Mine and Yours = mining + twinning

Mine and Yours

A mining and twinning project

In my ‘a psychogeography of where I grew up’ piece (on particulations.blogspot.co.uk), I remembered and rediscovered mines. All those mine that were closed down, most

 

noticeably in the 1980s, where I grew up beyond the outside (of Britain), and, well of course, in this country! So there’s a parallel history there, a mining history that’s mine and yours! By remembering this, I had, too, become a miner of my subconscious, and so developed this tracing story about mines, ‘twin mines’ across countries, three in this country and three in Germany.

 

The ‘three mines each’ that I am focusing on were/are on both sides, i.e. in both countries, the last mines of an era. All the others have been closed down, an era had been shut down, the end has come or the end is nigh, as in Germany where the two last mines will close down next year, in 2018. And so I write this around the end of an era: either just after or just before.

 

It’s funny, how things go further and deeper: first I became interested in symbolic archaeology, then geology, and now mining! There’s a clear thread here. Each stage overlaps, could be the same, and has a personal reference. I started using the word ‘archeology’ when looking in my flat for old documents, embarking on sorting through interesting ‘stuff’ I had collected in and from the past. Then I moved on to saying ‘geology’, to focus not necessarily on finding things, but on finding how the layering of documents of my past was organised in my flat (in West London)/room (afterwards, shared houses). With each step, the past, the ground with its underlying features, became more obvious. I called my collected items ‘self-extensions’. As the picture of me and my ‘landscape’ expanded, it all seemed more obviously psychogeographical as well, and so I moved from the symbolic to the ‘real’ (super symbolic?) and so rediscovered the mines that had existed around me. And as my surroundings, since I grew up, have changed, I grew closer to the mines, that would have existed around me here, too.

So from ‘here’ to ‘there’, and then back again, and across, and over again: I grew up on the edge of the area where mines existed in high concentration: namely the Ruhr area in Northrhine-Westphalia.  Here I was on the edge of an area, not yet the end of an era – though it was an edge of an era as well, as my growing-up fell into the 1970s and 1980s, when mines were shut down in large numbers, and the Miner’s Strike was on in Britain. I remember vividly, how news came in on a regular basis of mines shutting down somewhere near me. I felt it to be odd: I knew that when I grew up, I had to find a job, so when you have a job, and then they take your job away, isn’t that theft? Meanwhile, in Britain, the Miner’s strike was on: we all got to know what was going on back then, there was more public communication.

 

Remembering against the silence

So all these mines around me in my childhood now came back to me. I wanted to know what happened meanwhile. So I looked for those mines online, and found that they had all disappeared, the last of them in 2015, in Britain. In Germany, two mines are still standing, only just, until next year. In Britain, in 2015, only two years ago, the end of an era took place, but most of us didn’t seem to know about that end. There was a silence in the end: no strike, but a striking silence!

Who would have thought that an era can go missing with very little sound or voice! Published lists of mine closures reveal that throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s mines closed too, and all these years their closure has been much less public, much more hidden, marginal, apparently considered unimportant to the general public. What a general lack of concern this caused! The silence seemed to have been rising on both sides: the miners and the others, i.e. those of us doing other jobs. In Germany, things developed just the same, mine-closures didn’t make headlines anymore, even when nothing will be left in the end, which is nigh.

Miner’s strike while the iron was hot

When mines were closed in the 1980s, we knew about it: we knew more about each other! The iron was hot, the strike was important, miner’s welfare under threat, all eyes were on the cause.

Only ten years down the line, from the 1990s onwards the picture had totally changed: silence had taken over action and solidarity. Mines were closed, but emotionally, there’s not been closure – so it’s been one sort of closure against another. What’s the impact? Certainly much less communication has taken place since.

It’s also as if we expect others not to know about ourselves, or understand us. When I, a foreigner-in-residence (i.e. not just a visitor), mention the old mines and the strike, people in this country are surprised, if positively: as if they had not expected that I know. I then say that when I grew up, mines in Germany shut down as well, and how it stayed with me – and then, upon hearing it, that causes surprise once again! As if it is unexpected that our histories could be similar. But how could it not be, am I not industry’s child too? How different do we think we are, where we should really think that we are similar?

How the twinning comes in

There’s a twin history there. It’s more than just a twin history of course, as many other countries share this mining history – as well as its decline – too, and so, many of us are shaped by the same forces. For me, who has in-depth experience, though, of these two countries, Britain and Germany, I am attracted by the idea of mine-twinning, in order to highlight the similarities that I have most experience of.

