For the fifth year running I’ve been co-organizing the series of World Congresses of Psychogeography. You can read up about last years congress here. From 8-10 September in Huddersfield, the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography http://4wcop.org/ took place. The three days had around 200 people attend, with over forty events from the loony, the jolly, the thoughtful, to the sublime. I led three things, two participations, The Centre and Algorithm Walks and I represented the newly formed West Yorkshire Traipsers in hosting Derive Day. Here is my brain dump of the event as a whole and the things I went to.
The following week I also attended the RC21 Conference presenting with artist Gareth Jones on “Entangled Narratives, Concernful Dealings: Bringing Leeds Terminalia to Osaka through Creative Walking”. This academic conference had an all day stream on psychogeography chaired by Morag Rose, and attended by a few people who also came to the Congress.
We live streamed the Friday and Saturday indoor sessions so I will try to update this post if we get these edited and up. There was a journalist from the Irish national broadcaster RTE there for 3 days and so I imagine there might be a radio show about the events in the future too.
You can view the programme and biographies (archive.org link) and view the lineup PDF here (archive.org link) – or on the site itself now or if the website has been updated, in the past section of the site. (incidentally, the whole website is open source and available on github).
Overall, as an organiser, it was great, I think we planned it well, compared to last year. Last year we basically put something on without knowing how many people would be interested in it, we just thought a handful of mates would attend, but we were swamped. This year we were more prepared. I think we had a good programme and people seemed to enjoy themselves. I also didn’t kill myself unlike last year. This year also saw planned evening social events in various venues.
The weather sucked, it was showers and sunshine and showed that the gore-tex on my shoes had a hole in them! But wasn’t too bad, I guess, people seemed dry on the whole, we were lucky. On the way back from one of my walks we were gifted with the most vibrant rainbow
Refreshments – It was a shoe string event – with no external funding, and all the events were free. The Students Union was open on Friday absorbed the load, we had plenty of light refreshments on Saturday (with a box full of left over shortbread biscuits) and were able to source some snacks for Sunday.
Venue – The Congress was in Heritage Quay on Friday and Saturday and across town in the Support 2 Recovery Create Space . Heritage Quay had a good sized (100 capacity) auditorium and a break out workshop room but wasn’t suitable for exhibitions, and S2R was more informal with a large space for presentations and a couple of more casual rooms – S2R had more of a gallery angle and was suitable for exhibitions (we had 3 of them). Heritage Quay and the professional and diligent support from Dave Smith from there was indispensable – the congress wouldn’t be able to go ahead without that.
Personally, I think I did one or two many events myself – I should limit myself to just the one thing. I spent some time and thought and energy preparing for each event I ran and as a consequence and in addition to invigilating and general running around was a bit too much.
People – Some people did seem to attend to just the one event, whether it was a walk or a talk. I think that some of these didn’t register – we had about a dozen email addresses afterwards wanting to be put on the loop. Anyhow – registration, as we emphasised was mainly just to give us a good idea of numbers to expect, and wasn’t anything more than that. Several events were limited in size and capacity and had separate ticketing requirements. I imagine for the future – if there are more complicated ticketing arrangements a better process might be needed.
This year, we noticed that there were more psychogeographers staying around for more events. Last year several of the individual events were listed in the Kirklees Heritage Open Days brochure, and I think it got many local people directly attending, most of whom were puzzled by what Psychogeography actually is. This year the event as a whole was listed in the brochure, rather than individual ones. We did have some more press coverage though. The superstore carpark walks got some attention from the Huddersfield Examiner
Accessibility – A few of the walks were explicitly suitable for people with mobility problems, but we didn’t really emphasise this. I think next year we should adopt the scheme as used by Otley Walking Festival: 1) wheelchair suitable 2) suitable for some mobility (walking stick) or by default 3) good / normal level of mobility required.
The programme overall was varied and wide ranging. I’m proud we were able to pull it all off! I can’t remember how many submissions we were not able to accept – they were less than a dozen I think. There was some comments which seemed to imply that people hadn’t heard about the call for proposals.
I’ll avoid explaining what the event was for the majority of the items, and request that the interested user read the programme to find out what occurred I’m missing out things I didn’t go on, or didn’t hear much about.
