understand what all the fuss and bluster was about.

Strange then that now, as even the fiercest of pro-Lonsdale campaigners, deflate and lay down their banners with weary resignation to defeat, there’s a sense of sadness about her predicted loss.

It’s looking as though the Lonsdale may well have to be demolished. She doesn’t have the fittest of figures now, having been left to decay for too long. And chances are that anyone who pays her asking price of £550,000 will consider flattening her, burying her style and opening a money-spinning car park with shiny new cash machines, as best and fastest return on investment.

So, the old Lonsdale would appear to have slipped into her end game. Not gently with grace, as any old lady should – but with disappointment and regret for what she once was and that which she was forced to become before her life ended.

Quite apart from the single most inarguable cause for balking at her loss – any place that hosted a Beatles gig, should be preserved in aspic, adorned with a blue plaque and served by backstage tour guides in uniform – something of a city dies when one of its much-loved buildings falls.

It’s the same in any city or town where community is bound by memory, nostalgia and that oft misused term, pride.

Planners, politicians and property developers prefer to think of disappointment as resistance to change. But no, there will always be inescapable mourning for disappearing times and places that once sealed a piece of local history.

When assurance of continuity dies, it hurts. When the ugly gap of a missing tooth appears in a once familiar city face, there’s genuine pain. And no one should dismiss pain as inconsequential.

The Lonsdale’s future has been uncertain for so long now, its passing into something new – either redeveloped or razed to the ground – should come as a relief. But we can expect the loss of a loved person or place and still shed tears when the time comes. That’s human nature.

There is no point now in apportioning blame for missed opportunities to celebrate and cement a little of Carlisle’s heyday history for the community’s posterity and comfort.

What’s done is done. The moments have passed.

Regrets? Well they are usually suffered for that which we failed to do, not what we did badly.

We failed to make the most of the Lonsdale when we could, just as so many before and since have failed to recognise the value of old buildings, familiar venues, favourite places. And most of those failures have been and are still regrettable.

Is it too nostalgic to hope to preserve, enhance and nurture that which has been loved? Possibly. Life’s realities now are firmly and unavoidable anchored in economics and profits wrongly presented as progress.

And you can be as disparaging as you like about sad, dilapidated buildings which were once community palaces of fun and friendship – but they will always carry more true romance and happy memory than economics.

Have your say

Ann nicely putdown. Paridiso, Hankies out? The Doncaster Royal Theatre recently was restored at great cost and given an art grant for the next three years of I believe £500 thousand. I believe now Carlisle's Lonsdale has missed a golden opportunity. The red plush deep pile wool carpets that ones toes sank in, have with some folks dreams also sunk. They're also from a distant past that certain elements on with then city's cleaner streets would today's inhibit restoring the cinema fully into an entertainment complex of a completely different world in city with a pre war culture once again of drink that heralded the state taking over hotels and Inns to control consumption. I myself always believe theirs a fifth column at work in Carlisle with interests either north, south or easterly.

How many know where the City Picture house was and would'nt favour their then new Littlewoods store for more choice now being Marks and Sparks... With a son living France I'll wait in the queue instead for the City. To get out!

Posted by Royl on 11 September 2013 at 13:59

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