Sunday, 21 October 2018

Right Map Making

Here is a copy of Right Map Making: Five Ways to Make Maps for a Future to be Possible by Steven R. Holloway. It's a great 'manifesto' and I am posting it here as it is readily available online and I think he wouldn't mind it being on this blog. Dr. Holloway is an academic in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia in the US, specialising in urban geography and diversity.

Holloway says: "The problem for the makers of maps being that our maps are, in part, engaged in the wanton destruction of the world".

You will need to download the image, or zoom in on your screen, in order to read the manifesto itself.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Art History’s ‘Wriggle and Chiffon’ Fashion Movement

When I worked in Trafalgar Square in London, I loved to visit the National Portrait Gallery. In the 1990s I remember working my way through its floors. I did one floor per week. It was a walk through history in terms of portraiture. At the time my favourite portrait was Giovanni Boldini’s Gertrude Elizabeth (née Blood), Lady Colin Campbell (1894) (below). She was an art critic, journalist and socialite and had a troubled marriage, plus much scandal surrounding her (mostly of a misogynist nature, it seems). I like this portrait as I think there is something defiant in her gaze.

This short post is a quick look at the way the chiffon is represented in these paintings and the effect I think it has on the subject of the painting: the women in these portraits. It is a style coined by Walter Richard Sickert: ‘wriggle and chiffon’.

Boldini was also known as ‘the master of swish’ which clearly lends itself to the movement in the chiffon, the ‘wriggle’ side of it clearly making reference to the female body that resides within it, although I am guessing that Sickert isn’t using this term in a positive way at all. There is something of an ‘illustration’ style to Boldini’s portrait, which makes it somehow familiar to us. You might expect to see this in a magazine rather than on the wall of a stately home.

While the above image is from many years later (late 1930s), and is a design illustration rather than an oil painting, you can get a bit of a flavour of what I mean. In Boldini's painting the dress is a pretty important component of the image. One might say that is the subject of the painting. However, I see the dress rather more as a vehicle to help represent the subject of the painting (Lady Colin Campbell, herself).

Also, of the ‘wriggle and chiffon’ moment is John Singer Sargent. Below is his portrait Lady Speyer (1907). He was also put under scrutiny by critics, with Roger Fry stating that it was a surprise that his work had been “confused with that of an artist”.

I think these critics, in their disregard of this moment in the representation of women’s dress in portraiture, have missed the point entirely. The painterly way the brushstrokes free the chiffon - indeed its ‘wriggle’ when it comes to life when being worn by the subject of the portrait – is what gives life to the image and the wearer of the dress!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fashion!: 'What academics put on their office doors (and why)'

I read this article in Times Higher Education magazine - 'What academics put on their office doors (and why)':

"Lecturers who fancy themselves as creative types adorn their doors, any available pinboards and wall space with exhibition posters, their own artwork and a studio-standard black and white image of themselves. Or the very, very important scholars, who advertise their books, provide copies of their journal articles in a special door-pocket, and may find a moustache has been drawn on their impressive visage glowering full-size from a finely framed photo” 

...and I have created my first door notice (above) for when I start at the Manchester Fashion Institute on Monday 18th June!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Merlin Coverley’s ‘Psychogeography’ – Revised & Updated Edition

I have been reading Merlin Coverley’s revised edition of Psychogeography, first published in 2006. This new edition, with a lovely green cover (2018), has an updated information, a new preface and appendix, and a much updated ‘Psychogeography Today’ section, which also includes Nick Papadimitriou’s Deep Topography.

When I first got into psychogeography in 2009, this was ‘the bible’ of psychogeography and I think it still is. It was my first psychogeography book, followed swiftly by Will Self’s Psychogeography (2007). I always recommend Coverley’s books to my students as an intro to the subject (now alongside Walking Inside Out, of course, however that wasn’t available till 2015).

I think Coverley’s revised edition signals the current popularity of psychogeography, its latest phase, its contemporary resurgence, its newest incarnation/interpretation... Maybe this new edition also acknowledges the ‘New Psychogeography’ that I mooted in Walking Inside Out. Either way, I’ve really enjoyed revisiting it and would highly recommend it to anyone as an intro to the subject, or as a top-up if you haven’t read the original for a few years, like myself...