My idea of mine-twinning is maybe a bit like town-twinning, and the application of this in some way an extension of Graeme Murrell’s psychogeographic town-twinning walk between Leeds –Huddersfield and Dortmund  – Unna (see “Over here over there” article in the Guardian, 15 Oct 2010). This was a ‘psychogeographic exploration of the territory between twin towns in West Yorkshire and the Ruhr Valley (ibid).

So I thought twinning is a great idea to mark the last mines “over here and over there”, and as a homage to the miners, with a view to the idea of ‘miners of all countries unite!’

Now my three-times-two list:

The last three mines closed in 2015 in Britain are:

Hatfield Colliery, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire;

Kellingley Colliery, near Knottingly in North Yorkshire, and

Thoresby Colliery near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire.

And the last three mines in Germany are:

Auguste-Victoria mine, near Marl (Ruhr Valley), closed in 2015;

Ostfeld mine, near Ibbenbueren (near Osnabrueck), to close 2018

Prosper-Haniel mine, near Bottrop (Ruhr Valley), to close in 2018

Now how to twin those three mines on ‘either side’? I first had gathered the three mines in Britain that all closed in 2015, and the two still-open mines in Germany, but I wanted to have a partner for each mine, i.e. I needed another mine in Germany, to have a twin for each of the three last British mines. I decided to look for the most recently closed mine in Germany, and found that it was the notably female- and victory-named Auguste-Victora mine, which incidentally shut down on the very same day as the last mine in Britain, Kellingley Colliery. These two mines both closed on the 18th December 2015 – that means the second anniversary of their closure is fast-approaching from now, the time of writing. So that’s the ideal mine-twin, with a shared end-day!

As for the other two, respectively four, who should be twinned with whom here? This is more arbitrary, I decided to go by familiarity of location: Hatfield Colliery is near a train line I am familiar with, and Ostfeld, the one near Osnabrueck, is on another train line I am familiar with. Familiarity for me here is, as usual, determined by train lines, but this is my practice of connecting and visiting locations, so trains play a major role for me – as they do too, for mines themselves, in order for the coal to be transported.

The third mine-pair then is Thoresby Colliery in Notts and Prosper-Haniel Colliery in the Ruhr Valley, another great pair.

‘Mining Day’

In order to start marking my twinning-idea, I decided to visit Hatfield Colliery in South Yorkshire, as it is within easy train-access, on the mainline to Doncaster, and then two more stops across. All the photos in this article are from this trip.

 

Coincidentally I am visiting the mine on a significant day: this day turned out to be the centenary of the Russian Revolution! The Russian Revolution is a hundred years old, and the mine I am visiting lived up to 99 years –but outlasted the Russian Revolution of course!

When taking my to Doncaster, I realised I was going with Hull Trains, i.e. this year’s City of Culture – a reminder of where I still have to go before the year runs out, as well as a hint that I am on a culture trail in itself, with my old mine-visit!

 

The train-line runs differently from what I am used to. Trains to Doncaster, as far as I am used to it from my trips to the north, go via Peterborough; this line, however, goes via Grantham! How odd, I am passing by the hometown of Thatcher, who antagonised the miners!

My next train, from Doncaster, interestingly leads to Hull as well, so today I could have gone to Hull twice!

As I get off at Hatfield and Stainforth – a station that previously was named ‘Stainforth and Hatfield’! – I see the mine from the platform on my left. There it was, in the not-too-far distance, surrounded by a vast area of land, just lying there now, empty.

As I leave for the main road, with one Hatfield on one side, and Stainforth on the other, I end up in Hatfield first, and stop in a café which advertises a Miner’s Welfare night with

 

fireworks. Then I go to the other side, the Stainforth side, which is actually closer to the colliery. I stop in a charity shop, then make my way to the mine-field! I walk up to the mine as close as is allowed, which is still some distance away, for there is some after-mine-life work still going on. To get here you walk beyond the village, pass what feels

 

like a threshold , the left-over rubble, and then come into mine-view. This is the recently, reluctantly abandoned sight of work!

 

Behind the pitheads I can see wind-turbines: great signs of alternative energy production in progress. The wind is significant here, a strange situation between past, present and future arises. The alternative energy production is a good sign, but what happened to the workers of the mine? It’s about honouring the era, the work, the workers, the labour, the part(y) of industrialisation. It can mean alienation as well, but there has to a choice, and there has to be respect, and mutual awareness.

