The radical tradition of urban walking – my article in the NewStatesman

radical urban walking

‘What both the interwar topographers and the situationists recognised was the transformative potential of large numbers of people regularly stepping outside the matrix, taking to the streets and walking, becoming active participants rather than passive spectators.’

Read the article here

Debunking Debord – Chris Gray Memorial Lecture

Last week I was invited to Housmans for the inaugural Christopher Gray Memorial Lecture given by Gray’s long-term friend and collaborator Charles Radcliffe.

It was fascinating to hear Radcliffe talk about heading off to Paris with Chris Gray to meet Guy Debord and join the Situationist International. He was disparaging about Debord, saying how square he was and didn’t understand the acid culture that was a significant force in 60’s London (Gray later authored The Acid Diaries). Debord’s intellectual achievements weren’t contested but more the manner of how he dealt with his allies and fellow travelers.

He then gave a pithy account of all the expulsions and exclusions from the SI instigated by Debord and how the Situationists never really seemed to do anything else. Radcliffe was in that select group of people who resigned.
It was a great evening and felt I learnt more about Debord and the SI than in the previous years of reading hagiographies of Debord and his cohorts.

On the way home I read Chris Gray’s introduction to his key book on the SI – Leaving the 20th Century. It seemed from the talk and from Gray’s text that the principle thinker on psychogeography wasn’t Debord by Ivan Chtcheglov. I imagine Debord couldn’t be bothered to walk around Paris all day from the sounds of it.

A passage from the book about the foundation of the SI also struck me:

‘On 28th July 1957, delegates from l’Internationale Lettriste, from the largely Scandinavian and German Movement pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste and from a dubious London Psychogeographical Committee, met at a formal congress at Coscio d’Arroscia in Italy and decided to amalgamate. L’Internationale Situationiste was born.’

Does this mean that this ‘dubious’ London Psychogeographical Committee was the first explicitly psychogeographical group?

If so makes it fitting that the practice and ideas of psychogeography were revived in London in the late 1980s/early 90’s by two men who were in the audience that night at Housmans – Fabian Tompsett and Stewart Home.

There is a video of the part of the event on the Housmans Youtube Channel

london