British cinema is obsessed with the effect of location upon the individual. In fact, it wouldn't be so sweeping to suggest that large swaths of culture born on these isles stems from the idea that the individual can be deeply molded by their surroundings and any fictional drama from Albion will be bare the aesthetics…
Source for image: Jenny Lewis When I was a kid I had a picture book called `The Lonely Skyscraper`. It was a haunting and beautiful story of a skyscraper who felt empty in the city, because nobody truly lived inside him.
Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles is a spoken word account of a series of rambles myself and a friend, Michael Hill, did around former mining villages we grew up in, on the eve of the 2015 general election.
The villages straggle along the West/South Yorkshire border, and have become half forgotten/half commuter dormitories over the recent decades. The idea was that walk through old haunts, would aid that of conjuring a once-felt optimism for a different sort of future that we had as children.
On November 25th 2015 Tim Waters and I carried out a drift around what had been, in the First World War, a prisoner of war internment camp in Lofthouse, Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The particular area that was the camp, is adjacent to a modern housing estate located opposite the golf course.
It’s 2004. Glen and I sit in his front room, gazing over our purchase of two bags of magic mushrooms. In April 2005, the Drugs Act will be passed, rendering mushrooms illegal. Until then, though, they are available from the closest provincial hippy paraphernalia emporium.
The woman at the counter told us we should eat them on empty stomachs. Accordingly, with bellies rumbling, we wolf them down, battling through the bitter taste with mouthfuls of chocolate.
We wait a while, silent and nauseous. Some nu metal video on MTV2 is on, featuring a chubby white guy singing about self-harm. In years to come, I’ll play these songs and pretend I never enjoyed them.
Without warning, my bowels loosen. I rush to the toilet.
Washing my hands and staring into mirror, the first wave of mushroom high hits me, coated in post-dump euphoria. I head downstairs, gripping the banister for balance. Glen is entranced with the TV, with twinkling eyes and an unconscious smile.
This is a true and faithful transcript of the story of the cave-wood as related to me by B––– in the autumn of 2015. Whilst she assured me that the details of this story are true, I am unable to verify them, as all documentation supplied to me concerning the location and ownership of the site were heavily redacted.
In 1995 I was just beginning to discover music in the obsessive way that kids do. I’d had the benefit of receiving a fair amount of decent music through my parents – I can’t hear ‘Cloudbusting’ by Kate Bush without immediately thinking of my mother, or Billy Bragg’s ‘To Have and Have Not’ without picturing my dad. Growing up hearing Ian Dury, the Pistols, Stranglers, Cockney Rejects (West Ham fans, we were) and a ton of reggae almost certainly left a mark and doomed me to the life of a punk and ska fan. I don’t remember much folk music as a child, but in that year, my father bought the Levellers album Zeitgeist on CD,pointing out the lyrics in the car and the meanings of the song ‘Hope Street’, inculcating me further into a life of Tory-hatred (as any good parent should). Naff as it seems, I loved it. I had a few Blur and Oasis albums on cassette, bought from Our Price, but this was different. I had Dookie by Green Day, loved it and still do. But for whatever reason, Zeitgeist chimed with me on a deep level, and still chimes today. I could try and pretend things happened in a more acceptably fashionable manner, but they didn’t.
I’m an author of stories, essays and spoken word predominantly about place, and the experience of walking through places. I’m also the founder of Unofficial Britain.com, a website that takes a skewed look at the UK landscape.
The story of why I’m standing at a psychogeographical symposium begins on Hackney Marsh, East London in 2008.
I’d recently got married and moved into a flat in Clapton. My wife was pregnant. My party days were over. I had crippling backache from too much sitting at a computer, and thought a dog would get me out and about.
I bought a cocker spaniel and started to take him for walks over the canal at the bottom of the park. There I entered an extraordinary world. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Lea Marshes but at 11 am on murky days they are like a dreamscape… long horned cows, kestrels, pylons, railways lines, canals, empty football pitches, abandoned Victorian filter beds, all in the heart of the city, framed by London’s skyscrapers.
Gareth Rees's insight:
This is a transcript of my talk at the Walking Inside Out Symposium, an event in Sheffield to launch the new book Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography, edited by Tina Richardson.
I thought I was prepared. I had read Gareth’s book, that strange and wonderful exploration of the Marshland, and I thought I was ready for anything. But nothing I had read could have prepared me. Not really. Not for the swarms of the hungry, the discombobulation, the excess. In the confusion, I almost bought a season ticket for West Ham. But then I found Gary, my guide out of the madness, and together we escaped Westfield, and all the while I wondered....