Going back from the mine-field to the village I notice an N.U.M memorial, to an outstanding activist and supporter of miner’s welfare during the strike, and then to the great Strike itself. It’s a (striking) irony that in the year of the 30th anniversary of that great Strike, mining ended altogether in this country. An end which appears to have become a minor event, whereas it really is of major significance!

 

I wonder how Hatfield and Stainforth still yearns for its heart that stopped beating not long ago: the ending is still fresh, and a shop’s Halloween ghost becomes a symbol for the ghost of the recent past, the fresh absence encountered.

Back in Doncaster, arriving again at the station with its massive ‘hinterland’ – i.e. trains parked on spare lines, resting -, this felt like the ideal ‘intermediate’ location between the mining village on the one hand, and London on the other. I couldn’t have gone straight back to London now, there was too much of this area’s history in the air, to just leave it behind so soon and sudden. The Doncaster Time Line, which I discovered engraved on a street in the city centre, tells of the mining history too, and so does the excellent poet’s corner in the shopping centre, where poems have been printed on the walls.

 

Our mutual mines

I think I understood silence here, once again and again from another angle: the shame that it might conceal, and the indifference that it might regret. How can society at large be indifferent to this, and what could the response be but a ‘silence of the oppressed’. Or it might be seen as a virtue to be silent, or hoped to be considered a privilege Is there shame in talking? If so, opportunities to remember get lost, and it becomes ever more difficult for us to meet in spirit. I may have understood a dimension of silence here, but silence will not help us to understand one another, or get to know each other. We may not meet, and we may not know that our (labour) histories have met already.

Or is to pretend we don’t know one another, is knowing (the ‘other’, considered) an intrusion? However remember, united we stand, divided we are isolated. This is a cultural translation too, but then miners too have been a multicultural bunch, across countries and within countries.

Therefore, for our mutual understanding and conversation, I have twinned these last mines in these two countries, here and there.

To be continued – this is only part one (of this project).

 

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Growing (up) psychogeography

Growing (up) psychogeography – maps and links

Our practices reveal ourselves: now the maps that I drew as a child make sense to me. It

was the ‘early psychogeographer’ in me!  I mean some kind of disposition that not only drew me to maps, but that drew me to draw maps! To make maps on my own, to invent places!

I thought it was a weird practice even as a child. My brother did it as well but he was older and he was a boy, and I thought ‘which other girl would do something that sounds as boring as drawing maps…’ It usually went like that: I made an outline of an island, and on the island I would draw one or two or maybe three little towns, or villages. The island-outlines came from our standard holidays as children on the islands off the Frisian coast in Germany: so it had their shape as a model, blueprint, prototype. I’ll show photos of my childhood maps once I can find them!

Map, shape, cognition, geometry

On being curious whether drawing maps as a child is an awkward activity – or whether it is normal somehow, I found out that the activity enhances spatial awareness! Drawing, i.e. making maps has a positive effect on enhancing lateral thinking, so there’s something cognitive going on in the process! This explains perhaps my thought process, and also why, a few years later at school, I had a strong interest in geometry. In some respects I found maths really boring, but I took to geometry like a duck to water. All those shapes with all those names!

In view of this, psychogeography, which I came across a very long time later than maps, unsurprisingly turned out to be the perfect subject-discovery for me – and am ‘embedded one’ at that, as I sort of automatically wrote myself into it. My practices, my interests, now were not awkward anymore, or the other way round, being awkward was a good thing.

When I say I wrote myself into psychogeography, I mean the sort of poetry and prose that I write. My first poetry award, in 2008, was by Urban Design, and now, just like with the maps before, it makes sense why such an organisation would give me an award: it was my place-writing, the walking plus the wording in the literature. For example my trip to the enticingly named peninsula Hoo!: wanderingwords.org.uk/author/ursulaa, or, another example some years earlier, my poetry-contribution to a booklet on the river Brent (to be excavated…)

My second poetry award was a poem written in 2013 (though sent in this year), and again it’s a place-poem (the third award was on Sappho in Letchworth Garden City, tbs). Here it is:

Then came the 4th World Congress in Psychogeography, which is documented in Tim Waters’ excellent blog here, and has links to my two blog posts about it as well: thinkwhere.wordpress.com (see under fourth picture).

