Tag Archives: place

Radio Space: North Sea Memories

The BBC's nemesis: Radio Caroline's offshore vessel, late 1960s. (c) 2011 Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin Sacks

Uniquely amongst the major world powers, Britain’s international image is disproportionally defined by its broadcasting capabilities. The BBC’s announcement on 11 August to establish World Service FM stations in the Libyan rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Misrata (91.5 Arabic and English) raised few eyebrows; observers have come to expect the World Service to install itself in any democratic-leaning region. ‘We know the people of Libya are keen listeners of BBC Arabic’, Liliane Landor, BBC controller for languages, noted, ‘The new FM stations will give the people of Benghazi and Misrata somewhere to turn to for news they can trust and know is accurate’. Similarly, within weeks of the collapse of Iraq’s totalitarian Ba’ath regime, the World Service opened FM repeater stations throughout the country. In 2005 the World Service and the British Department for International Development (DfID) established Al Mirbad Radio, serving Basra, Missan and Dhi Qar provinces. Locally produced Al Mirbad Radio rapidly became one of the most popular stations in Iraq.  The BBC continues to organise and train new Iraqi media groups, with special emphasis on women and journalistic-independence.

Historically, the BBC’s influence was the result of a government policy that remained largely unchanged until the 1970s. A state institution, the BBC was conceived to ‘speak peace unto the nation’; to be the nation’s voice, a symbol of Britain’s strength, culture and public image, both at home and abroad. A broadcasting monopoly theoretically ensured this cohesive voice.

The BBC’s ubiquitous control began to falter after the Second World War. From 1955 onward, ITV competed with BBC Television for viewers. But the radio monopoly survived until 1972, when the Sound Broadcasting Act extended the Television Act 1964 to radio. The Independent Television Authority was renamed the Independent Broadcasting Authority, charged with the registration, organisation and monitoring of commercial (non-BBC) radio stations. The debates leading to the Sound Broadcasting Act highlighted the deep extent to which the BBC had become an integral part of British domestic and international life – an inimitable British geography with distinct cultures, populations and regulations.

But what catalysed Parliament’s about-face in British broadcasting policy? Such recent examinations as the 2009 film Pirate Radio have rekindled interest in the broadcasting ‘war’ that led to the de-monopolisation of British radio and the alteration of British broadcasting geography. In ‘Sinking the Radio “Pirates”: Exploring British Strategies of Governance in the North Sea, 1964-1991’, Kimberley Peters (Royal Holloway) critically examines the vital role offshore pirate radio played in fashioning contemporary British maritime policy. As Peters points out, when the first illegal offshore pirate station (Radio Caroline) broadcast on Easter Sunday 1964, the BBC was reeling from a precipitous drop in listeners. A network that principally catered to middle-aged, middle-class audiences, the BBC was increasingly perceived as being ‘out-of-touch’ with 1960s youth culture, which demanded contemporary rock-n-roll artists. Situated on converted fishing vessels anchored beyond Britain’s three-mile nautical limit, Radio Caroline and its cohort ‘flouted British rules and laws’, but nonetheless placed intensive pressure on the BBC to establish programming geared to a new, revolutionary generation (pp. 281-83).

The Area article also critiques the apparent contradiction between Britain’s historical support for ‘freedom of the seas’ and its determination to eliminate ‘obstacles to free navigation’ which, for purposes of convenience, included the so-called “pirate” radio stations. This approach proved both awkward and questionable: Peters argues that ‘certain methods of governance that were enacted were inherently problematic, challenging therefore Britain’s long history as a protector of the high seas’ (p. 283). London’s frustrating experience in stopping the nautical broadcasts led not only to Britain’s eventual acquiescence to commercial radio, but also to policy-makers’ review of how, where and when maritime law can be applied.

  ‘Al Mirbad: Local Radio for Southern Iraq’, BBC World Service Trust, accessed 12 August 2011.

 McAthy, Rachel,  ‘World Service Launches on FM in Libyan Cities’, Journalism.co.uk, 11 August 2011, accessed 12 August 2011.

  ‘More About Our Work in Iraq’, BBC World Service Trust, accessed 12 August 2011.

  ‘Our Work in Iraq’, BBC World Service Trust, accessed 12 August 2011.

