Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The past is another country....

Dug out an old Boots “Page a Day” diary from 1975: black hardback cover…

On July 29th, I saw the Queen from out of my Nanan’s window in Herringthorpe, Rotherham.

Did a lot of cycling at the time, and also played or watched a lot of bowls.

Also went to the local swimming baths on Sheffield Road in Rotherham, which had a statue in the entrance. You had to rub his nose for luck. What I didn’t know then, was that it was of Thomas Burgess who was the 2nd man to swim the English Channel – no-one remembers those who came second do they ? Sheffield Road baths was a classic old swimming baths. Also went to Herringthorpe Leisure Centre, which was a classic 1970s building with a wave machine and everything. It was also a concert venue for the Classic Rock Society.

Read that the Sheffield Road baths was closed in 2004 as it was unsafe…“Major structural defects, including extensive cracks, have been found during inspections at the Sheffield Road baths, which opened in 1936.
Faulty boilers, defective lighting, leaking drainage, poor standards of changing room accommodation were also identified during the inspection.
A council report has concluded that the baths is beyond economic repair, and its deterioration has been so marked that there are "significant health and safety problems."
It was closed on Monday.
Rotherham Council has also revealed that another of the town's pools could soon close. An inspection found that urgent work is required to electrical wiring at the pool at Herringthorpe Leisure Centre, after which a decision will be made about its future.
It is estimated that it will cost more than £1m to carry out all the repairs required at both of the swimming pools.”

Yorkshire Post

Also discovered I had 50p per week spending money…

Went to see the classic film “The Land that Time Forgot” with Doug McClure, and also bought “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Also did play scheme at local school, and went to the local park – actually, reading this now it was obvious that my parents were desperately trying to keep me and my brother and sister entertained. There was a fairly crappy amusement place and some sort of zoo (?) in Clifton Park, although at the time it was very exciting. There was the Moon Ride, the Skyline Slide, the Roundabout and the Bumper Cars.

Went to Castle Donington (now East Midlands) Airport with my uncle to watch the planes. We apparently saw a Vickers Viscount and 6 army helicopters. Played a lot of Scrabble, and also cricket. Used to get a weekly comic “Battle Picture Weekly” – lots of war stories. That’s a definite cultural shift…Read a lot of books and played with Lego.

We also tended to go out at the weekend for a ‘drive’, which usually ended up with a drink at a pub. We had a lime and lemonade and a packet of crisps. We also had ‘clubs’ which met up at the clubhouse: our shed… Some of them were for boys, some were for girls…

A popular trip was to Bakewell and Chatsworth House gardens. We always bought the Original Bakewell Puddings, and we knew our way around Chatsworth Gardens blindfolded. We took picnics with boiled eggs and sandwiches. Another destination was Castleton and Edale. I always liked the fact that we walked the first few miles of the Pennine Way, but never any more than that – for a while I got a bit obsessed with walking the Pennine Way, but then realised that it was a bit of a long slog..

We also used to go to the mobile library on Wednesdays in a local pub car park. The area has changed beyond recognition now, as has the pub.

Read a lot of Arthur Ransome books, and also ‘Lord of the Rings’. Also played a lot of ‘Monopoly’.

There was a big playing field near our house and used to play a lot of football and climb trees – I fell out of one of them and broke my arm earlier that year.

TV of the time...

Mister Men

Top Cat

Bugs Bunny

Sergeant Bilko

Laurel and Hardy

Match of the Day

Wacky Races

Robinson Crusoe

The Record Breakers

Josie and the Pussycats

Camp Runamuck

On the Ball

I was also getting ready to go up to Secondary school – had to spend 35p on a badge for my school blazer.

The past is indeed another country…

Friday, August 24, 2007

Caravan Gallery

Came across the CARAVAN GALLERY postcards in the shop at the Tate Gallery, Liverpool.

They has produced a series of excellent postcards which feature a range of images of locations around the country and abroad. There's a good link to geography in that they offer an 'alternative' view of familiar places.

I will reproduce one card below for representational purposes only, but would encourage you to visit the GALLERIES page - there are loads of images: SELECT ONE FROM THE DROP DOWN BOX...
They ask their visitors to answer some questions, and the SURVEYS are interesting.

