By Alex Chisholm
To approach the City you climb, then drop down the green hills it sits within. They paused at the brow, their wheels pointing to the descent, looking over the grey, brown, green smudges of human living.
She looked over to the Visitor as he adjusted his sunglasses. It was at least not raining she thought. The Visitor was used to rides in hotter, drier places.
‘Not far’ she said and they freewheeled down.
The pods first appeared ten years ago. In the playgrounds, the car parks, the empty in-between places. She remembered how the cool metal side had felt, the twist in her child belly as the door opened, how she’d been shown a box of broken things. She still had the toy she’d made, spun together with lines of silver solder. Her first Make, her first Mark on the new City.
She’d come back, sometimes to make, sometimes to play, sometimes just for a quiet place to read. The pod was always changing. And it wasn’t just the pod that kept her coming back; it was the people. The pod taught them to look up from the palms of their hands and into the faces of their neighbours. People she’d lived besides but didn’t know. They knew each other now, and with that knowledge, kindness and collaboration passed easily between them. Ideas flared, caught fire and soon around each place small industries were born and bred. Communities found the care for their own fabric, coloured it with the bright paints of their creativity.
‘They gave you all this?’ said the Visitor gazing at the dull grey pod.
‘Hope’ she said, ‘they gave us hope.’
Then the pods had opened up the portals to each other. They had gazed into the other parts of the City. Places they had hardly heard of, never seen. To begin with, transported images and conversations, then the pods showed them they could make the wheels, power their own movement. People flowed pod-to-pod, crossing over borders that had been in their minds so long they no longer even saw them. And the City sighed, shifted and lifted up from the shackles of its clogged motorways.
Now the pods were on the move. Raised on carts, pulled, paraded through streets, on their way to their new home. The empty Mill, which once was all things Work, will be the place where the City reminds itself to Play, to Imagine.
As she and the Visitor arrived, the last pod was being put in place. The hands that lifted to help it home were black and brown and yellow and pink. Hands that signed and arms that did not have hands. And the cheer that went up came from voices in 140 different accents.
The Visitor removed his sunglasses. ‘I didn’t know,’ he said, ‘I didn’t know Manchester could be like this.’
She smiled. ‘That’s because this ‘int Manchester, Bhaisaab.
This is Bradford.’
Alex Chisholm is co-director of Bradford’s Freedom Studios