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Cranfield's Mill, Ipswich by Mark Dixon
Cranfield's Mill, Ipswich by Mark Dixon

Breaking up is hard to do

Lynne Patrick
A local artist is embarking on a unique project to record the demolition of Cranfield's Mill on the Waterfront in Ipswich.

GALLERY: Cranfield's Mill >
Mark Dixon's website >
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Mark Dixon is an innovative artist, who has worked internationally as well as extensively in the east region.  He can see the Cranfield's site from his house and he's been inspired to record, not just the demolition of this landmark building on the dockside, but to research its history in relation to the people who have worked there.

The building

Artist's impression of the DanceEast dancehouse
Artist's impression of the DanceEast dancehouse

Cranfield's Mill was built in the 1840s and it provided employment to generations of local families.  Its £70m redevelopment as a 'mini-barbican' is part of the massive regeneration project currently underway on the Waterfront at Ipswich.

Mark is now the 'resident artist', working on site with Waldringfield-based, CDC Demolition Ltd.  Work has started with a team of men salvaging as much material as possible before the demolition work begins in earnest.  The project is expected to take about six months.

Demolition and regeneration

Mark will record the demolition work from both outside and inside the buildings.  Video footage will be collected both wirelessly and via cable and sound recording equipment and cameras placed inside the buildings will continue relaying images and sound until they are themselves destroyed or their batteries fail.

'Birds' - detail from photograph by Mark Dixon
'Birds' - detail from photograph by Mark Dixon

Mark says: "There will be no real drama from the outside. Pedestrians and passing vehicles will be shielded from the work going on inside. In the current regeneration boom, we are all very aware of the new appearing from behind plastic coated scaffolding without the real experience of the old being removed.

"The process of demolition is sanitised and hidden. If we are to feel a real connection with building regeneration, I think it would be great to experience the pain and death of the old to fully experience the sense of birth of the new."

Not everything is to be demolished, about 40% of the original 19th century structure will remain and will be restored to form the basis of the new complex.  One of the last elements to be removed will be the tallest silo, which stands at 200ft above the dock level.

Violence and beauty

Mark adds: "The work will have many surprises for me as the weeks unfold. I imagine imagery of both violence and beauty. Shocking and disturbing, whilst contemplative and perhaps ominous. Think about how it must feel to be inside a building as it is coming down around you.

"Some cameras will be literally shaken to death by the sheer vibration of falling mass and twisted metal. "
Mark Dixon

"Sound is a very real option here and I should like to explore this possibility of using surround sound. It would also function as a metaphor for the shifts in public violence to allow a communal viewing of this experience not as a gratuitous thrill but also as a powerful reminder of what it means to lose something time and work have built and loved."


Mark hopes to project some of his footage onto the surfaces of the building in the evenings, effectively turning it inside out.  His work will culminate in a major show later this year at the Peterborough Digital Art Gallery and he aims to bring the exhibition to Ipswich during 2006 to coincide with the construction of the new development.

Can you help?

  • Did you work at the Cranfield site?  If so, Mark would like to hear your memories. 
  • Do you have any old pictures: grain boats, transport lorries, trains unloading grain, dockers, workers at the mill etc?
  • Mark is also collecting old video cameras to use for the project.   
  • Can you help?  If so, email Mark at:

The artist

Mark's previous work has been similarly experimental and sometimes collaborative.  It has included:

  • 1999-2000: 'Seahenge Observed', an exhibition of screen prints and paintings about the archaeological remains revealed on the Norfolk coast. This was in association with the Dept of World Art and Museology at the Sainsbury's Centre UEA
  • 2001-2003: A series of short films combining art and science involving high voltage static electricity and ink.
  • 2004: Working with the Wolsey Art Gallery where he was commissioned as 'artist in residence' to create an installation at St Mary at the Quay, Ipswich.

Mark's work at Cranfield's Mill is being sponsored by the Arts Council.


last updated: 04/10/05
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It is good to see that within the realms of the ordinary industrial landscape Mark has the vision to record and create a work of permanence for the people of Suffolk to enjoy. I look forward to the finished project
ziggy marmanite

You never cease to surprise me with your ideas! Sounds like a really fun project to be involved in. Can't wait to see how it all turns out.
Todd Manning

Mark-Thanks for info your new project 'sounds' very exciting.Good luck and keep in touch.Best.x
Susan Gunn

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