The Queens Park flats in Layton have been part of the Blackpool skyline since the 60s, their Brutalist architecture was loved by few and disliked by many and I always thought they were pretty ugly, they were also notorious for all sorts of bad things and I was continuously warned as a young girl growing…
'History erupts in sometimes disturbing ways in the palimpsest that is present-day Berlin. You can’t just focus on one time period when you visit the city. Today’s Berlin opens up within a hall of mirrors that reflects and refracts all those other Berlins. To speak about the Berlin of the past 26 years requires the vocabulary of the Cold War. You find that this discourse still operates within the semiotics of the murderous Third Reich, utilising the grammar of the First World War as inflected in the vernacular of Expressionism. Prussian imperialism provides the city’s basic syntax. One nonetheless must be fluent in history, then, before attempting to read Berlin.' - Frank Garrett
Influx Press is an independent publisher committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction from across the UK and beyond. Since 2012 we have published 13 titles, ranging from award-nominated debuts and site-specific anthologies to squatting memoirs and radical poetry.
This map by Tim Waters overlays the old camp on the current space. This map shows the area of the camp as an amusement park, which is what is was before it became the internment camp. You can just see there is a slight overlap at the north of what was the camp on what is now the new estate (see Springfield Rd and Springfield Ave). The area on the south-west of the new estate is the old estate (see Park Ave – maybe referring to the previous amusement park) and the field to the east of that is the scrubland owned by Peter Duffy.
There’s something problematic about this concept of landscape punk, of engagement with the specifics of place, and the cultures that exist there. Occasional, jokey, accusations of a kind of ‘hippy nationalism’. I’ve been accused of it myself.
I’ve heard it said about the excellent Folklore Thursday project (which looks at all aspects of the term 'folk', though being British based, the majority of things posted are, unsurprisingly, from Britain and Ireland). This interest in the specifics of place could be construed as inward looking, the negative aspect of an island mentality, hostile to the outside and, dare I say it, conservative.
This is not what I want. It is precisely the collision of cultures, and the layers they create, that makes the country I find myself in so fascinating. I claim no more right than anyone to the place where we all live. I want to make sure that the stories I think are important do not get lost; I hope others feel the same, though the stories they consider significant I may be unaware of. This is about a plurality of voices, that ‘whispering swarm’ as Michael Moorcock put it.
On Thursday 15th October I went along to a book launch and symposium at the department of Urban Studies and Planning at Sheffield University. The event - Walking Inside Out – was convened to support a book of the same name, subtitled Contemporary British Psychogeography. The book’s edited by Tina Richardson (@concretepost).
I’ve long been a fan of writers like Iain Sinclair and Nick Papadimitriou (as well as novelists as diverse as Peter Ackroyd, China Mieville, and Penelope Lively) whose
Psychogeography, it seems, is difficult if not impossible to define. The ingredients include: a critical appreciation of the environment and the inherent power structures that shape it; random and chance explorations, mainly walking mindfully; playfulness, spontaneity, creativity; an interest in social, political, cultural histories and memories. Academic and/or non-academic, it sprawls across traditional boundaries of subject matter in a way that I find delightful; I loved this book for its diversity, quirkiness, and thoughtfulness, but how does it relate to psychotherapy?
It is the internal psycho-social landscape that links psychogeography with psychotherapy: we are shaped by our physical and social contexts. Where and how we live, our sense of place and belonging are all bound into our relationships with others, and make us who we are. The environment, as Alexander Bridger points out, is not simply a backdrop; it is woven into us. As one of the contributors to this lively collection edited by Tina Richardson, he promotes a walking based methodology that seeks to grasp the subjective experience of self-in-place. A ‘critical psychologist’, his themes are surveillance, privatisation, social control and consumerism. Psychogeography underlines that our physical environments are shaped by politics.
The impact of time spent in the forest doesn’t hit till I emerge from Leytonstone Tube Station – that’s when the quickening pace of people heading for the bus stop, the four-bags-wide shoppers, and coagulation of Sunday loafers smart-phone illuminated in the early evening dark comes as an uncomfortable JOLT. I am back.
The other Sunday I wanted to walk the virus out of my heavy legs. The forest had been calling for a few days. I could have gone anywhere but a quick look at the OS map and a flick through Buxton’s Epping Forest narrowed it down to a route from Loughton to Theydon Bois. Buxton comes with me on all my forest schleps – the maps are good although the directions can be vague – this is what he has to say about the walk I followed:
“Follow the ridge of Baldwin’s Hill as far as Golding’s Hill ponds…. At Golding’s Hill cross the Loughton road and take the green road along the eastern boundary of the Forest. The views in all directions over the woodland make for a charming walk.”
That is a slightly truncated quote but the parts I’ve omitted simply offer alternative routes and indicate the road to Theydon Bois station at the end. However, in conjunction with an OS map I was able to follow Buxton’s walk, which can’t have changed much since he plotted it in the 1880’s.
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