JD Wetherspoons is the Brahma, Vishnuand Shiva of British booze. The creator, preserver and destroyer of pub culture. The great trinity of cheap drinks, pub snacks and fruit machines. Curry Clubs, Steak Tuesdays, Mixed Grills and pints of Tuborg for £2.49.
I love and hate Wetherspoons in equal measure. I hate its dominance on the high street and its early tactics of under cutting genuine local establishments and putting them out of business. I love the fact that I can still buy a pint in London for £2.49. I hate that they don’t play music. I love the mix of people you get inside – a genuine cross section of the local area. I hate the lighting.
Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography is now available on the publishers website:Rowman and Littlefield International. Here is an overview of the book:
Walking Inside Out is the first text that attempts to merge the work of literary and artist practitioners with academics to critically explore the state of psychogeography today. The collection explores contemporary psychogeographical practices, shows how a critical form of walking can highlight easily overlooked urban phenomenon, and examines the impact that everyday life in the city has on the individual. Through a variety of case studies, it offers a British perspective of international spaces, from the British metropolis to the post-communist European city. By situating the current strand of psychogeography within its historical, political and creative context along with careful consideration of the challenges it faces Walking Inside Out offers a vision for the future of the discipline.
Gareth Rees's insight:
I'm honoured and delighted to have written a chapter of this book. Well worth reading - some great essays in here.
I was on a trip to Ramsgate with the kids at the weekend.
Approaching the harbour from the west I found myself walking down the B2054, otherwise known as the Royal Parade, an elevated road built into the cliff-side.
It was an impressive descent. While ignoring the awful high-pitched wailing from my youngest daughter, I passed a sequence of grand, redbrick arches packed with bulging rock strata. Foliage burst from the cracks. Patches of wet slime were dark against the grey. Gigantic pot plants were arranged in some of the recesses.
A perfect fusion of geology and human engineering. Very pretty too.
Except all was not as it seemed…
This was mock rock. An artificial composite known as Pulhamite, invented by James Pulham (1820–98).
What I was looking at was a Victorian version of the geological past.
Susan Sontag, in her 1969 work Styles of Radical Will, claimed that ‘there is no such thing as empty space. As long as a human eye is looking there is always something to see’ (10) – foreseeing with the simplicity of her statement a watershed moment in literary and cultural criticism, the spatial turn, the effects of which are still being comprehended and incorporated into the discourse of cultural theory today.
As criticism focused its ‘human eye’ upon spatiality, certain spaces – much as certain temporalities in the long nineteenth century – were privileged above the rest. Others have needed to wait until the turn of the twenty-first century to gain their share of critical attention, edgelands chief among them.
While the edgelands – the liminal zones where both city and rural fringe end – have recently gained a popular cachet, a critical understanding of their worth and cultural impact remains underdeveloped. This article argues that it is timely to promote a more holistic understanding of the edgelands in contemporary literature, and in so doing, to map the ever-shifting borders of a subversive, contemporary genre.
From punk landscapes to fictional counties and supermarket car parks... a recording of Unofficial Britain's show for Influx Press Day at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, 6th June 2015, featuring Gareth E. Rees, Tina Richardson, David Southwell and Gary Budden.
I rise early and drift along to Ciaran’s flat on Deptford High Street at a perfectly reasonable Saturday morning hour. Ciaran, a close friend and consummate pedestrian, had suggested a walk he would like to undertake – a short sojourn (barely a mile) from Finchley Road station to West Hampstead station via the curiously titled Billy Fury Way.
Robert Rubbish is an artist and filmmaker based in London and hailing from Jersey. He was founding member of the Le Gun art collective and studied at the RCA between 2003 and 2005. I meet him by the postbox on the corner of Dean St and Old Compton St.
To Robert this is the centre of the centre of the universe.
He is wearing a tweed jacket, white shirt, red tie and blue trousers. His sideburns extend into his moustache in what might have once been called whiskers, as opposed to a beard. His hair is tied back in a ponytail.
We have met to talk about his forthcoming exhibition concerning the history and culture of Soho, a place we have both, and quite separately, grown attached to during our lives in London.
So this was how it was going to go: Culham to Reading, staying overnight in Wallingford. Two days along England’s alimentary canal. Two days running with Eliot’s ‘strong brown god’. Two days of summer dancing.
Culham station was a void. A four-quarters emptiness. Once part of a working network, it now obeyed a dead logic. It was out on its own, unmoored. Nothing moved. Nobody waited. Nobody got off but us. The pub next-door offered bed and breakfast, but who for? For a time we walked in hot circles, trying to find our way out of the station’s magnetic circle. Eventually we walked up and out, into the thick-phallus shadows of Didcot power station, a henge at the centre of the day’s circuit. From the crest of the station’s well we passed along a trunk road, heavy with willowherb and knapweed, down to the Thames and a different emptiness.
'The local school is closed, the chapel celebrates its last wedding, furniture that has stood in farmhouses for centuries is removed, graves are dug up and re-located. Thus did the Tryweryn Valley and the village of Capel Celyn become one vast reservoir via an Act of Parliament that allowed Liverpool City Council to proceed with the creation of its new water supply despite the opposition of every Welsh MP bar one.
The Tryweryn Bill allowed Liverpool City Council to by-pass obtaining planning consent from the relevant local authorities. Wales’ powerlessness was exposed and protests involved members of the Free Wales Army and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru. Pupils and staff of Friars School in Bangor filmed the demolition and construction work from start to finish and have produced what might have been regarded as an objective record of an emotive event. The school concludes that the reservoir has enhanced the natural beauty of the area and that it will attract tourists “to enjoy the sailing and fishing on these once troubled waters."'
A relatively untouched area of the city sits beneath the Fletton Parkway and Orton Southgate. Saying untouched is perhaps misleading, as the area has clearly been used and re-used by man for farming and mining for centuries. An old Roman road called Ermine Street, even runs down one side of the area now subsumed by the A1 (M). Presently, this north-westerly corner of the city contains a line of soft estate woodland, a small (fenced off) lake, Milton Folly, Alwalton hill, a few small coverts of woodland and a set of fields. The most dramatic elements of the area are the two earth formations and a large area of hills and holes which are the site of the disused Orton clay pits. Widlife thrives in this area, and it is watched over by the odd bird of prey, that circles the hillocks and ponds.
On the north Middlesex/south Hertfordshire border sits a 17-mile escarpment. This ridge, part of London’s outward-growing suburbs, is an unremarkable place of motorways, council flats and gas stations. And yet for over 20 years Nick Papadimitriou has made it his playground, his emotional and topographical heartland. Two decades of mental and physical exploration have provided him with all the material he needs to write an extraordinary book about the escarpment, or as he calls it, ‘Scarp’.
I’ve a longstanding interest in non–places and transitional zones including motorway services, airports and business parks. My local research point is the Europarc and its surrounding environs. This site is ten minutes drive from my rural home.
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