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Works of 2017

I’ve gone back to study this year. After years of wrangling over whether to go back or not, I finally decided that I had nothing to lose by doing so. Additionally, it has enabled me to have a bit more thinking space, away from working 5 days a week. Because no matter what job you do, I find repetitious work endeavours to corrode the will to be creatively and intellectually engaged with life. Although now in my 30’s, regrettably there are many things I haven’t experienced or engaged with, and in many ways I feel deprived of so much, but partly because of this,  I still have much freedom from excessive responsibilities that many don’t, and this has enabled me to break free of 9-5, if only for 2 years.

I’ve still been working on my drawings, but spending much time considering and working on how the other main outlets for my work relate back to my drawings. I’m not a natural illustrator, I spend way too much musing things over than putting pen to paper, so it always feels a little disingenuous to go along with the ‘drawer’ tagline. It gives people the wrong impression about how I work.

It’s quite hard to explain this whilst also explaining how important my drawings are to the ideas and concepts that drive me to make and do. But the drawings are intermittent moments where the cognitive mapping of this chaotic world suddenly seems to come into focus, and make sense, even if this doesn’t seem to be the case for others who view the final outcomes.

Nonetheless, the current works are trying to take on the concepts of ‘dark optimism’ (which I borrowed some time back for my own uses, from ‘The Transition Towns Handbook’, by Rob Hopkins), and (my own) ‘punch-drunk idealism’, largely by pitting the capabilities we have before us, against the evidential mass mental breakdown that our current hysterical accumulation of modernity is causing. There has become within myself and my work an almost religious conviction that this moment, where we are at a saturation point regarding our ability to care and hope, will cause a tipping point where we will be forced to collectively transcend the ‘soul fracking’ of late-stage capitalism. I say religious to be cautious that I may just be fooling myself, but I guess if I didn’t at least have some belief that the future will be live-able the I’d be a nervous wreck.

One of the most important works, for me, was a written work, accompanied by maps, that sadly became an unrealised project‘How did I get so old? (Pre GE2017 musings)’ was a response to the then-upcoming snap election called by Teresa May.  Although Jeremy Corbyn himself would never pretend he was the ‘golden ticket’ to a post-austerity, potentially post-capitalist society, his unexpected popularity with symbolic of a desire to break out downer-fuelled neoliberalist Britain. And this work was an attempt at reckoning with the potential of choosing to vote to challenge these depressed, foreclosed horizons, alongside trying to come to terms with my own depressed experiences of adulthood, and a willing to change this, also.


I’ve always found the balancing act of these two seemingly separate issues very difficult to communicate, because the language to effectively communicate a notion of a societal depression is inherently flawed, whilst when I veer more towards my own experiences as a better form of explanation, it appears merely pathological, or, at worst, that I’m wallowing in it.

The election, however, did surprise us somewhat, and was probably the last period of collective optimism, before the absurdity of Brexit, and the sex scandals that seemed to hover around it like accumulating flies around its rotting carcass of [the illusion of] neoliberal society, began to overwhelm such capacities for optimism. I guess there’s always next year..



The biggest project was also to be the most spectral.

In 2017 The Retro Bar at The End of the Universe [the collective I am part of) was given the chance to curate a disused pub. The pub, which epitomises the weird and eerie landscape of post-industrial West Yorkshire, was situated on the relentless Otley Road, within the Saltaire/Shipley region. Yet, the building itself contained ghostly remnants of a political and cultural era which the RBATEOU argues is currently coming to an end.

Due to a location made ‘strange’ by our descent into a commuter existence, the event ‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th century Please Turn Out The lights?’ received NO VISITORS. This was an exhibition at the end of the universe, making the collective wonder “are we the last person?”. Perhaps it was meant to be?

We curated both floors of this large building, to create something that actually began to creep us out as a collective, as if we’d uncovered a truth about the era we arguably just leaving that wasn’t comfortable.

Rebekah Whitlam’s ‘Milly Molly Mandy Gets Loaded and Other Stories’, at the dead end of a corridor in the upstairs section, felt like the exorcism of this period. And I would recommend watching the video piece she made afterwards, with the help of sound artist Adam Weikert.

The Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade)

I have some projects that I am wanting to conceal until the new year,  but they will, without doubt, be documented upon here in good time. But perhaps the last point of interest to finish on would be my rookie attempts trying to map an idea of society’s emotional patterns in response to certain political upheavals during the past decade.

Working on ideas put down in 4 years back in ‘The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash)’, The Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade) basically tracks the past ten years, since the year when the financial crash happened to now, asking if others feel the same way as I do: that with retrospect it feels like a lost decade (?).

Now, I haven’t been forced to rely on food handouts, had to choose between heating and eating, or found myself on the streets (an awful new normality in the past ten years). But in hindsight I feel like it has stunted me, almost caged me in a previous point of my life. I feel like when I shut my eyes and reopen them, I can’t remember the decade, as it has been sucked from under me.

