The Bridge – Introduction (p2 of the book)
The “industrial north” of Guernsey around the harbour at St Sampson is lovingly know as the “Bridge” to most people who live in the island. The reason for the origination of the “Bridge” name is difficult to see today but the close knit community that has made it their home over the last two centuries is still as strong today as it has ever been.
In 2011 we had an idea to try to capture the special identity of the Bridge. Initially it was our intention to photograph just Leales Yard and call it a day, but having spent six months obtaining the necessary access permissions from the Coop, it seemed only right to look at what was happening on the other side of the walls.
There have been a number of false dawns for the local community following the redevelopment of the harbour as it did not bring any significant rejuvenation to the surrounding area. In more recent times the drawn out redevelopment of Leales Yard has cast a shadow over this vibrant community and is now a mainstay of local debates.
The best places to get to know any community are in the local cafes, bars and social meeting places, hence we both started drinking a lot of coffee and an occasional beer in order to understand how this community worked. We were welcomed as people had stories to tell and there is a great deal of pride about what the Bridge means to the local people.
There are some striking images of the area, from Vale Castle, the power station, the harbour cranes and imposing storage tanks. In both our cases what really interested us were the small business’s and above all the people who call the Bridge home. It became evident very quickly that this was a community of characters made up of boat builders, stone masons, craftsmen, tradesmen, shopkeepers and people who liked to take care of their home turf.
The sense of community on the Bridge is very strong, where people still take the time to stop and talk to each other whilst they visit locally run businesses – nowhere else in Guernsey can you do this with the same sense of community, with a high street that still contains, sweet shops, a butcher, a florist, a dentist, a vet but reassuringly no mobile phone outlet.
In recent years owing to the delay in the development of Leales Yard a number of charity shops have flourished and this has added to the mix of people coming to the Bridge. For many of the shopkeepers the best thing about the Bridge is the ability to park right outside a shop, although sometimes the parking leaves a bit to be desired.
The Bridge really is a special place with special people, it is still a community where over a 100 small and some slightly larger businesses thrive and where people like to hold a conversation and have a view on everything. We both feel very privileged to have been accepted into the “family” and hopefully we have given an honest reflection of this unique community.
these photos were taken over approximately 4 years (2011-2014) by myself and my friend Rob King – What started out as wanting to record an area before it was flattened soon turned in to something much larger and photographic work that I think will be looked back on in years to come with fondness.
So much has changed already!
The local government department then called Culture & Leisure printed & exhibited our images..
The exhibition took place at Candie Museum in Guernsey between 31st January – 31st March 2015 and they did an amazing job too – at the very bottom of this page is another gallery with a few images of the actual exhibition….
Below are some images of the actual exhibition (apologies for the chubby chap on the right in the penultimate picture)…