Fenella Brandenberg and David Bollinger – The Fundamentals of the Psychogeographical Method
To open the congress, we were treated with a very special talk. David and Fenella appeared from a cupboard where they had been waiting for 30 minutes before I introduced them. There were some audio problems and some people complained about not being able to hear it properly from the back. But they steamed ahead. There were several laughs and I think when people got the format they enjoyed it. The format was in the way of a read sequence of email exchanges between these two academics. David did say that one of his chapters of a forthcoming book was available to be viewed, and here it is: ‘Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can! Psychogeographically walking with John Nada, Beryl Curt and David Bollinger’
Brendan Bootland, Suzanne Elliot and Nick Hartley – Psychologists Working Towards Social Justice: How Can We Walk The Talk?
This was a good presentation. The walk focused on a walk from Leicester to London. Brendan gave an interesting perspective of his past life in the streets and what it was like. I wanted to ask him whether he looks at the same places in the same way, or in a new way now. Nick gave an impassioned talk about the need for social justice and put it in the frame of current affairs and politics. His passion was echoed in Morags talk later that day (which I missed). I heard that a few people had several discussions with these folks afterwards. Many also rated this talk as a highlight of the Congress.
Graeme Murrell – Short Personal Heritage Walks
Graeme led a number of these walks, even stepping in at the last moment to cover for someone who couldn’t do their talk. The format was a short, 15 minute walk, good for folks with mobility problems, and was a left / right algorithm walk where at each turn, the walkers would take turns saying or doing something. It was a good social and fun walk. Graeme said that the idea was based on a business mans lunch trip, I think – 15 minutes to do a quick derive. Graeme has run Monocular Times for years and has been doing a range of psychogeography in the dark ages when no one really knew about it. http://www.monoculartimes.co.uk/index.shtml
Ursula Troche – Walking Over Edges: A Personal Embodied Practice Experience
I loved this session. She was self aware of her, let me say, non-linear thought patterns, and was able to play with this with a parallel to space and place. She gave a couple of poems which I think worked well, and think that it made an interesting view into psychogeography. I think she described some things about psychgeography, patterns and prescribed ways of using a place very well. Ursula has written up about the Congress on her blog here https://colourcirclesite.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/offshore-writers-delight-psychogeography/ and here https://colourcirclesite.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/west-yorks-in-a-nutshell-no-triangle/
Phil Smith – New Spectacle, New Drift, New Psyche
An interesting talk. I caught some of what he was saying but missed every 1 in 5 sentences. Dense stuff. He’s a psychogeographer’s psychogeographer. He ended his talk with an announcement that he would not be doing any more talks about his walk, but instead be doing more actual psychogeography.
Phil’s excellent talk can be read here http://www.triarchypress.net/psychopil.html
Roy Bayfield – Psychogeography Of The Fourth World
Roy is a great speaker and this was a fun talk. His talk sparked off many coincidences with places and situations in my life, which no other talk did, because of this I bought his book which he was selling at the back! Roy is walking around Brighton finding the places where be got and read Jack Kirby’s groundbreaking Fourth World comic series (which is out of print and my library aint got none). I first heard Roy speak at a talk at Leeds Psychogeography Group a few years ago. His psychogeography is intensely a personal kind, I think but applicable to anyone. In his book, Desire Paths after each chapter he gives a series of “try it yourself”actions.
West Yorkshire Traipsers – Introduction to Derive Day
9 Sept. was Dérive Day, organised by Babak and Eduardo from Dérive App, a mobile phone app. Starting a number of times during the day, participants are presented the exact same task cards simultaneously wherever you are in the world. “Share your experiences on social media as a testimony to your own unique dérive, photos, thoughts and locations around the world. Dérive App is a mobile app for Iphone and Android.”
Traipsers are the new flaneurs – everyone who turned up became an owner and director of the West Yorks Traipsers. They could leave the organisation if they wanted to start up their own chapter.
A few people had some struggles both installing the app, then finding the group, joining it and starting the hosted derive. Some formed into huddles rather than go out individually. It feels more of a collaborative locative game than a pure card based derive. I really like the nature of the hosted derive and knowing that others are attempting the same task somewhere else, and I like the embedded chat. Personally, it’s not quite my cup of tea, at least for doing it alone. I’m not sure how many other international users were using it at the same time – but it certainly gave a global feel to it. There were some great comments about it.
