I come here sometimes, to dance my clumsy, shameful arabesques through the echoing, dilapidated rooms. After the initial sneaky little hop into the premises, hitching over a decrepit, viciously spiked Victorian iron fence and a quick slide down a dilapidated roof, I stumble blindly through the foyer-cum-bingo hall; a truly tense, pitch-dark scramble. One finds a flight of carpeted stairs, heavily graffitied, after climbing through a carefully cut hole in the wall about a metre above the floor; I am not the only one who frequents or has frequented this place, by any means. Upon alighting the squishy steps into the light, streaming through broken windows, you emerge onto my Stage; here I am Patti Smith, Joan Jett, Amanda Palmer (and just occasionally Amy Lee, if I'm feeling blue) and although the floor has a slimy patch from years of damp, chilly neglect, the simple elegance of the bare boards glimmers through as I twirl silently through the sparkling shards of glass as they throw their shattered patterns upon the peeling walls. Garish paint and plaster – 80's tacky décor – gradually slide downwards in chunks and strips from the mouldering, damp walls; the ceilings, too, are a waterlogged mess. Yet, despite this, the place is beautiful. The trashiness of the original design overlaid by the sleazy, appallingly appealing junkie look of a building left alone for too long; for me, the decomposing ruin of this place offers silence; offers peace.
The roar of the constant flow of traffic outside rushes in with the pigeons through the routinely-broken windows; they look like they met their fate through the random, bored violence inflicted without real purpose or zeal, by the disaffected youths that fill the city increasingly as the cuts worsen. The noise, palpable and insistent, drives me away from the windows and roof – it wouldn't do to get myself spotted, these days. Once you've stumbled up the cold stone back stairs, the foyer looms out of the darkness from below, now that your eyes have adjusted, and the debris is obvious, as is the perturbation of the local populace – the birds. If you don't mind startling a few pigeons, however, it's a charming place to sit and relax on a sunny evening.
In the old control room is a sturdy metal ladder, leading up to the roof-space; a little terrace that I have skimpy hopes of clearing up and turning into a small garden, somewhere to pass the long evenings, watching the sun dip below the line of the garish town hall. For me, urban exploration isn't primarily about photography or history, it's about entering a quiet bubble which the world and time have forgotten, just for an hour, so that I can stop, breathe, and dance.