Wednesday, 29 June 2016

STEPZ II – Extracts

STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard

STEPZ II will be launched on the 22nd July in time for the start of the Loitering With Intent exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. At the exhibition itself you will be able to pick up a limited edition hard copy of the John Cooper Clarke/Manchester inspired zine and see the accompanying artwork. On this blog I will make available a pdf for you to download for free. You can read the editors' letter here and read a bit more about the zine here. A free copy of STEPZ I can be downloaded here.

Here are a few extracts from the upcoming zine as a taster:

Umbrellas in the Port and Cottonopolis: A snapshot of Red Light Districts in Liverpool and Manchester
By Sarah Crewe

The streets that lay underneath Manchester Piccadilly station appear to be a nest of twigs, offshoots and debris that the town planning team forgot, or to add a twist of cynicism, decided to leave unturned in order to appease the sex tourists that the area is somewhat infamous for. It is very much the land that time forgot. The Star & Garter pub looks exactly the same from the outside as it did in the late ‘90s, when I was attempting to channel Gaye Advert as a bass player in a punk band. I recall even then that the pub was known as a refuge from the archetypal Mancunian drizzle for women who were in the sex trade. The grey, the rubble, and the reputation remain. The streets here seem to have the most ironic names: Fairfield Street, Temperance Street. While there are no working women out - and it is afternoon so perhaps not so much to be expected at this time of day – I am interested in how there is just so much symbolism here. This is clearly a zone charged with history and former expectation, the amount of red brick is testimony to that. Used for 19th century buildings with either industrial potential or sites for education. There are shattered windows, and the ghost site of a former railway station, Mayfield, closed to passengers in 1960 and yet still very much a presence in the city’s landscape.

“Quick as Lager Turns to Piss”: The Privatisation of the Smallest Public Space and a return to Victorian values
By David Dunnico

So in 2010, Manchester followed the example of other councils and launched a “City Loos scheme”. This aimed to persuade shops to take down their “Toilets are for the use of patrons only” signs and replace them with purple “You’re welcome to use our facilities” notices. At its launch, Councillor Pat Karney was pictured peering through a toilet seat, reckoning the scheme would eventually have “about a 100 toilets available”.6 They launched with eight and now have seven. One member, the Arndale Shopping Centre (once dubbed ‘superloo’ after its tiled facade) only stopped charging for their loos when the Trafford Centre opened and didn’t. Another ex-charger was the disastrous Triangle re-development of the Corn Exchange. Following its re-re-development as a posh version of the Arndale’s food court, they got rid of the public toilets altogether – although the Council still advertises them as being a member of the scheme. The participants are the places people have always nipped to if they needed the loo. All the City Loos scheme has done is confirm that the private sector will not provide a service if there is no profit to be made. Even meeting a basic human necessity involves spending a penny. We are more Dickensian than Victorian.

Ancoats and the Quiet Whispers of Change
By Lucy Sykes

It has been said before that Ancoats is to Manchester what Manchester is to England: the birth place of an industrial monster. It was the cog which churned and churned, eating resources, swallowing labour and spitting out enough textile garments to feed the world. It was an empire built out of red brick, where chimneys were seen as spires and smoke was seen as success. Productivity screamed from the streets as Manchester claimed its position in the global market. Economic decline and neoliberal outsourcing was, however, to deal this kingdom a cruel blow. The 20th Century saw Ancoats chopped and changed. Mills became redundant to new economic demands, boundaries were redrawn, and the place become void of activity as population catastrophically dropped. Less able to brag about its commercial success, Ancoats withdrew behind its high and mighty walls.

