The Crescent Shopping Centre in Hinckley
Hinckley finally has its brand new shopping centre. The concept of a rejuvenated bus station and shopping area, has been on the cards for Hinckley for a long, long time. Talk of a bus station redevelopment with a supermarket at its heart has been around since at least the mid 1990s.
I wanted to record the existing buildings, their demolition and the new building works. My decision to do this was partly as an attempt to ‘document’ a large scale project on my doorstep and also as a record for future generations.
At the end of the article are links to my Alamy lightbox of licensable pictures from this article. Following this is a review of the project from a photographers point of view. Here I discuss what I learnt and provide tips on how to go about planning your own similar project.
So here we go – a picture essay of the building of The Crescent shopping centre in Hinckley.
The development involves a piece of land bordered by Brunel Road, Rugby Road, Lancaster Road and Station Road.
Rugby Road Shops and Businesses
Below are the shops and businesses that existed along Rugby Road taken shortly after being fenced off.
Starting off we have the row of small units along Waterloo Road. The shop on the corner was Punctillios Model spot. I bought many an Airfix, Tamiya and other model kits in my distant youth. There was also a launderette, the old Wainfleet Bus booking office (long since closed) and a few others. I do remember there being one of the first computer shops in Hinckley here. Again many a mis-spent hour poring over the latest Spectrum game releases! Moving onto Rugby Road was the Catalogue Shop, which was the final incarnation of this building that had seen occupants as diverse as various bars and nightclubs through to a childs soft play centre.
The Sawasdee Thai restaurant was next to this followed by Bennetts Hosiery factory. The final affected building was ‘Hinckley Dry Cleaners’ that did nothing to hide its previous existence as a garage.
Station Road Businesses
On the Corner of Lancaster Road and Station Road was Appleton House which was home to various accounting businesses. Moving along station road were a number of units that had mixed occupants. Unbelievably, I somehow managed to miss out the Volvo dealership on the corner of Station Road and Brunel Road. Not sure how that happened but there you go.
Brunel Road Businesses
The only businesses in Brunel Road were the Sainsburys and Iceland. These were located in the short stay carpark on the Right hand side of the road when looking down the hill.
The Volvo dealership ran down from the corner of Station Road and behind this was a gym and another couple of units. In front of these units was another short stay carpark and the bus station itself.
On the Left hand side of the road looking down the hill, was an old car repair centre, the St Johns Ambulance Building and a long stay car park. The garage sign is shown below where you can see the cleared concrete pad of the St Johns building directly behind with the long stay car park in the far distance.
Clearance Work and Demolition
Here are several different views of the demolition and clearance works.
Views From Hinckley Bus Station
Looking towards Rugby Road from the road through the Bus Station.
The Crescents First Shoots Start to Show
Building work starts in earnest as the land is cleared of demolition debris. The first signs of the ironwork and superstructure are appearing.
Construction Machinery and Vehicles
There was plenty of impressive hardware to see during the construction. I like my man-toys and gadgets and always find the machinery on show interesting.
Along with the usual diggers and dumpers, there were some impressive piling machines, drills and cranes. Always impressive to see when at work.
New Buildings Familiar Sights
I always like to try and include something familiar in these type of transition shots. Including something old against the new build helps people to relate to familiar landmarks. Sometimes if the familiar is omitted it is hard to orientate where the photo is taken from and how it relates to the exisiting and known landscape. These photos help to prove Hinckley is still there in the background!
Construction Well Under Way
It doesn’t seem to take long for the superstructure and internal framework to take shape. Here are various views of the superstructure and ironwork.
The Crescent Is Almost Ready
And so we have it – almost. All the major construction is completed. Sainsburys and Cineworld are open with the other units being fitted out for their new occupants.
Follow the link to see a full selection of editorial pictures of The Crescent under construction. Many of these pictures, plus more not shown here, are available for licensing via the lightbox link.
Benefits of Long Term Projects for Photographers
I think this kind of long term project is valuable for photographers for many reasons.
Documenting change over time requires a certain amount of self discipline to revisit the same place over and over again. Your first couple of visits to the scene will be pretty easy as you are ‘setting the scene’ so to speak. These initial visits are basically documenting the scene as it exists prior to any change.
Over time though, especially during multi-year projects where nothing seems to change from month to month, it can become harder to get scenes that have an element of interest (both for you and any potential future viewers). This is particularly true if you pass the site regularly. Seeing the site repeatedly makes it harder to judge the incremental change.
This project started off as a casual project with the main aim to simply record the changes. The timing was not perfect (is it ever?) as I was dealing with some pretty intense personal circumstances. The project was a form of therapy to allow me to simply chill out whilst doing something constructive.
Looking back, I realise how valuable such a project can be to develop a photographers skills, particularly those skills that are not needed to use a camera.
If you decide to try a similar project here are a few pointers I think you will find of use.
I recommend setting up a timetable that splits the project into a timeline. Try to find out as much as possible about the project. Establish the planned start and finish dates as a bare minimum. Also, try to get some inside ‘gen’ on any other key dates. Events such as when large or unusual machines are expected on site, local dignitaries are booked to visit etc will provide many photographic opportunities. Try and find out project phase dates (demolition phase, land clearance phase, construction phase etc).
Armed with this info you can build a rough schedule and slot in appropriate potential dates to visit. Review the schedule and build yourself a shooting plan. Your shooting plan should include both regular visits, to capture the phased changes, and ad-hoc dates that include the projects key dates. Creating a shooting plan is one thing – sticking to it is another. This is where self discipline is vital. How frequent your regular visits are is entirely up to you. For a year long project you might decide fortnightly or monthly visits are appropriate. Remember, the more frequent the visits the harder it is to stick to the plan. Conversely, the less frequent the visits, the more likely you are to miss something of interest. Less frequent visits make it more likely you might forget or lose interest.
Before each visit, review your pictures from previous visits. By doing this you will refresh your mind on areas of interest. You will also see the step change since your last visit – even if very little may seem to have changed to the untrained eye.
Even if little does change, you will find over time that different viewpoints become available. This allows you to capture the work from a different angle which in itself can reveal further scenes of interest.
This is particularly useful when you are trying to include existing landmarks into the changing scene. Existing landmarks are useful because it allows people to orientate themselves within the scene.
All these pictures were taken from outside the perimeter of the building site. Going forward I would like to get the necessary permissions to enter a site. This will allow some real insight into what is involved and allow access to the real essence of the project.
Reviewing this project, I realise I learnt so much that will be invaluable for future projects. More importantly I realise how much I missed.
I hope you have enjoyed this snapshot of history and my thoughts about planning a similar project. I enjoyed tracking the development of this building project. Its surprising how quickly once familiar scenes can completely change.
Please let me know what you think of these tips. It would be great to hear about any similar projects you have undertaken and what you learned.
Feel free to ask me any questions about this article.
Thanks for reading and all the best for now