Jenny Holt | Great Britain 2016 | 19 Min. | OmeU
Run-down and ghettoised, or one of the most beautiful valleys in the area? ‘Archipelago’ explores the entangled identity of a post-war housing estate lying on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. Mixenden is a housing estate lying between the edges of the Pennine moors and the outskirts of Halifax, a former mill town in the north of England. Edged on the north by moorland and enclosed east and west by two narrow wooded valleys with running brooks, Mixenden appears as a finger of land in which the town of Halifax washes up into the landscape of the moors. Conceived and built as part of the UK-wide slum-clearance initiative of the 1950s, Mixenden was never a blight on the landscape to its original residents but a sanctuary where fresh air, gardens and interior bathrooms could be had.
But post-war regeneration went hand in hand with economic decline, and as the new housing estates went up, the textiles mills defining this part of Yorkshire and the main source of employment for generations began to close their doors. Sixty years later, Mixenden estate is described by many as ‘run-down and ghettoised’, compounded by a media-fuelled reputation of unemployment, crime and drugs. The agricultural economies and cultures of these enclaves of Yorkshire have survived the rise and fall of manufacturing; and this pastoral landscape, intermingling the estate and entwined with the brooding presence of the moorland hills complicate this particular vision of England. When invited, the people of Mixenden can’t be drawn on whether they live in the countryside or the town, and although recognising the estate (in one resident’s words) has its ‘rough side’, the beauty of the valley landscape and close community create a strong sense of home.