There’s Something in the Water…
By Morag Rose

In Castlefield we keep an admiring but respectful distance from geese protecting their young families. We decide to head towards the pub for a convivial post dérive pint, documenting the towpaths mundane flotsam and jetsam on the way. It’s beautiful here but people leave traces: footprints, desire lines and oceans of litter. Shoes, keys, marbles, wrappers, an ancient lamppost, a hundred parties worth of bottles. There’s a demon dog buried under the bridge between Salford and Manchester. We are safe for 999 years but which side of the river will it emerge from? A loiterer told me about a beautiful ice maiden, trapped under frozen water, becoming a celebrity amongst ghoulish thrill seekers. Broadsheets and folk singers lamented Manchester’s Ophelia but she wasn’t a myth. She had a name. She was Miss Lavinia Robinson who went missing after an argument with her fiancée on December 6th 1813. A personal tragedy turned into entertainment; dead girls sell papers, especially if they are pretty and ‘good’. Water keeps flowing, some things don’t change, although routes are lost, culverted, twisted and diverted. Once we traced the River Tib and all the water we saw was in puddles or expensive bottles.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Announcement: 'STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard'

STEPZ II has gone to print and will be ready for the Loitering With Intent exhibition this summer. Here is a taster of what is to come from this second edition of STEPZ - this one focused on Northern Psychogeography, Manchester and John Cooper Clarke (please click here for the pilot edition). Above is the front cover, designed by my co-editor Ally Standing.

Below you can have a sneak preview of the editors' letter from the new edition of STEPZ!

Dear Reader, 
Historically zines have formed a key part of the lineage of psychogeography and still do today. Since the time of the Situationists (1957-1972), and with the zines of the London Psychogeographical Association in the 1990s, we see these self-published fanzines taking on the culture and politics of the day. So, too, with the punk zine which was popular in the 1970s. Indeed some zine makers, such as Tom Vague, combine both punk and psychogeography. 
The first edition of the East London Section of the London Psychogeographical Association Newsletter (1993) declares: “We’re Back. After thirty-five glorious years of non-existence, the London Psychogeographical Association is well and truly back”. It goes on to say: “The revival of the LPA corresponds to the increasing decay in British culture, and indeed of the British ruling elite. It has been, in fact, an historical inevitability”. Here we can see the continuation of the Situationist project of the critique of the spectacle. 
STEPZ first landed in the psychogeography arena in the summer of 2015 with its inaugural edition. Having made an especially significant impact in the United States, the pilot edition is now on the syllabus of a course at Bowling Green University and in a specialist zine collection at the University of Kentucky. This upcoming special edition was created as a response to a call for submissions for the Loitering With Intent exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester (summer 2016). STEPZ: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard appears at the intersection of psychogeography and the work of the Mancunian punk poet John Cooper Clarke. It is a response to Manchester and Northern Psychogeography. 
Edited and designed by Tina Richardson (academic and psychogeographer) and Ally Standing (artist and psychogeographer) this edition includes a varied selection of writings from a diverse selection of contributors. Come with us on a trip through contemporary psychogeography! You can discover urban phenomenon such as night buses, public conveniences and abandoned playgrounds. You can amble through Salford, Driffield and Ancoats. And you can dérive with us through distant, imagined and virtual places such as Osaka, Xanadu and Google Street View! 
But, let us not forget this zine is also inspired by the great punk poet John Cooper Clarke, whose lyrics geographically situate his place in Mancunian punk history. In his introduction on the inside cover of Cooper Clarke’s Disguise in Love (1978), the punk music author Alan Parker gives us an insight into someone who was known to many of us as a music legend, but really was actually a psychogeographer: 
“It’s winter in 1979, the rain is falling hard onto the North of England’s already grim looking streets. Tonight…we are going to attend a gig by a man who is fast becoming a music press legend…Before the punk wars are over, John Cooper Clarke will have more than carved out his place in the story of Manchester…Legend has it he once walked the darkest of Manchester’s moors, simply to record silence!” 
We hope you enjoy the zine! 
Tina and Ally

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard

Myself and Ally Standing will have a submission at the upcoming exhibition at The People's History Museum in Manchester, Loitering With Intent. The exhibition runs from 23 July to 13 October 2016 and our contribution is a John Cooper Clarke inspired zine and artwork. Below is the abstract we entered in response to the original call for papers:

An intrinsic part of the heritage of psychogeography are the zines it has bequeathed us, such as the Situationist-inspired On the Poverty of Student Life (1966). Also, the 1990s resurgence of psychogeography is well-represented by the post-punk fanzines of Tom Vague, for example London Psychogeography: Rachman Riots and Rillington Place and the newsletters of the London Psychogeographical Association. In contemporary times this format is well-represented in Laura Oldfield Ford’s book Savage Messiah (2011).
In 2015, following the release of her edited volume Walking Inside Out: Contemporary BritishPsychogeography (2015), Tina Richardson edited and produced the zine STEPZ: A Psychogeography and Urban Aesthetics Zine in order to acknowledge the current ‘moment’ in psychogeography (what she has termed ‘The New Psychogeography’) in a traditional way – not just in a text-book, but a grassroots zine. STEPZ has proved to be popular and now appears on the syllabus of an undergraduate course at Bowling Green State University in the US, acknowledging its significance in contemporary psychogeography.
The academic and psychogeographer, Tina Richardson, and the artist and psychogeographer, Ally Standing, propose a new edition of STEPZ for the exhibition, along with supporting artwork. Inspired by the lyrics of the Mancunian punk poet, John Cooper Clarke, the zine will be Manchester and The North influenced, in particular looking at themes that are consistent across urban space in this geographic region. The zine will combine written pieces with visual elements such as photography, illustration and collage.
The artwork itself will take the form of two framed prints of pages from the zine, enlarged to poster size. The zine and accompanying posters will be printed using a Risograph machine, which is a type of stencil duplicator designed for use within a community setting. Risograph printing - often likened to other real-ink printing processes such as lithography and screen printing - produces a unique and vibrant aesthetic, which calls to mind a time before digital, making it an ideal method of printing considering the context of the zine. The Risograph machine was developed in Japan during the late 1970’s - a time which is temporally relevant, in terms of the work of John Cooper Clarke and the punk movement which partially inspires the zine. As well as being contextually and aesthetically ideal, Risograph printing is also a very environmentally-friendly method, requiring much less energy than standard photocopying, and using soy inks which are completely free from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) the polluting chemicals which are used within most conventional printing.
This special exhibition edition of STEPZ will respond to a number of the themes set out in the CFP: psychogeography, Manchester and The North, the Situationist legacy and creative/DIY. We believe that this new edition of STEPZ will also help mark the exhibition itself and suture it into the history of psychogeography, as well as in Manchester’s rich zine production heritage.
You can download a free copy of the pilot edition of STEPZ here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

I Walk the (Matri-)line

By Lesley Eleanor Wood

At the beginning of my second year studying for an MA in Creative Practice, at Leeds College of Art, the idea of an extended solo walk emerged for my final major project. This provides a unifying frame for many of my longstanding personal interests: feminism; the politics of space and place especially ‘the North’; geography; natural and social history; conversation; the power of ‘happenstance’; and a simple love of walking and our precious, endangered environment. The open and flexible field of psychogeography has provided a useful and generative ‘frame’ for this constellation of enthusiasms.

The walk retraced the journey my family made in 1962, when I was 12, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Leeds, made in reverse in 2005 by my daughter who now lives in Newcastle (a couple of miles away from where my family lived) with her partner and baby daughter. My walk began on May 2nd, from my house, calling by at my Mum’s at lunchtime that day, and ended on May 15th at my daughter’s home. Eleanors run in the family, down the direct maternal line, either as our first or second name. The baby, Isla-May Eleanor, is the sixth. So I aimed to walk along and among the connecting threads between our four generations. Adding an explicitly feminist awareness to the mix, I also intended to extend my awareness of we four Eleanors, to the braided lives of women past and present in the places I walked through.