The parallels between a long depression, and the memory loss it can cause are very closely tied, and I can only hope that it isn’t a lone experience, because I want the other aspects of the work to make sense to people, as they are where the optimism lies.
Within this submerged soundscape there are points of emergence that correlate with times within the past decade when I felt ruptures in default reality fabric occurred. For good or for worse, new horizons felt palpable, as was a sense to act. Ultimately the default reality fabric reasserted itself, and, arguably the depression/memory loss resumed.

From the 2011 English riots to Trump, from Corbyn to Brexit, constructive or destructive, the fact is that these ruptures offer(ed) alterior possibilities from the business-as-usual outcome. I don’t know, I just know how I feel /felt in these moments seemed to contain some kernel of something other, that allowed me to imagine myself in relation to the world in a different manner.

Next year is going to be a real challenge on so many levels. But I feel far less of the objectless and hopeless confusion I had in many of the previous years. I’m hoping I, and those I work closely with, are onto some great ideas for 2018…



An Hypothetical map for a Regional Identity Dilemma.

In the United Kingdom many areas believe they are marginalised and overlooked in favour London and the South East. Although I’d argue the primary cause for such grievance isn’t geographically located, but located inside of us, from being subjected to the kind of society created through 40 years of fidelity to the ideology of market fundamentalism and market individualism – which personalises social problems, and affects people in London as much as the North (for example) – there are many reasons why people in the UK feel ignored and marginal to matters due to where they live. For example,  “London will see £1,500 more in transport spending per person than the North over the coming years”  a fact that is cause for bitterness for anyone who regularly has to use Northern Rail or Transpennine Express.

Additionally, the idea that a sense of belonging to a geographical location has been totally illegitimatised by these globally interconnected times has been proven to be totally flawed. I think it’s an impossibility to expect the human animal to thrive with no sense of connection to an area they have lived in for a number of years. And it doesn’t have to be forged around hard oppositionalism to other regions.  I’d argue regional identity can take on different forms, and doesn’t have to be borne from the alienation and humiliation many feel in impersonal nation states that can conversely result in a more ferocious fever of xenophobic nationalism.

However that’s a topic for another time. Also, I’m not here to make such statements of what type of devolution should be sought, whether they would work, and all that, etc. I am simply employing my years making mind maps around the South and West Yorkshire areas, to hypothesise about ‘workable’ constitutional boundaries that could deal with the ongoing dilemma of devolution between the Sheffield City Region and the Wider Yorkshire Region..


Residents in the Barnsley and Doncaster districts are being asked to ‘have their say’ on a decision over whether to agree to be part of a stronger Sheffield City Region (which they are currently the most northerly areas of) or as part of a Wider Yorkshire Region. Barnsley and Doncaster councils have voted against on their initial agreement to be part of a mayor-run Sheffield City Region, in favour of a Wider Yorkshire Region, for reasons, they say, are due to the amount of changes in British Politics since the original agreement was made in 2015.

After much consideration, I started playing around with an idea for a map that de-draws constitutional boundaries that I think could potentially work.


Yorkshire is giant county in proportion with other England centres, with a massive sense of identity, which, in turn, has made it forget that some of the areas now in within its boundaries, weren’t always so.

The reason I would propose to change a Sheffield City Region (excluding Barnsley and Doncaster) into a place of its own called ‘Hallamshire’ isn’t out of some petty wish to exclude it from the bloated belly of Yorkshire, but to agree with the thoughts of the Writer/critic Ian Nairn when he visited the town in 1960’s. Nairn says:

“[I]t is the capital of an area which exists in fact but not in administration – Hallamshire, or the missing South Riding. …The industrial revolution gave it character which is not quite Midland, not quite Yorkshire, not quite Pennine…”

The reason ‘South Riding’ wouldn’t work, however, is due to one of the main obstacles to Sheffield being part of a Wider Yorkshire Region. Much of the south of Sheffield is situated, at least historically, in Derbyshire, especially as the housing developments continue to sprawl out towards the south and east. Additionally, much of the City Region that sees Sheffield as its nearest city is in Nottinghamshire. Although the nearest city to most of the Doncaster and Barnsley boroughs is Sheffield, they are also very close to the conurbation that has built up around Leeds.

I think Sheffield would fair well being known as the centre of aHallamshire’. I roughly propose it would begin in the north, following the Don valley from Dunford Bridge, taking on Penistone (which has much more in common,  culturally and geographically, with Sheffield, than it does being currently part of the Barnsley district). It would stretch to the eastern side of the Derwent valley in the Peak District, and follow the Rother valley from the south in Derbyshire and into Rotherham, and stretch out South East to include the former mining areas of north Nottinghamshire around Worksop.

