Tag Archives: Manchester

More Than Pedestrian: The Magic of Walking

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Abandoned Buildings Project 2: Image (c) Jane Samuels, used with permission

Abandoned Buildings Project 2: Image (c) Jane Samuels, used with permission

Public Health England has launched a new campaign “Active 10” to encourage adults to go for a brisk walk for just 10 minutes a day to help improve health and well being. Living Streets have been campaigning for walking cities and encouraging safe walks to school, and Chris Boardman has recently been appointed to become Greater Manchester’s first ever cycling and walking commissioner.

Walking is good for you and the environment. It can also be fun but “pedestrian” has a double meaning, and can be seen to be a bit, well, dull. In a recent article for Transactions, Alastair Bonnett shows us walking can also be magical. He follows an “enchanted path” to explore the work of psycheographers. Psychogeographers use walking to explore and critically engage with the urban landscape; psychogeography provides opportunities for “an uncovering of the city’s possibilities and a desire to listen to its occulded knowledge” (Bonnett 2017: 478).

A psychogeographer does not take the simple route from A to B. They wander, drift and derive. They may use playful techniques to choose the direction of their walk, for example throwing dice or following a line drawn on a map. Their journey began with the radical avant-garde of twentieth century Europe; The Situationist, Surrealists and Lettrists. Bonnett describes their walking as going “against the grain, avoiding and confronting routines and creating new patterns and situations” (2017:474). Psychogeographers concentrate on where they are walking to uncover hidden voices, and power structures that shape modern cities.

Bonnett paints a picture of psychogeographers casting spells and changing the landscape as they walk. He concentrates on three different writers who employ magic in different ways to remap and rewrite London. Nick Papadimitriou has a close, personal, mystical relationship with the Scarp in North West London. John Rogers often uses humour to uncover his alternative city whilst the work of Gareth Rees conjures poetic phantasmagoria from wasteland and evokes the ghostly in the everyday. His dreamwork is an activism, magic with a political intent.

The writers Bonnett focuses on are all doing fascinating and excellent work. However it is also worth noting that contemporary British psychogeography is more diverse than a focus on three men walking in London might suggest. In her excellent overview Tina Richardson identifies what she calls an emerging “new psychogeography” which is, amongst other things, heterogeneous, critical, strategic, and somantic. It can be seen in the work of Jane Samuels, whose work illustrates this blog, Phil Smith a mythogeographer and counter-tourist, and many members of The Walking Artists Network. If you fancy finding out more The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography convenes in Huddersfield this September for three days of talking and walking. You would also be very welcome to join me and The Loiterers Resistance Movement in
Manchester as we embark on a psychogeographical wander on the first Sunday of every month, celebrating creative mischief and search for magic in the Mancunian rain.

As Bonnett shows us, Psychogeography is a practice that combines art, activism, academia, and more. Magical modernism takes many enchanting paths and I encourage you to explore them.

References

60-world2 Bainbridge-Man (2017) Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman is announced as Greater Manchester’s new cycling and walking commissioner Manchester Evening News 28 July 2017 http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/olympic-cyclist-chris-boardman-announced-13397128

books_icon Bonnett A (2017) The Enchanted Path: Magic and Modernism in Psychogeographical Walking Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 42 pp 472-484. doi:10.1111/tran.12177

books_icon Richardson T (2015) ed Walking Inside Out; Contemporary British Psychogeography London: Rowman and Littlefield

Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment #YWW15

By Sarah Mills, Loughborough University

Today marks the start of ‘National Youth Work Week’ (2nd – 8th November 2015). This annual event is a celebration of youth work and its achievements, but is also a time to reflect on some of the challenges across the youth work landscape. Paul Miller, interim Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, stated at the event’s launch that:

“Youth Work Week is a time when people from every part of the sector can come together to celebrate and promote what youth workers do and the transformative contribution they are making to young people’s lives.” (NYA, 2015)

This was the case at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club in Manchester in the 1950s and 1960s, the focus of my recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. As part of a wider national post-war reconstruction effort for the organisation as a whole, one group in Manchester took a radical step of employing a professionally trained youth worker – Stanley Rowe (Figure 1). During his employment, Rowe completely revived and rejuvenated the Club and it became a crucially important space in the lives of hundreds of young people living in the city (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Stanley Rowe at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 1: Stanley Rowe at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester. With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 2: Young people at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 2: Young people at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester. With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Rowe’s background in youth and community work inspired a new emphasis at the Club on young people’s ‘voice’ and they established their own Club Committee. Indeed, young people’s voice is a theme still very much on the political agenda, as both the theme for this year’s National Youth Work Week and the 2015 UN International Youth Day in relation to ‘youth civic engagement’.

In the article, I use the historical example of the JLB & C to make a series of wider arguments about youth work, volunteering and employment more broadly. Both Rowe and his voluntary base encouraged young people to volunteer in their local communities, both as a route to employment but also as a response to faith-based duty (although it is interesting to note that Rowe himself was non-Jewish). More importantly however, the paper considers some of the opportunities and tensions that arise between volunteers and employees when they work alongside one another, under the same remit here of providing a service to young people.

The current landscape of organised activities for young people outside of formal education in the UK is composed of diverse schemes funded and delivered by the state, voluntary organisations, charities, religious institutions, neighbourhoods, families or a combination thereof. Most of these spaces and schemes are sustained through a mix of paid and unpaid labour, with a complex relationship between volunteering and employment. Indeed, this dynamic has become increasingly politicised in the UK, for example in the provision of libraries and other public services. This paper emphasises some of the emotional challenges of volunteering and employment and the sheer volume of work involved in sustaining these types of spaces through holding them together in place.

Overall, this article explores the spatialities of informal education, drawing connections between the historical record and contemporary youth work practice.

About the Author:

Sarah Mills is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Loughborough University.

References

books_icon Mills, S. (2015) Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment: the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and Club in post-war Manchester, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40 (4): 523-535

60-world2 National Youth Agency (2015) ‘NYA launches Youth Work Week 2015’ Available at: http://www.nya.org.uk/supporting-youth-work/youth-work-week-2015/

60-world2 UN (2015) ‘2015 International Youth Day: Youth Civic Engagement’ Available at: http://www.un.org/en/events/youthday/