Led me to this site: I'M NOT A TOURIST I LIVE HERE....

Click on the CARAVAN GALLERY link from the ARTISTS page and you can see some great images which are great for the PILOT GCSE Geography unit on MY PLACE as well as CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY on 'Britishness'.

How about taking your own pictures and we can create our own POSTCARDS or ANIMOTOs

"Another Place"

Just back from a short break in Liverpool, and to see Anthony Gormley's "Another Place", which is very much recommended...

Also, for those of you using BLOGGER, you may not have noticed that there's now a VIDEO UPLOAD button - upload a video up to 100Mb in size...
May try it later...

Homer Simpson

Ancient culture (or is it ?) meets modern...

The Secret Life of the Motorway

"You could define us solely as a motorway race rather than an island race." Will Self

This has been an excellent series in the last week: 3 x 1 hour episodes which were each fascinating in their own right. The third episode lost its way a little (if you'll excuse the pun)

Lots of Cultural Geography too of course...

Motorways led to a change in the way that we took our holidays, especially after the Beeching Axe. Has also led to the rise in suburbanisation and the rise of commuting. Rural labouring poor fled the countryside and the middle classes moved in.

I liked this movie a lot: "Buying an ice cream on the M25"

And here is Harry Enfield... (warning, contains the word "bloody...")

Sunday, August 19, 2007


When I was trying to decide the TV programme that summed up my teenage years (see earlier post), one of the programmes I thought about was the classic "Porridge".

Just watching an episode on UKTV Gold (waiting for the Simpsons to start - more on those later in the year !), and Godber, Fletch's cellmate is just about to be released, and he apparently has
"his one 'O' Level in Geography"
Fletch says "Geography ? I bet he'll get lost as soon as he gets outside the prison gates he will..."


Regular readers of my other blogs will know that I have mentioned Will Self and his Psychogeography column before.
This is featured in the Satuday "Independent".
A collection of the columns is due to be published in October, and can be preordered from AMAZON. Great Ralph Steadman cartoons too...

The World in One City

This is an interesting project to try to find people who are living in London, but were originally from other countries. The idea is to try and find 'the world' i.e. someone from every country 'in one city' i.e. London.
They're making quite good progress as you can see from THE BLOG, and there was also an article on the project in THE OBSERVER.

Cultural Objects

This is an idea from Tony Cassidy. I blogged about it earlier, but here is my response...

Since the students doing the Pilot GCSE are teenagers (yes, that means you...) they will have particular cultural interests at the moment which they won't necessarily feel the same way about in 10 or 20 years time (though they may feel nostalgic about them, and I still listen to some of the same music - I ditched the combat jacket though...)

Choose some 'objects' under the following headings (some or all of them...)I decided to have a go, and came up with my own from the mid 70s-early 80s...
and finally, here are my wife's memories of teenage years...
We will be doing this as an activity later in the year...
Start thinking now...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blog Action Day

Blog Action Day is on October 15th.
The theme of the day is THE ENVIRONMENT.
Watch the video below for more details.
This blog has signed up for BLOG ACTION DAY. Make sure your blog is too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Teenage Kicks... Cultural Objects...

Tony Cassidy has given me an idea for an exercise which we will use later this year, but which I will also encourage members of staff (and any other visitors to the site) to complete as well before we get started. Here's a slide which gives Tony's 'cultural icons' of his teenage years, which were 1987-1997...
I'd like you to answer these questions.
a) When were you a teenager ? (give the years)
b) Choose one 'cultural object' from the following list of headings which defined your teenage years the most: (you don't need to give reasons, but be prepared to be able to if challenged...)

TV Programme
Food and Drink

For each one name the country of origin of the 'object'
c) How different are yours from Tony's (or similar to them)

d) Do they tell us anything about the countries shaping culture in that period ? Why might this be?

I'll post mine later tonight if I get the chance (tomorrow if not) for comparison.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cultural Cities

Came across a few interesting and useful resources for those who want to explore the cultural diversity of cities.
A useful website is INTERCULTURAL CITY: which is a bit overdesigned and not as easy to navigate as it could be. Has some very useful DOWNLOADS and CASE STUDIES.

