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Friday, July 25, 2008

On the hottest day of the year so far, I caught a train down (bargain thanks to my Network card) to King's Cross, and wandered along Euston Road to the BBC Broadcasting House. Had my usual West Cornwall Cornish pasty (wholemeal vegetable), and a swift half in a classic London corner pub. Over to queue and go through security, and met up with some geography chums. Once inside, it was deliciously cool with the air conditioning kicking in.

Image of BBC Broadcasting House by Flickr User Hugovk and made available under Creative Commons

Into the BBC Radio Theatre: art deco decoration. Laurie Taylor chaired the discussion. A recording of the BBC 4 show: THINKING ALLOWED

3 people on the panel:

Professor Richard Sennett : sociologist from the LSE

Professor Doreen Massey: Open University Geographer

Will Self: author of 'Psychogeography' (blogged about that before) and 'Book of Dave'

Some notes from the session - lasted about 80 minutes, which has to be edited down to around 30 minutes...
  • A lot of the discussion was (unsurprisingly) quite London-centric
  • Will Self talked about sitting in the lobbies of London hotels in a sports jacket as a teen and enjoying the contrast between the individual and the anonymous: no-one knows who I am - and how that could become loneliness...
  • Mention of the flaneur: the wanderer who walks the streets of a city to discover it: the links to psychogeography.
  • Discussion on the segmentation of cities: perhaps by class, perhaps by race (link to the postcode war in parts of Sheffield I read about last week)
  • The colonisation of cities by tourists, particularly the central parts of cities, which can impact on residents (this is an issue for many other cities too of course, and would be an interesting area for geographical study: the views of the residents on tourists, for GCSE or 'A' level students (or why not for KS3 ? - and don't be too concerned with getting a huge 'product' out of the end result - perhaps a Google Map of 'impressions')
  • Seasonality of cities at certain latitudes: changes through the year
  • Doreen Massey talking about the 'responsibility' that London has to the rest of the world.
  • Will Self talking about the increasingly globalised nature of Arsenal FC experience: not just the team, but the spectators and the change between Highbury and the Emirates Stadium
  • Use of the phrase 'Ur-memory': deep memory of how things used to be - like the fact that this was also the first continent, billions of years ago...
  • Discussion of the phrase 'toyist', which appears in 'The Book of Dave'. How many cities are full of unremittingly dull buildings, punctuated by occasional iconic buildings.
  • The homogenisation of the city
  • The idea that although we think of London as a 2000 year old city, occupied since Roman times etc. most of what we see is mid-Victorian...
  • Discussion of N-S divide (N and S London divide) (there's even a Norfolk-Suffolk divide you could say...)
  • Psycogeography: Iain Sinclair, and the 'laddishness' of it all... Why women are perhaps less likely to be psychogeographers...
  • The 'peasantry' of people who don't explore their local area
  • Cities as diagrams...
  • Will Self referring to his wife's version of Psychogeography: "him getting out of the house"
  • Doreen Massey on the narrow time frame of city life, compared to the tectonic scale when surrounded by the rocks of the Scottish Highlands..
  • Discussion on danger and insecurity (brief links to knife crime statistics)
  • The overdoing of danger from strangers, when the more likely scenario is that the child will be "run over by an SUV"...
  • The connection between London and the state (links to work done by Danny Dorling and others in the Census Atlas of Great Britain, on the idea of 'the city' and 'the Archipelago' - which also has a clear link to the island archipelago in the map at the front of 'The Book of Dave') and how London is beginning to be separated from the rest of the country - the common feeling was that the first time London is flooded (which WILL happen...), it will suddenly become part of the SE of England again... (a nice ending discussion on this theme...)
Interesting connections to the idea of Learning outside the Classroom, and the issues with taking students into urban areas.

The programme will apparently be broadcast on the 27th of August - I hope I've given enough of a trail for you to perhaps join the million other people who hear the show in whatever format suits you. Some interesting ideas to develop further - would there be interest in a CPD unit for geography teachers on Psychogeography and alternative explorations of cities ?

Out into the heat, and back to King's Cross for a sweaty train ride home and proofread my manuscript and made a 'to do' list, followed by a barbeque and cricket game at a friend's house...

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2 Comments:

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Simon O said...

Wish I had been there Alan - sounds like a great discussion.

 
At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Noel Jenkins said...

Great write up Alan - I left wishing I'd taken some notes.
Like the sound of the alternative cpd unit!

 

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