On 21 July, we hosted a phsychogeographical writing workshop with local writer Kerry Hadley-Pryce as part of our Blast! Creative Network Programme. We invited members of the BCN to undertake a psychogeographical exploration of their local area, which informed a piece of creative writing that they developed during the workshop. People took a walk in a place nearby that they were not altogether familiar with, or revisited a memory that they have of a place, and took notes of what the heard, smelled and/or saw. We explored the atmosphere of the region; its humour, its myths and stories, and how its sights, smells and sounds make us feel.
Here are a few of the pieces that people wrote, and below you can find instructions to undertake your own psychogeographical wanderings!
Unexpected Time Travel
by Suzan Spence
In the space of a couple of weeks, the whole landscape had changed to green and gold. The grass had bolted and dried into dusty straw. Two feet high, the feather-like fronds waved in the slightest of breezes, reminiscent of the wheat fields you pass on train journeys and imagine trampling underfoot. Was it like this in the past, or had this land been used for some or other industrial purposes before nature’s inevitable reclamation?
Meadow flowers peeped through, adding tiny splashes of purples and yellows. Bumblebees hummed as they did their work. Something caught my eye. Five chickens, one with multicoloured plumes, ran into the long grass and disappeared in a magician’s trick so quick they startled my eyes into momentary confusion.
I was transported to another time and place, a rural smallholding near a village with an old-world name like Lower Tranter.
The sound of traffic yanked me back to reality. I saw a garden gate swing open and a lady in a cerise sari appeared making whistling noises as she anxiously called her escapees home.
I check the time on the blue disc in the window and begin my glide anticipating three hours of unpaid for freedom The noise of traffic rising and falling like a distant sea held back, then released at the crossing I now rattle over. Briefly I imagine I’m in Paris In the sun again - but that was another life. This ain’t the Seine. I could break social rules, walk down this spiral staircase and ask to nose around in someone else’s home but nobody’s in and anyway, my machine determines where I go. I cannot pass the crudely painted tag to the ace of spades and the fraying learner driver’s sticker. Old belongings in shopping bags stuck to the roof of the boat with a rusty funnel and optimistic solar panel - soaking up rays on freedom day. My wheels make the metal plates of the new bridge groan and creak. At the bottom of its slope a father berates his child for braking too late. I pull on my own and swerve to avoid them. Stop to watch a red eyed dinosaur tear chunks from the ugly building where the worlds oldest newspaper was printed. Brutal act against brutalist architecture. The dust watered down by a man standing idly by with a hose, lest any words take flight. Muted rainbows in a dusty spray - sad tribute to decades of journalistic graft. The heat has weight here it holds us in place even in the shade where I rest awkwardly now, seat on a bench foot on my scooter back to the elephant of death.
Around Hyde’s Pool in Wednesbury
by Mike Maynard
When I did my walk at Hyde’s Pool, I was aware of the beauty of the place. I was also aware of ghosts from the past. It does have a history that I know about. The pool is fed by the river Tame that runs from there through woodland. Hobnail brook joins the river just before the woodland. How did the brook get its name?
The brook runs through a culvert under the aqueduct. In World War two explosives were placed in the culvert in an attempt to blow up the aqueduct. They say it as the IRA that did it. There used to be a bridge with two arches, that’s a ghost now too, having been replaced by a modern concrete construction. They called that bridge the “Goodnight Bridge”. So called, the story goes, that one night a workman painted “goodnight” in white wash on the bridge on his way home. Upstream on the river there is another bridge a shadow of its former self as a number of arches have been removed. There is no longer any trace of the water mill on the upstream side that once milled grain for the whole town.
Hobnail brook runs through the culvert under the aqueduct and past the Old Mill pub and is then fed by the Mill Pool. That is another haven for wildlife tucked away down a driveway in the middle of a housing estate. That has an interesting history too and its own ghosts. Near there used to be a dungeon that we think might have housed convicts awaiting the gallows. There was a water mill there and a windmill close by. They also mined coal there, perhaps that’s how the pool was formed?
Black and orange
Like the milky moon calls
We have a museum
Wolves and black country
Yams or yam yam
I’m still enriched with culture
My number starts as 01 belonging to this region
Black on my eyes filled with soot
I may be
But I am encrusted to devour and savour
My smell of pork pie from wolverhampton Market
For my tay.
Instructions for your own psychogeographical journey:
How does a certain place make us feel? How can we explore it in a different way than we normally would?
Take a walk in a place nearby that you are not altogether familiar with, or revisit a memory that you have of a place, and take notes of what you hear, smell and/or see. While on your journey, consider how the place you’re in makes you feel, do you feel relaxed, tense, excited?
What are the sights, sounds, colours, textures, smells of this place?
Instead of travelling with purpose from A to B, try to wander aimlessly (within safety), letting your senses pique your interest and guide you. Focus your attention on the little things, the minute details of where you are. Taking a stroll with no particular aim other than noticing your surroundings can be very freeing. Take a pen and notepad with you to record notes describing how you feel in the place, and feel free to take photos to record your journey, or screenshots if you’re exploring via Google maps.
Feel free to share anything you write with us, and enjoy your travels!
If you’re based in Sandwell and the Black Country, and would like to join the Blast! Creative Network, email email@example.com.