Thursday, 25 August 2016

Town and Gown: The Studentification of Urban Space


I will be giving a talk at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography on Saturday 10th September 2016 at Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield. Here is the programme for the whole event, which takes place over Friday 9th and Saturday 10th of September. Below are further details on my talk: Town and Gown: The Studentification of Urban Space.

Abstract from the conference programme:

Tina Richardson will discuss the rise of privately owned halls of residences in university towns and cities. By providing examples from Huddersfield and Leeds, and revealing her own model of studentification, Tina will demonstrate how private student housing conforms to the new wave of capitalism: aesthetic capitalism.



Additional information:

I will talk about how these forms of private student accommodation appear as innocuous buildings offering a service to universities, filling a gap that they are unable or unwilling to provide. However, student housing is a global asset worth billions, making it ripe for investment, with the effect of driving up property prices in a given area.

I will be using examples from both the University of Huddersfield and the University of Leeds. In particular Castings House in Huddersfield (above) and also some 'heritage' private student accommodation on the University of Leeds campus.

This presentation suggests a specific way that private student housing developers, and management companies, adopt in order to sell their accommodation to students. This method is part of the current moment in the evolution of capitalism. I will be revealing, for the first time, the model I have developed which expresses this process of studentification: “The selling and branding of place, and the burnishing of the image of place…becomes integral to how capitalist competition works.” David Harvey (Marxist Geographer)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Editor | Writer | Proofreader


Are you getting the response you hoped for from your blog posts or online articles? Do your flyers and brochures get swept under the doormat? Is editing and proofreading your manuscript or technical manual posing a challenge?

I am a highly experienced and published writer, editor and proofreader who is able to provide, edit or advise on copy and content across media and platforms. For example: hardcopy or digital articles, web content, proofreading book manuscripts and creating digital newsletters. I am qualified up to doctoral level and have an extensive publishing, writing and editing portfolio, which includes experience of publishing in: the arts and culture sector, urban planning and city living, travel and the environment, public transport, politics and social matters, tourism and heritage, psychoanalysis and mental health, consumer issues, and film and book reviews.

I am meticulous, creative, quick and highly qualified to provide grammatically correct copy. Also, having come from a business background in PR and communications, I am able to translate my writing experience into a variety of commercial environments that require excellent editing skills alongside a background in marketing.

I am able to provide services in the following areas:

ONLINE CONTENT
  • Copywriting
  • Online mailers
  • Blog posts
  • Website content
  • Online articles

HARDCOPY CONTENT
  • Copywriting
  • Newsletters, brochures and flyers
  • Novel editing and proofreading
  • Non-fiction book editing and proofreading
  • Article writing, editing and proofreading

SMALL PRESS
I also run a small press and can quote you on the production of the following arts and culture formats:
  • Zine layout, editing and production
  • Artist book layout, editing and production

Please contact me for a competitive quote. I can offer price/hour or quote for a complete job. Feel free to download a CV, which includes a publications list, or get in touch on the contact page here.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Literary Commentary: 'Midnight at the Miro'


This theoretical analysis is based on the novel extract from Midnight at the Miro, which you can access by clicking here.

“Midnight at the Miro” is a single-title, conventional romance of the suspense sub-genre. Presented in a modern, urban setting and responds to the Brit Art movement of the 1990s. The target market includes women in their twenties and thirties, who might be classified as the “Sex and the City” audience. The author uses third-person limited narration to preserve the viewpoint of the heroine, who represents an independent woman with a successful career and financial autonomy. The traditional character of the heroine is subverted by defining her as someone who directly engages with the world, not someone whose identity is defined through her relationship with others.

The author’s first hermeneutic reference draws the reader in by describing the heroine’s psychological state: “Melanie was excited and had never been happier.”. We understand by this that something has happened which will soon be revealed, and we are immediately propelled forward by the narrative. Our suspense is sated in the following paragraph, when reading about her impending exhibition. This and the cultural codes that follow “Kurt Geiger…stilettos” and “calf-skin leather briefcase”, begin to explain something about the world the heroine lives in: she has a sense of style and, possibly, money. Here the author directly connects the heroine to the novel’s intended audience.

