In Praise of Middlesex County Council

The Deep Topographer Nick Papadimitriou has just relaunched his website Middlesex County Council. It’s a brilliant piece of work. An honouring of the county “utilising prose and poetry, photographs and local history lore. ” Anyone who has seen my films of Nick will be familiar with his unique vision of that area of London only sometimes referred to by its proper name.
The films by the way are: A Blakean Vision, Deep Topography with Nick Papadimitriou, Beyond Psychogeography, From Dan Dare to Pornography

The River Run pages represent a detailed study of the rivers of the borough and are an essential read. I have for two years now always had a bundles of dog-eared beer-stained copies of some of Nick’s writing in my bag. The pages can be downloaded as PDFs so that others can too share this privilege.

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Reframing Maidstone

I’ve just started working on a new project with Cathy, my sister, down in Maidstone. Reframing Maidstone (Video Mapping) is a event that is part of Architecture Week 2007. We’ve been commissioned to produce a project that highlights hidden aspects of the town. The project will use film and video images to instigate an exploration of the town centre – a kind of cinematic psychogeography, a kino-derive.

It’s very interesting what is happening in Maidstone. Louise Francis and Laura Knight (Art at the Centre Project Officers) are researching the feasibility of establishing an ‘Artists Quarter’ within the Maidstone town centre by: identifying potential artist studio space; raising the profile of the area through temporary art installations, street entertainment and a creative marketing campaign. It’s a really bold and ambitious plan in town that isn’t really looking for arts-led regeneration (in the way that Folkstone is) but seems to be doing it for arts’ sake and the potential benefits for the feel of the place, the genus loci.

We’ll be instigating a number of derives with local people and will mixing up the methods: algorithmic, constrained walks, “sauntering as Charles II, Richard Jefferies, W.H. Hudson, and Edward Thomas sauntered” etc. Then the central event will take place on 16th and 23rd June.

email reframingmaidstone@googlemail.com for updates and information.

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Lille

Went to Lille last weekend. A Brutalist’s dream. Windswept bare-tree people-less boulevards. Flyovers bisecting reflecting glass office blocks. Council estates sucking up the pollution. This was our first impression.

Out along Boulevard Emile Dubuisson, past Avenue du President John Fitzgerald Kennedy to the corner of Boulevard du President Hoover and Boulevard Louis XIV. We found our serviced apartment on a street that didn’t exist on the far edge of a building site accessed via a service road behind an huge anonymous building of some state department. To enter we had to phone a call centre who-knows-where to be given an access code. The kids loved it.

This would be an ideal psychogeographer’s weekend away (we’re here with two young children on a birthday celebration though). The city’s zones are precisely demarcated. The Brutalist Zone that we first encountered. The immigrant area around Boulevard Jean-Baptiste Lebas. The cultural quarter centred around the Museum of Fine Art. The upmarket artisan district in the winding streets of Rue Lepelletier. Avenue Le Corbusier is pure concrete dystopia where policemen, drunks, skateboarders and Eurostar travellers intermingle around the Euralille shopping mall. Lines of tension and hybrid zones I imagine stretch between these areas. We only glimpsed this briefly in the hunt for food led by a rampant toddler and a foraging 3-year old.

If The Situationists developed psychogeography to unpick the modernist legacy and critique the work Corbusier then this would put Lille on the frontline of the struggle. Although there didn’t seem to be much evidence of conflict the weekend that I blew through. Maybe we were too distracted by the chocolate waffles.

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