Reader let me take you by the hand to Whitecross Street… are the words with which nineteenth-century writer George Gissing begins his first novel Workers of the Dawn. In Gissing’s time Whitecross Street was synonymous with poverty but now it boasts art galleries and a regular farmer’s market. Just down the road is the site that provided Gissing with the title of another novel New Grub Street. Today this road stops dead where it hits the Barbican complex and what is left of it is called Milton Street. Grub Street was once the favoured home of London’s hack journalists and other impoverished writers; it was originally called Grope Cunt Street because of the broken down prostitutes who plied their trade within it. Nearby lie the sites of the notorious Jack The Ripper murders, the graves of William Blake and Daniel Defoe, and an art scene that thrived in the 1990s and is now dying on its feet. Mostly the northern and eastern edges of the City of London are gentrified but there are still notoriously ‘dangerous’ areas such as Murray Grove….
All of which goes to show that whenever I spend time away from London, my thoughts fix firmly on the city in which I was born. I’ve just been staying at The Grove Hotel in Grove Place, Falmouth. My room was rather too traditional for my taste; it had embossed pale yellow wallpaper, dark furniture and a print of a country landscape with a river and a bridge above the bed. For my comfort, the bed had ‘been fitted with a revolutionary Tempur memory foam mattress which experts recommend saying that as it moulds to the body it produces the best conditions for a good nights sleep.’ The service was friendly and the breakfast good.
On Tuesday, 12 May, 2009 I gave a lecture for Exeter University at The Old Chapel on the out of town Tremough Campus. The promotional blurb for this ran as follows: “Taking up from the network of 1990s humorous anti-capitalist groups covered in my book Mind Invaders, would it make sense today to form a Falmouth Psychogeographical Society, or revive the Kernow branch of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts? Has the currently active and London based International Necronautical Society moved the work of these earlier groups forwards, or has it reversed into antiquated literary and philosophical positions? So by looking at these groups and their relationship to the historic avant-garde, I’d like to shift towards seeing what a new group based in Cornwall might look like…”
The following day I ran a workshop on Network Platforms and Collaboration at the Woodlane Campus of Falmouth College of Art. This was billed as: “Taking forward the ways in which I’ve been working collaboratively on the web. The starting point is the “Tree Sex Girl Network” developed in 2007 with Paolo Cirio and Tatiana Bazzichelli, which was hosted via MySpace profiles and YouTube videos and was an entirely fake network of “bot girls” who claimed they liked making love to trees and listening to breakbeat. As part of the workshop we will produce blueprints (using video, photography and texts) for some new fake social networking profiles and critically reconsider the project’s characteristics.
After everyone had talked through their various experiences with Web 2.0, we collectively decided to make profiles for the unborn babies of celebrity mothers, so that the foetus could find its own voice online! You can now view these profiles live at a social networking site near you! Although some of the tree sex girl material placed online is no longer available, if you want to check it out try the following addresses:
I didn’t meet any tree sex girls during my trip to Cornwall, although I did get to spend some time with the legendary Nigel Ayers of Nocturnal Emissions. There was also much merriment with Alex Murray, Kate Southworth, Magdalena Tyzlik-Carver and many others. A couple of bars have opened in Falmouth since I last visited the town, and both these new ventures – The Town House and The Tap Room – boast reasonably modern decor and a friendly atmosphere. I also spent time in The Steam Packet which I’d not visited before, and reacquainted myself with several other drinking establishments. Since my last sojourn to Cornwall, Woolworths had closed down but otherwise Falmouth seemed pretty timeless. It’s a nice place to visit but personally I much prefer living in London….
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www. stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!