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A Visit to Alexandra Park

It transpires that my local park, Alexandra Park in Manchester, is only about 10 mins walk from my house, so I trotted off there today to check it out.

This lovely lodge (designed by Alfred Darbyshire) is gothic-inspired, as you can see, and this Victorian park is known as 'The People's Park'. There were lots of people about - playing table tennis, walking their dogs, watching cricket, visiting the car boot sale, and just moseying on down in the sun - so it was true to its name!

There was a big flagpole (not pictured as it was a bit boring) and this drinking fountain, which I got a quick snap of when the young woman wasn't looking.

One of the most exciting things was seeing these lovely terrapins(?) which some young girls had spotted on the log. They were telling me that there was a spot around the corner of the pond where lots of them often hang out. They seemed to know a lot about them and I was pleased to see their enthusiasm about the natural world. This is the best photo I could get on my phone, as I had to zoom in quite a bit. The two on the right were smaller than the other one, and I wondered if they were the babies of the larger one. The one on the far right lifted his leg up from time to time - maybe he was trying to get good sun coverage, or perhaps the wood was too hot for his tiny feet.

I spent a nice couple of hours there and will definitely go back. The car boot sale wasn't too good, however I think they have gone downhill since their heyday in the 1980s. There was so much 'tat' there. Some of the stuff was being sold for way more than you would pay in a charity shop and a lot of it was only worthy of landfill.

I had a coffee in the cafe (the old pavilion) and watched the cricket for a while, then wandered back home to the existential degu...

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

'Concrete, Crows and Calluses' - Alternative Covers

I was putting some images into frames for my desk in my new office at work the other day and, while I was looking for the digital cover of Concrete, Crows and Calluses to frame, I came across a number of different covers I had experimented with when working on the cover design. So, I've loaded them up below as I think they are interesting.

While the one I finally settled on is probably more 'aesthetically pleasing' it doesn't have the psychogeographical grittiness of the three that I rejected. However, the one I chose did actually become a talking point as it's an interesting derelict building in Armley, Leeds (that I call The Water Shed) which was also painted by Judy Tucker. Anyway, here are the images. The last is the final one, but the other 3 - probably more edgy, or at least more quotidien - were also considered. In a way, I actually now prefer the first two for their suburban ordinariness..

Friday, 8 June 2018

'Gudbuy T'Leeds': A Teeny Tiny Psychogeographical Goodbye to the University of Leeds

This is a very short film of my last wander on campus, saying goodbye to some of the places there. The title of the blog is a nod to Slade's 1972 single 'Gudbuy T'Jane', for those of you who can remember it. My trip was aided by Rob from Engineering, who you will briefly see in the film.

I'm off to the Manchester Fashion Institute at MMU now!

Click here for the film: Gudbuy T'Leeds

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Freud’s Kettle Logic

Sigmund Freud uses his ‘kettle logic’ in his discussion in The Interpretation of Dream [1899], as part of his analysis of Irma’s Injection Dream. I remember studying this dream as an undergraduate in my ‘Reading Freud Reading’ module. It’s a fascinating dream, not least because it is Freud’s own dream and involves Freud and is friend and colleague Otto Rank, as well as Irma, of course.

Before I go onto the kettle logic aspect of the dream (which appears in the chapter ‘The Method of Dream Interpretation’), I will post the full dream in order to get to the kettle section, which is near the end. Irma was originally Rank’s patient, but was referred to Freud by Rank. This is Freud's dream:

A large hall—numerous guests, whom we were receiving—among them was Irma. I at once took her on one side, as though to answer her letter and to reproach her for not having accepted my ‘solution’ yet. I said to her: ‘If you still get pains, it’s really only your fault.’ She replied: ‘If you only knew what pains I’ve got now in my throat and stomach and abdomen—it’s choking me’—I was alarmed and looked at her. She looked pale and puffy. I thought to myself that after all I must be missing some organic trouble. I took her to the window and looked down her throat, and she showed signs of recalcitrance, like women with artificial dentures. I thought to myself that there was really no need for her to do that.—She then opened her mouth properly and on the right I found a big white1 patch; at another place I saw extensive whitish grey scabs upon some remarkable curly structures which were evidently modelled on the turbinal bones of the nose.—I at once called in Dr. M., and he repeated the examination and confirmed it. . . . Dr. M. looked quite different from usual; he was very pale, he walked with a limp and his chin was clean-shaven. . . . My friend Otto was now standing beside her as well, and my friend Leopold was percussing her through her bodice and saying: ‘She has a dull area low down on the left.’ He also indicated that a portion of the skin on the left shoulder was infiltrated. (I noticed this, just as he did, in spite of her dress.) . . . M. said: ‘There’s no doubt it’s an infection, but no matter; dysentery will supervene and the toxin will be eliminated.’ . . . We were directly aware, too, of the origin of her infection. Not long before, when she was feeling unwell, my friend Otto had given her an injection of a preparation of propyl, propyls . . . propionic acid . . . trimethylamin (and I saw before me the formula for this printed in heavy type). . . . Injections of that sort ought not to be made so thoughtlessly. . . . And probably the syringe had not been clean.

