This paper presents direct, lived episodes from Paul of his childhood in Neepsend, and rehousing to the Parson Cross estate, a few miles north. Alternating with these memories is commentary from Eddy, which seeks to briefly contextualize them. These contexts include the interacting physical and social geographies of Neepsend over time, the nature of trauma, memory, and the psychiatry of PTSD.
The paper is obsessed with the River Don, and the turbulence of a student death in a raft race. The authors will touch on their ritual performance of ‘abreaction’ for the river, a Deleuzian ‘body without organs’.
The authors will also touch on other local flows and migrations, including the daily flow of non-resident day and night workers and their visitors into this now depopulated and virtually post-industrial area.
Paul Allender works part-time as a Teaching Associate in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield and part-time as an engaged artist on Parson Cross council estate in Sheffield on a Yorkshire Artspace funded programme. He lived in Neepsend in Sheffield from age 0-11 and moved from there to Parson Cross.
Eddy Dreadnought is a full-time contemporary artist. Last year he devised a walk around Upperthorpe, posted on the Occursus website, and showed related drawings and a DVD at a PlastiCités event. His favourite part of Upperthorpe is Neepsend, and he is delighted to collaborate with Paul who grew up there.
In 1992-1993 French filmmaker Dominique Cabrera was commissioned to make a series of documentaries on the regeneration of Val Fourré, a densely populated banlieue / ‘outer-city’ area west of Paris. This regeneration project centred on the initial demolition of a set of tower blocks. In contrast to the public discourses which demonised the built environment as cause and emblem of social disrepair and presented social and economic progress as inevitable consequences of serial regenerations, Cabrera’s films trace the loss of shared place and collective identity. Viewing regeneration as trauma Cabrera’s film-making strategies work to assert subjective sensual experience and to play with the constructions of time associated with the photographic and the filmic image respectively to assert a durationality of shared space and the present inscription of memory.
Julia Dobson is Reader in French Film and Performance at the University of Sheffield. She has published on the theatre of Hélène Cixous, performing objects, French film and documentary. Her recent book Negotiating the Auteur (Manchester University Press 2012) includes a chapter on the documentary and fiction films of Dominique Cabrera.
Seeing is in part a matter of projecting, and the blanker, the more mundane the space, the more we project onto it in order to animate it and render it meaningful. But, no one reading – no matter how thorough – ever fully captures the site itself. We hunt out and take that which nourishes us. We ignore that which is tasteless to our particular palates. We all search only for treasures that we hope – or expect – to find there.
This paper will present a subjective account of gazing upon a plot of derelict land in the centre of Sheffield, of the personal ghosts summoned in the attempt to commune with other ghosts that the archive tells me I should find at this site. The piece will show how onlookers and those engaging with such sites are haunted by the ghosts of other places, and the spectre of things that may or may not be present at the site under examination. This is a sideways haunting, but a haunting none the less. It is a disturbance of thought that has very real – and very practical – effects upon the land that such anxieties afflict.
Luke is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of the Built Environment, Sheffield Hallam University. His research interests are centred around the intersection of materialities, ideas and practices in the built environment, with particular focus upon dereliction, urban exploration, metal theft and practices of land ownership.
This presentation will open with a discussion of the ambulant automatism of the fugueur, with specific reference to Ian Hacking’s Mad Travellers (which reflects on a moment in European culture when ‘compulsive walking’ was recognized as a discrete illness).
It will then consider distinctions (and similarities) between the compulsive walking addressed by Hacking (movement through landscape impelled by trauma) and the speaker’s practice of immersive walking (movement through landscape impelled towards trauma). Through case studies, including accounts of ‘under-resourced’ long-distance walks undertaken by the speaker (culminating in a night walk from Hull to Spurn Point), the presentation will detail the effects of sleeplessness, hunger and exposure (and other ambient conditions) on the walker’s experience of the landscape.
It will also posit a relationship between a psychological estrangement from the landscape (by trauma accrued through walking) and physical immersion in the landscape, with reference to Burke’s concept of the sublime: a region defined by that which is “dark, uncertain and confused.”