  Peters, Kimberley, ‘Sinking the Radio “Pirates”: Exploring British Strategies of Governance in the North Sea, 1964-1991’, Area 43.3 (September, 2011): 281—87.

  ‘Sound Broadcasting Act 1972’, Parliament 1972 Chapter 31 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1972), pp. 477—96.

Geographies of Newcastle Brown Ale

by Caitlin Douglas

Earlier this year Andy Pike, wrote, in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, about a method to analyse and conceptualise the geographies of brands and branding. Fittingly he used Newcastle Brown Ale (NBA) as the case study: an iconic brand synonymous with Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England although, since 2010, the brewery has been relocated to Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. The brand was launched in the 1920s aiming to create a premium beer: a distinct dark ale that offered consistent quality and taste with high aesthetic appeal that was bottled to encourage distribution beyond Tyneside. Modern bottles still emphasize the beer’s provenance with its label depicting the Newcastle skyline and the Blue Star logo associated with Newcastle Breweries. With the move from Newcastle, however, the authenticity of the beer has been questioned.

Since the early 1990’s sales of NBA in the UK have been decreasing whilst sales in the USA have grown. In the USA, NBA is marketed as a ‘hip’, and ‘ironic’ niche beer ‘imported from England’ and is marketed towards 25 – 34 year old college-educated males. In the USA, NBA has constructed a new geographical association to ‘England’ rather than Tyneside. This has favoured its growth in the USA where shoppers favour traditional ‘English’ ale.

Andy Pike. 2011. Placing brands and branding: a sociospatial biography of Newcastle Brown Ale. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36: 206 – 222.

Newcastle Brown Ale UK Website

Newcastle Brown Ale USA Website

Oral Geographies

Miles Ogborn's work focuses on Barbados, Jamaica and the British West Indies.

By Benjamin Sacks

In the January 2011 issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Miles Ogborn (Queen Mary) recounted the resilience of oral histories in the eighteenth-century British Caribbean. Historians have long relied on culturally varied mediums – including art, maps, prints, stories and music – to better understand the past. Geographers, Ogborn asserted, tend to work with a narrower body of material: maps and surveys, letters and formal accounts of land use and taxation. The importance of oral histories lie in their intrinsic, human element; oral narratives attached the individual to the land, its people and its future to a degree a map simply could not match. Highlighting the work of Sandra Gustafson (Notre Dame) and Carolyn Eastman (Texas-Austin), Ogborn argued that the imperial experience ‘created worlds in which oratory and speechifying [sic] both mirrored and created new social orders’. Gustafson added that colonial interactions made ‘verbal forms [of communication] into primary markers of cultural difference’. Excessive primary information can be difficult to wade through, but the importance of individual, non-academic accounts cannot be underestimated.

Oral histories take on almost countless forms. A conversation, recorded in the minutes of a town meeting, or a synopsis recorded in a letter. Behind gravestones one finds eulogies, epitaphs, verse, memories, music and stories from friends and families. Nor should the progression of tales through multiple familial generations be ignored; alterations in the story can be indicative of topographical or human geographic (i.e. migratory) changes on the landscape. Oral histories provide a colour to geography that has rarely, as of yet, been seen. With the inclusion of spoken narratives, more recent three-dimensional, digital maps also gain a ‘fourth-dimension’ – an interactive, human filter.

Miles Ogborn, ‘The Power of Speech: Orality, Oaths and Evidence in the British Atlantic World, 1650-1800‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 36 no. 1 (Jan., 2011): pp. 109-125.

Also see:

Richard C. Powell, ‘Becoming a Geographical Scientist: Oral Histories of Arctic Fieldwork‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 33 no. 4 (Oct., 2008): pp. 548-565.

Stephen Daniels, ‘Picturing Land and Life‘, Area 26 no. 2 (Jun., 1994): pp. 193-194.

Margaret Byron, ‘Using Audio: Visual Aids in Geography Research: Questions of Access and Responsibility‘, Area 25 no. 4 (Dec., 1993): pp. 379-385.