I won’t go into the analysis here (it’s not a long analysis and is really interesting, so I would recommend it), except to say I did always wondered why Freud ‘missed a trick’ on occasions in his analysis of his own dream (although he somewhat covers himself for that in the conclusion to his analysis – see below). I remember asking my undergraduate lecturer why Freud didn’t question the dynamics of his own relationship with Rank more, in regard to how it was played out in the dream, which I thought might have reflected some degree of competition between the two of them (however, since Rank deferred to Freud here in referring Irma, maybe Freud saw no competition, perhaps seeing himself as the superior of the two). Interestingly, Freud does acknowledge the competition between Rank and another psychoanalyst that he mentions in the dream analysis, Leopold. I also thought that the injection itself was an Oedipal symbol (given in the mouth of Irma by Rank), which Freud also seemed to overlook in this regard, analysing it in relation to another friend of his who took cocaine via injection and also reproaching Rank, later, for giving injections too readily.

So, onto the kettle logic...

In his summary, Freud acknowledges the contradictions in his dream, which he says “unite in acquitting me” and “do not agree with one another”. Providing his kettle logic analogy, he attempts to explain how these contradictions work when one is defending oneself, but also contradicting oneself at the same time, putting into question what the reality of the situation really is. In regard to the dream story (the latent aspect of the dream), Freud believes that contradictory dream elements often appear simultaneously:

The whole plea—for the dream was nothing else—reminded one vividly of the defence put forward by the man who was charged by one of his neighbours with having given him back a borrowed kettle in a damaged condition. The defendant asserted first, that he had given it back undamaged; secondly, that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it; and thirdly, that he had never borrowed a kettle from his neighbour at all.

I think we can probably all recount examples of others (maybe even ourselves) in an argument, ‘grasping at straws’ in order to acquit themselves and throwing out contradictions at every turn. In this regard I see it as an overdetermination inasmuch as multiple elements all point to one cause, which never appears in the contradictory list of defences. And for our kettle ‘thief’, the returned/damaged/never-borrowed kettle all point towards one cause, a stolen kettle!

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Presupposed Actualization Wobble and the Rhizomes of Doubt in the City of Culture

By Trent Dunlop

Warrington, the market town between Liverpool and Manchester, is changing fast and daily, with the past, present and future existing at the same time: mixing, weaving and colliding together as it continues the story from town to City of Culture. A soup of instant history, spin and regeneration is taking place before your eyes as you walk the streets, and at the same time in cyberspace and on social media. I pick up my camera, notebook and pen, and hit the streets for another walk and update, ready to immerse myself in the narratives.

Walking past the chemical works, over the railway bridge and into the town centre I come to the Golden Gates in front of the town hall, Warrington’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’. Such a big fuss is made of these gates, with so many photos snapped and posed that I find them boring: a tourist type area, bringing pride for those who can see no wrong in the town. Some think of it as a rugby team to get behind and support with a ‘you are either with us or against us’ mentality. I walk past shops, and bars now start to appear as I approach the centre.

Two articles have appeared recently in the local press that indicate something is afoot and I want to find out more. The first, a letter from a reader entitled "Why I am worried about Warrington's Time Square". The second, a rant by a local journalist, which in my opinion feels patronizing, instructing us to "Give Warrington a chance" (to roll up our sleeves), and ending with a chilling Orwellian type message: "Remember negative thoughts can lead to negative outcomes". I turn left and into the Cultural Quarter.

