Friday, 30 October 2009

Last Walk

I turn the key in the lock for the last time. Birthed from the womb of inside to the harsh reality of outdoors once more, I decide to make one last effort to connect with this place. Maybe it will finally feel real if I know for sure that it won’t last. The insistent drizzle splatters my face, but I don’t feel cold. I feel the hardness of the paving slabs pushing at my feet, daring me to go on.

I turn a corner and try to blend into the crowd. Just another in a haphazard collage of hot, pressing bodies. I kick through yellow leaves, but they cling fast. Dead, brittle fingers massage my ankles: the teasing touch of a whore for necrophiliacs. I know I’m being watched. The empty eyes are everywhere, looking down from on high. It briefly strikes me that I should put on a show (dance!) for them. The ultimate in reality TV for some faceless man in front of his bank of screens.

Crossing the bridge, I dart down the steps to the river. The crowd carries on above me, marching its way to nowhere in particular. They’ve sent their scouts to keep an eye on me though. Cyclists buzz around me, herding and harrying. You can walk, but you can’t meander. Railing turns to no railing and the murky green seems to beckon me into its depths. I shun a lone swan and hurry along the bank.

Up steps again and I walk completely out of reality. As the soundtrack of blaring sirens and squealing tyres fades, I walk straight into a nightmare. Silence. Is it my nightmare? Razor wire gives way to rubble. Chunks of debris strewn (spewed?) across a bleak wasteland. The city is just behind me, but already it has gone. Is this where cities come to die? I walk on. The peace of this place is at odds with its stark ugliness. Perhaps that’s what death is.

Round another corner and dust catches in my throat. Construction. Rebirth? This isn’t a graveyard, it’s a reproductive cycle. An organic thing. Cities come here to be rejuvenated. Will I be reborn too? Right. Everybody’s spiritual nowadays. Past cars that will remain parked forever and graffiti nobody will ever read, I sense that my journey is coming to an end. I’m not tired. I’ve reached no destination. I feel satisfied though. I’m part of the city, part of its ebb and flow.

An old sofa sits in a railway arch: a park bench for the Ikea generation. I sit down and wait for the cycle to begin again.

Nick Jones (DMU)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Campaign: Save the Bowstring Bridge (a portable campaign poster)

SAVE the Bowstring Bridge!
Save the Bowstring Bridge!
Ketterick and Willmott show us the plans,
you said Leicester’s heritage
would be safe in your hands.
Flat pack bastards
you’re only in it for the money
and you ignore your public well,
I’m not being funny but you’re wanton vandals,
members of a council riddled with scandals.
Yes it’s clear that you lied
and forced THE city into cultural suicide,
you made the wrong diagnosis.
Its purely cosmetic a touch of paint and a polish,
it would cost the same to restore as it would to demolish.
Together we must stop these absurdities,
a city without heritage
is like a man without memories.
To save the BOWSTRING BRIDGE from demolition
go to the Leicester Civic Society website and sign the petition.

The Bowstring Bridge viaduct at the junction of Western Boulevard and Braunstone Gate has been a Leicester landmark since the 1890s and is now under imminent threat of demolition.
By Liam Day (DMU)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Inside Our Heads: Collages (IUSB)

Thanks for all the recent updates on the blog! Here are some images from class today. This is a class on Narrative Collage and Surrealism, so we used magazines to practice some Surrealist techniques of transforming place, shapes, proportions, and images. After our midterm next week, we'll post some "Exquisite Corpse" writings about South Bend, Indiana.

(posted by Kelcey Parker, IUSB)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Facebook site

Dear All,

Just a quick note to say: remember that there's a related Facebook group for this blog. Please join it if you can at the following address:

Thanks, Jonathan

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Welcome from Jonathan at DMU

Dear All,

I just want to echo Simon Perril's words below, and welcome everyone to this blog from both sides of the Atlantic. This is a great virtual space to publish and share work from and about places distant in geographical space (and even time).

Places are geographical spaces, but they're also memories, histories, moments, relationships, representations, texts - and this is what makes them so powerful as starting-points for poetry, fiction, memoir, scripts.

So I look forward to reading your work, and wish you all the best for the new academic year.

Jonathan Taylor (lecturer, DMU).

P.S. to help 'set the ball rolling' for the year, here is something I wrote on my Summer holiday in Cyprus this year:


... no, you go slow-slow long the road –
the big one that is going to Limassol –
and is few miles,
and then is turn left from roundabout
which does not have Church
of St. Nektarios on it,
and ....

... no, I not knowing number of exeet,
but it certainly no have church
or saint on it,
and you going left,
and some other turns also –
left-right and such –
and when you get to hospeetal,
ring up on thees number,
and ....

