Jimmy Forsyth - Scotswood Road
”When the planners moved in with their grand visions of a new Britain they just flung people all over the town” – Jimmy Forsyth
Jimmy Forsyth’s book Scotswood Road has been a sell out. A second edition was brought out in 1988 as a joint venture between AmberSide and Bloodaxe Books. It is a unique record of a community photographed from within over many years and at a time of drastic change.
Scotswood Road was built in the 1850s to house workers at the huge Armstrongs (later to become Vickers Armstrong) armaments factories which stretched for three miles from Scotswood to Elswick. By the turn of the Century the workforce had reached around 2,000. In 1986 Vickers employed about 750 workers. This decline of traditional industries heralded the deterioration of the Scotswood Road area and the advent of bulldozers and high rise flats.
”Plans were already in the air for knocking Scotswood Road down… When they knocked down the Infirmary in 1954 a curious crowd gathered to watch. It was then that I realised someone should make a record of what was left of the community. I had nothing to do, why not make a record of Scottie Road to pass the time? It would show future generations what we looked like and how we lived”. – Jimmy Forsyth
There weren’t many cameras in the hands of working class people in the 1950s so most were happy for Jimmy Forsyth to chronicle their lives. Always on the edge of poverty, with only National Assistance to support his enthusiasm, Jimmy sold his pictures to the neighbourhood cheaply to raise cash for the next lot of film.
In his introduction to the book Derek Smith writes a beautiful description of Jimmy’s obsession:
”Jimmy’s cramped council flat is like a museum of the old community: photographs stacked in boxes; a piece of the old Scotswood Bridge on the wardrobe; his bedroom adorned with fragments of rock, cement, railway line, copper piping and street signs; and all kinds of memorabilia ritualistically placed, his spoils from the demolition. And each of these memorials to the buildings and bridges he pictured being demolished is identified by a neat hand-written card.” – Derek Smith
Jimmy Forsyth came to Tyneside from Barry in Wales in 1943 to do war work for ICI in Prudhoe, and stayed. Even after an industrial accident robbed him of one eye he remained in Scotswood Road, drawn to the area and its people. In 1098 Jimmy won the Haline Award for photography for -according to the judges – ‘the photographic innocence and intuition which gives the pictures an all too rare sense of magic.’
Paperback – 128 pages (October 1986)
Bloodaxe Books; ISBN: 1852240148