I walk past The Lounge Bar, it still has Viola Beach written in chalk on the stonework where the shrine to the local indie band used to be. I pass Springfield Street Post Office and the ghostly figure in the upstairs window, and Palmyra Square with its interpretation boards and public spaces protection order signs. Also, the Parr Hall where the Knotty Ash big bass drum would bang every year when Ken Dodd visited: Diddy Men, jam butty mines, chuckle muscles and tickling sticks.

This is the upmarket area of the town. Posh restaurants and pop-up artisan food stalls, Dan Price and the embedded City of Culture bid. The local libraries saved by the public, 1848 the first town in the United Kingdom to open a rate-supported public library. I walk on towards the new multi storey car park.

The car park is a massive new structure covered in brown and gold hexagonal cladding, at present completely dwarfing the surroundings - the shock of the new and the shape of things to come. "We call it the Beehive", a man whispers in my ear as I stop to take some photos. It is up for a Peoples’ Choice Building of the Decade Award on BBC North West Tonight and has made the shortlist. One local journalist has promised to show his backside at Market Gate if it wins! It represents hyper-capitalism to me, and I wonder if it will become a design classic like Preston Bus Station or the National Theatre.

Opposite me is a large empty space surrounded by a ring of steel where the market used to be - the skeletal steel frame of the new multiplex cinema rising from the ground. The word ‘multiplex’ now feels dated, bringing to mind thoughts of action films and romcoms. What a wasted opportunity, we could have had a good arts centre instead. The whole area has been rundown, looking like 1970s ‘slum clearance’, with the buildings in Bridge Street looking so grotty that people have started photographing the top floors. Pound shops, cash converters and charity shops: there are now more coffee shops than ever, ready for the changing of the area into an entertainment zone. The only places busy in this area at the moment are McDonald's and Burger King: reassuring comfort food in the time of ‘austerity’.

But something has gone wrong, spending has plunged and growth plummeted to its weakest levels in more than five years as the ‘Beast from the East’ storm blew in battering the high street. Shop footfall nationally fell by 6%, mixed with a second wave of shop closures. I think of Fenella Brandenburg's “presupposed actualization”. And, yes, the new buildings do already exist but schizocartographic rhizomes of doubt have grown and spread, causing a presupposed actualization wobble with the illusion of the story unravelling. The city is a failure with the new buildings empty. I walk to Market Gate, seeing the dystopia that now exists. A budget of 1.8 million has been found to promote the town.

Market Gate is the centre of the town/city a crossroads with a bland circular water feature and the infamous skittles. Characterless 1980's style American Mall ornamentation, robbing the area of its roots and identity, embarrassment comes to my mind as I walk past, heading home.

Maybe it is a generational thing with the online shopping and click-and-collect revolution, but I do feel a bit nostalgic and sad as I walk past another pound shop, my memory superimposing the red Woolworths logo that used to be there. I see the newly empty Marks and Spencer store, unavailable, now, for people to pop in and buy a few groceries and comfortable underwear. The town is not fit for purpose if you can no longer buy what you want, I think to myself. I don't know whether I’m in a town or city anymore. A strange thought occurs to me that I need to regenerate myself like Dr Who!

I have always enjoyed catching the train and the excitement of visiting cities: will anyone want to come here? I walk past the remaining wall of the old Victorian Public Baths were I learnt to swim as a child, remembering happy times. Switching on the radio later, back at home, the news comes in that 450 jobs are at risk in the local Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre as it closes down and moves to another part of the country. The Trans Pennine express train will not stop here soon.The story continues...

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Hannah’s Dress: A Very Slow Dérive Down ‘A Quiet Street in a Nice Neighbourhood’

“It’s an ordinary street”
At the beginning of the year I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this beautiful looking book in the post: Hannah’s Dress: Berlin 1904-2014 by Pascale Hugues (Polity Press 2017). ‘Is it psychogeography?’, I thought, ‘There is a picture of a woman walking in the street’. Upon further examination, it became clear that while it isn’t overt psychogeography (if there is such a thing), neither is it not psychogeography. It is the story of a street through the eyes of the author and the other street residents, past and present. So, in a way it is a very slow dérive of this Berlin street, albeit one that lasts 110 years and one that enters the homes and hearts of its residents.

