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City As Material : River

Giles Lane City As Material River - 03
Last Friday we held our second Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event on the topic of River. We met at Hermitage Moorings in Wapping (where one of the participants is a founder member) and spent a short time introducing ourselves and our interests in the topic. Taking part were Anne Lydiat, Aleaxandra McGlynn, Aurelia McGlynn-Richon, Ben Eastop, Martin Fidler, Fred Garnett and myself. I had prepared a map with a possible route for us to take from our point of origin back to Proboscis’ studio and this served as a useful conversation point about the nature of the river as a channel for transportation, habitation, pleasure, boundary, margin and about the city’s push/pull relationship with it.

View City As Material Series 2010 in a larger map

Whilst sitting in the Hermitage Pier House, then on Anne’s boat in the river the conversation flowed across these issues of liminality and tension – about how the city has slowly encroached on the river, fixing artificial banks where it previously had a wide flood plain, such that we are now concerned about that flood plain being at risk with rising sea levels. Ben, who also lives on the river, spoke of how his home is different every day, changing position with the tide and weather; he also talked of the enormous variation that the sky, light and weather has on the character of the water and its constantly changing surface.

From Hermitage we then walked west along the Thames Path via St Katherine Dock, the Tower of London, Customs House, Old Billingsgate to Queenhithe, where we turned north and cut through the City, St Pauls, St Barts and Smithfield to arrive at the studio.
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We talked about how the city so often seems to turn its back on the river, to build buildings that look inward to the city, and how its is only recently, with the shift in the Port of London to Tilbury that Londoners have at last begun to reclaim access to the river from what were previously commercial wharves and stairs. As it was low tide at 12.30pm we were able to include some beachcombing/ mudlarking with our walk – finding the ubiquitous clay pipe stems and pottery shards from earlier centuries, as well as the ever present animal bones, tiles and chalk. we shared stories and bits of knowledge about these stairs, their uses, the hidden rivers flowing out into the Thames.

Arriving back at the studio we began collating the drawings, objects, ideas, writings and photographs that had been created along the way and started to sketch out the structure of the collaborative publication – Ebb and Flow – which is now available. There is also a City As Material group on Flickr, and a Twitter hashtags – #cityasmaterial – to continue the discussions.

The next City As Material event will be on Friday 12th November on the topic of “Skyline” with artist Simon Pope as our guest. Book a place here :


Pitch In & Publish: Streetscapes

Last Friday we had our first Pitch In & Publish: City As Material session at the Proboscis studio, “Streetscapes”. In attendance were Giles Lane, Tim Wright, Anne Lydiat, Fred Garnett, David Jennings and myself. After some introductions and hearing participants particular interests, we started pitching, planning what we would like to see in our collaborative publication. Many ideas were inspired by personal projects, but the group soon gave birth to to some new, exciting concepts, (as well as a debate about when the first pineapple was grown in Britain) and after a brief interval of lunch to refuel, we set off to wander through the City.

From Smithfield we walked through Charterhouse Square, onto Aldersgate, and then into the Golden Lane estate. We must have resembled a tourist group; eyes skyward as the history of our surroundings was recounted by those who had tales to tell. By accident we stumbled across an unusual circular space, at odds with the towers of the estate. A haven to rest and exchange stories, we soon discovered the unusual acoustics of the circle, and formed a ring in the centre to test them. Tim recorded this unusual ritual, which you can view here, and David has also posted an audio clip, which you can listen to here.

We then headed through the Barbican, and into Postmans Park to read the plaques that form the “Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice”, poignant tributes to those that have died attempting to save others. This was an amazing place, one I had never visited before, and it served as a perfect end to our expedition.

Once back at the studio, and after numerous teas, coffees and fig rolls, we started to form our publication. We decided the brick circle in the middle of Golden Lane estate, which we deemed the “Unplace”, would be our focus – the eBook chronicling our journey there, and our experience within. Thus, the “Unbook of Disappropriation: Situated Moments From The City” was created. We liked the concept that this eBook would not just be inspired by the city, but that we would add to it as well, so we included a blank page for readers to write down their own experiences of the Unplace, then tear it out and leave it someone else. There is also a City As Material group on Flickr, and two hashtags on Twitter –  one general – #cityasmaterial, and one for Streetscapes – #ddiof, so we can continue the discussion.

