Sunday, 29 April 2018

Thursday, 26 April 2018

guardian article- Top 10 books about council housing

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/25/top-10-books-on-council-housing-public-john-boughton-zadie-smith-lynsey-hanley 

Top 10 books about council housing

Public housing in the UK improved the lives of millions, but has left little trace in literature. John Boughton unlocks the door to the unsung history of council homes
Children play on the Marsh estate in Lancaster.
 Children play on the Marsh estate in Lancaster. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
Well over a third of Britons lived in council homes at their peak in the early 1980s, and yet the subject of public housing is hardly to be found on bookshelves. There is some good academic writing, and there are some decent local histories – though traditional works are more likely to be taken by a surviving Georgian townhouse than a neo-Georgian council estate – but you’ll struggle to find anything in the mainstream. And in literary fiction, authentic interest in or real knowledge of the lives of the millions who have lived in council homes over the years is almost nonexistent. Journalism has filled the gap – once celebratory, but latterly often demonising and sensationalist as one-time municipal dreams were designated nightmares.
Awareness has only revived more recently, as the renewed failure of the free market to provide the decent, affordable homes we need has become more stark, and – more darkly – in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire.
Council housing represented a step up for millions, a social revolution arguably more important than other more celebrated aspects of what we once proudly called our welfare state. It’s time to tell the story of council housing again – to recall its ambition, idealism and achievements, to defend its legacy, and to understand what (sometimes) went wrong in a more informed, less caricatured way. The books I’ve selected offer a variety of approaches to help recast the narrative.
1. Homes and Places: A History of Nottingham’s Council Houses by Chris Matthews
Of local histories, this is undoubtedly the pick of the crop. Written by a historian, it gives a comprehensive and critical account of a wider council housing story – from low-rise to high-rise and back again. Matthews doesn’t shy away from the missteps and controversies but concludes that council housing, in Nottingham and elsewhere, provided the “biggest collective leap in living standards in British history”. Beautifully illustrated and well worth a read.
2. Council Housing and Culture: The History of a Social Experiment by Alison Ravetz
Although it reads like an epitaph, Ravetz’s book provides what comes closest to a comprehensive academic account of council housing history. She’s competent on origins and evolution, good on design and community, and critically insightful on management. But it’s unmistakably a product of the early 2000s. As with far more hostile commentators, too much weight is given to the charge of utopianism, both as a driver of council housing’s growth and as an explanation of its decline. With hindsight, the travails of public housing warrant a broader understanding and its practical ideals seem as relevant as ever.
Programme Name: NW - TX: n/a - Episode: NW (No. 1) - Picture Shows: L-R Natalie Blake (NIKKI AMUKA-BIRD) - (C) Mammoth Screen - Photographer: Steffan Hill
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 Nikki Amuka-Bird as Natalie in the BBC adaptation of NW. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC/Mammoth Screen
3. NW by Zadie Smith
Smith grew up on a Willesden council estate, and NW depicts the lives of four others, now in their thirties, shaped – in very different ways – by their formative years on the fictional Caldwell estate: “five blocks connected by walkways and bridges and staircases, and lifts that were to be avoided almost as soon as they were built”.With its broad range of characters and forms, NW captures something important and authentic about the divergent realities of working-class life in London. It’s the only work of fiction I feel able to recommend here.
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4. Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (PDF) by Miles Glendinning and Stefan Muthesius
Even at its peak in the 1960s, housing of six storeys or more made up only a fifth of new schemes. But many consider the tower block to epitomise modern council housing and all that went wrong. Given its salience in public discourse, high-rise housing needs its chroniclers and it has found them in this magisterial book. This encyclopaedic description of the tower block’s brief boom and investigation of its causes – technical, political and ideological – runs to more than 400 pages, enough breadth to move beyond the crude caricatures and condemnation of most writing on the subject. It’s also available to download as a PDF.
5. Garden Suburbs of Tomorrow? A New Future for the Cottage Estates by Martin Crookston
While tower blocks loom large, so-called cottage estates – “corporation suburbia”, in the author’s phrase – have been received little attention, despite making up around one-sixth of England’s homes and 40% of the country’s remaining socially owned housing. Crookston provides a useful history and typology of these estates, but he is most concerned with their future. Some – the more sprawling, isolated and economically depressed – have their problems; often, ironically, the kind of problems held to characterise high-rise estates by reason of their design. Crookston’s thoughtful, empathetic study of these estates suggests how residents and councils might together renew the promise they once held.
Ziggurat-style balconies on the Alexandra Road Estate, Camden, designed by Neave Brown in 1968.
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 Ziggurat-style balconies on the Alexandra Road Estate, Camden, designed by Neave Brown in 1968. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
6. Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing by Mark Swenarton
And then, in what has seemed council housing’s glorious swansong, came Camden. Sydney Cook, who was the borough’s architect from 1965 to 1973, rejected both high-rise and suburbia. His urban solution was low-rise, high-density housing, and the result was not some pale compromise but, in Swenarton’s words, “an architectural resolution unsurpassed not just in social housing in the UK but in urban housing anywhere in the world”. If you know Camden, that won’t seem like hype. Superbly researched, beautifully produced, copiously illustrated, this is a book that does justice to its subject.
7. People of Providence: A Housing Estate and Some of Its Inhabitants by Tony Parker
Parker spent five years interviewing residents of Providence (actually the Brandon Estate in Southwark) – it’s a postwar estate of tower blocks, medium-rise slab blocks and low-rise maisonettes and houses. A showpiece in its day but in many ways typical of its time. What did he find? Community, isolation, contentment and disillusion – all of human life in other words, in the faithfully transcribed words of its people. Asked to summarise the estate, they concluded it was “mixed”. Parker’s comprehensive record endorses that view. If it gets us beyond generalisation and stereotype, that simple judgment might speak to council housing more widely.
8. Estates by Lynsey Hanley
Hanley grew up on the late-60s Chelmsley Wood estate, east of Birmingham, and she’s delighted to have escaped it. This is a powerful account of all that could go wrong with such out-of-town estates, sensitively integrated with a survey of the impulses and dynamics behind council housing’s wider story. She’s strong on the internalised barriers of social exclusion – the “walls in the head” – that limit life chances on such estates, as well as the external prejudices that help form them (though her writing may inadvertently do little to challenge the latter). It’s an important, critical perspective and a passionate demand for the social housing we deserve.
9. Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain by Lisa McKenzie
A working-class academic who calls herself “a council estate girl”, Lisa McKenzieis uniquely qualified to tell the story of St Ann’s in Nottingham, where she lived as a young single mother for 20 years. She combines her insider status and academic perspective to create a rich sociological analysis of community, network, family and “belonging”. Above all, it’s a book which challenges the stigmatisation of those living in so-called sink estates. “Getting by” signifies not merely survival but also a community’s resilience and resourcefulness in the face of prejudice and a cruelly marginalising politics.
10. Mackworth Estate Jubilee: A Social History compiled by Mackworth Townswomen’s Guild
The ladies of Derby’s Mackworth Townswomen’s Guild who compiled this history – if any survive after nearly 40 years – might be surprised to feature in the Guardian, but this book is exemplary of its type. This is an alternative history of the 1950s estate’s new houses and modern through-lounges, its shops and schools, and a social life seemingly focused on church hall groups for the women and pubs for the men. It’s gentle and affectionate, alive to deficiencies but quietly celebratory of a “pleasant estate” few wished to leave.
  • Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing by John Boughton is published by Verso. To order a copy for £16.14 (RRP £18.99) go toguardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Luxemburg’s critique of bourgeois feminism and early social reproduction theory