Where’s the psychogeography bit?
By examining the material culture of a particular space, the book examines the history and aesthetics of place. While it does incorporate the opinions and emotions of others, it is also subjective in the way that psychogeography is: the differing individual responses to place (affect, if you will) are all valid and acknowledged as such. It also makes reference to popular culture, which is a common reference tool used by the psychogeographer, too (as well as telling you about the place under examination, it also orients the reader in regards to the psychogeographer who is writing).

Who’s the protagonist in the story?
The protagonist is two-fold, it is both Hannah’s dress and the street itself. I won’t spoil the poignant story of Hannah’s dress by revealing it here – but the book dedicates a chapter to it, which I would recommend. However, I will say more about the street as protagonist in the story, a character who is a hybrid of the people who have lived there during its history. This idea reminded me of Jonathan Raban’s Soft City (1974):
For at moments like this, the city goes soft; it awaits the imprint of an identity. For better or worse, it invites you to remake it, to consolidate it into a shape you can live in. You, too. Decide who you are, and the city will again assume a fixed form around you. (1983, 3)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Three Upcoming Book Chapters: Pink Floyd, Anti-Production, Urban ‘Situations’

Hey You: Subjectivity and the ideological/repressive state apparatuses in Pink Floyd’s The Wall

This chapter examines the representations of Louis Althusser’s state apparatuses in the album lyrics and film of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. By considering Althusser’s discussion on the repressive apparatuses (for example: the army and the courts) and the ideological ones (such as the family, education and communication), the author critiques how, in The Wall, they operate on the subjectivity of the protagonist Pink and how this leads him to an existential crisis.

In his 1970 essay, Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses, Althusser provides us with a useful allegory to explain how the individual becomes a subject by offering us a situation whereby a person in the street is “hailed” by a policeman. “’Hey, you there!’”, the shout rings out, and the hailed person turns towards the call: “By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject” (Althusser 1970). However, Althusser explains that the individual is “always-already” a subject and that “ideology has no outside”, providing us with the example of the child in the womb who will be assigned the surname of her/his father even before birth (ibid.).

In The Wall we are not only taken through Pink’s life in flashback, but we are also made aware of the various repressive and ideological structures that have formed him as the individual we see in front of us. The Wall provides us with an insight into Pink’s psyche, making connections between the state apparatuses and their influence on him. Pink’s journey – his attempts to unshackle himself from the apparatuses and his ways of coping by creating repressive structures of his own - demonstrates the tension between conformity and freedom, leading the viewer/listener to question if anything that resembles a free subject can ever exist. This chapter discusses Pink’s subjectivity in the context of these apparatuses in regard to ideological recognition and the consequences of a rejection of that interpellation.

Book: Pink Floyd: A Multi-Disciplinary Understanding of a Global Music Brand

Psy(co)motion: Anti-Production and détournement in affective musical cartographies

This chapter discusses the musical compilation series Psy(co)motion in the context of a schizocartographic analysis. It introduces the set of psychogeographically-oriented CDs within the mix-tape/CD phenomenon while situating it as a form that challenges ossified systems of power. Considering concepts such as aesthetics and affect, the mix CD series uses Félix Guattari’s theories concerned with production, singularization and reterritorialization. The chapter goes on to discuss whether Psy(co)motion manages to successfully recuperate itself through the molecular creation of the object, and via its virtual and physical dissemination.

Book: Non-Representational Theory and the Creative Arts

Creating a Situation in the City: Embodied spaces and the act of crossing boundaries

This chapter addresses the history of what appears under the general term of ‘urban critique’ in its many incarnations, such as the flâneur, psychogeography, place-hacking, DIY urbanism, guerrilla urbanism and urban exploration. Going back to the late 19th century flâneur of the Paris arcades, there is a lineage of urban critique characterised by the act of placing one’s body into the space under examination as a way of understanding the dynamics that operate on both a material and abstract level. Urban space is a mediated space that enables a form of reflexivity to take place when the individual engages with it in a critical way. This affective process allows a form of rewriting of the space to occur, such that it is momentarily changed to fit the subjectivity of the specific individual who is placing it under scrutiny. This process can be undertaken and expressed in multiple ways depending on the approach taken by the person or group. Nevertheless, what is consistent across these alternative methods is a challenge to the taken-for-granted view that urban space is just empty space surrounded by the built environment – something that is immovable, and yet also innocuous.