There are historical reasons to suggest that Sheffield may have existed on boundary lands between the North and the Midlands. According to the historian David Hey, The river Sheaf, from which Sheffield takes its name, means ‘boundary in Old English’. he suggests, in his 2000 paper ‘Yorkshire’s Southern Boundary’ that:

“it might easily be thought that the boundary would follow the river Sheaf to its confluence with the Don, and so on to The Humber. This in fact may have been the division between the Brigante and the Corieltauvi tribes when the Romans erected their fort at Templeborough in A.D 54…”. David Hey (2000) Yorkshire’s Southern Boundary, Northern History, 37:1

Even though this map is purely hypothetical I felt it still it could offend Sheffielder’s who feel just as strongly about their Yorkshire identity. Yet, I am actually trying to point that Sheffield’s ‘uniqueness’ (often evoked more by Southern expats who moved to the city, surprised how different the city is to the dated perceptions of it being an ‘unsightly’ place) puts it in a category of cities whose identities have outgrown their origins. Despite it being considerably smaller than Manchester and Liverpool, it is of similar ilk, in not belonging to one area, but of forging an area all for itself. Leeds’ identity, for example, seems to be far more at entwined with a Yorkshire identity, seeing itself as the main Yorkshire city.

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As we move ‘into’ Yorkshire from the hypothetical Hallamshire, I tried to make districts that I feel could possibly work both geographically and culturally. ‘Southwest Yorks’ would follow the Dearne Valley from its source on the hills just west of Denby Dale to its end as it joins the river Don. However, it would also include the land that lies south of the middle and lower Calder Valley. The reason for this district is that although much of this area is closer to the centres of Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Wakefield, once you actually hit their respective urban areas you are clearly in a wider urban area that is more than the sum of its parts and, although haphazardly, spreads right up to Bradford and Leeds.

‘Southwest Yorks’ roughly spans the areas of industrial Yorkshire that never became so built-up because they were largely mining communities. The same applies for the Doncaster area, but the reason I felt this was a separate area was due to its geography being more like the vale of York, which is noticeable in the change in the colour of the rock formations,  which changes from the orangey brown sandstone found in ‘Southwest Yorks’ to a thin strip of ‘magnesium Limestone’ that runs north to south as the land flattens out almost completely.

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The ‘West Riding Metropolis’ was a hypothetical name that the writer Owen Hatherley came up with, to designate one of the most built up, heavily populated areas in England, which has never yet worked as a fully functional metropolis due to its incoherent and discontinuous urbanity; indeed, speaking of the current counties, as they stand, I feel it is accurate to call South Yorkshire a ‘discontinuous conurbation of villages’ and West Yorkshire a ‘discontinuous conurbation of towns’.

The western perimeter of the former industrial side of Yorkshire also has a separate geography to the ‘West Riding Metropolis, a side that is a mirror of the land just over the pennine border. This area is post-industrial, yet is more rural, but unlike the mining areas, seems to visualise not only its own history but the very beginnings of the industrial revolution. I struggled for a potential name and called it ‘Mill Town Yorks’, but perhaps ‘Uppermill Yorks’ would be better. The area would likely start in the south at Holmfirth and follow the western edge of the West Riding Metropolis up to Keighley.

These are very simple plays with the area of I know of Yorkshire best, and I don’t expect it to be taken too seriously. However, it would be nice to think it could help think differently about a wider area which certainly needs infrastructural rethought.

Writings From HMS Brexit: performance, this coming Friday and Saturday

As part of ‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn off The Lights?’, The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe presents ‘Writings From HMS Brexit’: a ‘live’ performance.

Myself, poet Jonathan Butcher, and the writer JD Taylor (author of Island Story: Journeys around unfamiliar Britain) have made spoken word pieces for the event to be held this weekend  – the voice of Merepseud, hauntological diarist, and former resident of nearby Shipley, may well be heard also.


The location is a disused pub, looking back over a dislocating time; an erosion of time and place; a vacuum filled by unfulfilled ghosts from the past. Always in homage to the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher, this series of prose speeches is strange due to the absence of the speakers. Only their half-finished endeavors will be visible; half finished pints and coats flung over the seats – as they proceed to dissect a body that has become to be known as ‘Brexit Britain’.

The events are on Friday 6-11pm.

Saturday 10-5pm

Below is a map that shows easy access, via footpath, from the station to our event!!



How Did I Get So Old? (pre-GE2017 musings)

I really wanted to make more of this project before election day, but the things I had been documenting spread into a project I felt I couldn’t reasonably complete in the time space left. I had been making narrated maps and compiling photographs from the 7th May onwards, but to post all of that right now would just be the equivalent of showing the teacher all the ‘hard work’ I’d been doing in the past month in the hope that I could pass the GE2017 exam, so not to face the tidal wave of bickering sounds that’s building.

I begin with the series of maps I made during the last month, and conclude with a short piece of writing I have cobbled together within the last week, as I tried to make sense of the chaotic month, year, century leading up to now.


In a Barnsley Wetherspoons the ‘Love Manchester’ event that plays out from a screen usually emitting rolling news anxiety, prompts at least 10 drunk men to loudly and proudly sing along. If the Manchester brand of the past 20 years was borne from the far less deranged and nihilistic IRA bomb attack of 1996, the Oasis hit ’Don’t Look Back in Anger’ released in that very same year, has resurfaced to become the anthem for a Manchester hyper-branded through social media in a matter of days. It evokes a pleasant memory of spring in 1996; the entire of our year 7 class singing along to it on a cumbersome ghetto blaster in the school’s music department.


