In this talk Phil Cohen will discuss a number of political, conceptual and methodological issues which have arisen from the research and development of A Citizen’s Atlas of London. This project, initiated by the Livingmaps Network, is setting out to train and support citizen mappers located in regeneration hot spots across London, enabling them to use a variety of participatory mapping approaches to explore and represent their own alternative visions of the city’s past, present and future.
To what extent can participatory action research be considered an effective tool for doing citizen social science? How far can an ethno-cartographic approach succeed in releasing the sociological imagination of groups who find themselves marginalised in the political and planning process, disqualified by the educational system, and condemned to an increasingly precarious economic existence?
To address these questions, Cohen will present and discuss a video of two map-making session: the first with a senior citizen’s group, the second with a mixed ability group of children and young people, both drawn from working class and minority ethnic communities in East London’s docklands which have suffered historic neglect by the civic planning authorities, but now find themselves caught up in a process of accelerated gentrification.
Phil Cohen is a Senior Visiting Research at the Institute of Advanced Studies and an Emeritus Professor at the University of East London. He has spent over forty years working with the communities of East London in a wide variety of research, educational and cultural projects, tracing the impact of structural and demographic change on livelihoods, lifestyles and life stories, with a special focus on perceptions of class, gender and ‘race’. He is the author of a widely acclaimed study of the 2012 Olympics and its impact on East London, On the Wrong Side of the Tracks (Lawrence and Wishart 2013) and Archive that, Comrade: Left legacies and the Counter Culture of Remembrance (PM Press 2018). He has also written a memoir Reading Room Only: memoir of a radical bibliophile (Five Leaves 2013) and Graphologies (with his partner, the painter Jean McNeil), a collection of poetry and fiction, published by Mica Press in 2016.
The event is free. Further information and booking:
with Ben Campkin and Emma Spruce
Chair: Phil Cohen
In his recent narrative history of London as a Queer City (2017) Peter Akroyd writes:
‘London is by nature subversive, suborning previously tight bonds of kinship. That is why it symbolises abstract space and abstract justice instead of the claims of family. Other forms of community emerged, communities formed by those of similar tastes or habits. They could be part of the culture of the street or tavern, or they might be communities of strangers associated with certain footpaths or bog houses. Some of them claimed the city as their own. The city was the haven and the home of anonymity.’
Akroyd’s is only the latest attempt to reduce the essence of the city to its anonymity and in turn make that into an essential figure of gay sexuality. But what if such tunnel visions miss the real patterns of inter-connectedness between urban and gay cultures that are developing on the ground? What if the social complexity and heterogeneity of the metropolis is also to be found in its spatial and sexual politics? We have invited two gay scholar activists to draw on their recent research to queery received notions of London as a playground of gender transgression and fluidity and to explore what might be added to a Citizen’s Atlas from a more grounded and critical LGTBQ+ perspective on cultural cartography.
London’s Queer Spaces: Recent Activism, Policy Support and Contexts (Ben Campkin)
Drawing on evidence gathered through UCL Urban Laboratory’s project LGBTQ+ Cultural Infrastructure in London, Ben will discuss recent activist campaigns to protect LGBTQ+ space in London, as well as the Mayor of London, Night Czar and Greater London Authority’s policies designed to support these initiatives. His talk will discuss the controversy surrounding the UN Habitat 3 New Urban Agenda in relation to the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people as a vulnerable group. A parallel critique is made of some strands in urban studies that neglect queer theoretical contributions. Ben will go on to draw on insights from the emerging field of critical heritage studies to look at the tensions between activists’ and policy-makers’ use of heritage policy and legislation to protect queer spaces, and the practice of making queer space as a radical gesture. Finally, the talk will compare the present situation with the historical example of the Greater London Council-sponsored London Lesbian and Gay Centre and the groups and activities it hosted in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ben Campkin is the author of Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture (IB Tauris, 2013), which won the Urban Communication Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Award, 2015. He is co-editor of Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination (IB Tauris, 2007), the series Urban Pamphleteer(2013-), Engaged Urbanism: Cities and Methodologies (IB Tauris, 2016) and Sexuality and Gender at Home: Experience, Politics, Transgression (Bloomsbury, May 2017). Ben is Senior Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and has been Director of UCL’s Urban Laboratory since 2011.
Mapping Disorderly Stories: Sexuality and Change in Brixton (Emma Spruce)
This talk will bring queer critiques of sexual progress into dialogue with methodological debates over how to map LGBTQ+ urban experience. Brixton is an area of London that is only rarely identified as significant to LGBTQ+ life in the Capital, an erasure that has implications for both urban class analysis and understanding how spaces and places get racialised Emma will begin by presenting an anthology of ‘small stories’ drawn from her ethnographic research, interviews and archival work, which detail Brixton’s rich LGBTQ+ past, and lively present. Layered together, these stories build up an account of Brixton that both reveals, and interrupts, sexual progress narratives in contemporary debates on the processes of regeneration/gentrification in London. This situated analysis, as I will go on to discuss, also generates insights into the transnational spatial webs that LGBTQ+ identification fosters, as well as the concurrent mapping of spaces of intolerance. Emma will conclude the talk by discussing the potential and pitfalls that recent approaches to researching sexual experiences in the city – including cultural cartographies – present for a queer politics of space.
