Since moving to Torbay I’ve enjoyed a lot of locations that are on offer: the sandy beaches, the fantastic views, the woodland walks. But yet a highlight – in an odd way – was the walk through Paignton’s Crossways Shopping Centre. No, this wasn’t because of the shops available that enabled me to indulge in a consumerist splurge, but rather, because of its absence of shops. For Crossways Shopping Centre is no longer an active zone of the town centre and is instead something of a dead zone.
So, why did this place interest me? On reflection, I believe it is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is the growing phenomenon of the term ‘abandoned porn’ which I first came across whilst browsing on the platform Reddit. ‘Abandoned porn’ – or ‘ruins photography’ – focuses on capturing images of collapsed, decrepit structures in urban areas. As westcountry born and bred, the sandy beaches, fantastic views and woodland walks are (luckily) commonplace for me; however, Devon and Cornwall doesn’t have a vast number of urban areas, and therefore there is an element of ‘ruins photography’ that appeals to me.
Crossways was first constructed in the 1960s during that optimistic wave of post-war planning that attempted to create a better tomorrow. And, as with much of this post-war planning, the reality was much different. 40 miles away down the road is the larger example of Plymouth, which provides an example of how difficult it was to realise the plans of post-war construction; although Paignton itself was mostly spared from such a high level of realignment.
By the turn of the 21st Century Crossways was a shopping precinct on the decline and by the time of my visit earlier this year the entire zone was a ghost town. No active shop remains, bar for a brave, defiant cafe at the bottom near the entrance. All of this means that it conforms to the ideas of ‘ruins photography’, and is actually an example of a further sub category: ‘dead malls‘, otherwise known as ‘ghost malls’. This sample of photographs highlights the vacant nature of Crossways.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Crossways itself is a continual source of discussion in local politics, and a recent article (September 2019) outlined hope in a major redevelopment to end the deemed “eye-sore” of the shopping centre. Whenever or not a solution can be found depends on one’s level of optimism and naivety, however, for now other ‘abandoned porn’ enthusiasts can walk through another example of urban decay.