Tim Waters (me) – The Centre
The idea here was to have three activities, based loosley on temperament. Extraverts would go out to the town and speak with people to ask them where the centre was, intuitives would go and feel where the genii loci were which felt like where the centre really was, and some others indoors would look at historical maps, consult computers and dowse with rods and pendulums to determine the centre of Huddersfield. The talker group asked people and found the market cross area as being the most common centre, with the square outside of the railway also occurring (but less common). Intuitives found the area outside and even inside the library. They found it felt most comfortable. The map dowsers (I took part in this) also found the market cross. However, the outdoor groups who went to the actual market cross area found it oppressive, and repelled people. No genii loci found, possibly due to the weather. Next time – I think I need to give people more time to allow folks to swap roles, and at least people to go out and use the dowsing outdoors as well and less of the theory I think.
Interestingly we had some dowsers come along and we dowsed indoors – I think we really did independently spot responses at a couple of spots in one room. Possibly locations of power lines or water / sewage?
Sonia Overall – Mishtory Tour
This was a good walk and well attended. I felt there may have been possibly too many (although it was within the specified ticket limit). Format allowed 4 participants to take on roles and so in a way allowed most of the rest of us to take a less of a role, and be carried along on the story. I found myself thinking how certain characters are louder in a discussion and can come to dominate an activity. However, I think we all occasionally piped up and joined in. It was enjoyable and Sonia did guide the narrative and structure in a good way, encouraging a sense of story with plot, beginning and end. It was a kind of lived fiction, hard to tell what it was about, but it involved trapped russian submariners, the number 7, the elements of fire, earth, wind and water!
Elia Rita – I’m the City of Other Who Are The City – a participatory urban pilgrimage
pics and video.
This was the best thing ever. I’m happy that I was able to have this as part of the programme, and that some faith in Huddersfield and its people paid off. In
a way I’d like future congresses to have more interactions within the public space. Not that the congress was insular and inwards looking – we often looked out and went out, but that the people and place of Huddersfield can also be interacted with. But I also don’t want to run a performance art festival, so perhaps just having a couple extra things like this would be good.
I was a bit nervous about what the people of town might react and told her that you Yorkshire folks can be direct but not aggressive, almost childlike in the way they can ask questions. Elia replied by saying that she would explain the work before, and she did.
During the piece us walkers who were not protestrating were able to talk with people who approached them. Mostly it was curiosity. Some people were watching for several minutes, groups formed, I talked with a Catholic and a Muslim family, both who seemed appreciative of it, and could identify with the religious aspect of the piece..
One man with family expressed heartfelt thanks to her. I took loads of pics and a few videos:
Kevin Boniface, Steven Beever, & Marc Layton-Bennett – Most Difficult Thing Ever
Kevin is a poet (a beat poet?) and this was a musical performance with drums, keyboard and computer. There were a couple of issues with the audio and it was borderline problematic initially, but we worked it out in the end I think. Dave and the staff in Heritage Quay did a good job getting the right balance. People were laughing out loud (Kevins poetry is very funny) and really seemed to enjoy it. A great end to the day. http://kevinboniface.co.uk/
We then all went to the pub and had some pizza.
Sunday was in another venue – S2R or Support to Recovery – a general wellbeing / positive mental health local charity, which does a range of activities increasingly outdoors, walks, workshops etc.
This space had, well, space for the exhibitions. One by Lloyd Spenser and one by Victor Beuhring
Lloyd Spenser Nightwalking
Lloyd did a talk and exhibited his photography. He talked about how regular visits to a local hospice and the emergence after to another world of night, fog and lights. Lloyd also showed some of his earlier night street photography on the streets of Leeds. There were some really beautiful prints, and I bought a couple of prints from him. Here he is on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/people/lloydspencer/
Victor Beuhring – 25 pockets of […]
Victor exhibited his framed works showing things given to him in places by people. He has devised a wonderful way both of making new friends in an area, and discovering more about the area. We were happy that Victor was able to give a short impromptu talk about his talk to the assembled Congresseers. Victor also attended the RC21 talk the following week.