But that was 1996 – how did we all get so old?

I’m distracted towards the living rooms of the houses I walk back past, as the screens are noticeably showing the music event. The exhibited middle-aged white singer could be Liam Gallagher, Chris Martin, Damon Albarn or Robbie Williams. They all look the same; ageing men under the spotlights of an ageing spectacle. I start to see this gig not as a triumph of enjoyment over terror but as a send off to Britain. A gig to mark the sinking of ‘HMS Brexit’. It’s beyond doubt that something is ending… And I’m wondering if we are actually singing something altogether different, something that would spook the reality consensus of this 200 years-industrialised nation if we could hear it played back (perhaps through that old ghetto blaster?). Don’t Look Back in Anger, tragically, sentimentally and pathetically, has become this anthem.


How did we get so old?

Back in West Yorks I meet with Michael and we make our way out of the centre of a town that nobody is willing to admit is the heart of a dysmorphic, discontinuous, yet larger UK sprawl. This late spring heatwave has helped unveil the strangeness of the West Yorkshire mash-up of landscapes, now covered in a deep greenness. Rather than seemingly seasonally premature, it appears to spring up around us like a Jurassic landscape rising from a deep sleep that’s encouraged by the excessive carbon emissions we currently seem seized into emitting as the exorcism of the fossil fuel age heads hysterically to its death.

The sun’s heat just keeps on rising as we return from a walk that followed the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Once an essential artery for one of the capital machine’s long-gone dead skins it is now an extension of a leisure park for a post-historical England that was never successfully achieved. We marvel at excavations by hands, many hands, by a once disliked immigrant population now totally saturated in sediments of Englishness that seem to perpetually suffocate its potential. It’s such a familiar story, and like the immaculately engineered bridge we pass under, a mile down the tow-path, it feels like a painful reminder of how long in the tooth this game is here in England. And with the heat beaming down, it’s all too much. I’m massively relieved Michael suggests a pint at a nearby pub.


Later, we sit in Michael’s back garden in Ossett. Sandwiched between the multi-ethnic communities of Dewsbury and Wakefield, Michael talks in dismay about how this town is possessed by proactive wishes to remain miserably white-middle-class in preparation for the gathering storm clouds. The most severe indication of this was the line of union flags we observed along an ugly bypass past a new housing development where surely nobody with a sound mind in a sounder time would want to live. All seems bleak, but as his teenage children come and go, I just can’t envisage their generation finding a platform from which to practice such pessimist social philosophies. It just seems inevitable that all this has to fold into a brighter horizon.

But how did I get so old? This back garden reminds me of my grandparent’s on the periphery of the Darton settlement. Was it an interwar or postwar estate? I’m not sure, because both are longer ago than I feel I am willing to accept. I’m 33; biologically of grandparenthood if circumstances had been different. As I look at the garden of a man not much older than myself I have a sensation of having awoken from a deep and long sleep. But in the company of certain friends I don’t feel as fearful of this knowledge as when I wake up at 4am in cold dread over my stunted adulthood. From as long as I can remember my spirit found itself to be so vulnerable that my mind began draining its desire to live on daily basis ironically trying to work out life-living formulas to the digit. Formulas that confident pro-active behaviour would not give a second thought.


But that which causes regret and bitterness is for another time. “Don’t give up, man” I tell myself “optimism is the only way right now”. The forthcoming election requires a fight against depression, to wager on the ‘what ifs?’. And if all I think I’m seeing (?) on this streets of post-importance has some reality to it, perhaps we should look at post-industrial Britain in 2017 as being a patient half-way through psychotherapy treatment?

We are at a crossroads point in the therapy process. You realise you have a problem, yet the alternative is frightening, because it is the unknown. That past of downer-driven motivations seems easier, because you’ve learnt to numb yourself from the worst excesses of the misery and pain of it through a self-medication that numbs you to even the most horrific post 9/11 news stories; it’s a day to day battle with no future, but the alternative isn’t tangible and seems somehow far more frightening. And the most audible negative voices can anyhow reassure you that all this so-called alternative can muster is a return to the 1970’s. “And who would want to go back to the 1970’s?!?”. Their calls to your depression aim to convince you that everything has been done before. ‘There’s nowt tha can do, pal!’.

But, maybe this is just societal senility. Maybe, just maybe, everything hasn’t been tried before?


Trying to stop the memory mountain foreclose the future is hard. Even after the Tory party’s campaign blunders during the election run up, and sore memories of 40 years of social decay and financial anarchy, if their calling voices successfully manage to echo our depressive doubts about the world we live in, they will win cheer-led by the riotous and smug victory declarations of the Right Wing press, like In May 2015.