Brian Lewis is editor and curator of Longbarrow Press, a Sheffield-based poetry publisher. His creative practice includes collaborations with poets on film and audio works that focus on marginal landscapes. He regularly undertakes extended walks in the east of England with the objective of depleting his physical and psychological resources.
Our programme of speakers will be announced very shortly, but as a teaser we thought we would let you know that they include Brian Lewis, Emma Bolland, Luke Bennett, Mark Pendleton, Martyn Blundell and Mark Goodwin, Tom Keeley, Julia Dobson, Amanda Crawley Jackson, Paul Allender and Eddy Dreadnought. The event will also include an exhibition and screenings.
In the third of our series of cross-disciplinary symposia, we’ll be exploring post-traumatic landscapes.
The symposium will take place on Wednesday May 22nd, 10am-4pm. There will also be a screening of Detroit Wild City (dir. Florent Tillon) at the Showroom Cinema on May 21st, as part of the symposium programme.
The topics we would like to cover in this symposium include (but are not limited to):
socio-geological approaches to post-traumatic landscapes; physical traumas on the landscape and how they’re erased/covered over; contamination as a post-traumatic trace; the politics of erasure, regeneration, ‘moving on’; aftermath (consequences or after-effects of an event; second growth); ruptures in forgetting; photograph as a post-traumatic artefact; blankness and invisibility; absorption; landscape and PTSD – hypervigilance, structures of forgetting, avoidance; plasticity (cognitive reformatting, etc); affect, vibrant matter, materiality; the geologic now; the archaeology of the contemporary past (Victor Buchli, Gavin Lucas); beyond the ruin
If you would like to submit a proposal for a 20-minute paper, screening or small exhibition, please email Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson (email@example.com) by April 25th.
The Reckitts chimney stands 141m tall. Located on Morley Street in Hull, it’s where Reckitts, in 1884, began making synthetic ultramarine (often known as dolly blue). Used as a laundry product, ultramarine prevents the yellowing of white fabric when it is washed and enhances the brightness of colours. It is now widely used in the cosmetics, paints and automobile industries.
Natural ultramarine was derived from ground lapis lazuli, sourced in the mountains of Afghanistan. Artists reserved the use of this expensive bright blue pigment for their most important (usually religious) works. Cennino Cennini (b. c.1370 – c. 1440) described it as “illustrious, beautiful, and most perfect, beyond all other colors”. Vermeer used natural ultramarine extensively (Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, 1663-1664). In 1828, the French chemist Jean-Baptiste Guimet developed a synthetic equivalent, which was used for example by Renoir (Les Parapluies, c. 1880), Monet (Gare St Lazare, 1877) and Pissarro (La Côte des boeufs, 1877).
For decades, the chimney pumped sulphur dioxide into Hull’s atmosphere. My grandparents lived in Stoneferry, the area in which this factory was located. I remember the sweet smells drifting from the cocoa processing plant on Cleveland Street and the hot metallic tang of the factories by the river.
(Image licensed under Creative Commons; http://www.mylearning.org/local-history-pack–a-how-to-guide/images/2-1838/)
A number of the discussions we’ve had about the city over the last two years have touched on how we engage with its past. We’ve discussed post-traumatic urbanism through the lens of Lebbeus Woods’ War and Architecture(see also the fascinating exhibition of Woods’ early drawings) and have also begun to think through our engagement with (or perhaps literal and/or conceptual avoidance of) recent sites of trauma in the city. We’ve walked around Kelham Island, considering the ways in which a city’s history becomes heritage, but also how certain narratives become dominant and survive, while others are minorised and erased.
Our current project engages with figures and movements from Sheffield’s past: Ebenezer Elliott, the Sheffield Socialist Society, Edward Carpenter, the Chartists… And we would like to invite people to contribute their thoughts, memories and expertise to an archive that will be accessible through our new interactive web page (scheduled to go live in May this year) but will also form a basis for a series of radio broadcasts and exhibitions we’re planning for summer 2012.
We’re not historians (though we count historians among our numbers). Our backgrounds are in literature, philosophy, art, neuroscience, poetry, politics and the environmental sciences. So our aim is less to provide an account of Sheffield’s history, than to relate it to the issues we confront today; to confront dominant politics and policies with our creative investigations of the past and understand more about the ways in which the shape and narratives of our city have been constructed, for better or for worse, over time.