The walk was conceived as a psychogeographically articulated response to the awe-inspiring experience of walking those 140-plus miles, desiring, as in Tina Richardson’s description, “not only to explore the social history of a particular space but also to express it in a personal and affective way.” This quote is from Walking Inside Out (Rowman and Littlefield International 2015) which was one of three books I took with me (I was carrying everything on my back). This book (now known to me as WIO) has 14 chapters, one for each day of my walk. My daily reading kept me on track in terms of my psychogeographical intent. Whenever I felt myself being drawn into the roles of tourist or voyeur the book made sure I came back to myself and my intentions.

I appreciated the explicitness of Richardson’s personal and political position and enjoyed the chapters by the radical, ‘leftie’ contributors such as Phil Smith and Alexander John Bridger. Alistair Bonnet’s chapter on critical nostalgia, about Newcastle, was a particular delight. But the best section, for me, was by Morag Rose, written from a feminist, activist perspective. Additionally, since my main challenge on the walk was dealing with pain from an inflamed hip joint, I appreciated her description of her impaired mobility, for example, she can’t walk fast. It was refreshing so see the issue of inclusivity in psychogeographical practice addressed, in relation both to gender and disability. One of the tasks I set myself for each day was to make and place a small banner along the way. The example shown above was inspired by Morag Rose’s chapter and her comments about re-thinking fear and how it limits and disempowers us.

I came home 8 days ago and it is interesting to observe the process whereby experience mutates into memory. Everyone wants me to talk about it, to tell the stories. And I am going over the journey in my head and with all the ‘stuff’ I gathered- images, things, recordings. Over time these will be worked up into art works, 2-D pieces, hand-made books, sound recordings, a ‘mini-museum’, and other things which come to me in the early hours.

In the meantime, there are a few thoughts which keep bubbling up as important reflections:
  • I felt safe all the time, I was not afraid. And I took very good care of myself.
  • I was alone for almost all of the time when I was walking. It felt wonderful to be in and of the landscape.
  • Conversely, I enjoyed and appreciated the company of animals and birds. Curlews and lapwings protecting their young. Ewes and lambs everywhere. Looking through graveyards, collecting rubbings of women’s names, I reflected on how much has changed in the lifetime of my Mum, who was a babe in arms when women got the vote in 1928. From the property of men, to potential US President in less than a hundred years.
  • One of the reasons I felt so safe was that women were everywhere- driving buses, running shops and pubs, walking around Dales villages in red sequinned high heels.

Psychogeography News - June 2016

Language, Landscape and the Sublime
Symposium on 29th June in Devon: “This two-day symposium draws together artists and thinkers from a wide range of disciplines to explore ways in which landscape –– and the ways we represent it –– connects deeply to our lives and underpins our relationship to the world.” Click here for further info.

The Poetics of Place
A new app that highlights the hidden histories of place. A project by Sarah Cole and the British Library. (apologies for the annoying ad that pops up). Click here: The Creator’s Project.

Bimbling About
“Dr Alex Bridger argues that psychogeography – basically wandering around or bimbling – provides important insights into the nature of society and the urban environment.” Click here: University of Huddersfield.

The Co-ordinates Society
The Co-ordinates Society is “an eclectic mix of pieces from geographers and geographically-oriented creative individuals. Through this collection we hope to inspire others to thoughtfully explore, create, and connect with each other and the world around us.”

Urban Sketchers Meet Social Science Researchers
“Lynne Chapman, an urban sketcher and illustrator, is working as an Artist in Residence at the Centre documenting its life and work, and working with researchers to explore the similarities between sketching and qualitative research in the ways they interpret and represent everyday lives.” Click here for the article by Lynne Goodacre.

General Psychogeography Posts, News and Events
Article in the Broughton Spurtle. Blog post about Pleasureland in Southport. Article about the dangers for women on walking in the city: Rhythms of Fear.

My Stuff
A series of online lecture on cultural theory and psychogeography: the two that may be of interest are: What Does the Map Represent? and Are You Interpellated? And an article that was published in Driftmine about a documentary film on the geography of loss and cultural amnesia: Setting Up a World.