Placing the Big Society

by Robin de la Motte

The “Big Society” is an as yet underdeveloped concept promoted by the UK’s new coalition government. A Guardian article by Luke Bretherton summarised the issues, and argued that there are “two distinct and rival anthropologies” in the coalition, one which focuses on the role of individuals, and the other, the “big society” approach, focusing on the role of social relationships. Both are intended to shift the emphasis away from the role of the state, but involve contrasting visions: one of the individual as the primary agent (with more emphasis than in the past on co-producing and co-governing public services), and one of “people power” with “co-ordinated and common action in pursuit of shared goods”. Where the former is somewhat rootless and placeless, the latter involves identifying and strengthening the places around which communities are built. Bretherton, focussing on the potential role of churches in the Big Society, argues that churches “need to decide which anthropology best reflects their vision of the good life and work out how best to strengthen it.”

A forthcoming article by Joseph Pierce, Deborah G Martin, and James T Murphy examines the nature of place-making – “place” being a key theoretical idea in geography since at least the 1970s. In surveying the literature, they identify three categories of “the politics of place”, “networked politics”, and “networked place”. The first category centres on how shared place understandings interact with political contestations, in an iterative process in which they shape each other. The second category centres on the understanding of networked communities as based on a shared identity, often across scales and locales, creating “an interlocking bricolage of (always partially) shared place understandings”. The final category to a certain extent combines these, with networks “always ground[ed]… in multiple, interconnected, multi-scalar and overlapping places”. The article draws on Doreen Massey’s (2005) concept of place as bundles of individual experiences constantly re-negotiated, creating “temporary constellations” of place which appear to have greater permanence to those who recognise and participate in their making than they do from outside. So for example the place of “Toronto” appears durable even as it expands to encompass neighbouring municipalities, and otherwise evolves, being constantly recreated and subtly changed. Featuring case studies of Bolivian forests and an American hospital expansion, the article demonstrates “the always ongoing character of relational place-making”. The authors argue that “all places are relational, and are always produced through networked politics”[emphasis in original].

Big society and the church Luke Bretherton The Guardian, 7 October 2010, “Big society and the church

View the Pierce et al (2010) article here Pierce, Joseph, Martin, Deborah G, and Murphy, James T (2010), “Relational place-making: the networked politics of place“, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Early View

The River Thames & London

'Westminster Bridge on the River Thames' (1746), by Giovanni Canaletto (1697-1768)

Benjamin Sacks

IN THE June 2010 issue of The Geographical Journal, Stuart Oliver (St Mary’s University College) critically reviewed the development of the River Thames as a function of London’s material growth. Importantly, Oliver suggests that the physical geography of the River Thames was intentionally manipulated in order to increase its long-term economic value: ‘The engineering structures that it entailed subjected the river to disciplinary control, and allowed the more efficient flow of the river (and the goods it carried), reworking it in accordance with the priorities of a hidden geography of value’ (164). The River Thames was  (and remains) the city’s veins; a “living, breathing” part of London. Oliver’s argument is significant not least as he highlights the intimate relationship between a famous waterway and a modern world city. As early as the twelfth-century, London officials administered the River Thames as if it were a land-based borough of the city, codifying legal statutes pertaining to the waterway’s use and navigation, as well as organizing long-term water resource management. As London’s needs both grew and multiplied, so too did the River Thames’s usefulness and applicability. Surrounding communities waxed and waned on the river’s economic opportunities, adapting or reconstructing themselves when necessary to maintain an advantageous relationship with the River Thames.  A July 1995 paper, also featured in The Geographical Journal, examined the contemporary impact of the River Thames on urban planning, development, and efforts to re-energize defunct wharfs, quays, and housing estates.

The London-Thames relationship is by no means unique; similar symbiotic relationships exists in major cities throughout the world. Venice, Italy, of course, is renowned for its street-wide canals. But if we look to the Far East, or to the Americas, other, fascinating examples exist. Shanghai developed around the Yangtze River Delta and Huangpu River, the latter of which winds through the heart of the city’s financial and cultural districts. In South America, Manaus is another exotic example. Situated well over one thousand miles inland into the Amazon Rain Forest, Manaus’s life is almost entirely tied to the Amazon River. Thousands of cargo vessels pass through Manaus’s estuaries every year, sustaining the city’s economy. The city’s accessibility via the river has resulted in its cultural enrichment.

Stuart Oliver, ‘Navigability and the Improvement of the River Thames, 1605-1815‘, The Geographical Journal 176 no. 2 (Jun., 2010): pp. 164-177.

