Somers Town is an absurdly layered, compacted historical location – its modern history stretching back to the Romantics, to Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley – it is a small spot on which so many events have happened. And yet it stands now as a shadow of itself. It is a place dense with housing, built in waves, some now disappeared, like the Polygon that housed William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft and others or the neo-Georgian terrace where ‘Drop Out’ author Robin Farquharson died in a fire; some decaying like the model flats of the Ossulston estate of the 1920s, modelled on Karl Marx Hof in Red Vienna, and some yet to come like the massive ‘luxury’ tower blocks planned to obliterate the park. Housing has always been an issue here and the walk concentrated on two waves of radical experiments in living – mass squatting in North Somers town in the abandoned Brewer’s estate houses the early 1970 and the large squats in decayed flats, ‘unfit for human habitation’, in the South in the mid 1980s.
-Corinne Noble (image)
“…to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender…” – Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
It has been some time in the making, but well worth the wait, Walking Cities: London is due to be launched at the Showroom Gallery on Wednesday 15 March. Co-founders of the Walkative project, Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Simon King, are co-editors of the book, along with Amy Blier-Carruthers and Roberto Bottazzi. Key walkavists, Rosana Antoli, Duncan Jeffs, and Tom Spooner have contributed writing and artwork.
Images from the Mythogeographic rewalking of ‘Curling Up Tight’* with Phil Smith and Simon King as part of the Performance, Intervention and Participation strand of the TECHNE Platforms and Interfaces Congress hosted by the Royal College of Art on 12-13 January. From the programme:
Phil’s walk will combine walking alongside character and narrative, walking as stranger and familiar, re-exploring a route (and no doubt some tangents and mistakes) first walked with Simon King. During the walk, Phil and the participants will be looking for doors slightly ajar, films still running in the streets, codes in street furniture; and checking how the altars are aligned en route. They will question young priests on the meaning of hard, physical things, and try to deduce what part in what conspiracies the statues play.
Walking in rain and darkness; why had I not imagined that night would fall? Tiny yellow diamond points, red eyes in the black tops of the trees; there was a refusing gloom and a cold relentless soaking, a cold blessing. I had planned for a dry symbol and icon walk, but we were forced out of any kind of disembodied and self-satisfied gnosis by the unsureness of the saturated ground we were on.
Emerging from the artificial gloom of the underground.
Think parallels, think pockets of unseen things – suspected but not confirmed. We convene outside Holborn tube station, a larger group than expected which is slightly terrifying, and agree to make our way to somewhere quieter to commence the walk. This coincidentally happens to be outside the doors of the first art school in London, which seems vaguely poetic. We outline the walk at least as much as possible. The walk at it’s beginning, is simply a map of places I find interesting but don’t know why, and possibly other places that we may encounter as we progress.
“Nightwalkers experience urban life as a form of phantasmagoria, one that they are at the same time utterly immersed in and oddly detached from. The nightwalker thus dramatizes the dialectic of alienation and disalianation, oppression and emancipation, the prosaic and the poetic, at the core of metropolitan modernity.”
Matthew Beaumont, Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London Chaucer to Dickens (London: Verso, 2016) p.11
In search of long-lost Sayer Street and its recuperation by property developer Lend Lease in 2016, our coordinates will include the Elephant & Castle’s doomed shopping centre and the emerging retail park to navigate a spatial and temporal course in and around this prime ‘regeneration opportunity area’. In the course of our walking we will draw upon historical and contemporary fragments as well as discussion to construct a history that takes as its starting point a parallel and coincidence separated by 75 years.