Then I was thrilled that top psychogeographer Tina Richardson invited me to write a guest post on her excellent blog. I decided to write a piece where I kind of introduce myself, hence ‘a psychogeography of where I grew up (how forms and shapes have formed and shaped me): particulations.blogspot.co.uk

And from there developed a ‘mining project’ which I’ll write more about, and also the idea of making psychogeographs! I wanted to honour the ‘graph’ part of geography, and then take it literally, which reveals its closeness to ‘mapping’, once again, and so comes back to itself. My second psychogeograph is the title picture of this post, and my first one is here below.

The dérive and questions of structure

There’s another big thing in psychogeography, apart from maps, and that is the dérive! This is another perfect practice for me! Having a dislike for some forms of repetition and structures, I found that the dérive also functions as stress relief for me. I have to do it frequently, in order to escape, or to side-line, the set structures which I am supposed to follow, and which do not allow enough of my own expression. Whenever I have the opportunity to do my own – literally! – derivations from the prescribed pathways, I feel I am breathing, flowing, in my element! So for me the dérive is the perfect answer to my needs.

It’s not that I seek to ‘deconstruct’ all structures – there are different types: structures that are hierarchies have to be abolished, in favour of equality – whereas with other types of structures I simply want to be able to make my own ones, to add to the existing ones and therefore enhance possibilities, choices and ideas.

In daily life: dots and lines

My daily life is quite dérive-friendly: I have to work at a different venue almost every day, and my weekly and monthly structures are also usually entirely different from one another. There is little repetition, which I like.

Yet I always seek to extend this freedom to the max! It seems I have a need to constantly find unknown and unexpected things, places, views, ideas – and different ways of connecting places: places being dots and lines the connections I make between them!

If I don’t do have enough opportunity to have to reach different places, or the same places in a different order, I feel either bored or a bit strangled/stressed. Walking down a road and observing thrills me, such as looking at the arrangement of autumn leaves on road, pavement or yellow line, seeing signs, objects, notices – indeed: to notice! Finding flowers growing through gaps in the pavement, looking at cloud-formations in the sky, and the ever-changing light- and shadow patterns that sunshine produces. So there are things to see on the ground, and things to see in the sky!

More is on the way, so this is growing it further and further!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Yorks in a Nutshell (no, Triangle!)

West Yorkshire in a nutshell (no, in a triangle!) 

+ more on the 4th Psychogeo. Congress 2017!

This time around, i.e. on this trip, West Yorkshire revealed itself as a triangle to me! This is because I only went to a small area, and it was an alliterated one at that! The alliteration was: H, the triangle was: Huddersfield, Halifax, Hebden Bridge! So that’s not all of West Yorks by any means, or any Leeds, but it was a nice triple-destined journey.

When you look on the map, you find it’s not a regular triangle, it has two little sides between Hudders and Hali, and Hali and Heb, and then a long side between Hudders and Heb, so Hali is kind of in the middle! So that’s as far as the shape goes!  This long-triangle shape then, acquired a tail as well, of which I will tell: the Todmorden-tail.

From shape to text! The text behind the ‘H-code’ was this: to visit and present at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, staying overnight in Halifax, and then going out to visit Hebden Bridge. And here, on my last Heb-leg, I added another excursion: Todmorden – not an H, but fitting into the trip-logic, because it’s a kind of ‘twin town’ to Hebden Bridge, as it has the same character of being an community/alternative/ecological/arty/feministy town, turned into this, along with Hebden Bridge, in the 1970s and 80s by hippies and feminists, seeking a kind of self-organised space.

It started with the Psychogeography Congress! But then it started everywhere, because on the 7th September, as I was travelling up, I went to Halifax first, to my B and B, and as I arrived there early, and I had the rest of the day to myself, I did a little trip to Hebden Bridge right there and then! As soon as you arrive, you might get initiated, as I did, in the ‘project’ of Hebden Bridge: to be cuddly, friendly town, with ecological awareness and an alternative to consumerism-capitalism. It’s great that this exists, a community built around caring and commitment! I know,  this is not the only ‘text of the town’, but it’s bigger than it is in other towns. It’s kind of centre-stage here, and that feels liberating.

Then, arriving back at Halifax, I loved it as well, and admired the woolly Piece Hall, telling of sheep- and weaving history and industry, with a Spanish outlook! – the Piece Hall is a massive building, where woven pieces used to be sold, it’s a three-story building, including a square inside, and somehow looks like a Spanish bull-ring, with the only difference that the circular bullring built has been ‘reproduced’ as a square. How to square the circle!

