4WCOP 2018

Just back from the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, 2018, in Huddersfield. Two really great days.

Highlights for me:

Discussion on “What is psychogeography” chaired by Tim Waters, where we shared several attempts to define psychogeography. It’s come a long way since Debord, who would I think have fiercely resisted any non-political definition, to be a broad church including any combination of activism, myth, personal growth, local history or Dada-like irreverence.

John Billingsley was there and I bought the September issue of his Northern Earth journal, which contains a very good article by Bob Trubshaw, ‘Places make sense and senses make place’, arguing for a phenomenological assessment of ritual sites and landscapes. “rituals take place at locations which thereby acquire meaning. We need to be more alert to the ways places construct meaning… more than thinking of some passive manner in which places merely ‘have’ a meaning… places deemed sacred are more because of what we do at sacred places than anything abstract or conceptual.” It’s easier to consider this if you think of the effects of non-sacred rituals: for example the semi-industrial semi-rural land just south of Heathrow owes its desolate character to the strange, exclusive, transitory rituals observed on the airport.

Tony Wade showed a series of paintings made as he walked to boundary of the Kirklees/ Huddersfield area, and described his adventures and the people he met in the process.

A talk given by Roger Boyle (Visiting Professor of Computing at Leeds University), provided a mathematical statement of psychogeography:
“The ‘city’, or world, manifests in N dimensions; characteristically we will intersect it with a surface (or manifold) of M < N dimensions – call this intersection a slice... We are accustomed to N = 3, M = 2.", followed by two examples of how to construct such a slice.
I led a derive in the bus station, based on the Strand Strollers derive in Waterloo station in London in November 2017. There is a railway station in Huddersfield. It has a massive facade, opening on to a prestigious square, but behind the facade hides a tiny station. I did a recce the night before.


At the height of rush hour a train comes in perhaps every 3 minutes and about 20 people get off. So we did the derive in the bus station instead, and most participants seemed to find it interesting.

This was followed by a jolly evening in the Steam Tap pub, admiring a Psychogeographic Monopoly game written and produced by Taylor Butler-Eldridge, a third year student. (Apparently he did this in his first year and received a mark of 95% for it – and is now trying to think of something to equal that for his finals.)

The next morning we went on a series of derives progressing along the Colne Valley. Firstly Simon Bradley & Ursula Troche took us along a walk past two railway tunnel vent shafts and then beside two entwined railway tunnels ending under under a disused railway viaduct. Then

Phil Wood led us to Paddock Brow, a lost suburb of mill workers’ houses pulled won in the 60s and now overgrown by trees, ending up at the Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge.

Here Dave Smith gave us a fascinating talk about Victor Grayson, who was eleteed as Independent Labour MP for Colne Valley for 1907-1910, and who vanished in 1920.

From here I caught a bus, in the shadow of yet another massive railway bridge, and made my way back to London.

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