Luxemburg’s critique of bourgeois feminism and early social reproduction theory

http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/blog/luxemburgs-critique-bourgeois-feminism-and-early-social-reproduction-theory

‘Art & Technology’ on BBC

‘Art & Technology’ on BBC

http://studiointernational.com/index.php/art-and-technology-on-bbc

“The series is primarily concerned with two problems—how artists use various technologies and how they react to the products of technology...”

News and notes
(This article was first published in Studio International, Vol 181, No 930, February 1971, pages 46-47.)
The BBC will be showing five 25-minute programmes over channel 1 on the theme of 'Art and Technology', on Sundays, February 14, 21 and 28, and March 7 and 14 at 11.35 am. Tony Cash, the producer writes: 'The series is primarily concerned with two problems—how artists use various technologies and how they react to the products of technology. Some artists are content to exploit the possibilities of new materials, like glass fibre. Others feel it is pointless to compete with modern technology in producing visual thrills. They emphasize the primacy of idea over object. In between are artists who see their salvation in spectator participation: their works may be read as toys or games.' The provisional content of the five programmes will be as follows:
Programme I: Kinetics
A group of students were filmed playing with the exhibits at the recent kinetics exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. After the film they discussed with Theo Crosby (who devised the exhibition) some of the questions this sort of art raises, in particular how the kinetic exhibits should be classified.
Programme 2: Three-Man Show
This programme shows three artists' different uses of technology. It consists of two films showing the sculpture of Garth Evans; and Bruce Lacey's 'joke' humanoids. Then David Hall's use of film, including some extracts from his film Vertical and from an as yet unfinished 'cloud piece' film.
Programme 3: Computers
The first part of this programme deals with the work of Colin Sheffield who has access to a computer at Time Sharing Ltd. With the firm's programmers he has devised a number of modules which the computer can generate on a random basis to produce a almost limitless variety of designs. He has also constructed a painting machine which can be powered by a computer.
The idea of a module positioned in a partly random fashion is not new. Mozart devised a couple of pieces of music in which the sequence of bars is dictated by the throw of a dice. In the second half of this programme Gavin Bryars explains the Mozart work and performs examples of his own computer-based music. He has programmed a computer with the rules of Latin verse (which are based on rhythms comprising long and short elements). The computer can generate an endless flow of rhythms, a selected portion of which will then be performed by students in the studio.
The final piece in the programme features seven people in communication with each other by headphone and microphone thus:


Figure 1. Studio International, Vol 181, No 930, February 1971, p. 47.
The back rows are listening to sentimental verse on the stereophonic tape recorder. They hear three voices reciting different verses, one in each ear and one in the middle of the head. According to certain instructions they have to track and reproduce one of the voices. In a similar way the performers on the second row relay what they hear to the solo performer who, alone in the system, is heard by the audience.
(Gavin Bryars is a Senior Lecturer in the Fine Art Department of Leicester College of Art; he originally trained as a philosopher.)
Programme 4: Gerry Schum
This programme consists of an interview, lasting about five minutes, with Gerry Schum about his video gallery and will include Barry Flanagan's piece from 'Land Art' —Hole in the Sea—as well as a number of pieces from 'Identifications' — probably a selection of the following: Joseph Beuys, Ulrich Ruckriehm, Hamish Fulton, Gilbert & George, Daniel Buren, Ger van Elk, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Lawrence Weiner. These will be shown continuously without breaks, editing etc. after the interview with Schum. [An article on Gerry Schum's work was included in the January issue of Studio International.]
Programme 5: Concept
Victor Burgin has prepared a script for this programme.
It is not yet known what form the programme will take.