Dis Side Ah Town is a psychogeographical electronic reggae album set in Brixton, by Roger Robinson (from King Midas sound) in collaboration with Disrupt (lover of “real voltage and old-school microchips”.)
In the second track Walk With Me, “under the very streets where we walk / a river flows deep beneath the concrete / beneath the tarmac / beneath the rubble / beneath the rock / a black and powerful river coursing without light / that centuries ago, royalty would sail into Brixton / never thinking ‘bout crack / never thinking ‘bout cafes / never thinking about tower blocks..."
This is the first of a series of blogs that includes extracts from Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography. This section is entitled ‘Memory, Historicity, Time’ and begins with a summary of that section followed by extracts from the individual chapters/authors.
Our relationship with the city is intrinsically tied up with our knowledge and memory of it. If a particular city is somewhere we know - from today or from our past - we are unable to separate our psychological responses to it from the materiality of the place itself. This, in fact, is psychogeography and is what makes us all psychogeographers to a degree. A sense of place connects us to a geographic region in a specific way that becomes apparent when we start to explore the emotions attached to particular urban pockets that spark something in us. It might be a memory from our adolescence, such as an independent record shop in our hometown where we purchased our first piece of vinyl, or a more recent memory we have of the experience of moving to a new town or city and the differing aesthetics of that place compared to our last home.
These memories are not separate from our self, they inform and form us. The experience of the everyday that is played out in space - walking to the train station, going to the supermarket, taking the dog for a walk – make up a significant part of our day. These practices are imprinted on our psyches over time, forming our relationship with space and at the same time are laid down in our memory of that place, creating our attachment to it. What is particularly pertinent to our memory of place is that it is subjective and partial – it cannot be anything other. It is this that lends itself to the multifarious and often contradictory accounts of specific spaces.
The village of Fairlight is built on a cliff that’s eroding at the rate of twenty-five metres a year. Its inhabitants rely on the protection of a sea barrier made from Norwegian granite boulders.
The foreshore beneath the cliffs is a fossil hunter’s paradise. Its sandstone and clay deposits were left here in the early Cretaceous, 140 million years ago, by rivers flowing to a lagoon, bringing the fragments of plants animal corpses, which settled to the bottom, creating one of Britain’s most important dinosaur sites outside Devon’s Jurassic Coast.
Teilhard de Chardin in East Sussex
Here was where the young Jesuit priest and palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard Chardin once came with his friend Charles Dawson to find fragments of pterosaur, Iguanodon, turtle and crocodile.
Teilhard arrived in Hastings in 1908 to train in Ore’s Jesuit Seminary. An ardent palaeontologist, he spent much of his free time hunting for fossils on the shore.
“This land is new to me, and can teach me quite a bit,” he wrote in a letter to his parents.
As he collected fragments of the past there were moments it seemed as if a universal being was about to take shape in nature before his eyes. For Teilhard these geological explorations were not an act of retrospection, but a process of becoming, of moving towards a truth about God.
The following excerpts have been taken from the full text of Reluctantgod's essay, Psychogeography: Introducing the Zone and the March-riever, which introduces a new approach to the field of Psychogeography. It can be downloaded in .pdf format here. The full text details what sets this approach apart from those that came before it, taking care to distinguish it from the characterization of the Edgelands. It is highly recommended reading for psychogeographers, photographers, urban wanderers, and anyone who shares a deep reverence for abandoned places.
I recently spoke to Rob Cowen, author of the excellent Common Ground, about his new book, edgeland literature and psychogeography, the debates around what does and does not constitute ‘nature writing’ and the importance of writing in re-engaging people with place.
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.
Andrew Kötting returns with another cinematic happening, this time based on the later life of poet John Clare.
In many ways, British director Andrew Kötting can do no wrong. He locates an idea, offers it a hearty bear-hug, and then through some mysterious alchemical process, transforms it into a whimsical hunk of daffy bricolage, sometimes profound, often tragicomic, always very English.
With By Our Selves, he recreates an episode in the life of the pastorially-inclined English poet John Clare, who, having succumbed to insanity in later life, decides to walk 90 miles from an Essex asylum to find his estranged love, Mary Joyce.
