Real Estate is a project which involves coloured photographs of traditional allotment sheds.

Structures that appear as the result of anarchic creativity.


Anna Baker (photographer) and Pat Borthwick (writer) collaborated in bringing together this exhibition entitled Real Estate. The photographs depict allotment sheds found in the urban areas of Yorkshire, and are supported by a montaged loop-tape of the voices of their owners and a medley of ambient and related sounds. Real Estate documents the unique sheds and shelters constructed over the last fifty years on Northern allotments. Attempts to capture the individual creativity involved in their construction, and celebrate the particular intimacy, privacy and sense of freedom which they provide. The exhibition integrates the real voices of the allotment owners and users.

Many of them are built without foundations, and bear little or no resemblance to classic architectural technique.

It seems important to do this now and to do it quickly as the integrity of these structures is vulnerable and it is likely that their particular character will vanish under the accelerating pressures of urban life.

However fugitive, they dominate their individual plots.


Black and green shed

They appear rampant and haphazard.


Pat Borthwick lives near Helmsley, trained in Fine Art and Ceramics but has been writing poetry for over ten years. Her work has been described as being 'Beautifully crafted and having unusual sensibility.' She has won prizes in many poetry competitions as well as being published widely in anthologies and magazines. She won the Yorkshire Arts Writers Bursary in 1988 and followed that with publication of her first full-length collection of poetry 'Between Clouds and Caves' (Littlewood). She now has four collections in print. Her 1998 Arts Council Award resulted in 'Write Out Land' - experimental recording techniques for radio. In the tradition of Manley Hopkins and Dylan Thomas, she is interested in the musicality of language as well as the mystique of poetry without losing sight of its accessibility. She performs her work at readings and Festivals and has broadcast on local radio and Radio 3.

They are conglomerations of recycled materials, windows, carpets, old doors, corrugated iron, parts of ancient fencing, wire mesh, wooden laths, and swathes of plastic sheeting.


Real Estate opened in October 2000. Real Estate formed part of the Idea of the North Exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery from the 19th October 2000 until 7th January 2001.

Shed wrapped in tarpaulin


Then, as a stand-alone exhibition, Real Estate was at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery from the 13th January 2001 until 18th March 2001.

From there the exhibition visited Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate, 2nd to 29th April 2001;

York City Screen, 1st May to 8th June 2001;

Hawes Gallery in the Dales from 10th June to the 10th July 2001;

Bagshaw Museum in Batley from the 12th July to the 3rd September 2001;

and then on to Sewerby Park in Bridlington from the 8th September 2001until the end of October.

Several of the images from Real Estatewill appear in the URBAN exhibition of images of cities, towns and industry in Yorkshire to be staged at York City Art Gallery from the 1st December 2001 until 13th January 2002


The images on this page are a taster of the project.

Brick shed

Some comments from the Exhibition's Visitor Book:

'Very amusing, entertaining, you'd want to go around it again and again. Really wonderful and very different. Thank you.' Muriel from Germany & Penny from Doncaster.

'Marvellous exhibition, very funny.' Lesley & Bryan, Doncaster.

'More please. Fabulous.' Olwen.

'This is my third visit because I think it's brilliant. I've had to laugh every time I've seen this exhibition. Well done.' Brian.

'Very interestying views of Yorkshire allotments and way of life.' MPC.

'Can't see what they are all laughing at - they look beautiful to me.' Peter Sampson.

'I think these photos are great.' Peter Bacon.

'Such a great idea, brings back many memories.' J. Ellison.

'What a great collection of photographs.' H. Dowey.

Leaning shed


'Brilliant.' Miles.

'Excellent exhibition. Thoroughly enjoyed portraits of other people's sheds. Many thanks.' Margaret.

'Highly imaginative and well presented.' Adrian.

'Sheds! What's the point of taking photo's of a load of old sheds. I would rather go to the bottom of my garden.' PG.

'What an original idea. Impressed by the superb photography that brings out the individuality of each shed's texture and colouration and the honest humanity. The lack of surrounding context emphasises the individual personality of each shed, throwing it into relief. Excellent. These aren't pictures of sheds, they are sheds.' H & A Williams

'It's certainly different, but nevertheless very interesting.' J Gallahad.

'This is my fourth visit to your exhibition, and like all art, your photos seem to have something different every time. Very enjoyable. Brill.' A Bowling.

'Well worth a visit. Excellent.' Anon.

Shed with bird-house


'Well worth a visit.' B. Gibson.

'Vastly improved since my last visit.' Paul Wood.

'Super. I enjoyed it for my first time here.' Y. Uckling.

'Well done. Had a good laugh. Cheered up a very dull Monday.' B. Bloch.

'A shed load of wonderful improvisation.' Anon.

'Great exhibition. Shows such diversity and ingenuity.' KWN.

'Excellent exhibition - some very lovely images.' Anon.

'Who would have thought that such a mundane scene could so vividly be brought to life? Well. Done.' Anon.

'I knew that flaking paint and rusty corrugated iron had a beauty - but nobody has captured it quite like this.' John Husthwaite.

'Very well crafted. A visual treat.' Anon.

'What a treat.' Denis Grimethorpe.

Brown shed


'What a delightful exhibition. Really made me feel I was in contact with the owners of these superb properties.' Elaine O.

'A super exhibition. Thank you.' Martin Shaw.

'Lovely hotos - something different. I enjoyed it.' M. Spiers.

'Brilliant.' Verity Thompson.

'A great idea well done.' Anon.

'A good exhibition.' R. Mason.

Corrugated iron shed


To purchase any of the photographs in Real Estate contact Anna Baker

Real Estate

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A Musical Link

THE SHED - Simon Thackray was born in BRAWBY in 1960. His first solo art exhibition was at York University in 1977. He worked for over ten years constructing agricultural and industrial buildings before relocating to the shed where he variously paints and makes sculpture. Carving wood & stone in the late 80s, today he works with found objects, ideas and people. His big work in progress is 'THE SHED', the internationally acclaimed music & poetry venue. The Shed was called: 'The UK's most offbeat arts centre' by the INDEPENDENT. The Shed is a venue for International artists performing the world's finest contemporary jazz, blues, folk, country, improvised music, comedy & poetry. 'Most of these gigs instantly transfer to the realms of myth - legendary evenings with that elusive "were you there when......?" mystique which must make other arts programmers tear their hair.' Alfred Hickling YORKSHIRE POST