Memory, Uncertainty and Industrial Ruination: Walker Riverside, Newcastle upon Tyne


This article examines how local people’s memories relate to processes of industrial decline and ruination in Walker Riverside, Newcastle upon Tyne, based on site observations and 30 semi‐structured interviews conducted between June 2005 and March 2006, with a range of local people. Much of the recent literature concerning the relationships between memory and place focuses on the contrast between social reconstructions of official and unofficial collective memory. This article explores a different dynamic between memory and place through the case study of Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, an area where shipbuilding has long been in decline, but at the time of interviewing, the ‘last shipyard of the Tyne’ had yet to close. In Walker, local accounts of the industrial past represent ‘living memories’, embodying complex relationships with the industrial past: many people who have lived through processes of industrial ruination focus on imminent regeneration rather than mourning or celebrating the industrial past. The strength of community solidarity in Walker represents another form of living memory, echoing family and community bonds formed in the industrial era despite the fact that a direct connection with shipbuilding has all but disappeared. This article argues that living memories relate to the particular social and economic processes of industrial ruination in Walker, where the decline of shipbuilding over the past 30 years has been protracted, leaving a profound sense of uncertainty for people who occupy the precarious transitional spaces of post‐industrial change.