Transcript of a talk given at theTertulia: Radical Pastoral event on 13th September 2015 at the Arnolfini, Bristol.
In Museum Without Walls, Jonathan Meades contends that “We are surrounded by the greatest of free shows. Places. Most of them made by man, remade by man.” And yet, many of these places, these landscapes are hidden in plain sight; we pass by or through them every day, too busy or unknowing or perhaps not caring to linger and wonder, and explore.
The artist Paul Nash described this concept of ‘unseen landscapes’: “They belong to the world that lies, visibly, about us. They are unseen merely because they are not perceived; only in that way can they be regarded as invisible.”
Commenting on the countryside of the counties close by to London, the Victorian nature-writer and rural proto-psychogeographer, Richard Jefferies, noted that, “It would be very easy to pass any of these places and see nothing, or but very little.”
I’m going to illustrate this idea of hidden topography by presenting a few examples from the historic landscape around Llanthony Priory in the upland setting of the Black Mountains, in the border country of the south-eastern Welsh Marches.
During a research trip to Scotland this Summer I stopped off at my friends’ house in Dunbar, a coastal town 25 miles east of Edinburgh. It’s famous as the birthplace of John Muir, the explorer who created the USA’s national park system. In the late Victorian era it was a golfing holiday hotspot, famed for its blustery health-restoring air.
We walked to a ragged cove of red sandstone, overlooked by the castle ruins. A rain shower moved across the empty sea. A chalk eye glared at me from a cave.
Hard to believe, but this was once a hugely popular open-air swimming pool in the halcyon days of the great British seaside holiday. Every July and August the population of Dunbar doubled its population of 5,000 as tourists flocked in from all corners of Britain.
Cumbernauld Shopping Centre, 10 Ettrick Walk, Cumbernauld, Scotland, 2012 • Famous 1960s brutalist edifice not improved by later additions, and now called the Antonine Centre. The only original part still visible is this portholed structure, once intended as luxury flats. There’s a good chapter on its architectural background in John Grindrod’s bookConcretopia; while Owen Hatherley admires its ‘majesty and folly’ in A New Kind of Bleak. Sadly, this is basically Cumbernauld’s entire town centre; when I visited, it was not only bleak, but deserted.
The title of this post is something that Jess, an 11 year old resident on the Middlefield Lane estate said to me a couple of weeks ago when I was there helping with the Dream House 'happening' (as I like to call it), which I outlined in my last but one post, 'Back to the Future 1965-2015-2016'. I'm not sure I can even begin to unravel the temporal or cultural complexities of Jess's statement, but the one thing I do know is that after spending three days on the estate I now see it more as a positive thing rather than something unwittingly forlorn and regretful as I might have previously thought.
Terry Farrell’s MI6 building, aka 85 Vauxhall Cross, occupies a major traffic intersection beside the arterial A202 road over Vauxhall Bridge.
Such crossroads have long been renowned as places of decision-making and thus fatefulness. Speaking of the French poet Charles Baudelaire, Margery A. Evans in her study Baudelaire and Intertextuality: Poetry at the Crossroads (1993) addresses their significance, remarking that “It is tempting to read in Baudelaire’s metaphor of the ‘carrefour’, an implicit recognition of what we would nowadays term intertextuality and of the seamless continuity of world and text.”
So as to keep up-to-date with any current media-related references to psychogeography, from time to time I type into my search engine ‘psychogeography’ followed by the month and year. In April 2014 I did the same and an article in the The Guardian paired psychogeography with the name of a Britpop singer: ‘Damon Albarn and the Heavy Seas Review – Rich in Personal Psychogeography’ (2014). If Coverley thought ‘the game was up’ following Self’s articles in The Independent, I wonder what this says about psychogeography today? Even though it could be easy to be cynical about its current populist and mutable use, this is not a particularly constructive approach to take towards psychogeography. Rather than seeing it as a co-opting of the term, or an aligning of some individuals to something ‘trendy’ that we feel they have little connection to, we might see this as a compliment.
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.
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