Well-trained in verse

Photo of Swinton Lock  from Day Return to Swinton, booklet of poems by Ruth Midgeley accompanied by images by Adrian Wynn
Photo of Swinton Lock from Day Return to Swinton, booklet of poems by Ruth Midgeley accompanied by images by Adrian Wynn

THE view through the carriage window of the 10-mile train journey from Sheffield to Swinton in the Lower Don Valley moved Ruth Midgley to poetry “Corridor of litter in a valley where dead cooling towers and church spires rise above heaved acres of black slag and clumps of factory standing stone,” she wrote.

She ended up composing a whole series of poems which have been published in a booklet, Day Return to Swinton, with accompanying photographs by Adrian Wynn.

“These poems were written throughout 2005, reflecting both the changing seasons and the changing industrial landscape on my journey through the Don Valley from Sheffield to Swinton,” she explains.

She says she sees them as observations on poet Ebenezer Elliot’s 19th century dream of what the coming of the railways would mean and the way dreams were shattered by the loss of South Yorkshire’s steel industry set against the latest regeneration attempts to “turn dreams into reality”.

A mythical figure called Saltman is sometimes on the journey finding “resilience and renewal” in changes in nature rather than those in the man-made environment.

Four years after completing the suite of poems, Midgley asked Wynn to make a photographic response to the journey she had taken.

“I have tried to respond to the poems in terms of the themes they explore and the moods they describe rather than illustrate them directly but some of the imagery is shared,” he says.

“Although the poems focus on the railway journey they consider the whole landscape of the Lower Don Valley, particularly the river and the canal, and I have taken a similar view.

The photographs follow the poems in observing how the industrial past is remembered, what has been gained, what has been lost and what persists.”

The 36-page booklet is available from the Old Sweet Shop in Nether Edge or via www.adrianwynn.com at £4.50. There is also a Day Return to Swinton exhibition, including more photographs by Adrian Wynn, running at Swinton Community Library until April 14.