A bunch of us braved the cold and wet horrors of the British non-summer and went out in the early hours of this morning to see the Tinsley Towers fall.
For those non-Sheffielders out there reading this, the Tinsley Towers were two old cooling towers that stood just near Meadowhall, right on the side of the M1. They were a remnant of the former Blackburn Meadows power station, had stood for seventy years, and were a proper Sheffield landmark, for nearly all of us who came back into the city past them on coach, train or in a car, they were the sign that we were home. But progress is progress and they were “unsafe” (read: e-on pumped the council with a load of cash to build a new power station. yes, right next to the M1 and Meadowhall. Mmm. Lovely.).
There have been several campaigns to save them, and they even were in line for a total revamp as part of a Channel 4 arts project a couple of years ago. But no, money, I mean “safety” talks, and down they had to come.
We arrived there at about 1:30am, losing the other carload of people in our party when the roads that were closed flummoxed everyone at the main entrance roundabout. We tried to find them, but Mel only knew the car parks by colour and number – I mean, what crazy person doesn’t know them by shop?! So we lost them and didn’t find them again all night, although we did see Rob there unexpectedly.
We were up on one of the top car parks at Meadowhall, near Debenhams (which I now know is the yellow car park), as were thousands of other people. Thousands more were in other car parks, up on the hill in Wincobank, at various vantage points in Rotherham (an estimated 10,000 people were out in the close vicinity: and that’s not counting all those people up watching online, listening on the radio, watching from their homes or from other high-up places in the city).
There were drinks stalls at MH and people had come with their kids: all ages, all kinds of people, which was fab. Unfortunately there were also a lot of idiots who were drunk, throwing litter (even throeing bottles down where cars were driving) and parking in inopportune places, but overall the atmosphere was good; it felt like a proper South Yorkshire event. We really should have had some Hendo’s Crisps to hand to make it proper.
Some people had Radio Sheffield on and they played The Final Countdown a few minutes before, which made everyone laugh. Apparently they sounded klaxons before the demolition, but we didn’t hear them from where we were. At just after 3am, the first tower wobbled, and collapsed, then the second, with two almighty bangs and two towers of dust and smoke, which were pretty darn exciting. Everyone woahed, and clapped and cheered (even though we all loved them; but hey, it was AN EVENT) and as the dust cleared, there were gasps.
A huge chunk of the North tower remained standing. At first we thought it had fallen on the viaduct, as a lampost on there had bent almost double, but apparently it was just refusing to fall. Radio Sheffield played I’m Still Standing accordingly.
Everyone was wondering what had happened, had e-on just screwed up? I think everyone was also a little bit disappointed the viaduct didn’t cave in – sure we’d moan at the ensuing traffic chaos, but the viaduct is rubbish and it would have been quite funny for evil e-on to have to pay out wodges of cash.
We couldn’t leave straight away as the car park was fuller than at Christmas shopping and there was gridlock to get out (and once a few cars escaped, other cars started cutting across the empty parking spaces, cutting into the queues – most of which then ended up with cars coming from three directions to get down one ramp: cue beeping of horns (for no reason, it’s not like it would achieve anything), very slow crawls of cars and hundreds of almost crashes)). We sat in the car, surrounded by crazy cars on all sides, listening to Radio Sheffield for any news, but apparently e-on and the Highways Agency were hiding in the MH conference suite having a ‘what went wrong’ chat and were too scared to come out.
At about 4:30am, enough cars had left for us to also leave. By this stage the North Tower had almost completely gone, and with it, a major Sheffield landmark (and heaven knows, they’re scarce enough).
Anyway, my camera doesn’t do night very well, and I have a very rubbish camera phone video that doesn’t even have the whole thing that I can’t upload (Phil got a fabulous clip), but lots of other people got fantastic footage, both video and still, which you can find here, here, here and here and all over the interweb pretty much.