By providing examples of the different forms of contemporary urban critique, the discussion will focus on how some people actively seek to question the way urban space is manifest and why it appears the way it does. It will examine the methods used, the types of questions asked and the different outputs of the practices themselves. By providing examples of contemporary practices and forms of urban critique, this chapter will look at their underlying philosophy and will review how successful they are in their objective.

Book: The Routledge Companion to Urban Media and Communication

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Round About Town: a new book by Kevin Boniface

By Kevin Boniface

Round About Town was almost eight years in the writing: the accumulation of noteworthy observations made in the course of delivering the mail in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield between August 2010 and February 2018.
Further down the road I got talking to the woman with the low maintenance hairstyle and the perhaps inadvisable vest top with no bra. She was telling me about the house she used to live in when she was younger. “Where was that?” I asked. She waved an enormous arm in the vague direction of half of Huddersfield and said, “You know, number 23 do-dah”.
I began making notes about my environment in the late 90s when I joined the Royal Mail. Walking the same streets at the same time everyday gave me a new perspective; things were changing and I didn’t want to miss them: hats, bathrobes, children’s names, fashions in dog ownership, garden ornamentation and the accrual of patina thereon, the comings and goings of migratory birds, the taxonomy and distribution of litter, the degradation of animal faeces, Cars - Mr Briggs alone changed his car three times in one 12 month period during 2003/04...
Mr Briggs pulls up to tell me he’s off to Oldham today. He pauses, then says “Actually, I tell a lie, I’m off to the office, then to Meltham and then to Oldham. I’m working on the precinct there, it’s a right bastard to park”. That’s all he says, then he gets back into his Suzuki Carry and drives away.

I wanted to make sense of all of this.

I was determined.
There are unencumbered and determined grey-haired men in navy blue fleeces pounding the streets. Teeth gritted, they march up hills, arms outstretched for extra balance along uneven nascent desire lines—past the stalled mums with their hoods up against the drizzle, pushchairs and retrievers in one hand, they reach out for their straggling toddlers with the other.
In an attempt to eradicate any prejudices, I employed various techniques. I made lists of observations at preordained times of the day, I avoided adjectives and adverbs, I even attempted meditating on the day’s events in an attempt to clear out the crap and get to the REAL: the REAL tangerine in the gutter on the Tuesday after the storm. I don’t know if I was doing it right or whether I was becoming so open-minded my brains had fallen out but I carried on, honing and tweaking. I made films at random, took photographs, made drawings.

My writing style evolved.

I was researching something or other.
Results of an hour spent researching what to wear in the countryside at this time of year: knitted beige lurex cardigan - no sleeves, tied at waist; brown hoodie; green overalls; green anorak with hood - North Face; black and navy woollen jumper; hi-vis coat - green/muddy; pink polo-neck jumper with black gilet; navy blue overall/shop coat; fleece jackets - various and sundry; blue cagoule - torn; green zip-up raglan cardigan; light blue cotton shirt; t-shirts - various and sundry.

In 2010, a mate of mine, the artist Jared Szpakowski had started a blog ‘to keep his eye in’. He’d resolved to post a picture every day for a year. This seemed to me the perfect medium for what I was doing; how better to document the cumulative effect of everything on everything than by building up an accumulation of blog posts?
Next door, a three-foot-high pile of rubbish has accumulated in the garden and there are now fourteen sycamore saplings growing from between the joints in the cracked concrete paving flags. On the drive, the old Vauxhall Vectra has six nodding bulldogs wearing cross of St George T-shirts arranged across its parcel shelf.
Recently, I’ve been working with Uniformbooks to publish Round About Town, a beautiful print version of the blog, it came out in March and I’m very proud of it.

Round About Town
Kevin Boniface
ISBN 978 1 910010 18 1
128pp, 234 x 142
paperback with flaps
2018, £12.00

Further details and to order direct: Uniform Books

Kevin Boniface is an artist based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. After graduating in art and geography in 1993, he joined the Royal Mail as a postman which has influenced his artwork ever since. Over many years, he has also produced zines, exhibitions, artists’ books, short films, audio recordings and live performances. His previous publications include Where Are You? (2005) and Lost in the Post (2008).

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Whitecross Road

By Trent Dunlop

Winter – cold, icy rain, damp air and mushy cardboard on the ground. I am walking home to my council flat after work at night along a path besides the dual carriageway. To my right cars whizz past as the traffic lights change - a 40 mph speed limit rarely kept at this time. Memories surfacing to mind, police stand (shielding a crumpled car), a squeal of brakes, a child's body flying in the air, a human chain protest and a pelican crossing is built.

