Monday, 11 October 2010

What are you doing?

Wandering down Holburn Street, the modernist eye is drawn to Trinity Hall, home to the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen.

They want us to call this "Trinity Corner". Does anyone?
The Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen appears to be some sort of ancient society of craftsman guilds. So ancient, in fact, that they don't appear to have any sort of web-presence other than this treatise of 1887 by an insider

Previous location of the Trades Hall at the edge of Union Bridge.

Wikipedia tells us that the society comprises:

  • Bakers
  • Hammermen
  • Shoemakers
  • Weavers
  • Fleshers 
  • Tailors
  • Wrights and Coopers

How relevant is this to today's post-industrial globalised world and the intellectual property economy? Where does it fit into today's new-economy workplace of information wranglers, knowledge workers and social media mavens? 

Well... we suppose that the definition of Hammermen could be expanded to include engineering which is probably the predominant value-adding profession in the city today. However, while we're certain that there are a few bakers and butchers (fleshers) left in the city, we're pretty sure there are no shoemakers, coopers or wheelwrights (although, we would be happy to be corrected). The textile industry left the city recently, and shut the door behind it with a klang. However, there are plenty tailors these days in Aberdeen. We wonder how many of the refugee Kurds who've set up their splendid invisible mending and alteration shops towards the west end of the city centre are members of our secretive ancient society of trades guilds. Perhaps to ask the question is to answer it.

Anyway, the Trinity Hall itself is an interesting-enough modernist building, quite modest and mannered, yet striking and angular with butresses and cantilevers, canopies and brutalist gables, periscopic skylights and brutalist dormers. Commercial premises leased out on ground floor units and a broad semi-public semi-plaza ensure that the building contributes to the mix of uses which has always characterised the urban environment of Holburn Street. 

Mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, greenery. Splendid.

As I was doing the David Bailey bit on the front porch - bobbing about, looking for the best composition of the thrilling juxtaposition: "modernist cantilevered canopy versus salvaged gas standard" - a white middle aged middle class man of middling build and middling height emerged from the vestibule:

He: What are you doing?
Me: You can see what I'm doing. You can see me operating my camera. What do you think I'm doing?
He: This is private property.
Me: Yes. It is also in plain view from the street and pavement.
He: Yes but this is private property.
Me: I'm not arguing with that, but you seem to be suggesting that I don't have a right to photograph what I can see with my eyes from a publicly accessible space. Is that what you're suggesting?

With that, he went back inside, mumbling darkly to himself. And I regret that I missed the chance to properly ask the function of the Seven Incorporated Trades. My answer to his question "What are you doing?" should itself have been a question: "What is it that you do? Here, in your splendid modernist hall?" We expect they do a lodda work for charidee. But as always with such organisations, we expect that this charity work is a front - a fig-leaf, and that the true reason for preserving the medieval guilds is to provide a private place where capital and power might mingle, away from the prying eyes and scrutiny of the elecorate/proletariat. Unminuted, unminded, opaque. Indeed, where once the guilds were the pre-enlightenment analogue of the labour unions (albeit with elements of a secret society and a cartel rolled in), today, it seems from the type of folk we see attending (and their motors, which benefit from special paveparking privileges), that the secret society and cartel elements have come to the fore - it's like a local mini-CBI, but with extra invitation-only blackballing exclusivity.

So maybe it's time to call time on Aberdeen's Seven Incorporated Trades. Or time for reform. We've been thinking about it here in Other Aberdeen's splendid, extensive, upscale studios in the heart of prosperous downtown Pitmuxton and we've come up with some suggestions. We propose the new Post Industrial Incorporated Perceived-Value-Adding Activities of Aberdeen:
  • Tanning Booth Franchise Operators and Aesthetic Surgery Consultants
  • Life Coaching and Other Therapeutic Practitioners
  • Property Service Deliverers
  • Public Relations Gurus
  • Celebrities and their Wannabes 
  • Citizen Journalists
  • Fashionistas
  • Baristas
  • Dead People on Facebook

This will need refined - suggestions are welcome.


Anonymous said...

I've been inside the Hall on an invited but restricted "tour" a few years ago. Plenty of trinkets etc - very "masonic".

Anonymous said...

Hey! I have been wondering if it has to do anything with seven sisters oil cartel since Aberdeen-Houston Houston-Aberdeen meetings are hold somewhere. I thought that maybe they have this meetings in seven incorporated trades? It seems very secretive what they do. Everytime "they" meet there's lots of expensive cars and security... why?
I'm very interested of what they do and do they have influence of today's economy.

Great info, thanks!