The London Perambulator – short clip and screening

The London Perambulator will be screening at Cine-City Brighton Film Festival next week – Nov 26th. There’ll be a Q&A afterwards with me and Nick Papadimitriou hosted by Grant Gee.
Here’s a small snippet of the film to give you a taster.
Info and booking for Cine-City is here – also check out the fantastic Jem Cohen programme

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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.

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Nick doc at the East End Film Festival


The documentary about Nick Papadimitriou that I have blogged about here many a time, the London Perambulator is now finished and will be screening as part of the East End Film Festival at the Whitechapel Gallery Wed 29th April at 7pm. After the screening there will be a panel discussion with the greats of psychgeography and to appease Nick we’ll also say ‘Deep Topography” (in the doc you can see Iain Sinclair enthusiastically signing up to Deep Topography and renouncing psychogeography) – Will Self, Iain Sinclair, Andrea Philips and myself – although I’ll probably end up just listening to those three.

As well as footage from walks I’ve done with Nick over the past year it features fantastic interviews with Russell Brand, Will Self and Iain Sinclair.
Book your tickets here
I’ve just found out that the film has also been nominated for the International Film Guide Inspiration award for Best Documentary Feature

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In Praise of the Penguin Podcasts

Stumbled upon the brilliant Penguin podcasts via Will Self’s website. They are getting me through the recovery from a knee arthroscopy I had done last week that has caused the title of Iain Sinclair’s Millennium Dome essay, ‘Sorry Meniscus’ to loop continuously through my head.

The pick of the bunch has to be the series of podcasts from Will Self’s reading of ‘The Book of Dave’ at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Nick Papadimitriou, a good friend of this blog and regular contributor of comments under various pseudonyms, is credited in the book for the topographical research he provided. It is after all a book that both draws on and adds to the mythology of the city that Nick knows more about than virtually anyone else I know.

There’s also an interesting podcast by Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map, who talks about Placeblogging – of which I suppose this very blog is at times an example. The blogs that Johnson is really talking about are those more intimately linked with the daily minutiae of a community – and the value of the pooling of the kind of amateurised specialist knowledge that they represent.

Whilst mentioning Podcasts I hope to start a regular podcast under the National Psychogeographic banner with Nick Papadimitriou when I can tie him down. Watch this space for details.

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Los Angeles – the atomised city


I react to Boris Johnson’s election as Mayor by escaping to Los Angeles, in a West Coast reversal of the John Carpenter/ Kurt Russell movie Escape From New York. I’m staying up a nasturtium-banked lane not far from the house on Hollywood Boulevard where comic legend Lenny Bruce met his end . When I check this fact with a local she looks mildly taken aback with my morbid interest until I point out that Bruce had also lived in the house – not just died there.
On my last trip to LA I’d read Will Self’s excellent essay in British Airways Highlife magazine on travelling without luggage and had the image of him “labouring through suburban LA” with his Barbour slung over his shoulder. On that cab ride I’d really longed to trace his steps on foot into the city – the 10 or 15 miles across town along wide streets adorned with hyperbolic signage to the celebrated Hollywood hills that rise above Sunset Boulevard.


This is the outer edge of Laurel Canyon, a place ridiculously rich in rock folklore. From The Byrds through Frank Zappa, The Mammas and Papas, Gram Parsons, Joni Mitchell, The Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and The Eagles – resided in these eucalyptus the topped hills. It’s the place that Mamma Cass was thinking of when she sang ‘California Dreamin’.
As Michael Walker writes in ‘Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighbourhood’ (picked up at the Laurel Canyon Country Store), “The musicians flocking to the canyon – at night, caterwauling coyotes and hooting owls made you marvel that you were only five minutes from the noise and neon of the Sunset Strip – constituted an unprecedented breed of incipient celebrity: the rocker-hippie, as much a work in progress as the music they made”.

The rocker-hippies are largely no more it seems, replaced by preening proto-porn stars with silicone enhancing any appendage that’ll take it. The Griddle Café on Sunset, sat beside The Director’s Guild of America, seemed a particular attraction for this genre of Los Angel.

It’s a city, a place, that I found resisting definition – allergic to prose. I ventured out on a few jet-lag inspired excursions on foot and experienced the odd sensation of being greeted by literally every other fellow walker – such is the exclusivity of the cult of the pedestrian. But due to the sheer scale of the place (and the steepness of the inevitable return to base) that I was restricted to laps of the blocks along Hollywood-Sunset-Crescent Heights Boulevards. Sprawl almost seems inadequate to describe a system of town planning that gives every single building the car parking space of a small supermarket. Atomised would better describe it – but if matter were this loosely aligned the fabric of everyday objects would crumble before us.

