Future of the City

“… this apparently alienated zone is the new Britain, a pointer to the real future facing this country. Developments in Fulham or Muswell Hill will have no bearing on what lies ahead. But what happens between the M3 and the M4 will define the character of Britain for the next half century.”
J G Ballard, Tate magazine Issue 24, Spring 2001

With the London Perambulator now out in the world thoughts inevitably turn to future projects. I’ve started work on one already, with another in discussion. There will also be the usual pitches to the Channels. But I know that there will be another film with Nick, there almost has to be. The first walks we did together in 2005 hinted towards a much bigger project than The Perambulator could fulfill – that has merely prepared the ground, created a context. All I can see for now is Nick wandering through the Lea Valley Industrial Estate at Edmonton with the brief to ‘engage’ with people as much as the infrastructure and identify the phenomena that Ballard is taking about, isolate the virus creeping through the crumbling industrial fringe of the city, the zones of distribution and re-consumption, disposal and transit – before it’s too late.


London Perambulator Q&A at Housmans

Short clip from the Q&A that I did with Nick Papadimitriou, subject of the documentary – recorded at Housmans Bookshop, Kings Cross, London following a screening of the film.

The London Perambulator looks at the city we deny and the future city that awaits us. Leading London writers and cultural commentators Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Russell Brand explore the importance of the liminal spaces at the city’s fringe, it’s Edgelands, through the work of enigmatic and downright eccentric writer and researcher Nick Papadimitriou – a man whose life is dedicated to exploring and archiving areas beyond the permitted territories of the high street, the retail park, the suburban walkways.

For more information go to http://londonperambulator.wordpress.com

London’s Burning Podcast on Resonance FM

The other week I was mightily chuffed to be invited by Malcolm Vache from Housmans Bookshop on Caledonian Road (a geographical star of this blog) to appear on a radio show he was putting together for Resonance FM. This was something of a magical combination for me, my favourite bookshop asking me to come on and speak on my favourite radio station.
It was one of those occassions where you have to remember that you are there to actually fulfill a function and talk about something (in this case The London Perambulator and this blog) rather than just sit back and enjoy the stimulating chat. The loose theme was London psychogeography and I could happily listen to the other contributors on their own for an hour – Ken Worpole with his knowledge of the London dockers and the Essex coastline, Laura Oldfield Ford with her vivid art and zines drawn from psychogeographical peregrinations of Greater Hackney, and Merlin Coverley author of essential London books, Occult London, London Writing and Psychogeography.
If you’d like to listen to what transpired over that hour the podcast is now available here on Resonance

The London Perambulator will be screened at Housmans bookshop as part of the London’s Burning season celebrating Radical London on Saturday 25th July at 5pm. Me and Nick Papadimitriou will be doing a Q&A afterwards. Tickets available in advance from nik@housmans.com


The night before Perambulator (and after Italy)

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks due to a week spent in Italy, out of the range of internet. I also found myself linguistically intimidated by the landscape such was it’s beauty – not just in the standardised bucolic sense but in the passifying effect on the soul. The same thing happened when I rounded off a 7 month stint in the flat industrial plain of Emilia Romangna with two weeks in Tuscany. Over the preceding months I’d spewed out splenetic prose nightly – to the extent that I had the first draft of a book (that I plan to publish shortly on Lulu). Once in Tuscany the words dried up – it was all swooning olive groves and rhapsodic lunches.

I’ve also been pre-occupied with tomorrow night’s screening of the Nick Papadimitriou film at the Whitechapel Gallery in the East End Film Festival. There will also be an ‘Edgelands’ panel afterwards with Will Self, Iain Sinclair, Andrea Philips and me. What amazing company to find oneself in on a stage in the newly reburbed Gallery.
Aldgate East is one of the parts of London pregnant with memory for me. The distinctive smell of the tube platform hurtles me back to 89-92, City Poly, in various states of inebriation. I never once ventured inside the Whitechapel in those years. And now The London Perambulator makes its world premiere there.


Foul Deeds and Deep Topography

The other evening I went to meet Nick Papadimitriou for coffee in Hampstead – at our regular rendezvous – The Coffee Cup. He slides a hot-off-the-press copy of his book ‘Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Barnet, Finchley and Hendon’ across the table to me. I ask him to sign it. “Bollocks to Psychogeography”, he writes.
Any thoughts that this is a standard local history text are quickly banished on page 1. “In order to ‘frame’ the zone within which the murders described in this book occurred I undertook a series of long walks crossing the borough in order to examine the site of each killing”. At the risk of deeply offending the original Deep Topographer, this fits many people’s definition of psychogeography.
“…. a quiet yet brooding power lurks in our hilly region of serried rooftops and arterial roads. A walk down the Hendon Way from my home in Child’s Hill, in April 2007, revealed traces of the old Hendon Urban District Council sewage farm still visible in concrete culverts and the raised lines of a buried aqueduct at Brent Cross.” Pure Deep Topography.
Nick takes what could have just been the lurid recounting of some murders culled from the local archives and produces a detailed study of the topography, psyche, neurosis, and mythology of the region of his birth. It has all the qualities of the books that both he and I love, the commissioned walking guides to the fringelands of London that went far beyond the brief of describing the locations of footpaths and towpaths to put forward a heightened sensibility, a new way of connecting with the suburban landscape.

My film about Nick is finally taking shape. I did another cut on Thursday where a sequence from our walk from Finchley to Arnos Grove shot last February was added, “suburbs are just the dream of a mushroom god”, Nick lays forth whilst looking at a neat row of Edwardian villas. The challenge still is to feel that Nick’s world is done justice, that the film takes us some way to seeing what he sees and experiences. I’ve spent this evening spooling through a couple of hours of archive footage to pull out about 90 seconds of choice cuts. The contributions from Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Russell Brand seem more priceless with each viewing. The experience feels as epic as our longest walks together.
Once this is done I look forward to going back out walking with Nick – without a camera.