Now the Psychogeography Congress. That was happening for the next 3 magic days. It was amazing, ground-breaking, eye-opening, net-working. Drifting, radical walking, interesting presentations. Everything was inspiring and had revolutionary potential (or actuality), and what especially resonated with me, was the presentation before mine, about the simulation solar system in West Yorkshire! That was ‘Walking at the Speed of Light’ by Annie Watson, which I loved, and which recreated distances between the Sun, Mercury, Venus, our Earth, and so on, around Sheffield. Because it’s so interesting, it has been re-created at the Documenta festival in Kassel as well! The only thing that’s missing in the project, I think, is Pluto -I know Pluto was temporarily contested, but it has a whopping five moons!

There were lots of interesting discussions too. And the next-most fascinating thing I remember was – and I don’t know if it was a presentation or a discussion (I thought it was a presentation but now can’t find it on the conference programme!) – the walk around the twin-towns! That was Graeme Murrell, who linked West Yorks with the Ruhr Valley in Germany, because Leeds is twinned with Dortmund, and Huddersfield is twinned with Unna. So there’s an echo there, and it’s an equivalent echo at that because the distance between Leeds and Huddersfield equals the distance between Dortmund and Unna.

I like these transpositions and positions, this town- , path- and landscape-twinning, because they remind me of my own! I have similar things around language-symmetry, and map/geography-language co-relations, or triangulations. They have a (mutual) purpose, as they enhance adventures in (inter/cultural) translations, and thereby enhance understanding, friendship and exchange – discovering similarities and possibilities for synchronicity between and amongst us.

I also like these kind of transpositioning things, because my favourite field within maths at school was geometry: the idea of joining dots and coming up with producing shapes and outlines, always appealed to me.

And here I was, hearing about Murrell’s Leeds-Huddersfield, corresponded with the Dortmund-Unna walk, whilst relishing my own West Yorks triangle of HHH: Huddersfield, Halifax and Hebden Bridge (should we add here: Hamburg, Helsinki, Haifa, Hebron, Harare, Hull, Halle, Hammerfest…).

There is still more to write about that land-mark (well, literally land-marking!) Psychogeography Congress, but I’ll do this in stages. Conceptually, after all, this was more than a triangle, but a shape with so many angles that I wouldn’t know what to call it! If you have any ideas, let me know.

Huddersfield itself is beautifully sided by the mountainous Castle Hill, a bit like Halifax is beautifully sided by the mountainous Beacon Hill – both of them town-side hills, which could almost be mountains!

Huddersfield also excels with its missing platform number 7 at the railway station. I think my train, ironically, took the place of number 7, because it was always the second train on platform 6! So actually I think I can say that my train was the ‘missing platform train’.

After the conference, and before home, I came back to Hebden Bridge, with the additional excursion to Todmorden. I then twinned Heb and Tod in my mind, as they both underlie the same ethos of ecology, art and revolution. A lot of this is communicated on public noticeboards, and it made me realise, how important noticeboards are for a sense of both community and revolution. The idea of communicating not just privately on social media, but publicly, physically, out in the open, is much more participatory and immediate! And then again, this corresponds with a psychogeographic method as well: the idea in the psychogeo. classic: ‘The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem centres on communication and participation as well! For me, there were echoes of the old feminist Silvermoon Bookshop in London too, as I remember this as containing lots of notices, as you made your way from the ground floor to the first floor.

Keep going up!

As a postscriptum I came up with yet another figure when back in London: Hebden Bridge also reminded me of what arty alternative Walthamstow would be if it was outside London (or had more space!), and the surrounding city replaced by hills. Todmorden, then, would become Leytonstone (due to its nearby location and similar arty/alternative life!) and Mytholmroyd would become Blackhorse Rd, because it is hardly separate from Walthamstow, but has its own tube station on the same line – just like the ‘real’ Mytholmroyd is hardly separate from Hebden Bridge, but has its own train station on the same line.

This also makes Heb., Tod. and Myth. (!), another triangle, echoed by the Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Blackhorse Rd triangle.

Ok I’ll stop here for now, I think the next text from here could take up Mytholmroyd as a site for mythogeography (a branch of psychogeography)!

 

Offshore Writer’s Delight: Psychogeography

Offshore Writer’s Delight

I’ve just returned from the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography in Huddersfield, and it was a big thing! – and felt like both a revelation and an initiation. So here is my very personal/political story about what psychogeography means to me, and how I arrived at it, via and with postcolonalism by my (possibly hidden) side.

