Artist: Denise Dauvin
The word is honour. “It makes sense,” she says, one of the few women who worked on the site. “I thought it was an honour to work on the building then, 25 years ago. And then to look at what it is today, now, it is even more of an honour. And I remember thinking, hoping my kids would go there one day and one did. And she did amazing.”
The honour was in the wood too, the trees that were the wood, getting to work with the wood, she says: “The hours and hours I spent sanding those beams. Sanding, sanding, sanding. Then water stains from being exposed so more sanding, sanding, sanding.”
“It wasn’t the beauty then; that it is now. That quagmire of clay - that was the start. Scaffolding, lumber, equipment strewn everywhere, the -20, the workplace injuries.”
But then the big news. The Queen was coming. THE Queen? Oh my God. Now everything had to get done before she arrived. Everything had to be 100% before the Queen’s party arrived. It was not an easy place to be, 400 guys from all the different trades. With this new pressure guys were working on top of each of other, arguing ’we need to be in there now.’ ’Well we aren’t done” and a third trade’, ’No, we need to be in there now.’”
She isn’t really in the room with us now, she is in her memories. “So many memories,” she says, “some so visceral, the disgusting outhouse.” She laughs, and she is back in the room.
All the while, under her fingers, two wood beams are growing across the glass, wood so well-known from all the sanding, with tools of the trade lying beside them. The intensity of her concentration, the power of memory, the currency of hard work, of the trades people’s skills, of making a contribution that is unseen but fundamental everything else impossible without it. Their work is unseen now; those workers who laid the foundations. But a contribution that bridged northern pride into action, ideas into reality, blueprints into buildings, mud and wood into classrooms and residences. Quiet, unspoken pride. I think, the honour is ours, that such knowledgeable and skilled workers worked so hard to make the dream of a community come true and laid the pathway for scholars and students to walk upon and learn in safety and beauty.