Up until the third paragraph, where the author first describes Melanie directly, she is still only seen through cultural references or as “the agent of an action” (Barthes, 1977, p104). Our greatest sense of Melanie’s character is not only derived from these proairetic and cultural codes but also from the semic ones which, when taken in isolation can appear, to some extent, contradictory. Her “ethereal look” seems at odds with the self-assured person leaving the cab and heading purposefully up the path. If the reader senses any conflict at all this is soon allayed as the author presents the themes that form the heroine’s character by offering important semes, which occur in various forms throughout the novel.

Williams’ description of ideology as “A system of belief characteristics of a particular class or group.” (1977, cited in Fiske, 1990, p165), eloquently describes the novel’s subverted ideology in relation to the heroine’s character. As a successful female Melanie is portrayed as emotionally and financially independent yet does not represent the hard-nosed - feminist reminiscent of the 1980s - but a psychologically well-rounded ‘strong’, yet feminine, woman. Whilst the author connotatively describes her physicality as “delicate” we are aware that she is a businesswoman. This binary opposition helps us understands that despite her subtle facial features, she must contain an inner strength to be competing in a male dominated world. The tension between these opposites reinforce Melanie’s strength of character in the reader’s mind. So, too, her pinstripe suit, which shows that she is ready to willingly launch herself into the Lacanian symbolic order of male power in an attempt to be taken seriously. As McCracken states: “…the heroine of popular romance is inextricably bound up with her position as woman in the modern world.” (1998, p80).

With the contrary semic references and binary opposites used to describe the heroine, the author creates a character with a less classic, less definable, female identity. This very identity is sharply brought into focus with Melanie’s rhetorical question: “Who are you?”. The reader will not immediately recognise the significance of the remark. Nevertheless, it transpires later in the novel that Melanie finds out that her father is not dead after all and upon his reintroduction she is forced to deal with issues concerning her own identity. This intertextual accent in the novel can be compared to “Great Expectations” as, unbeknownst to her, Melanie’s father had been her benefactor. At this point in the novel we see the first glimpse of the denouement of the plot in the form of the reappearance of her father and the breakdown of her relationship with James.

Included in the exposition is the setting of the flat where Melanie lives with James, which is also described binarily and can be seen as a symbolic representation of Melanie herself; the “unpretentious” yet “refined” lounge suggests a contradiction that remains unnoticed in the reading. What the author describes is an attractive, intriguing room, enabling the reader to add her own interpretation to the details that are omitted. As Radway says: “…the reader is never forced to recognise that it is indeed she who actively supplies the significance of the words she encounters.” (1991, p197).

While the author does not challenge romantic conventions, she does challenge the stereotypes of gender roles by introducing atypical, complex characters that are hard to pin down. Well-placed narrative enigmas, provided in the form of “lexies” (Barthes, 1974), seamlessly bleed into the narrative assuring a smooth transit.  The interlacing of “voices” (ibid), and overlapping of “associative fields” (1972, Hall), enables the reader to successfully engage with the text. Additionally, the interpretative space allowed by the author offers the reader a degree of subjective control over the descriptive details. As Gennette says “…the real author of the narrative is not only [s]he who tells it, but also, and at times even more, [s]he who hears it.” (1995, p262).

Bibliography
Barthes, R (1977) “Structural Analysis of Narratives” in Image Music Text. 1st ed. London: Fontana Press.
Barthes, R (1974) S/Z: An Essay. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Fiske, J (1990) An Introduction to Communication Studies. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.
Genette, G (1995) Narrative Discourse. 6th ed. New York: Cornell University Press.
Hall, S (1972) Working Papers in Cultural Studies. 1st ed. London: Taylor and Francis.
McCracken, S. (1998) “Popular Romance” in Pulp: Reading Popular Fiction. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Radway, J.A. (1991) Reading the Romance – Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature. 2nd ed. North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Novel Extract: Midnight at the Miro


Chapter 1

She adored London - well, she certainly adored London today, anyway. London was where things happened. Melanie stared pensively out of the side window of the black cab as it wound its way round the one-way system and past the Victorian clock tower at the end of her road. She decided that she was definitely going to open that Chateauneuf-du-Pape and take a proper look at the proof of the brochure she’d just picked up from the printers. Melanie was excited and had never been happier.