Andrew Church and Martin Frost, ‘The Thames Gateway – an Analysis of the Emergence of a Sub-Regional Regeneration Initiative‘, The Geographical Journal 161 no. 2 (Jul., 1995): pp. 199-209.

Landscapes of Power – Moscow

Peter the Great Statue, MoscowBy Alexander Leo Phillips

On Tuesday 28th September Yuri Luzhkov was sacked after 18 years as Moscow’s mayor.  Given the secretive nature of Russian politics, the ongoing spat between Luzhkov and Putin/Medvedev was unusual  not only for its viciousness, but also for the publicity it received.  Accused of mismanagement and corruption he was offered a simple choice – jump or be pushed.  The charges against him have yet to be proven, with supporters claiming that it was his popularity which saw him removed, as he was seen as a threat to the Kremlin.

Luzhkov came to power as the Iron Curtin fell and since that time oversaw the massive redevelopments of Moscow’s centre and the establishment of a new financial district.  These changes attracted a great deal of praise, but also their fair share of criticism due to the destruction of historic landmarks that the redevelopments left in their wake.   However, the most visible legacy of his power is doubtlessly the ‘300 years of the Russian Fleet’ monument, more commonly known as the Peter the Great Statue (pictured).

Standing taller and heaver than the Statue of Liberty the monument has been voted the 10th ugliest structure on the planet and become a symbol of Luzhkov’s  power. Now that he has finally been ousted plans are afoot to dismantle it and move it away from the public gaze.  Such a move can be read simply as the removal of a controversial work of art, or as something more sinister as the power of Kremlin exerts itself beyond its traditional boundaries. After all, Muscovites have been left with little doubt that their new mayor will be someone with a little more official approval.

The role architecture plays in the domination of landscapes is nothing new to Human Geography.  Across the globe Geographers have studied how the design of buildings has been implemented to give an unrivalled physicality to the power relationships which dictate the political, economic and cultural structures which inhabit our built environment.  In Transactions’ current issue Maria Kaika has explored London’s changing skyline and how its shift from the traditional to revolutionary designs like the Swiss-Re tower (the Gherkin) is symptomatic of the recent institutional reconfigurations of the Corporation of London.  She argues that “the internationalisation of London’s economy after the 1970s challenged the Corporation’s insular character… [And responding to the threats from ‘foreign companies’] the Corporation reinvented itself with an institutional reform [strategy,] and re-branded its identity… as an outward-looking institution, open to London’s new transnational élites” (2010:453).

Kiaka, M. 2010. ‘Architecture and crisis: re-inventing the icon, re-imag(in)ing London and re-branding the City’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 35 (4), pp. 453-474.

Profile of Yuri Luzhkov.

More information on the ‘Peter the Great Statue’.

Putting Gypsies in their Place

by Fiona Ferbrache

Last week, the French president ordered his government to dismantle 300 illegal Roma camps throughout France and to immediately expel any Roma committing a public offence.  The persons targeted by these claims are thought to have arrived in France from Eastern Europe, namely Bulgaria and Romania.  French news reports over the last week have been showing images of Gypsy camps fashioned from caravans, cardboard and corrugated iron.  In these reports, non-travelling residents living near Roma camps have spoken about the litter and lack of tidiness of such sites.  In essence, the representations of Roma that the government and media have offered this week suggest both an ‘out-of-placeness’, and lack of care for the physical sites they occupy.

Such representations are what Kabachnik (2010) refers to as the “myth of the placeless Gypsy”: “Roma are often depicted as not only not having a place, but not caring about place”.  In his enlightening article, Kabachnik reviews the ways in which four ethnographic representations have illustrated relations between Roma and place.  Finding place to be important, the article challenges the “myth of the placeless Gypsy” and Kabachnik argues for its deconstruction to prevent further laws that (discriminatorily) affect Roma.  Here in France the myth prompts action; where Roma are deemed not to hold any interest in place, it somehow makes the task of dismantling their camps easier.

Kabachnik, P. (2010) England or Uruguay? The persistence of place and the myth of the placeless Gypsy. Area vol.42,2 pp.198-207

Samuel, H. (2010) Half of France’s illegal gipsy camps to be dismantled. Telegraph.co.uk. 28 July 2010

Read more online on BBC News 24.