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Writing and Reading Landscapes of Utility

  • Dungeness B Nuclear Power Station (map)

Various dates and locations, please see below

This series of in-situ training sessions seeks to direct critical and creative attention to a range of aesthetically under-imagined or neglected fringe environments such as landfills, industrial wastelands and utility plants, as sites of an emerging cultural sensibility (as distinct from the established critical category of ‘non-places’ such as shopping malls and retail parks and other familiar spaces of urban and peri-urban modernity). 'Tramlines and slagheaps, pieces of machinery/That was, and still is, my ideal scenery', wrote W.H. Auden in 1936, and since then a range of arts practitioners, from photographers and sound-artists to novelists and poets, have chosen to site their work, materially and figuratively, in such edgelands and ‘dross-scapes’, while a growing body of academic and public attention, from cultural geographers, sociologists and public policy makers, has also been paid to the contested values of these terrains.

   The aim of these training sessions will be to investigate these materially and economically significant terrains, exploring their cultural and historical groundedness, while asking a number of questions about the changing uses and stresses to which land and environment are put. The fieldtrips will be led by practitioners and researchers from a range of disciplines, including English, cultural geography, photography and sound ecology – one of the key outcomes of the series being a methodological one: the participants will have encountered a range of innovative research methods and approaches that will enrich their wider understanding of the contested critical terrains of landscape and environment.

Draft Schedule of Events
Please note, students are encouraged to attend all the training sessions in the series 

9 January 2018:  In-situ training session 1
Dungeness B Nuclear Power Station (1050 MW capacity power station on the Kent coast; the shingle beach it is built on is categorised by the Met Office as ‘Britain’s only desert’); led by Prof. John Drever (Goldsmiths)

23 January 2018: In-situ training session 2
Port of Felixstowe (Britain’s busiest container port, handling 42% of the UK’s containerised trade); led by TBC

6 February 2018: In-situ training session 3
Sainsbury’s distribution centre, on the Lee Valley, Hertfordshire (led by Dr Jim Lewis & Dr Richard Hamblyn

13 February 2018: In-situ training session 4
Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), Greenwich (state-of-the-art recycling sorting facility, run by Veolia under contract from London Borough of Greenwich)/ or Packington Hall landfill, near Birmingham/ or South London one: Led by: TBC

27 February 2018: In-situ training session 5
Brownfield site, Dagenham, East London (the term “Brownfield” refers to previously developed land, which may or may not be contaminated: the London Land Commission Register lists 40,000 such sites, nearly 500 of which are located in Barking and Dagenham: Led by TBC

13 March 2018:  Plenary discussion, sound and vision showcase and presentations for all participants (10:30am-2:30pm)
Keynes Library, Birkbeck