MLW and Castlefield Launch Pad

Manchester Left Writers are proud to announce that they have won the current round of bids for Castlefield Gallery’s Launch Pad series, administered in association with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. We are about to get stuck into exploring, filming and soundtracking the ‘Northern Powerhouse Liberation Movement’. More news as the project takes shape. Our intervention is due in May 2016. Castlefield is here:

Two Zero Reviews

Here are a pair of reviews, for fellow Zero authors, for the glorious Manchester Review of Books (you read right). One is in Zizek territory, Enjoying It, Candy Crush and Capitalism by Alfie Bown:

The other is a more speculative work, Drone and the Apocalypse by Joanna Demers:

They gave me the opportunity to flex a few underused theoretical muscles.

Thinking Allowed

I recorded Thinking Allowed, on the 9th of March. The show was hosted by Laurie Taylor, who, as an academic at York formed the basis of a key character, Howard Kirk, in Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man. I was talking with the brilliant Dr Katharine Tyler, her work on people declaring ‘village’ in the urban as a form of symbolic resistance was a great part of the discussion.

The ‘Northern Powerhouse’, a Manchester Left Writers Open Democracy series

I co-founded Manchester Left Writers (MLW) in January 2014, initially as a leftwing reading group, before shifting it into a more critical focus, via a series of publications called Broadsides and Precarious Passages.

I am now co-editing a series of articles with openDemocracyUK. In it, we aim to present the Northern Powerhouse as a prism, dispersing different political colours, and structures of feeling, in the present. We are looking at Manchester initially, the glittering prize in George Osborne’s eye, and then thinking about how to reclaim the mythical space of ‘the Northern Powerhouse’ for its people.

First, we have an Introduction to the series, before an opening salvo, The Northern Powerhouse as Real Mirage, and then David Wilkinson on the Gay Village, gentrification and the crash of 2008. This article was originally called Civic Pride.

Next, we have a co-authored piece by Natalie Bradbury, Robert Galeta, and me, called Pomona for the People, which argues for a proper public ‘agora’, or forum, in the city. It makes an argument for real ‘placemaking’ in the present, for everyone, rather than the ‘futures’ of capitalism for the few.

The photograph of graffiti on Pomona shows that it is already an interstitial, open space by default – it lies between Manchester, Trafford and Salford councils – it is clearly used by many nations, faiths and cultures. Why not keep it like this? Sadly, the answer is obvious, because capital and neoconservatism control the discourse. I have uploaded the original 3,000+ word cut, but here is the Open Democracy edit too.

The next piece was by Bob Dickinson, on Peel power, the real Northern PowerhouseThis was followed by Northern House Power and very shortly afterwards Seeing the Global in the Local. Here is the whole series:

Bristol Festival of the Future City

I will be speaking on a panel at the Festival of the Future City in Bristol this Thursday. I will be talking about a co-authored paper I have been involved in, with Ben Gidley and Sundas Ali, for Oxford University and the Government Office for Science. The paper is on Identity and Belonging in UK Cities, and the panel will discuss immigration in UK cities.

Centre for Urban and Community Research

Here is a piece I have just submitted to the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) ahead of my talk at Goldsmiths, where I will work through the problems and pleasures of ethnography, via an overview of my Zero book, Small Towns, Austere Times (2014). I will explain the origins of that work in a private archive of visual material relating to one quite neatly bounded place. I will then open up these quite specific things into a much larger debate about the global and local, ethnography, ethics and the limits of seeing ‘in the local’, in the early 21st century. The poster for the event is here. This piece, for the CUCR blog, is a kind of effective Afterword to my Small Towns book:

New And Accurate Maps Of The Island

I’ve just received some author copies of the collection Memoria: Histories, Memories, Representations from the publisher. Stimulated by Dave Bridges’ ‘Memories of Light’ installation, currently showing at Armley Mill in Leeds, the book asks questions around who represents the past, and how we might recalibrate the politics of seeing for the present, and ultimately the future.

Simon Ford and I contributed the penultimate chapter, New and Accurate Maps of the Island, about the larger context for the ruin of Armley Mill, that there is ‘no outside’ to capital. Simon’s images for the chapter are wonderful.

We began with ‘the new north-south divide’, the M62 corridor from Liverpool to Hull, being declared after the May 2015 general election. This opens a new phase of my work, on what I am tentatively calling ‘The Island’.

For this section of our wider project, we focus on the ‘Imagine’ sites in Liverpool, around the airport, exploring traces of the old redundant Speke aerodrome, and the former garden festival sites, which are now up for redevelopment.

The collection editor is Wendy Frith, a longtime friend of The Mekons. Patrick Eyres of the New Arcadian journal, Phil Moody and Tom Steele also contribute essays. It’s great to be in a volume with all of the contributors, but particularly Tom Steele, after reading his book on British Cultural Studies.

Red Inkies

I have a tradition of writing for the Red Inkies. I am quite prolific, but much of my writing is a sort of practical thinking. It also remains on my hard drives. But one overflow mechanism has been the more journalistic pieces I have written over the last ten years.

I really like W.E. Du Bois’ strategy of publishing anywhere. He published in racist newspapers, for instance. I am far from ideologically aligned with some of the Red Inkies I have submitted to – to say the least – but getting in there means offering readers who might not otherwise look a different sort of perspective. I get slightly irritated by publishing resumés that list a flawless set of totally right-on titles. I’m equally suspicious of record collections without at least two or three guilty pleasures hidden in them.

There is a wider, more serious point to make here, which is that ethically, by publishing in the Guardian or New Statesman, nothing is ‘solved’, quite the opposite. I have long argued that feminists should publish in Woman’s Own and Marxists in the Financial Times, and although this sometimes happens, it isn’t as widespread a practice as it should be. Could an anti-racism campaigner get published in an EDL publication? Those kinds of ambitions, surely, should be part of any leftwing agenda.

I have a similar take on ethics in relation to social research, that will doubtless make peope feel uncomfortable when I publish the writing. But the broader point I want to make is that we need to get out of our own echo chambers, out of our comfortable, neutered, academic diplomatic immunity, and be just a little bit more risky. History, I think, demands this.

So, here is a piece from Solidarity on the London Olympic Games opening ceremony, called A Cloud Of 21st Century Consciousness. It uses Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting’s Swandown as a lens through which we might view the eventual Olympic event.

Here also are some pieces for New Worker, Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape – sorry Bill – and Adventures in European Hyper-Landscapes, an exploration of class and gender through Eurovision.

More recent pieces have been on Afzal Amin, which I titled Life in the Hall of Mirrors, and an essay on the bizarre, desperate re-burial of despotic King Richard, which I called Richard III, or How To Be an Anthopologist in Your Own Country. I’m not going to upload all of my Red Inky pieces here, just the ones that are accounts of Adventures In Political Landscapes.