... no, I not knowing hospeetal name,
but ees not big one where
cousin Thekla having ankle broken –
it is near there,
but if you see the Orphanides,
or Father Stavro playing the backgammon,
you know you going too far,
and ....

... no, I not knowing street name,
but is right or left where
Uncle Vassou smoked last Cubans
he save from old farm,
when you were five
and when he still have old donkey
from village, and ....

... no, not his wife, donkey,
you remember?
It called Robinou,
and lived its last years looking sad,
tied in Limassol car park,
where people being kind
and feeding it the artichokes,
but Sotiroulla ate one of them,
and she had ache of stomach for two days,
and it was from that other Stavro –
not the backgammon one –
and he was trying to poison Robinou
to get the parking space,
and we so cross
we almost wish he one of the Lost,
and ...
and ...

... and no, endaxi,
I not very kala at maps –
seence I made to come south,
I forgetting the way everywhere –
seence I leave Athankou,
seence that 1974,
I no finding my way anywhere,
I no finding my way back.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Lifting Spirits

By Morton Piercewright -

I very much doubt that the designers of this park envisioned this occurring, and I doubt even further that they saw the hundreds of possibilities for human movement its architecture and apparatus offered.

Darkness consumes the scene, observers from the neighbouring tower blocks and houses can only see obscurities – a flash of movement here, a shadow there. From the ground floor figures are barely visible through the thick gloom of the evening. Crisp night air hovers in a deathly silence over the soft tarmac and cool steel frames of the playground. Hooded youths fly gracefully and silently through the air over these obstacles, treating them as means to move, rather than means to guide them, or to slow them down. They have the utmost respect for the structures, but spare none for the values they represent.

Fingers wrap tightly around metal bars, pressing palms against icy contours as the body is forced skyward, pivoting from the wrist. Another hand joins the first, both now labouring to force the body forwards, keeping the incredible amount of momentum going through the night sky. Legs spin inwards, tucking in order to endure the force of the landing as the shock spreads from toe to thigh to shoulders. Coming out of the roll at incredible speed, eyes and teeth dart out from underneath the hood, a defiant grin sneaking out from its darkened face. The hooded creature spares a fleeting look behind him, a signal that is noticed by the others. Seemingly crawling and dropping from the black air itself, five more hoods creep into the light, their eyes the only thing visible in the dim saffron glow of on old streetlight. They are as spirits, gently floating over the structures society has presented before them - not as members of that society, but as outsiders.

The leader feels the grind of the harsh concrete under his feet, against the feeble rubber-soles of his trainers. His laces are frayed, ruined from constant movement and abrasion against every surface imaginable. Frozen wind gnaws through his clothes to feast upon the fragility inside. His muscles ache, they twitch at the adrenaline coursing through them with familiar distain, and they work harder than they should. Gravel grips to the soft flesh beneath his fingernails, and blood leaves a grim trail across sleeves, legs, and obstacles, a sign that he has been here before, and that he is not afraid.

Leeds Cockpit

By Samantha Nicholson of DMU

The place I am about to describe to you is not exactly perfect. In fact if I am honest it is a dump. The floor is sticky, the toilets stink, and the beer is crap.

However, some of the best times of my life were spent here. I'm sure everyone has that place: their gig venue. This is mine. My first small gig near enough.

I don't remember the first gig I saw here. I can remember one of the most memorable though. It was The Army Of Freshman with my best friend at the time Elly.

That's me and Elly right there. We're sitting outside the venue against a wall thats rather wet. You can see the tell tale sign of music and it's rather funny. We're listening to The Rasmus on my Ipod. Funnily enough nearly exactly 12 months later, we'll be in the same position, listening to the same song, about to see another band.

Outside the venues not as nice as inside. The drains run close, and make the ground wet. You can't tell from my face, but my backside is wet and I'm not happy.

We were still in college, and it was one of the first gigs I saw without my Dad. Very odd really, that that place underneath a railway line can hold such a memory. Getting in and not being IDed, crushing our bodies against a stage that is reminiscent of a few old beer crates. The room is airey, and sound will echo everywhere, even in this room, the smaller one. We're squeezed down beside a little bit of the stage that extends into the audience, right infront of some speakers. You'd think our ears would blow.

We survived just.

On the left you can see part of the wall behind me, and a rather fetching man on my arm. He is the guitarist in Army Of Freshman, and both myself and Elly got to meet him, stood infront of the promo material for pringles and Jack Daniels. It makes me smile that we directly managed to block the huge Slam Dunk Poster. Apologies for the bad quality of the photograph, however it is the only photograph.

Still, when you have memories of one particular place, you don't care how bad the photograph is. Eventually, your memories will fade to even worse than any photograph. All you will have of each place, is the photograph.

In a sticky floored, urine smelling, dump like The Cockpit, all you can do is smile, as you know you are you and no one else. It will always be just you, the bar, your friends and the music.