Revelation:

The Congress was a revelation for me because it kind of confirmed my intuition and my work, that what I do and what I write is just in the middle of psychogeograpy! For me, psychogeography is about the whole of myself, too, and so it’s a space where I can express how my personal is political, and all: so it becomes a feminist, and cultural space, immediately, as it becomes, too, a landscape-, hidden-urban-, and/or abstract space!

Yes, it’s all about space, spaces, and questioning, walking, dissent, drift,  desire for social change, anti-structure on structure, and about new invented lines beyond repetition, around the edges of new consciousness, edge-land-liking and moving, walking, thinking further, thinking other, thinking far-off the repeated beaten tracks of consumerist-infused association and status quo, static quotes and stingy quotas.

And so: quo vadis? Quo vadimus? Quantum-phsyics, quantum psycho-geo-poetry? Quickly. Quirkily. Quite so, but that’s just the q. corner! So let’s add a question here too!

As a kind of Other in this society, there are fields of enquiry that, if analysed, respond to issues that are at the heart psychogeography (as it is in postcolonialism, for my point of view and experience): space, displacement, drift, edge. So in this way, psychogeography is about all the aspects of topics that happen to me conceptually.

At the same time, my background, in large part, due to my Otherness, is postcolonialism, inter/cultural studies, black and critical race studies too. There’s ‘critical whiteness’ in there too, though I find this a tricky and in some constellations a misleading word, because I am othered due to my accent: a dimension that critical whiteness doesn’t consider, and so it is as if my difference – and therefore myself! – doesn’t exist! Interrogating whiteness is highly important if you have not considered it before, or if you are not embedded in or a product of multicultural identities, but my location demands of me a different, wider project. The starting point of this project has to be the hallmark of my experience/location/position, which is my accent and its consequences: my life-world! And this marker for me is erased in the critical whiteness analysis (and not only here, by the way, but it is very pronounced here, due to its illusion of ‘serving me’), and therefore closes its avenues of reception, before I can even ‘come in’ to explain my situation. This process is a painful repetition, and thus excludes opportunities for conceptual – and as a result, real – progress!

Initiation:

I also felt initiated at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, because now I had come to an officially existing forum, which declares itself as ‘psychogeography’. And, as it is what I had been doing for a long time, it feels like I’ve now ‘joined the club’.

My presentation was on ’Walking over Edges’ and I had once again passed and surpassed another edge with it somehow. At the centre of my presentation – as a totally liberating and space-making starting- and some kind of mid-point, is my life-world, my edge-world, because I come from across the edge. And this is my desire. To ‘bring myself in’, to explain my life-world as ‘geo-political psycho-sociality’, and so come back to the postcolonial always as well.

In explaining who I am, in terms of identity, as a foreigner and a writer, I have been looking for names for myself – and of recent, ‘migrant writer’ has felt for me to be the best description. ‘Foreigner’ had been, and is always true too, but I like emphasizing the ‘writing’ side of myself too. And ‘foreign writer’ sounds too static somehow.

The thing is that me and my writing reaffirm each other, by both coming from over the edge: I am from it, and I write about it, so everything is ‘edgeland’! – and edgeland writing.

This is not because I write ‘about abroad’, but because my writing, even if dealing with ‘here’ (as it usually does!) has another edge to it: the surprise that ‘here’ is my topic, my reader’s confusion: ‘but isn’t she a foreigner?!’  So, when I write about ‘here’, i.e. this country, there’s always more involved on the side of me (more or less, sometimes), and my ‘readers’ (almost always). For me it would be the insertion of an extra-dimension, more space, if I do so, for my readers it’s the confusion (how can she talk about here if she’s not from here…). So all these texts collapse into each other, not disappearing but becoming a conundrum. The conundrum: my drum-call.

And in this, whilst ‘foreigner’ and ‘migrant writer’ are labels I agree with, and make use of, too, I came up with the term ‘offshore-writer’: a writer from beyond the shore, who had drifted in, via inshore waters, and who is interested in unravelling the complexities in, around and behind the shore/the edge.

Bringing in/bringing out, othering

It’s a relief to be able to talk about my otherness! There is usually no concept for this, in academia, but I find that there is so much to explore there, so much to say, and to inscribe into theory too! I had so far articulated this within the postcolonial, and spent many years upon arriving in this country, dialoguing with, feeling safe in, and performing in and among multicultural and black audiences. Here was this, to most people unknown, synergy based on our (me and the multicultural) common otherness/outsiderness, which made being with each other more meaningful than entering the mainstream world. Most of us had to mix with the mainstream world too, of course, but it was often limited to work-settings. And for those of us working within the performing arts, mixing with the mainstream world was more optional. We, as multicultural (performing) artists developed a kind of resistance-philosophy, or resistance-existentialism, building on the civil rights movement and black liberation movement that had already taken place, and of which we were a part.

