City of Dreadful Something

Stephen Sutcliffe

Stephen Sutcliffe’s City of Dreadful Something draws upon Herbert Read’s archive, combining a poem by the late Martin Bell, cover visuals from Anarchy magazine, and a bread delivery route. The work is as much about the West Yorkshire that Sutcliffe was raised in during the 1970s and 1980s, as it is a response to an archive of cultural history.

The tone of the video is established by a new reading of Martin Bell’s poem From The City of Dreadful Something, which expresses the poets antipathetic relationship to 1970s Leeds. Bell found himself stuck in the city after taking up the position of Gregory Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds in 1967, and subsequently died there in poverty. The poem is read by poet George Szirtes who studied with Bell at Leeds Polytechnic in the early 1970s.

Alongside the poem is a Google Street View journey that retraces part of a bread delivery round worked by Sutcliffe’s father in Leeds in the 1970s and 1980s. The journey is punctuated by a series of short animations that borrow from the covers of Anarchy, a British anarchist magazine published throughout the 1960s whose artwork bristles with urgency and opposition.

Commissioned for Art in an Electric Atmosphere: The Library and Archive of Herbert Read exhibition at The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, at The University of Leeds

The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Still from City of Dreadful Something, Stephen Sutcliffe, 2019.

Still from City of Dreadful Something, Stephen Sutcliffe, 2019. Stills from City of Dreadful Something, Stephen Sutcliffe, 2019.