It does us no good to see ourselves as selfish and privileged 1st worlders who can’t get a grip; the consumerist addiction, and anger at small things is part of a depression that a culture that encourages atomisation and distrust encourages. To continue our punishment is to send out a toxic message about the way to distribute the wealth of life in a rich country. HMS Brexit: a ship of self-enslavement; enacting the sinking of the Mary Rose with seeming total complicity from those on-board.

If the vote goes the wrong way on Friday; I’m dumbfounded to think what new movements could grow in a country that has decided to stick to its depression.

But just now, we haven’t reached that conclusion.


Michael later texts me in disbelief over seeing the Tory campaign advert the owners of Barnsley local newspaper have decided was wise to cover it with. But the local rag’s lazy lock-down might have misjudged the nerves currently communicating on seemingly sleeper streets, like cable wires. Maybe, just maybe the meme hit a dead vein? As I’m travelling back through an obsessively familiar landscape that reminds me of the lines below my eyes more than a mirror, I realise that my eyes look forward from a time I don’t even remember; that the bags under my eyes seem to correspond to things seen in the decade before I was born; the 1970’s.

I don’t think I am alone, as many of my contemporaries felt aggrieved that they hadn’t been old enough to have physical presence at ‘the rave’ as if a curse had cruelly planted them in a time for which they couldn’t locate a pulse. For those who reached puberty in the mid to late 1990’s, a drink-fueled comedown-culture took over all that appeared to suggest that it could’ve been more.

It’s hard to imagine the only grown up ‘me’ I’ve been at a rave. The depressed and anxious vibes this post-pubescent body has emitted would have only sought sleepy cider sedation at a rave. But this body only ever knew the reality of the drink-fueled comedown-culture; the need to ignore the pain of losing that what we could have had.

And this is why a vote that could, at least in spirit, signal the end of the neoliberal clampdown consensus is actually fucking scary. But maybe I wouldn’t be alone in anticipation of a beckoning nervous breakdown; my god, we’d wake up and, maybe, just maybe, we would realise we could leave our shields at home. That would be so strange, and why would we need the drink at the end of the day, if we haven’t been holding them shields?

I’m sorry. How dare me, but Ive lost myself in idealism. I do apologise. But it’s better than idly saying ‘we’re fucked, whichever way it goes’.

Because I really do sense that something does indeed beckon.

Jeremy Corbyn has been a channeling force for the collective dysphoria borne in the wake of May 8 2015 (an election result reality nobody really prepared for). He is a head upon a ‘momentum’ that, if found disembodied this Friday, will gravitate towards a more extra-parliamentary form. And those who think Corbyn represents an ideological extreme should really prepare themselves now. At least from an English perspective, perhaps we will see extra pressure placed on the distressed and distracted collective conscious that burgeons on our times; it bleeds as a slow rain of individual meltdowns on a knife-edge between the impossible and the inevitable, but surely will be forced into the inevitable as the forces driving what currently registers as our annihilation engender its stage presence?

Short of nuclear war, the impossible future is the inevitable future.

In Respect

I probably woke up this morning to last night’s events that occurred 30 miles across the pennines with the same sense of disbelief as everyone. I imagine we are all awash with a mixture of feelings, but I sense that the main feeling is compassion, not only for the victims, but with all those who woke up to the news like ourselves. And it is always heartening to see that most people feel the urge to bond, rather than to rush into an ‘who dunnit?’ hysteria.

It is deeply appropriate that all political parties have agreed to put their campaigning on hold.

But please remember this moment of genuine heartfelt solidarity we are communicating today, when the divisive politics of fear seeps into political campaigning tomorrow. Social media sites show ample evidence that today most of us are wanting more than ever to break out of our modern cages of loneliness, to share the emotions and values we wished were dominant every day. But tomorrow a silent attempt to hijack this will begin, as it has before.

I’m not saying by whom, but we all know what sort of politics benefits most from divide and rule tactics. I’d like to ask us all to remember that the bonds we feel today in our collective mourning (whether it’s via the internet or not), will be replaced by fearful and hollow loneliness if those who’s aim it is to divide and conquer succeed.

Corny as it is, certain songs rekindle my faith in the collective good at times of lonely thoughts about the gravity of the challenges all face. In light of this, I’ve attached this song from the Hope of The States’ 2004 album The Lost Riots.

Teresa Mayday (Writings From HMS Brexit)

This cut of HMS Brexit is a montage of considerations and conversations held in urban Yorkshire around Teresa May Day, 2017.

The election promise of more bank holidays is perhaps the most worryingly feeble soundbite the Labour Party have pitted against May’s iron-agenda of “a vision of a man chipping ice off his windscreen and going to a job he hates, forever” (a comment the late Mark Fisher made in the aftermath of the 2015 Tory victory). Short of a general reduction of the working week, bank holidays are merely showcases of just how burnt-out our cultural obsession with work has made us. Bank holidays are like a warm maddening gust of monoculture seeping into every receptive pore, yelling “hey, you enjoying it yet!?”.