Her first proper exhibition was only six weeks away and was being held at the prestigious Victoria Miro gallery in Islington. Victoria was the gallery owner to have a contract with and her endorsement insured your official introduction to the world of contemporary art. Victoria was known for her exceptional launch parties and you could practically guarantee guests like Saatchi and Emin. Climbing out of the cab she generously tipped the cabbie, gave him one of her cheeriest smiles and headed up the black and red terracotta path, her Kurt Geiger black stilettos making a satisfyingly resonant click as she went.

Melanie was a rare beauty. She had an exquisite face with delicate features and a rather ethereal look. Her hazel eyes and honey blonde hair were stunning, and her superb cheekbones gave her a somewhat regal quality. Her friends described her as having a unique look that set her apart from others. Whilst not vain, Melanie was aware of her attractiveness. Nevertheless it didn’t seem that important to her. She simply saw it as the outside surface of who she was and often found it actually got in the way. And, in fact, one of the things that had attracted her to James was that he barely made reference to her good looks.

She swung the front door of her North London flat open and, accidentally treading on the newly arrived mail, dumped her bag of Selfridges shopping and her fuchsia pink calf-skin leather briefcase on the chair next to the hall table. The answerphone signalled ‘0’ messages. She picked up the post and walked down the newly carpeted hall, turning the lights on as she went, and entered the lounge. This was her favourite room - she had chosen the colours with James. They had picked warm colours: peach and cream, cosy rather than minimalist.

James and her had only been in the flat for eight months and had almost finished decorating it. Now that he was working away progress had slowed down, but they still managed to spend the occasional weekend on it. The lounge was welcoming, comfortable and unpretentious, but still had a refined air about it. It was one of those rooms that looked like it had all come together just by chance, but really had been exceptionally well-designed and thought out.

A large soft cream leather sofa was the focus of the room and faced the onyx fireplace. Scattered on the sofa were a number of cushions made of corduroy in various colours from plum to salmon pink. In front of the fireplace was a Peruvian rug in burgundy, orange and cream. The larger pieces of furniture in the room had come from various parts of the world – Singapore, Cambodia, Russia - and strangely all seemed to come together in this one room and managed not to look out of place at all. This was the gift Melanie had for putting things together with panache.

She dropped the post on the sofa, took off her black and silver-threaded pin-stripe jacket and went over to the fireplace to light the hibiscus-and-lychee scented candle. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror she moved closer to her reflection. She peered at herself quizzically. It was one of those moments when you see yourself more objectively than you usually do. “Who are you?” she said under her breath. The moment passed as she caught sight of the light covering of London grime on her face. She removed the pins and ruffled her well-groomed hair to release the pressures of the day.

The kitchen and the red wine beckoned. She had been intentionally delaying the excitement of reading her brochure, but the anticipation was finally getting to her. While she de-corked and poured the wine she wondered why James hadn’t called, but just at that moment Penguin came in through the cat flap, demanding her attention and distracting her from her thoughts. The dainty black and white cat had been living with them for a year now, after being adopted. Melanie guessed that she was probably a teenager, and she was certainly behaving like one: out all hours of the night and even, on occasions, bringing her boyfriends back to the flat without permission. Melanie fed Penguin, asking her “What have you been up to today, my lovely?”. Receiving barely a miaow in reply she placed the plate of cat food on the kitchen floor, briefly stroked the black and white furry head, and returned to the lounge with her red wine.

Throwing herself into the sofa she kicked off her stilettos, settled into the generous padding of the upholstery and flicked through the post: phone bill, home contents renewal notice, something from Mother (probably a mail order brochure selling bras, she thought, or maybe an article on something that might impact her life in some arbitrary way: for example, “Rape in North London increases by 10% since 1990”). She carried on looking through the remainder of the mail, placing it into two piles: one to keep and one to bin.  Now for the brochure:
Universal Abstractions 
Abstract Interpretations from the Micro/Macro Worlds 
Introducing work by Melanie Peterson The series of paintings on display are inspired by the natural world. It is about the world of unity and the merging of boundaries…

Heterotopias of Compensation


Travis Elborough’s A Walk in the Park

This is a short essay inspired by Travis Elborough’s A Walk in the Park: The Life and Times of a People’s Institution (Jonathan Cape 2016).