I had Will Self with me again for company, in the form of his piece in GQ on walking LA’s Downtown district (I’ve left off a qualifying adjective but needless to add that it’s a brilliant piece of writing). He references some of the city’s onscreen rendering – Falling Down, Collateral and Blade Runner, to such an extent that the No.2 bus from the bottom of the hill that would take me there seems like the transport to another city. I never made it downtown to Will’s vision of Los Angeles. The city I found the place was at odds with the 2-D LA of TV and cinema. Few cop cars, gangsters and aggravation. More violet blossomed boulevards where SUVs lumber along languidly. The only reference to hand for me being the LA scenes in Sideways – but without the pot-bellied Paul Giamatti.

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Clash of the Magi


I went to the V&A the other week to catch Iain Sinclair and Will Self having a discussion about psychogeographic(al) writing. I should have blogged this ages ago, well 2 weeks ago when it happened, I know that’s the point of blogs. I’m not an obsessive blogger as you’ll be able to tell by flicking through previous posts.

Here’s a quick précis what was said.
Iain Sinclair again talked about the psycho-politics that he encountered in the mid-sixties. He’d brought this up at the ‘Ah Sunflower’ screening last year, by way of explaining his route into psychogeography. And also mentioned that at that time he’d been far more interested in Alfred Watkins than Guy Debord and was doing loads of Ridgeway walks right up to the time of writing ‘Lights Out for the Territory’. By way of a self-indulgent adjunct here, my own psychogeographic work in High Wycombe led me out to the Ridgeway by applying Sinclair’s idea of ‘nodules of energy’ to my home town. He neatly sums up the main thrust of psychogeographic writing as “the quest for quests”.

Will Self talks about the “power of walking’s destructive ability to destroy the fabric of how we are meant to live in cities.” This has a distinctly Debordian tone, and I might have misquoted him there as I can’t imagine such a skilled wordsmith using ‘destructive’ and ‘destroy’ in the same sentence.

Sinclair then invokes an older tradition, DeQuincy’s idea that within the labyrinth of London there is a north-west passage that takes you out of the city. A theme that was later picked up by Machen I think, in the ‘London Adventure’.
Iain also talked about the role that Thatcherism played in the psychogeographic revival of the late 1980’s as a form of “resurrected tools of resistance, psyche was summoned up”.

It was interesting to sit and listen with the other Magus of the Edgelands – Nick Papadimitriou. Both Iain Sinclair and Will Self mentioned Nick’s name at various points, the only person they both cited except for Debord. Nick resolutely denies the term, ‘psychogeography’ and deploys ‘psychogeographer’ as a pejorative with the same intensity as others invoke old English names for the female sex organs.

Nick was partly the reason for me not posting sooner. We had a day out filming for the documentary about him and his work. Reviewing some earlier footage I had come across him talking about Will Self’s ‘Interzone’ project from the 1980’s after I spotted a photo of a young Will leaning against a chainlink fence at Erith Marshes.

I’ve been mucking around with a website for National Psychogeographic, which although incomplete will grow, so by all means contact me with suggestions for content info@nationalpsychogeographic.com

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Why is Will Self’s column in The Independent called ‘PsychoGeography’?

I bought the Independent this weekend for the Eric Rohmer DVD’s and naturally came across Will Self’s column in the magazine. I have heard of it before but not paid any attention. I always assumed the title to be a bit of a joke, a comment on the over/mis-use of the term by a man who knows what it really means. But as I read yesterday’s cloumn, a meditation on “Travelling light”, the inappropriateness of the title irked me. Self was sailing too close to genuinely psychogeographical waters, questioning notions of and approaches to travel. What was Self playing with here?

I’d seen him jibe Iain Sinclair for his perceived mis-use of the Debordian idea of “The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment (whether consciously organised or not) on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”. (Guy Debord, ‘Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography’ 1955) for Sinclair’s brew of earth mysteries and East End esoterica. Mr Self had even squared the two ideas of psychogeography in his review of Sinclair’s masterful ‘London Orbital’ (along with ‘Lights Out for the Territory’ and Stewart Home’s LPA newsletters held up as the canonical texts of Anglo-Celtic psychogeography). He’d quite neatly defined what he thought the Situationists were up to when he wrote:
“The situationists of Left Bank Paris undertook their derives in an altogether aimless fashion. These urban rambles, guided by Guy Debord, a pisshead mystical Marxist intellectual manque (presumably holding up a cheap bottle of wine, the way a London tour guide lofts an umbrella), were aimed at deconstructing the urban space. The cities – according to these filthy flaneurs – had become merely factories for the production of soullessness, and it was their duty, by lying about drunk on the Ile de France, to liberate Paris from its collective obsession with work, consumption and industrialised mass “leisure”.
And he brilliantly summarises what Sinclair was up to:
“But across the Channel and 40 years on, Sinclair has made of psychogeography an altogether more productive, if decidedly less millenarian, field of study. While Ackroyd is a shameless antiquarian, a John Stow de nos jours who stomps through time and space kicking up the fossilised imprints of styles and modes, Sinclair, on the other hand, has at least a half-belief in full temporal simultaneity.

So what exactly is Will Self up to with this column? Where does his PsychoGeography fit in to all this? Surely he’s not throwing his lot in with the crew who produce such aberrations as the Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel and the Time Out book of London Walks.