Many years ago I visited a Steiner Community for people with learning difficulties. Their bedrooms were different colours, and they moved each week, but the yellow room had to be repainted as it was found to cause sleep and behavioural disturbances.
We are all affected by colours, and some colours have negative connotations, none more so than black – it is about darkness, the opposite to the light of god or God. It is the depth of night, of storms, of fear, the unknown. A bad person was called a blackguard, depression is the black dog, and so it goes.
There is an area just south of the centre of Liverpool called Toxteth, best known for its riots several decades ago, a region associated with long-term neglect. Now it is the site for large scale regeneration, and there are whole streets full of Victorian terraces boarded up awaiting the developers:
The remains of a garden built by locals, an attempt to improve the area.
And the Liverpool Biennial installed Momentary Monument by Lara Favaretto, which will be destroyed at the end of the festival, demonstrating the “impossibility of memorialisation”. There is a slot into which people can drop money, but local kids just see it as part of their urban playground:
But there is one street which got me really disturbed. It was painted black – apparently as part of a tv set. Walking down it filled me with panic, with uncontrollable sense of dread. I can’t recall ever feeling this except on a school trip to an old Victorian prison. I went into the condemned cell and my school friends shut the door on me.Even though they were laughing on the other side of the metal door, it was terrifying.
I spoke to a few other people who got the same terrible feelings walking down that street.
In Cardiff there is a black wall looming above other buildings which I am told is the soot from Victorian times. So this black street maybe close to the colour this street was in the 19th century, so makes me wonder of the balance between a vibrant noisy neighbourhood and the soot-covered buildings.
Black is only a colour, and yet this street,even in broad daylight, is eerie.