The park is an excellent example of a heterotopia as explained by Foucault in his text ‘Of Other Spaces’ (1967). In his essay, which was originally a lecture, Foucault describes the difference between a utopia and a heterotopia: “Utopias are sites with no real space” whereas heterotopias “are real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” (2001: 239).

In ‘Of Other Spaces’ Foucault details the complex criteria required to consider a particular space to be a heterotopia, setting out his four principles. He also uses labels such as “crisis heterotopias” and “heterotopias of deviation” to apply to, for example, 19th century boarding schools and contemporary psychiatric hospitals, respectively (2001: 240). However, I shall be choosing to look at the public park from the perspective of a heterotopia of compensation since they are designed to “create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled” (2001: 243).

Please click here to read the full article published in Driftmine.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Death, Identity and Gentrification in Walthamstow, East London


By Deborah Talbot

There is a known phenomenon of relationships, called the ‘widowhood effect,’ which is that when one partner in a long-term relationship dies, the other one follows swiftly. It is not known exactly why this is. One study by Felix Elwert and Nicholas A. Christakis in 2008, which had a cohort of 373,189 elderly married couples, found that how the death occurred could significantly influence the impact on the surviving partner. Acute health events could trigger a greater likelihood of corresponding death in the partner, meaning that ‘anticipatory grief might' play a part, as does the loss of support networks involved with long-term managed hospital care for other kinds of acute illnesses, such as cancer. Whatever the cause, death is shown to be a complicated biopsychosocial event, not least for the surviving partner, and it required investigation that was not limited to biological causes.

The research highlights the extent to which identity and social connection are bound up with health. I wonder though whether a more poetic explanation might lie in how identity is connected to a long-term other, and to be shorn of that person means that the self feels insubstantial, as if you are a walking ghost for whom the future only consists of dying.

As you age, and as friends and family get ill, fade and die, the question of ‘who am I’ is answered by a void, which says, you are your memories in other people, people who no longer exist. I wonder when it becomes true that no new experiences, new people or new places lie open to you. That you have come to a full stop and the new, the idea of moving on, becomes something exhausting and impossible?


Neighbourhood Change

The question of what death feels like to those left behind has been on my mind as I contemplate the recent changes to the locality in which I live, a rather sleepy part of Walthamstow called Lloyd Park, which is more Essex borders than urban London. It is all greenery, community and William Morris. In this place, more than any other I have lived in, other than my childhood home, I have paced its streets and bonded with its geography. I have chatted to neighbours who have witnessed fifty years of change, rooted in the same house.


My experience in Lloyd Park stands in stark contrast to the rest of my adult life, where I flitted from one area to another, propelled forward by energy and life to remain uncommitted and mobile. Now I have been weighed down by place, and the connectedness brings it’s own sense of pain and loss because that place is going.

Locality, identity and death have all become fused in my mind as the geography I know has become turned over to a new landscape of rapid development and renewed colonisation. All life and mobility in the neighbourhood is conducted to a cacophony and hammering orchestra of loft extensions. Cafés, gussied up pubs, craft beer and new enterprise zones and projects abound. The arts and craft scene is exploding, albeit surviving more by an exchange of goodwill than money. It’s all engaging, yet quick and disconcerting.

And this change is nowhere represented more in the experiential sense of a changing architecture.


Low-rise Living

Walthamstow to me is flat country, full of small two bedroom houses that are incredibly short. Even its copious flats – the Warner two flat purpose built ones – are short. Everything here is miniature, rows and rows of tiny houses, with little gardens and narrow hallways. It’s paradise for the lover of Victorian cottages, and many of these are being restored as money piles in from Hackney, Islington and beyond.