As the years went by, however, our ‘common otherness’ was increasingly questioned, and increasingly my deep belonging to the group of ‘the othered’ I ended up not being understood! In a weird way: rather than acknowledging my outsiderness as a foreigner – which the mainstream society certainly always curiously notice –what became more of an issue was my white looks, in terms of skin-colour. And with that the assumption that whiteness runs contrary to Otherness. In reality, it does and it doesn’t: it’s a really interesting field to explore, analyse and theorize, but the space for that was not there because blackness creates more pressing issues too:  police intervention, undue school underachievement despite high knowledge, hard injustices endured. All this didn’t apply to me but it didn’t make me English either. The questioning carried on regardless as where I am from and when I am going back, is my family back home, whether I go to visit my family a lot, whether I like England etc. Unendingly, unnervingly, the mainstream! Questions received as a result of not being identified as belonging.

There was an anticipation of the lack of knowledge on both sides. On the ‘other’ side: would i and could I possibly know, and feel, the significance of Africa as the – if displaced – centre of civilisation. Yes! But would you, could you, possibly imagine! The sensitivity gained on this is largely due to my exposure to knowing about the extreme difficulty of dialogue, the hurdles of understanding. As I am routinely exposed to this, on a conscious level, in an interracial context too, I have extensive knowledge of it.

This knowledge is the conceptual centre piece of my position in a gap between blackness and whiteness, a blind spot position which yearns for analysis in order to make its spot less blind. To withhold this knowledge, and thereby come closer to conceptual whiteness, would mean being a traitor to myself.

A little mystery is here that other foreigners have often chosen not to remain conscious – and consciously – inside this gap, but rather assimilate into Englishness (at least in terms of accent, so that foreign origins /outer spaces are hidden) in order to match whiteness in this locality. I cannot bring myself to perform this exit from the gap, because a) I want to be myself and not pretend to give a false picture of myself, and b) doing this would mean to withhold the knowledge that my gap-position yields for me, and so, assimilation would mean to pretend not to know what i know.

It’s all so big, the conundrum of issues, it’s like a walk that’s constantly drifting. And here ‘walk’ and ‘drift’ come in. If we connect the dots not simply with straight lines, but with ambling, rambling, perhaps looping, loitering, interrupted lines, we find more terrain, more landscapes – divided or undivided as they may be – to describe, and as a result, more to be written and to be said!

In psychogeography then, I don’t need to pretend, withhold or compartmentalise, I can just drift into the issues via the facilitating forums of space, drift, edge, off/shore, and weave identity politics and postcolonialism into them, so as to contribute to social change, racial equality, understanding, anti-capitalism, inclusivity and communication. Maybe this is unusual too, to bring in oneself in this way, but this is also a feminist practice (the personal is political!), and I just consider this to be truthful and useful methodology – especially if ‘othering comes into play too, and needs to   be explained. There is more to say here, theorists and practitioners to mention, but I’ll elaborate on in another piece. This is just the beginning, just the outline of explaining what psychogeography does for me, and how this excellent Congress in Huddersfield enabled my participation on a more visible level. I’ve not even said much about the Congress itself, which isn’t really fair, but I thought I’ll start by stating where I am coming from, what the Congress has done for me, and how belonging here has opened up possibilities for articulating observations, practices and experiences.

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Universal Greetings!

Universal greetings to you all in multiple forms! This photo I took at the stunning Crawick Multiverse (at a railway station and pretty wee town called Sanquhar, between Dumfries and Glasgow), which is an amazing landscape architecture park, where the universe is represented in the form of stone clusters and so on: a stone cluster for an

astronomical super cluster, another one for Andromeda, and of course our own galaxy! The park is the brain child of Charles Jencks, who has also made the Northumberlandia park and sculpture. Then various phenomena are explained and expressed on earth, such as the Sun Flare / Earth Shield, my favourite, and the one in these first couple of pics, and the third one being its explanation. The park is so fascinating, it’s like a place of

pilgrimage! In the sky itself stars represented here ar e only visible at night, the darker the sky,  the more stars in sight! And I had a look at the stars after my visit here, when I went to the Galloway Astronomy Centre. It’s amazing how kind of neolithic it looks like as well. So, wait for the darkness and you will see! As did the once famous astronomers (and now too often forgotten), the Dogon in Mali, Africa, so do we now! Not only are our continents that are connected – have a look at the pic below, which tells you how heaven and earth, too, are connected. We have to take our unity more serious!

