The tram travelled fourteen miles along fresh rails from Manchester Victoria via the aptly named Oldham Mumps. Along the way, the automatic doors slung open and the whirring drone of distant motorways filled the carriage.
The intention of this visit to Rochdale was not to explore what it is known for: the grand, gothic architecture of the Town Hall. Its inclusion in Hitler’s future plans mean it was never targeted in WWII, so we don’t see broken and scattered streets within the town today. Nor was this outing filled with enthusiasm for hometown heroes, the Coogan brothers.
The new Metrolink Park and Ride had opened the day before. An eerie, post-rush hour silence crept into the air. The sun beamed down onto the cars and the smell of scorched interiors rose from their metallic shells. It was a typical mid-week, Greater Mancunian scene. Between the scattered cars, held within clinical, gridded lines, there was a break. Swirling, abstract formations disturbed the freshly coated thermoplastic paint; some were parallel, others solo, dancing and intertwining between each other. The flesh of tyres staining the tarmacked surfaces acted as documents and evidence of activity: tyres spinning, smoke rising. Headlamps coning out into the night, reflecting off clean signage. Exhaust fumes polluting the air. Tails of cars whipping, jolting the rider’s heads back. Rants and chants from passengers, spurring on the drivers.
The disruption of the lines symbolised the foundations of any counter culture, detached from everyday, regimented formations of life. The space’s regular users, conforming to its design and the designated public flow, further amplified this interruption. What had encouraged this seemingly impromptu event? Newly laid tarmac was all too tempting, like a kid making the first mark in a field of untouched snow. Like snow, the remains gradually washed away.
A carpark attendant declared his anticipation for his ham salad sandwich lunch, whilst the murmur of a man on his phone seeped from a car door left ajar on this sweltering afternoon. Tyre marks on the floor are now barely decipherable, having merged into the hundreds of daily changing patterns. The public’s routine continues, totally unaware that the tarmac on which they are situated once staged a ferocious event of pulsating, mechanical outbursts.
Park & Ride is available as a printed edition of ten from robertparkinson.co.uk