Gareth Rees – Superstore Carparks
Gareth is a very personable and enthusiastic, intelligent chap, you could tell he put a good amount of work into this. Top marks for this walk, and for Huddersfield for having two very different carparks! It was a hugely enjoyable
walk. Gareth also won the prize for having the best t-shirt competition of the Congress.
This walk (he did one each on a more rainy but busier Saturday and on the Sunday which I attended) walked through supermarket car parks, looking at graffiti, artefacts, the structure, the ghost signs, white paint signs etc. Tesco’s car park was post apocalyptic and cave like with actual stalagmites and stalactites, and Sainsbury’s had a Dickensian village aesthetic. I’m encouraged to explore my towns superstore carparks now, if only to get a dose of this madness.
Superstore carparks are a way to read about society, it’s aspiration, it’s histories etc.
Sara Rees – Fragments for A City in Ruins
Sara is a film-maker and showed a delicate and thoughtful film, exploring what a place is, with regards to showing ruins in Athens. I think all the text were taken from well known text like Benjamin and Italo Calvino. I think it would require further viewing in a way, alone, perhaps. Sara showed the film twice on Sat and Sun and unfortunately, on the Sunday both the room was cold and there was some technical difficulties getting the sound speaker and projector working.
I’ll try to find a link to find a way for you to find out more about this, but it’s showing across the country now.
Aimee Blease-Bourne The red city inside out: A psychogeography of gendered space through the lens of the female body, specifically focusing on menstruation
I didn’t take part in this (I was running my own walk at the time) but was able to chat with Aimee before. Aimee created a number of handmade booklets with information about the walk, what to look for etc, and was able to make a collage / poster about what the walkers encountered when they got back. Her walk was very well attended, which I’m glad to see, although it’s not my cup of tea, generally.
Aimee has written a blog post and posted a video about her walk / work.
Tim Waters (me) – Algorithm Walks
There were only 6 of us, so it was a smaller turnout than last year! Last year this walk suffered as there were over 30 on it, so I planned so that it could work with many people, but, hah! I didn’t plan on how it would work with only a few people. It was good though. I’m not sure it answered my theses, but the
walk was great and fun and I think people were engaged. Sonia came on it so
was in a way a co-leader. Rain and a bad knee and me being tired stopped
this a bit earlier. We were blessed by the most vibrant rainbow. Someone on my walk said “Huddersfield will never be the same again!” – referring to how his view of the town will not be the same, rather than some material difference, but I took it for praise.
Jason Kelly & Graeme Murrell Odersfelt Unorchestra
What a perfect end to the congress! We could almost have this at the beginning and end to warm up. I thought it was fun, relevant, immersive and almost ritualistic about it. There’s a film here: https://www.facebook.com/phil.wood.18/posts/10155316404614821
Bridget Sheriden – Drift In-between
Bridget did a talk earlier in the day, and we then waited until it was dark (after a pie and a beer in the Sportsman pub) to go on a walk. The talk was good – I liked it – it was certainly different, almost high brow art about it. Bridget’s films were projections where she would walk and film herself projecting something onto wherever she is walking, if that makes sense. So she walks with a portable projector, the projector is playing some film or other, and she in turn records this via a camera held above the projector. We got to do it too. One thing that cropped up in my mind as I was watching bridget’s films was that of nostalgia. She explained in the pub that one of the films had almost subliminal sound of children playing. But the idea was that there was something in between the two layers, and I think there is.
The walk – I loved this. I had to leave early to get the train back, and I imagine in a way that the route could have been chosen to ensure some darker bits to make the projection stronger, but perhaps this might have not been the point. It was hard this occurring both on the last day of the congress and late at night on a wet Sunday – I think all the organisers were all worried about not many people turning up, so it was great that we were able to get everyone out and attending to this. (starting from the pub was a good idea!)
Well that’s the dump finished. It’s basically just those things I went on, remembered. Thanks to those who took most of the pictures, I tried to give attribution / sources where appropriate, but let me know if you’d like better links. Also let me know of others blogs and reports and any relevant links I can add. Some people have asked whether there will be a fifth congress next year. All we can say is that we were so busy having fun that we forgot to do any closing plenary session, so the Congress is just on a long tea break….