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Updates and Onwards

We live in weird times. In less than 10 days we’ve gone from a revolutionary moment in politics (hung!) to a tragedy fire, we’ve lost a tower! And a tower means a lot, it means people!

In these weird times, also within the last 10 days, I’ve been making inroads about writing out loud! Been shortlisted for the Northumbrian Writers Association Award, and been the runner-up of the Sappho Poetry contest, which came about to celebrate the revolutionary statue of the great Sappho in Letchworth, Britain’s first Garden City. It’s been a socially progressive town ever since its inception, that’s why. And since 1907, a statue of Sappho lives in Letchworth. So she’s seen the Suffragettes and all! So I called my poem Sappho-gette: that’s me then, I am a Sapphogette!

Then the Northumbrian Writers Association Award shortlist! Totally pleased! With my poem ‘Way Up North’, as I got inspired when I was travelling up and around there. I feel connected quickly generally, and Newcastle in particular always reminded me of Bielefeld, near where I grew up. Bielefeld isn’t by the sea, but it’s got that worker’s heritage and the very high buildings, where well above your head bridges would come out of buildings and connect them up. It’s quite thrilling.

So, so far, Newcastle and Letchworth are my most lucky places! Many thanks!

Upcoming slightly biggish performances (that is, apart from the wee ones) are as follows: at the Cricklewood Festival on the 1st July (there’ll be a rally to press for a Grenfell inquest on that day as well, so my suggestion is, start at the rally, then go to Crickfest), and at Leytonstone Arts Trail on the 9th July.

Notting Hill later, etc.

I end with a poem published in May in Fountainhead, the amazing magazine of the Black Berlin Film Festival. More info under black-international-cinema.com

Circular ritual insight

We forgot to hold hands

When we migrated out of Africa

For otherwise we would have remembered

Who we are

Down the line and the lines

Of our different colours

And our far-away places

From the original source of life

 

We forgot to hold hands

When we migrated out of Africa

And out of all the other places

That came after

All the countries

That had been inhabited

Before we got to Europe – well those

Who got there, those who lost much of their

Colours and their memories of Africa

 

If we had only held on to the old pagan ritual

We would have moved and walked in and out

Of circles we make whilst holding hands

We would have danced and walked

But not left

Without remembering who we were

 

If we had held hands

When we migrated out of Africa

We would have remembered

Who we are

Our spiritual link

Wouldn’t have just disappeared

In the way that it so painfully did

And created much havoc and misery

Colonialism instead of compassion

Impoverishment instead of empowerment

Death and destruction instead of life and laughter

 

If we had only held hands

When we migrated out of Africa

We would have remembered

Who we are!                                   © Ursula Troche, 12.15 (published in Fountainhead mag.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Springster

 Where some people may be hipsters, I am a springster, because i love spring! That’s the

word  that occured to me last night, which we who love spring, might love to use. When I

leave my house, I often can’t walk fast, because I can’t resist taking yet another photo of all that grows by the wayside, the little countryside on the pavements. And moving on from there and into urban oases such as my local Woodberry Wetlands, a top biotope!

Everything grows and the sun shines! It’s like all of us enjoy this, so we are all pagans now! And then there’s Easter, how do we celebrate that? There are the chickens and the church, and then there’s the chicken and the eggs!

I’ve got some Easter Chicks and some Easter eggs and I don’t know which came first! I know they came before the church though! That doesn’t mean the festival has no meaning. The most truthful celebration of Easter I have ever done was in 2009, when I went to Aldermasten, the annual peace march, which the CND and CCND has organised since the 1950s. This used to be a big pilgrimage, but now has become very small. But I think it’s the best way of celebrating Easter, because it’s about showing your commitment to what religion should be: to take action for peace.

I don’ think the peace pilgrimage to Aldermasten is still being organised though, but it’s a good to spread the word about what is possible if we were serious about peace.  So let those budding flowers which we all admire, and the sunshine that we all enjoy, inspire us to come out for peace, so that we may all live happily ever after one day. I think this could be a good definition of being a springster – to admire spring for a good reason and a good cause, to spread blossoming and growth, to do like the flowers do!