Emma Spruce is a Fellow in Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights at LSE’s Department of Gender Studies. She recently completed doctoral work exploring LGBTQ experience in Brixton, which drew on three years of qualitative research to examine the imbrication of local, national and transnational discourses in framing both spaces of homophobia, and spaces of sexual tolerance. Her published work includes ‘Bigot Geography: Queering Geopolitics in Brixton’, in Sex, Time and Place: Queer Histories of London, c.1850 to the Present (Bloomsbury, 2016), and ‘(It’s not all) Kylie Concerts, Exotic Cocktails and Gossip the in The SAGE handbook of feminist theory (Sage, 2014).
Revenue from this event goes towards the development of the Citizens Atlas of London, an online mapping platform for Londoners affected by the major regeneration schemes up to 2050.
It’s 2049 and London has become a city of perpetual commotion, dedicated to those who like living life in the fast lane. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, some Londoners have chosen to defend themselves against future shock and put the brakes on.
The second lecture in the ‘OUR KIND OF TOWN’ series will take place on September 27th and be given by Michael Edwards and Anna Minton. We are delighted to welcome two of London’s leading urban analysts and campaigners who have played an important role in defining and challenging the direction of London’s development since the 1960s.
Book now through Eventbrite (short link: bit.ly/LONDON-OPP )
LONDON’S REGENERATION: OPPORTUNITY FOR WHOM?
Drawing on many years of engagement with London’s ‘regeneration’ including Covent Garden, Tolmers Square, Coin Street, Docklands, King’s Cross, Elephant and Castle, Haringey, Michael Edwards will review some of the conflicts between tenants, resident and community groups, the development industry and public authorities since the 1960s in an attempt to separate enduring structural issues from conjunctural shifts. Will New Labour and London First continue to be in charge or is a community led plan for London possible?
Anna Minton looks at London’s regeneration through the prism of housing, tracing the processes which have transformed it from a basic civic right into a financialised asset. She draws on original research to document this transition through a series of political actions and inactions on the part of successive governments, which have allowed property developers and global real estate to manipulate the housing market to their own advantage and immense profit. She examines the predicament of ‘generation rent’ and explores possible strategies to challenge the hegemony of finance and property capital in shaping London’s future.
Michael Edwards studied planning at UCL 1964-6. He worked in Nathaniel Lichfield’s office, mainly doing economic inputs to the Plan for Milton Keynes. He has enjoyed lecturing at the Bartlett School, UCL, since 1969, been involved in various London community actions and in all the hearings on London Plans since 2000, working with the network of community groups JustSpace.org.uk His publications are at www.michaeledwards.org.uk and he tweets as @michaellondonsf
Anna Minton is a writer, journalist and academic. She is the author of Big Capital: Who is London for? (Penguin 2017) and Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the 21st Century City (Penguin 2012, 2009). She is Reader in Architecture at the University of East London and Programme Leader of UEL’s MRes Architecture, ‘Reading the Neoliberal City’. She is a contributor to the Guardian and appears regularly on TV and radio. Her website is www.annaminton.com
OUR KIND OF TOWN LECTURES
This public lecture series has been launched by the Livingmaps Network, to support the creation of an online Citizen’s Atlas of London. The atlas will provide a platform through which communities on the front line of regeneration can explore and map their fears and hopes for the future development of this great city as well as their concerns about its present direction.
Venue: UCL Lecture Theatre 2
OUR KIND OF TOWN PUBLIC LECTURE SERIES: Stretched City: Pushing Against the Current in the Last London
The inaugural lecture in the ‘OUR KIND OF TOWN?’ series will take place on June 21st and be given by Iain Sinclair who explores the condition of perceived ‘groundlessness’ in the stretched city that London has become, by way of memory raids, recovered texts and visionary encounters.
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Reclaiming London for its citizens
A series of public lectures mapping issues of democracy and injustice in London’s past, present and future.
London has a long history of struggle for democratic rights. It has been the birthplace of many campaigns for social justice, and sustained a political culture in which refugees and immigrants have made vital contributions to the intellectual and cultural life of the city and the nation. However the current disconnect between the everyday experience of many Londoners and the increasingly complex and disorganised systems of governance to which they are subjected, the widespread withdrawal from civic engagement into privatised spheres of personal fulfilment, the weakening of urban bonds which enabled diverse communities to flourish, and the vastly accelerated flows of people, goods and information – all these factors have put in question what exactly it means to be a ‘Londoner’ today.
Livingmaps Network is developing a Citizens Atlas of London, working with community groups in ‘opportunity areas’ identified in the 2050 London infrastructure plan, to create their own alternative map , with the aim of re-imagining London as ‘Our Kind of Town’. As part of this initiative we are organising a year long series of public lectures by leading figures in the movement to rethink what London means to its citizens, drawing on its historical record, its contemporary geography and most importantly, on its future envisagement.
Venue: UCL Darwin Lecture Theatre