I have lived in London forever surrounded by high rises and large imposing houses, so in moving to Walthamstow, my field of vision moved downwards; it shrunk, so that when I do see a large building it's received as a psychic shock of some kind, as though I am encountering a giant. That Walthamstow should be invoked alongside William Morris, whose focus was quality interior design for the masses, is fitting somehow. Here we hide, crouching in our little homes. Only bungalows feel smaller.


But they are barely houses, in fact. Just row upon row of huts bordering the roads, in various states of disrepair brought on by a love of uPVC windows and pebbled ash. To the extent that you feel like you live in the street, or the (small) garden at the back, or in your neighbours’ homes. One push of the fingers and the walls could be gone. It’s similar to the character in Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor, who sees an alternate or emergent reality through the walls of her flat; except unlike the character in the book, all that you are seeing is the practical reality of your neighbours’ lives. In many ways, it is symbolic of the fragility of London. Why do we live like this, and constantly reinvent these homes, which are stubbornly too small for contemporary humans and were originally cheap sub-standard housing for the Victorian and Edwardian working-class?

I marvelled, when I moved here, how this area could ever be gentrified (or even why it would ever be so), given the cost of restoring all this to it's former (small) Victorian aesthetic. But people have seemingly replaced the windows with sashes and stripped the pebbled ash of the frontage, and instead, I marvel at where the money comes from. It was seemingly ripe for it, as the cultural middle-classes narrowed their horizons to ever-smaller plots of land and social expectations.

Five years ago, when one looked at Walthamstow from, say, Harringay, there was nothing to see. The place, when I first moved here, was hidden country. The end of the line. All you can see from a distance is the hovering cloud of pollution from the A406, which cuts Walthamstow off from it’s white and conservative neighbour, Chingford.

And so in Walthamstow, I became Alice, consuming a pill that makes you at once larger - because in amongst all this smallness, I have felt present and mysteriously grounded - and smaller, because of ever-narrowing horizons defined by a remote London geography and the burden of responsibility. Grounded, and ready to drown.


Epping

Walthamstow opens up to wide-open spaces, with only that Chingford to gallop through before you hit Epping Forest, that ancient, moody, broken and mysterious place (yet oddly well-worked) that goes on seemingly indefinitely, casting you out eventually to deepest Essex. It is not surprising that Walthamstow should act as the gateway to Essex because until very recently it was part of Essex, not London at all.

So Walthamstow is London/not London, connected to the urban yet surprisingly sedate. A zone of non-anxiety. To reside in inner London is to feel the weight of people and places around you, almost claustrophobic. There is a long way to walk before you leave, and so inner London holds you like a prison. The volume of people around you – nervous and competing - weighs heavy.

In Walthamstow, the countryside/not countryside is so near; you could walk to it in hours. Coming out of the tube into this place is to feel an openness. For me, it is but one step away from expelling London from my consciousness, a gateway to the world, though, unlike London, it is a world accessible through my volition rather than that symbol of inner-city escape, the airport.


Gone to the Dogs

All sentiments of place are disrupted, highlighting the folly of attachment. Mine came in the form of a huge residential development at the site of the former Walthamstow Dog Track (the Stadium) on the Chingford Road, just over the North Circular.


A popular destination for locals and beyond, the Dog Track is being developed by London & Quadrant after strong community opposition (and illustrates something of the priorities of Boris Johnson, our new Foreign Secretary, when he was Mayor). It’s nearly finished, and will consist of 294 homes with a leisure complex, allotments and a nursery. It is one of a number of high-rise, high-density buildings to spring up around Walthamstow. There are others in the town centre and Blackhorse Road areas.

I can’t claim to have an attachment to the Stadium – it was already closed (2008) when I got here. It’s also not exactly in a lovely spot, somehow worth preserving. It’s just off the Billet roundabout, which is an exit route for the North Circular. It stands opposite to a giant Sainsbury’s superstore, the attached car park, filling station, and a car dealership.


So why am I, and others who live in the area, fretting? Is it that yet another soulless and poorly designed modern flat complex has been laced onto its Grade II listed iconic art deco cum seaside arcade frontage, giving cultural capital to another corporate development? It is the absence of planning around transport, GPs and schools, which will add to the morning crush, complexity and claustrophobia that is at the core of London mobility and everyday life?