Barcelona: The Beauty of The Under Belly

By Samantha Nicholson of DMU

You may be wondering why I've chosen a picture of the Salvador Dali Museum to present Barcelona. That is very simple. I only have a few memories of Barcelona, and I care to forget most of them. During my trip in 2007, with a group of 25 girls from College, everything that could possibly have gone wrong happened. The worst being when we were mistaken as prostitutes in a resteraunt, and almost herded off by a group of men. It is terrifying to say that we were accompanied by five supervising college tutors.

While this does make me question the thoughts of said college tutors who chose the location, it does make me wonder how a place with such beauty, including La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, can hold such dark and ugly secrets. Maybe it is just in built into society to have one part of their culture, that they should brush under the carpet? Maybe every country has one place where they would just rather not let tourists go.

La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Dali Museum, Piccasso's gallery, and The Magic Fountain of Montjuic...All of these areas are kept pristine and in perfect condition for the viewing public, with police on every corner, and someone there to protect you if you should get into difficulty.

Why is it they allow so many areas to fall into disrepair? Crime rates sour and tourists are afraid to turn their back, and feel they have to hide their money rather than risk taking it out to buy a souvineer. Maybe Barcelona is just one place that has scarred itself for me, as I will never feel safe going back.

Images: Centre: Dali Museum & Theatre, Top Left: Park Guell, Bottom Left: La Sagrada Familia

London - Theatreland

By Samantha Nicholson of DMU

Recently I was in London for a three week period on work experience. I was for the first time able to experience the full walk of Shaftesbury Avenue, aptly named Theatreland.
Yes I have been there before, on one occassion while in year 9 at high school to see Blood Brothers. This time was very different. I was alone in the middle of a vast expansive world of adult bars, theatres and chinese food. This blog has inspired me to look back on the visit, and share this poem. See if you can name the shows that I have mentioned:

Streets lined left and right
with giant shoes,
golden pathways draped in song,
Bellowing music from every corner,
bathing the darkness with light
which slips from stage doors
cracked open just an inch.
A women stands under the wicked witches face,
and she smokes a cigarette in silence.
You stand beneath a French man's giant banner,
staring into the glittered hand of a man not yet dead,
and contemplate the ticket in your hand.
The naked beckon from a dark alley,
while the corsetted call from their theatre door;
"Come join us."

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Welcome to the New Academic Year!

Dear writers,

So we come to another academic year, and so also to another opportunity to extend our transatlantic dialogue over all things locational. Remember that this is a unique opportunity students at three different Universities, in England and America, to share writings about place. These writings don’t have to be polished short stories, poems, memoirs; they can just as usefully be informal jottings and photos that try and capture the texture of a place.

Places are so often magnets for stories aren’t they? You must all know a tale, folk legend, or urban myth, about where you grew up? There must have been a place you were told not to go to, or a place that had become so wrapped in generations of telling that it has become an almost mythical focus of attention for its community?

Or perhaps you could tell us something about the immediate environment around you? Our De Montfort University campus, England, is a microcosm of
Just how many Leicesters – very old and very new – coexist in bewildering proximity. Standing at a particularly point at the edge of the campus I can swivel round to see four different visions of the city. To my right is a brand new Law Faculty building, a wide pillar of glass reaching skyward, the building of which formed the abrasive soundtrack to many a workshop last year. To my left is a gateway into a very old Leicester; an arch heralding a cobbled street tumbling down to St Mary De Castro Church, where Chaucer was alleged to have been married in the fifteenth century. In front of me I see the ‘Magazine’, a mediaeval gateway added to Leicester Castle by the Third Earl of Leicester, around 1410. This Grade 1 Listed bulding (the subject of a poem on this very Blog many moons back by Charlotte Stevens) is marooned by the side of a road down which traffic snakes towards the brand-spanking new shopping Mecca Highcross, with its deliciously absurd motto ‘I have known Desire’.

The view behind me is of a red brick campus buildings on the left, and Trinity House on the right – which houses a beautiful old chapel in which our second year students are locked to write ghost stories. And the road trails down towards the River Soar.

If I walk a few yards to my right I come to a bronze plaque outside a University building that tells me about ‘The Whipping Toms’.

‘On this spot stood the Whipping Toms, who, on Shrove Tuesday, in accordance with the Ancient Custom, armed themselves with wagon whips and flogged anyone who entered the precincts of the Newarke. The sport was abolished by Act of Parliament in 1846’.

Hmm, a precursor of extreme sports perhaps. But what about a story in which this ancient custom is revived for modern times?

But enough from me, over to you: we all look forward to the mental travel of reading your various responses to place.

Have a good year folks! Write hard!

Simon Perril, De Montfort University, England