Which cities are cultural ?
The EU has a capital of culture scheme, and Liverpool is due to be a capital of culture for 2008 - was there this week, to see Anthony Gormley, Tate, Albert Dock etc. The 'Amistad': the famous slave ship was in the docks, and people were queueing to go on board...

Culture: High or Low ? Popular or Elite ?

OK, which of these do you think would be HIGH culture, and which would be POPULAR culture.

Why not do a HIGHER or LOWER style activity a bit like "Play your cards right"

Remember to shout 'HIGHER' or 'LOWER'....

1. Watching TV Soap operas...
2. A Day at the Races: Royal Ascot perhaps ?

3. A night at the Opera

4. A night in a Workingman's Club

5. A trip round a stately home

6. A game of Bingo

7. Watching a box set of 'Desperate Housewives' on DVD

8. Reading "Heat" Magazine...

Can you suggest some other examples ? Add them as comments...

Image of Ascot from FLICKR user G w Clark for which many thanks...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

UK Citizenship Test

Part of the Cultural agenda is the issue of UK Citizenship and the issue of Multicultural Britain.
There are several useful websites in this area.
The 'official' site gives details about the areas that are covered in the test. These include the following:
  • Migration to Britain
  • The changing role of women
  • Children, family and young people: families, education and legal ages for activities
  • Population
  • The regions of Britain
  • Religion and tolerance
  • Customs and traditions, including Saints Days
  • How is the UK governed ?
  • Housing and services in and for the home
  • Money and credit
  • Health
  • Education
  • Leisure
  • Travel and transport
  • Looking for work
  • Equal rights and discrimination
  • Childcare and children at work
Tony Cassidy has produced some excellent resources on the theme of Citizenship and the issue of British identity.The BBC has produced an interesting trial quiz on CITIZENSHIP. There are 14 challenging questions.
To pass the actual test you need to score at least 75%
Various companies have set up websites to offer books, and PRACTICE TESTS.


Just reading Billy Bragg's "The Progressive Patriot" - got mixed reviews, but some nice ideas on Britishness and the growth of multicultural England.It's worth checking some postings on my Pilot GCSE Blog (with the label ENGLAND), and looking at labels like Britishness and Fish and Chips.

Some great resources have been produced in this area by Tony Cassidy, particularly some work relating to the UK Citizenship Test.

Another great resource is Common Ground's "England in Particular" - more on this in a later post...

Food, Glorious Food...

One aspect of a country or a region that defines it is its FOOD.
This can be explored thanks to a new interactive site at the British Library site called FOOD STORIES.You'll need FLASH 8 to explore this site in full.

The site was put together in association with another, more involved, project called CULTURES OF CONSUMPTION (which has a nice barcode logo...) and is produced in association with Birkbeck College, University of London.
There's a very useful report on 4 and a half lessons learnt HERE (PDF download) and you can also download summaries of some of the RESEARCH PROJECTS.
There are also TEACHERS' NOTES, CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES and an INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS' NOTEBOOK to help students investigate the site.

There are useful short reports on a huge range of food related topics including:
  • Chinese Restaurants and their impact on 1950s life
  • Someone eating Indian food for the first time in the 1960s
  • the politics of Caribbean food
  • eating spaghetti for the first time
The site also looks at the rituals of food, school dinners and the impact of changing technology.
Also involved in the project was Peter Jackson from University of Sheffield, who is another person closely associated with consumption patterns. The FOOD STORIES site grew up out of a project to explore the PRODUCTION CHAIN.
From the page above, you can download a 2 page PDF document which summarises the findings of the project.

This fits in nicely with a book I'm reading at the moment called "Moveable Feasts", which is all about how food is moved around the world.

There are various cultural aspects to food:
  • its production - transport around the world
  • the cultural aspects of certain food items related to festivals and religion
Coming soon: FASHION, MUSIC and GAMES CONSOLES... and more FOOD...

Monday, August 13, 2007

What is Cultural Geography ?

OK. Welcome to my latest GeoBlog...
First port of call for the first post is to establish what
Cultural Geography is...