Our next Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event, on the 29th of October, will be based on the theme of “River”, and our special guest will be Ben Eastop. Book a place here.


Pitch In & Publish: Streetscapes – Event Details

This Friday is the first of our Pitch In & Publish sessions based around the theme of City As Material, “Streetscapes”. For those who are already taking part, and for those who might like to, I thought I would break down the structure of the day, and list anything people might want to bring.

It’s best to arrive around 10:00 am, as we’ll be starting at 10:30. The first part of the morning will introductory, explaining City As Material, as well as our aim’s and background. Then we’ll be inviting everyone to get to know each other, and letting our special guest Tim Wright talk about his interest in the topic. We’ll then find out what people want to create, and any specific areas of the publication they would like to concentrate on, as well as planning any trips out around the area to gather inspiration and materials. Thus, commence creating!

Stuff you might want to bring:

– Ideas, images, source materials

– Things to inspire you and others

– Laptops, in case computer’s are busy

Hope to see you all there.

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Pitch In & Publish: City As Material – Streetscapes Notebook

I’ve just made a simple custom notebook for all participants of our first Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event, based on the topic of “Streetscapes”. It contains an overview of City As Material as a theme, as well as some suggestions and interesting locations to kick-start the creative process, and of course, blank pages for idea’s and sketches. It will be interesting to see if and how this notebook is used, as personally I never seem to plan any creative work, preferring to launch straight in. Obviously this affects how idea’s are formed, and often their practical application might suffer as a result, or on the upside, be far more fresh and exciting then I had ever anticipated.

The creative process, and the difficulty in expressing pure idea’s across mediums interest me, and I’ll be looking into how people are inspired to create, and the methods they use to do so, on the bookleteer blog in the near future. It would be great for it to become more than a one-sided blog, and become a platform for people to exchange ideas and advice via feedback, perhaps even collaborate; almost an online Pitch In & Publish session.

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Pitch In & Publish: Writers- get involved!

Whilst researching the zine scene, I’ve noticed there seems to be a distinct lack of literary and poetry zines being produced, which pains me as they are my primary loves.  It seems odd, as the popularity of the zine owes a lot to the short, self-published books of poetry and prose by the beat generation, known commonly as “chapbooks”. These enabled anyone to distribute their work without the aid of a publisher, which would sometimes be impossible with the strict censorship and decency laws of the time. This D.I.Y spirit is the driving force of the zine community today, but the focus has shifted onto more visual outputs; inevitable with modern printing capabilities and the vast amount (and talent) of illustrators and graphic designers involved in the scene.

There was a lot of interesting points raised during a recent meeting with The Poetry Society, one being the difference between publishing online on a personal blog, and being part of a publication with a bigger picture. Whilst promoting the Pitch In & Publish series of events, I’m hoping writers in particular get involved, as bookleteer has a lot of potential for those who may not be blessed with a wealth of design skills or self-publishing know-how, and being featured in the collaborative zines produced should definitely build budding writers confidence.


Pitch In & Publish

Over the next few months we’ll be hosting a series of one-day zine making events at the Proboscis studio, entitled “Pitch In & Publish”, where anyone can take part in making a collaborative zine using Bookleteer.  The first series will be based on the theme of “City As Material”, explained below by Giles.

“The city has increasingly become not just a stage for creative activities to be presented on but also the material with which creative works are made. Its flows and fabric are now rendered legible by new technologies and social participation that in turn foster diverse conceptions of citizenship and inhabitation. These processes highlight the mutability of “public” and “private” and the sometimes subtle, sometimes swift transformations of social space.

This series will comprise collaborative publications that investigate, intervene within, project upon and play with the notion of the city as material. Each of the events we host will focus around a specific topic as a sight-line for a cross-section, a lens through which to perceive a layer of investigation or framework to play within.

We invite you to join us in a collaborative attempt to peer beneath the surface of the city and explore the forces shaping and shaped by the urban fabric, its inhabitants and energies. In addition to a collaborative publication produced around each topic, we will be encouraging all the participants to create their own personal publications to add to the series.”

Each issue will be inspired by one of these topics: Streetscapes, River, Skyline, Underside and Sonic Geographies.

Tickets to participate are available from here.