Happy Birthday: Spaghetti Junction, 50 today

On the 24th May 1972 Spaghetti Junction officially opened after 4 years of construction and over £9mill spent. The wiggly roads are laid out across 5 levels, serves 18 routes, spans 30 acres, and in the most appropriate Brummie way, it crosses a canal. 50 years later, I’m taking time to reflect on why this section of motorway has fascinated me for a majority of my life.

This might seem to be a very weird thing to write about (and that is because it is weird). However there is something about this mess of grey bridges that I have always loved. This piece of practical architecture was so fascinating to me that I assumed everyone was amazed by it. I was so adamant about the fame and celebrity of an M6 junction, that when I went home to Scotland and saw my little classmates, I boasted about it. “Can you believe we drove over it like 6 times over the holiday? I looked all the way down to the bottom.”

It warms my heart to remember my best friend meeting my enthusiasm with a similar passion for the junction by Glasgow.

For me, Spaghetti Junction embodied that feeling you have when you see houses in the distance with the lights on – the realisation that in every room is a full person, living a complete life. That each of those lives are so wildly different from yours and you will never even lay eyes on the person living it. And then the lights turn off, or you carry on walking, and you never think about them or who they are again.

The mess of twisting roads, layered on top of each other right at what I (as a little kid) thought was the centre of the UK, offered so many possibilities. All those cars, all those destinations and reasons. At the time, I thought we were united by admiration for the bridge. I now realise that I was having a precious moment of wonder and although I admit it’s odd, where I grew up we didn’t really have motorways, let alone the M6.

It wasn’t until I moved here almost 2 decades later with my partner did I find out about that sneaky slip of canal at the bottom of the dog pile of road. Of course it inspired my poetry collection (WIP), and still today I drive the long way out of the city to take a little moment to start my journey by remembering my awe as a child and holding onto that as an adult.

Published by Heddwen Bethan

I have a Masters in English literature and Creative Writing and work as an arts administrator in Birmingham. I spend my free time cooking, talking about nothing in particular, and writing.

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