Last year, during a late afternoon September walk upon Marsden Moor, in the simmering aftermath of yet another 2 day race to try to sweep up as much leisure as is possible from the limited time/energy left from the 5 day race, we spoke of being ‘landlocked on an island’. It was a throwaway remark that nonetheless stuck in our thoughts.

Bank holiday weekends are landlocks on an Island, or at least its lockdown, where the extension of the normal weekend-feeling intensifies the seizure of space into a mentally exhausted hunt for fun.

There’s no escaping it – it’s like a workday commute in reverse, where we pathetically and unimaginatively try to push back the time taken from us.

Some breaths are taken are little more slowly and deeply than others.

…but there’s no winners.

The right wing victors have made sure life is a game all about winners and losers. But I see a society where everybody is living from fix to fix – whether it’s from the more privileged vantage of a status car in a traffic jam, or the ‘loser’, straddling the narrow pavements with cans of cider in his bag. I see a society where everybody is losing.

On the train to Sheffield, I had the nauseating everyday-performance anxiety of finding myself alienated from, seemingly, it all. ‘Lads on tour’ made me remember it was a bank holiday Sunday, and I should be drinking, or thinking of drinking. It’s all we know do to with the gaps of freedom granted from our nothing-jobs, when not ‘gymming it’ – which is surely an extension of work? But drinking too is an extension of work, not just in how it recharges us for Monday by puking up our frustration built up from the week gone, but in how our drinking seems like the cultural response to losing. Resigned as we’ve long-been to losing to the capital machine, and accepting workaday for eternity

Maybe the election promise of more bank holidays is because the idea of a reduced working week would seem like heresy in a time where the ghost of work drives society into a state of overworked exhaustion that produces barely anything we savour.
“We’ve never had it so good”, a famous quip by the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in the midst of much Postwar optimism, has since been internally re-digested to mean “we should never have had it so good”. We’ve come to accept so much less, and I don’t think we’ve even realised. Whilst we may cling to the Disney of theme-weddings, flash cars and country homes, we feel dirty for even dreaming of not burning ourselves out each week doing something we despise – even as the machines threaten (or promise) to do all our ‘dirty’ work for us.


There are stickers currently posted all over the transport terminals of South Yorkshire – preventing us forgetting the grave injustices dealt by the Tories on the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984. But they alone will struggle to remind us of the once-held belief that we shouldn’t have to live and die as worker-bees who feel that queen bee has spoiled us with an extra bank holiday to fuck up. We are now the self-inflicted undeserving poor, and, thus, it doesn’t take much to whip up hatred of the non-working poor when, essentially, it is ourselves we hate.


Tied like weary beasts to the 1990’s, its stagflated children have nothing to replace its neoliberal ‘teenage kicks’. 20 years ago to the month, after 17 years of Tory rule, New Labour were elected to govern a country that felt very different, if wearily similar. As John Harris’s article on ‘Cool Britannia’ states in this weeks’ prescient edition of the Newstatesman that I picked up in Leeds Railways Station, “the Western world was still locked in to the decade-long spell of carefree optimism that had begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and would end with events of 11 September 2001”. This, I can personally vouch for, being young, and easily influenced by the hype of a decadent music culture fused with a then-new-look politics that looked like it would lead us into an exciting new century.
We all know how sour things went, but I think John Harris only mildly humours the answer to the question ‘where did it all go wrong?’.
It’s not just a question of being fooled by a political party who felt they’d found a new formula that could splice market fundamentalism with a strong, sharing society. It’s not a question of feeling fooled by a backwards-looking culture that was heading for burnout before it began. It’s not even a question about wanting to turn back the clocks to before ‘always on’ connection and the 9/11 terror attacks.
It’s all of things, but I’d like to suggest it was maybe more to do with the mirage that there was then a shared-sense of a positive projection into the future. It led us to take it as a given, when, in fact, from about the early 2000’s onwards there was a growing sense of betrayal, and hurt, at the bitter persistence, and intensification of the nastiness and distrust of each other injected into society most notably by the party, and leader (Margaret Thatcher), whom Blair sought to eclipse with his ‘new’ vision. As he tries to resurrect his political life as I write, like some demonic creature time-locked by the last century, maybe we should consider that the period that he was a cipher for led a lot of (especially young, and politically naive) people into a false sense of togetherness, the slow-betrayal of which they possibly never fully recovered from.
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Passage taken from ‘Abandon Hope’ (Summer is Coming), the late Mark Fisher’s brilliant piece written days after the 2015 election result

UK 2017 – a general election for the Unhappy Ilse
But we’re not talking about Bertrand Russell’s notion of the ‘happy miserable’. What we have here is more it’s ‘the selfish-miserable’.

Maybe we shouldn’t avoid Brexit talk, and stress that it’s really now more about whether you want to wager on a man, who, however unfit he is for The Age of Ads, is probably earnest about injecting compassion and empathy into a dying social body, or if you’ve totally given up on our wider environment, and willing to ignore that evidence is mounting to show how this is abandonment is killing us by misery.