Wikipedia says it is:
"a sub-field within human geography. Cultural Geography is the study of spatial variations among cultural groups and the spatial functioning of society. It focuses on describing and analyzing the ways language, religion, economy, government,and other cultural phenomena vary or remain constant from one place to another and on explaining how humans function spatially (Jordan et. al., 1994)"
And that it can include studies of:
  • Globalisation: the blending of cultures so that they become more alike
  • Cultural Imperialism: where one culture tries to impose itself or spreads its influence into others, and can include Empires...
  • Cultural Landscapes: this fits in with a recent project I have been involved with on the issue of Landscape
  • Colonialism and migration
As far as the exam specification goes:
"Focus on examining what culture is and what makes the variety of cultures reflected in a place, including the local region. Raising questions about how places are represented. Opportunity to investigate the idea that globalization is leading to the emergence of a global culture or that differences between people and places is widening."

Mike Crang's 1998 book: "Cultural Geography" has an introduction which can be read thanks to Amazon's LOOK INSIDE feature.
The chapter titles are helpful in providing some pointers for avenues to explore:
  • Literary landscapes
  • Media
  • Place or Space
  • Geographies of commodities and consumption
  • Nations, homelands and belonging
Crang, who works at Durham University, says that it is very difficult to define exactly what is involved in Cultural geography. A starting point could be an investigation of cultures around the globe, and their diversity, but once one starts investigating these different groups, one finds that they have different 'world-views' and beliefs, and also material cultures (which is the focus that the Pilot takes), and Cultural geography looks at what holds these cultures together. As Crang says on p.3
"Cultural Geography looks at the ways different processes come together in particular places and how those places develop meanings for people... [it] is about the diversity and plurality of life in all its variegated richness.." (Crang, 1998)
It involves scales from the micro-geography of houses to the global scale: globalisation.

Different types of culture:
We shall be investigating some of the different TYPES of culture that exist.

Activities which are the products of HIGH culture: theatre, opera, art, literature and poetry.
Also brings in buildings such as libraries and museums.
Religious culture is important: festivals and holy days provide a rhythm to the year, but some of these have become 'commodified': think about how greetings cards companies target days such as Valentines Day and then look for other days to target...

There is also POPULAR CULTURE: TV, Sport, music..

There are also the inevitable SUB-CULTURES, as people look for ways to express their individuality. This would include ideas such as Football clubs (where religions rivalries sometimes play a part in some of the world's great derby matches - I recommend a book on this theme:
Other sub-cultures are related to music: Goths, Rave culture, Ibiza etc.
A new current one is the Emo... "Emo!" You know who you are !
The INDEX of the book is also useful as it provides some ideas for areas to explore...
e.g. Britian, commodities and consumption (a big Pilot theme, especially relating to the work that I was involved with in the Young People's Geographies project, involving Ian Cook and colleagues from Birmingham University - more on this in later posts), Disneyland (heading off there in October this year, so will post more about that too later in the blog...), iconography etc.

Another useful book, which you can also get a flavour of from Amazon is Donald Mitchell's book: "Cultural Geography: a Critical Introduction" (2000)This book has a useful introduction to Cultural Geography, and the contents are yet again helpful in suggesting possible alternative areas to study further.
The opening section has an interesting statement: "Culture is politics by another name". It starts by looking at the fact that cultural developments as part of urban redevelopment impact on local neighbourhoods.
There is also the issue of public art. People are not always appreciative of the amount of money that is spent on sculpture or art, and there are also issues of representation of all groups, and whether some projects are inclusive or exclusive.
The ticket prices of some cultural events are perhaps part of the exclusion of certain people.

One aspect of Cultural Geography which is rather nice to explore is one of Cultural landscapes.

So who are some names to find out more about ?
Doreen Massey has written extensively on space and place and globalisation and the changing geographies of the world.
Carl Sauer is a name that crops up frequently, as does Yi Fu Tuan.

We will also need to get to grips with the idea of 'determinism' in its various forms. More on this in later posts.
OK, so that's this latest blog under way. If you have any comments on any of the content, or ideas for future posts, or want to tell us about your book or related research, please get in touch.