To the left side of the path in the woodland of the local park, a banging noise starts, slowly at first then becoming increasingly louder. I look around. No-one else is near. I am on my own. What is it? A poltergeist? A noisy spirit? A mechanical pump? Looking past the belt of litter and moonlit silver birch trunks into the dark beyond, I cannot find an exact location or think of a rational explanation for the source of the sound, although I feel sure that there is one. Part of me wants to investigate but I decide to carry on home.

Whitecross Road Council Estate was built around the same time as the dual carriageway, in the early 70's when Warrington started to become a New Town. It has a bad reputation: a poverty premium landscape at the bottom of the never-ending austerity policy. A confusing maze of flats and houses, with narrow alleys, blind corners and jumbled numbers where postmen get lost. Designer tracksuit-wearing teenage gangs smoke skunk in the subway: ‘too cool for school’, living for the moment. An aura of hopelessness and defeat compacted in a screwed up lottery card a few metres away from an overpriced corner shop. Too bleak and clichéd for some, a difficult, mundane and ordinary area.

Morning hailstone frozen onto car windscreens, the texture of Whitefriar’s glass, the yellow triangle of a wheel clamp in a back alley. Closing the front door a flutter of panic and a pocket check for my keys. A frail looking old-aged pensioner with gold teeth and wearing a thick camel covered overcoat is struggling to put out his wheelie bin. Using the brick wall for support, he slowly makes his way back to the warmth of his flat. I wander on to the shops on Lovely Lane.

This is a multi-cultural area and is reflected by the types of shop on the lane. Full English breakfasts, pies and sandwiches, pizza, kebabs and halal takeaways, Philippine and Indian food, a Continental Bazaar. A canine and feline beauticians, a launderette (the front of which looking to me somehow hipster authentic reminds me of the trendy cocktail bar in Manchester that disguised itself as a launderette). Further down there is a church and an Islamic Centre. A teenager in a red hoodie is talking on his mobile phone. A Hells Angel mounts his bike and rides off. ‘JUST EAT’, a lurid sign seems to threaten, but I have lived in the area long enough to feel at ease in the place. An industrial clothing shop with a window display of hi-viz jackets.

Lovely Lane was once a country lane with rose-covered thatched cottages in this part. An old map from 1851 shows just 11 buildings situated in the lane, the lane dating back to at least to 1775, with Sankey Hall and an ancient water mill. Change feels slow, with people just going about their daily lives. The area still feels the same as when I was a child, time steadily ticking by, but it is happening constantly and I remember climbing the fresh sticky banks of earth as a child when the road was being built. The old Pavilion cinema (now used as a carpet shop) seems to be the most obvious sign of history. A survey of 1465 describes the Whitecross district as a suburb. Will the area become inner-city in the future? My mind projects the White cross into the middle of the giant roundabout with a funeral procession stopping there to rest at a time when burial grounds were not so numerous, the grass on the roundabout being the only reminder of Sankey Green.

The local pub once called The Mad Hatter has now been shortened to The Hatter, losing its Lewis Carroll connection. It used to be full on a Friday night, with workers from the nearby cake factory called Memory Lane. The cake factory itself now only existing in peoples’ memory and replaced by houses. ‘Will the city of culture bid make any difference to the people here and what art and music do they like?’, I think as I walk on. “Man critical after attack”, reads the headline of the weeks local paper. A gang of six of teenagers arrested for allegedly attacking him in the park and leaving him fighting for his life. Back home I wake up after falling asleep whilst reading a book. It is dark inside and outside the room, but by the sound of the traffic flow I can tell that it is rush hour around 6pm.

Later at night sad news comes over the radio that Mark E Smith the lead singer of The Fall has died. One of my favourite groups, I remember when they played the old Carlton Club in Warrington in 1979. I was only sixteen at the time and frustratingly not able to get in. Also I remember missing Joy Division at Eric's in Liverpool, as my friends did want to go that particular week, Karma coming to them the following year when U2 cancelled a gig at Salford University. On the radio the tributes start to come in and a quote by the late DJ John Peel stays with me: The Fall "always different, always the same ".