But what right does a land of people who have raped the earth have to happiness anyway?

The Jamaican-born Stuart Hall, was right to point out that “Euro-scepticism and Little Englander nationalism could barely survive if people understood whose sugar flowed through English blood and rotted English Teeth”, but severed from its source it serves as a shard of violent words, for the vicious verbal in(ternet)fighting that now constitutes much of our lives.

Yes, the selfish-miserable has policed the waves and plundered the land for sugary satisfactions for centuries, it’s part of a sediment of suffering that probably dates back to the terrifying castles the Normans built as a statement of superiority all over England. It spread across the world, but no place like home did it have so much time to sink its teeth in.


I’m actually convinced that a lack of foreign-sugar in our blood stream is not something we would miss if we as a nation accepted and challenged the toxicity of our interrelations. It creates a sickness that makes a slow-suicide through sugar desirable. Be it through comfort food or alcohol; this is self-medication against the accumulation of minute emotional wounds we, and the infrastructures we’ve built, inflict on each other throughout every given day.

June 2017


words from Patrick Keiller’s London (1994, BFI)

The fraught distrust that hugs our shared spaces, more pungent than the toilety smell of toilets on crowded Virgin Crosscountry trains, is a worrying indication that it will be a victory for Teresa’s May’s padlocked-pessimism this June. The party is the preserve of cowardice, and will happily feast on the carcass of the social body if we willingly lay it down to die.

I hope I’m wrong. Surely enough’s enough? And I mean this on a much deeper and broader field than the one on which Teresa May bullies politicians who have the courage – when courage is viewed as stupidity – to believe in a better world.


I think I’m writing this because I want to address what I feel this nation is suffering from most after 40 years of the most extremely atomising stage of capitalism; a process that has severed so many means to our necessary need to bond and feel belonging.
I can never get out how severe I feel the severance is. Maybe this is because the barriers have already damaged our ability to communicate, even on paper; maybe it’s because we are so exposed to how alone we are due to the explosion of avenues for communication; Maybe this explosion is so painful, so immiserating, because it’s demanding a leap; a leap in collective consciousness that we may or may not be capable of.
The damaging, and most common, response is to use this explosion of avenues of communication to fight each other in a form of verbal violence that spreads the social disease of all Vs all like wildfire. This is why I try my best to refrain from finger-pointing on Facebook (for example), because I know how painful it can feel when those disembodied words fire at you – after all, we’re all capable of ‘getting it wrong’ due to the mental exhaustion caused by the chaos, confusion and competition of it all.

I think any form of argument that sees itself as constructive, yet relies on these forms of identity attack, amidst this white noise-moment for language, is set to intensify the destructive human behaviour we wish to end.


I was thinking out loud today about environmental articles, and posts that I feel resort to these tactics. Because the more we fall for the circular thinking that blames our inherent stupidity and foolishness for ecological collapse (despite it being a human made phenomenon) – lamenting our ‘idiocy’ and ‘dumbness’ as we pass by a fly-tip or river next to a supermarket – the more we hate each other, and, consequently, lose our way on a path towards survival.

I guess, this is just one example. Yet if we are here saying the main issue is around ‘getting our act together’, this example is the biggest issue.

Technological leaps in a capitalist society have always frustrated and hindered the very opportunities they open up. But this has never been so critical as it is now with the explosion of communicative potentials that are testing the limits of our psyche.

It is currently all about limits. And I guess it is difficult to stick with the problem (and it is a problem) of this island, when discussing so global a game-changer. But how do we leave this out of Teresa Mayday? Because I believe that capitalism’s nature to aggravate the itch that cannot be scratched has reached its bearable limits.

And if it is bearable for you, as I guess it’s bearable for me in comparison with many, is ‘bearable’ what we’re set on now? If so, fine, let Teresa May have her day. All I’m saying is that it just seems like ‘bearable’, as things stand, is equivalent to a house just that little bit further in-land from the ones currently being eroded by a tide that is permanently coming in.

And “I’m just about coping, Jack” is a pathetic excuse of a civilisation on any landmass at any time, ever.

This isn’t even Ballard’s ‘Glorified Lifeboat’ (Writings From HMS Brexit)



This voyage, perhaps even whole flat earth that it navigates, has reached an end point.

This is an epochal moment – yet we duck, dive, and talk about following our forefathers’ impossible footsteps into yesterdays’ jobs, homes and families, where hair goes grey and skin wrinkles with the pride of purpose.

These footsteps lurch over the void – momentarily held in suspense by a binge on artificial enhancers (or Zombie economics).

We are led over this cliff by the bloated reign of the Baby Boomers.

They don’t mean harm, but they are.

They are ghosts trapped in a machine. A shit machine, but one of full employment, affordable housing, and visions of a future that isn’t our present. Dictating all down below down a road that doesn’t even exist.

No wonder we are lost. Clambering for any clarity. Doing anything to cleanse our bodies of workaday anxieties.