In 1887 we took a large house and shop in Scotland Street [in Sheffield], a poor district of the town; and opened a café, using the large room above for a meeting and lecture room, and the house for a joint residence for some of us who were more immediately concerned in carrying on the business. We had all sorts of social gatherings, lectures, teas, entertainments in the Hall – the wives and sisters of the “comrades” helping, especially in the social work; we had Annie Besant, Charlotte Wilson, [Peter] Kropotkin, [Henry] Hyndman, and other notables down to speak for us; we gave teas to the slum-children who dwelt in the neighboring crofts and alleys (but these had at first to be given up on account of the poor little things tearing themselves and each other to pieces, perfect mobs of them, in their frantic attempts to gain admittance – a difficulty which no arrangement of tickets or of personal supervision seemed to obviate); and we organized excursions into municipal politics; and country propaganda. This last was often amusing as well as interesting. While, in the towns, as time went on, audiences grew in numbers and attentiveness, it still remained very difficult to capture the country districts. The miners would really not be uninterested, but in their sullen combative way they would take care not to show it. Many a time we have gone down to some mining village and taken up our stand on some heap of slag or broken wall, and the miners would come round and stand about or sit down deliberately with their backs to the speaker, and spit, and converse, as if quite heedless of the oration going on. But after a time, and as speaker succeeded speaker, one by one they would turn round – their lower jaws dropping – fairly captivated by the argument. It was much the same with the country rustics – but as a rule less successful. I remember on one occasion seven or eight of us, armed with literature, going for a long country walk to Hathersage in the Derbyshire dales. We had Tom Maguire with us, from Leeds, an excellent speaker, full of Irish wit and persuasiveness. We set him upon a stoneheap in the middle of the village and standing round him ourselves while he spoke, acted as decoy ducks to bring the villagers together. The latter full of curiosity came, in moderate numbers, but not one of them would approach nearer than a distance of twenty or thirty yards – just far enough to make the speaker despair of really reaching them. In vain we separated and going round tried to coax them to come nearer. In vain the speaker shouted himself hoarse and fired off his best jokes. Not a bit of it – they weren’t going to be fooled by us! and at last red in the face and out of breath and with a string of curses, Tom descended from his cairn, and we all, shaking the dust of the village off our feet, departed!
I meanwhile and during these years, not only took part in our local work, but spoke and lectured in the Socialist connection all round the country – at Bradford, Halifax, Leeds, Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Hull, Liverpool, Nottingham and other places – my subjects the failures of the present Commercial system, and the possible reorganization of the future. As to the Café, we were only able to hold to it for a year. Though quite a success from the propagandist point of view, financially it was a failure. The refreshment department was not patronized nearly enough to make it pay. The neighborhood was an exceedingly poor one. And so we were obliged to surrender the place, and retire to smaller quarters. During that year however I really lived most of the time at the Scotland Street place. I occupied a large attic at the top of the house, almost high enough to escape the smells of the street below, but exposed to showers of blacks which fell from the innumerable chimneys around. In the early morning at 5 a.m. there was the strident sound of the ‘hummers’ and the clattering of innumerable clogs of men and girls going to their work, and on till late at night there were drunken cries and shouting. Far around stretched nothing but factory chimneys and foul courts inhabited by the wretched workers. It was, I must say, frightfully depressing; and all the more so because of tragic elements in my personal life at the time. Only the enthusiasm of our social work, and the abiding thoughts which had inspired Towards Democracy kept me going. I spent my spare time during the year in arranging and editing the collection of songs and music called Chants of Labour – a thing which might have been much better done by some one else, but I could find no one to do it. And it was a queer experience, collecting these songs of hope and enthusiasm, and composing such answering tunes and harmonies as I could, in the midst of these gloomy and discordant conditions.
As I say, we only stayed a year here, and as far as my health was concerned I don’t think I could have endured it much longer. I realized the terrible drawback to health and vitality consequent on living in these slums of manufacturing towns, and the way these conditions are inevitably sapping the strength of our populations.