But I don’t think so. It is more about loss. The development assaults the feeling of place here, Walthamstow’s smallness and spatial reach. The development towers over the tiny houses, determined to conquer its tiny frames in the name of a cheapened modernity. It cuts off a connection to Epping and the country beyond, like a fortress.


Building upwards is not just about sustainability. It is a different way of living, as Le Corbusier realised. And it is about power, Foucault-style, delivered in the micro-processes of identity creation. It says that you have no right to occupy a place on the ground, only the air. It erases particularity and choice, as the flats are delivered fully kitted. There are no dirty corners and hidden places. It is all shiny and new, without memory, until decay begins to show in the low-quality build and amenities. It erases attachment to place and other.

Try as the corporate mind does, Jane Jacob’s point that the life of the city is in its streets, and our connection to those streets, still holds. They will simply never work, these high-scale, high-rise development in the edges of industrial estates. They have no vision of personhood or identity, and they fill the view with ugliness, even more than London already offers.

Some might say development and change is a good thing, and it may be. New buildings bring people, money, and jobs. As places fall away, other spaces are preserved. And if I could just push the walls of my house over with my fingers, maybe that would work for all of London? Knock it down and start again. Erase the weight of the past. But what vision would replace it?

The new development disturbs my psychogeographical relationship to Walthamstow, like a loved one who has lost their mind to dementia. You reach out, and it looks much the same, but that you knew was gone. The way my mind and feelings danced with the placeness of Walthamstow has been altered, invoking a spiral of loss. It is symbolic of the fact that the London that was – of transgression and counterculture, of roughness and urban dirt, no longer is. Where are the spaces of experimentation now?

Such is the meaning of place to people, especially as we get older, and perhaps the Brexit vote is not so difficult to understand, after all, misplaced though much of the sentiment was (attacking the best and not the worst of change). We do not understand nor take account of the sentiment of place as we rush to change, improve and disentangle social ties.

No wonder that, as gentrification hits, some members of older generations no longer feel it is theirs, and as they swap their memories for a suitcase of cash (if they are lucky), their new life becomes one of temporary mourning. Gentrification gives life but also invokes death in the form of self-disenfranchisement and expulsion. And I wonder, for how many, that death of identity (or the forced clinging on to an identity) is but a passageway to physical decline, as you ask yourself, how many times, and when is enough?

So I am leaving Walthamstow, with my suitcase of cash; shearing off this identity, ready to swap it for a new pile of bricks, equally transient and fragile. And will I, on leaving, come blinking into the sunlight asking myself how I lived with the ‘faceless peripheral wastes…the grey, mean little houses’ so acutely observed by Lessing in the Golden Notebook? And does that world which is not-London hold a possibility for greater vision or just new forms of constraint? We’ll see.

Deborah Talbot is a freelance researcher and journalist, based in East London. You can find her at Deborah Talbot.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Psychogeography News - August


Loitering With Intent Exhibition
The Loitering With Intent Exhibition is now on in Manchester and will be open for the rest of the summer. There is lots to see there and also many eventshave been arranged. You can download a free zine here which accompanies my collaboration with Ally Standing at the exhibition ‘STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard’. You can also view a film which accompanies Eamonn McCrory’s work at the exhibition.
 
Books and Films
Les Roberts’ Deep Mapping is available in pdf to download 
here. Upcoming book Vanishing Streets by J. M. Tyree – you can find out about it here. You can read my review-essay of Travis Elborough’s A Walk in the Park here. You can watch Phil Smith’s The Blazing World Walks here. And you can view of list of psychogeography-related films on the BFI’s website here.
 
Walking Stuff
Find out about 
The Walking Library. Read a The Guardian article: ‘A tribute to female flâneurs: the women who reclaimed our city streets’. Will Self has been walking in Manchester’s Soap Street. The Evening Standard’s article: ‘Why stressed out Londoner’s should start walking around the city’.
 
Pokemon Go
Read the Jacobin’s article: 
‘Resist Pokemon Go’. Read a Situationist take: ‘Live in the Moment’.