On HMS Brexit ‘work’ doesn’t make sense, because we have lost all direction. Work was the only meaning we had, but as it dies it lives on like a zombie.

We can feel it sucking our blood when we are commanded to improve ourselves within this void.
The 2016 EU referendum was an accidental hand grenade given to those aggrieved by economic injustice for so long that they’d forgotten its source. Of course they were going to throw it, but it blew the limbs off all sides.
As limbless creatures, we we bite and bark at each other, unable to reach out and see our pain is one another’s.
The workplace is a microcosm/node in a explosion of rhizomes of exhaustion and despair. But the explosion implodes in us.  After hating everybody else, we end up hating ourselves.


It was the same today.
The anguish of collapse is so violently played out because the Other is now merely a competitor (essentially an enemy).
My own mood is so compressed by workaday landscapes under clouds of Brexit and other breakdowns that I know my essence is soaked in a negative aura as I beat about the nearby towns in the early evenings in search of exits for my imprisoned emotions.
Like dogs that pick up on fear, others react badly. The very fact that I’m acutely aware of the expanding army of homeless means that my gaze makes a b-line to their desperate asks. As I walked down the main alleyway for frustrated begging and hipster-bar-bunkers in Sheffield, one begging man shouts “you fucking ignorant arsehole” at me – although I was totally oblivious to any earlier calls he made.

He caught me when I was already at a pressure point. I found myself yelling “fuck you” at him. Two drinks later the rage has gone. But my head was melting with an urge to inflict pain on somebody already in pain’s main firing line.

These days I feel anything can make me flare up.
Its because I want to be able to give up.
…tired of pretending it’s all OK..
But as sick as I feel, I can’t see a way out of this life of ventriloquised labour for a world I no longer believe in.
Knowing this is shared-despair sparks a lone candle flicker. But we’ve all caught the rabies after this 40 years-hate-your-neighbour, and speak through barks and bites.
Yet my despair is often disallowed such unity, such wider interpretation, by the passive-aggressive put-downs of a certain brand of hippy. They prey on my written-down honesty, and use it as a way of one-upmanship under the guise of peace.
Their smugness that implies I refuse ‘to evolve’ and that ‘they are the change we want to see’ sees people like myself as a disease that needs to be cleansed from this planet.
I don’t fit under their sunshine, and basically the underside of this sunshine is the assertion I should kill myself.
But isn’t the suicide of the ‘misfit’ what we all want on HMS Brexit?  The Troll to the Poster? The Xenophobe to the Migrant Boater? the Leftie to the Xenophobe? the Remainer to the Leaver? the Progressive to the Conservative? The Work-drained to the Work-less?

“Kill yourself and let me endure this hell all by myself!!”


I’m scared about how nasty all this is going to get.

I’m scared for me.
I’m in battles I never knew could be fought; cages I never knew could exist.
I end up in Retrobars, where nobody speaks to anyone they haven’t already agreed to speak to, earlier on, via their smartphones.
No shit, I swear Brexit was an emotional demand for an exit to all of this.
Theresa May is no doubt the zombie of Thatcher, who, after swimming through the body of Blair, has been spat out of the mouth of Cameron. Waiting for Article 50 has become an intensifying locus for a larger sense of dread we feel above our heads.
So why didn’t we have the courage to examine this emotional demand? We should have broken down and wept collectively last June. But undead lurchings of Empire barged their way to the podium.
We now need help from another world.


In Wakefield centre I’m approached by a woman who has reopened bloody wounds as a tool to justify her plea for legal tender. None of that which would shock me half a decade back shocks me anymore.
Is it normal to be asked for money on every town centre street?
The scenes have strayed into unfamiliar sights we seem blind to on overly familiar streets.
Hms Brexit is the blind sinking.
Brassband music blurts out into the sparse night from a surreal mock-up of picturesque Yorkshire in a pit of a subway in a station that is struggling to escape a bleak essence caused by its abandoned outpost-like nature, exposed on the eastern rim, where the centre meets the hinterland.
The music makes no sense in a land that’s lost all narrative.
The train arrives and so too do fleeting hopes of escaping loneliness by meeting a lover on this moving carriage.
A weary and knowing smile succeeds as the usual happens on The Lonely Lifeboat. And I just site facing the back of a plastic seat. The FEED feels like your friend in such points, but I’m back to looking at a pen and notepad.
I feel momentarily relieved.

Stories From Time-Locked Space 3.

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
(Originally posted in November 2016) Free-fall in Stasis (Barnsley, The First Week of Winter, 2016) Walking back to the suburbs through an M1 junction-hinterland in the dark of a new winter. But nothing feels new. It’s late 2016. To Ride The Fine Line…

Ends (Stories From HMS Brexit)

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
ENDS (Stories From Time-locked Space) (March evenings , 2017) For nearly 2 years one of the gateways into the centre has been shadowed by a broken bridge. But although it may not hang waiting on Brutalist Death Row for much longer, what it…