Ploughed fields and boxing hares

2018 has not been a good year for the blog. I’ve been caught up with writing and editing a book about psychogeography and psychotherapy, in between trying to civilise a whippet puppy – work in progress! But now, right at the end of the year, I’m not only determined to resuscitate the blog, but have become part of a threesome of aspiring printmakers.  We set ourselves the task of producing something under the heading ‘November landscape’, which was a good way to encourage us all to look more closely at our surroundings.  The outcome for me wasn’t a new print, however, but this blog. It set me thinking about clichés; in this instance, ploughed fields with winter trees on the horizon. I’d driven past just such a scene and in the early morning light it was beautiful. Then, perhaps foolishly, I googled ‘linocut ploughed field’ and discovered what a popular subject matter it was! In fact there were some very good images of exactly the scene that I had in mind.

Then I thought about some of the other clichéd images – chickens, crows and ravens, foxes, boxing hares, sunsets, teasels, poppy heads, etc. etc. Was the only way out of the cliché trap to search for something original, or move towards abstraction? On the other hand, I have spent many years asking ‘why’ before devising a solution; why change the habit of a lifetime, to quote another cliché.

Why was there this problem? What was it about ploughed fields in winter, for example, that made them so appealing – or boxing hares, or any of the other images that have been repeated so often that they have become fashionable and commercial? And why did I resist joining in?

All the visual clichés I thought about were related to the natural environment. Struggling to understand our place in the natural world, our relationship to landscape and animals, is a constant and enduring thread in human life, even though it has been battered and distorted by industrialisation, capitalism, globalisation, and greed in general. This very human endeavour, to discover and acknowledge our own natural heritage, is perhaps part of what draws us to images of hares and crows, foxes and chickens. I wonder if I’d been born in another part of the world whether I’d have the same fascination for these particular images – or whether it would be the kangaroo or the leopard that had the magic attraction? We intuitively are drawn towards the land and the wildlife that inhabits it, I think.

But what about those clichés not related to the natural world – cars for example? Teapots, watering cans, beach huts, wine bottles – the list seems endless. What is it that draws artists to these subjects? Is it a shorthand for a particular lifestyle; the connection between possessions and personal power; the desire for acceptance; money? For once a subject has become an accepted, coded form of desirability, like a car, then reproducing that brings commercial success. The images become taken over and hollowed out as they turn into consumerist slogans.

What about our very own personalised clichés? I’m thinking about those habitual thoughts that swim around our mind. Some of them are stereotypes, as in ‘women are more emotional than men’ that are shared amongst large numbers of people. Some feel far more personal, as in ‘ if I don’t do it, nobody will’, or ‘whenever I get close to someone, they let me down’, but are also shared by lots of others; some seem even more idiosyncratic and only you will know what I’m talking about!

In psychotherapy groups, the common one, held by so many people, was “I don’t fit in. I’m the odd one out.” Each group I worked with was more or less entirely composed of people who gradually revealed their firm belief that they were the odd one out in the group. Where were these others who were ‘in’, we wondered, when we were able to talk about this.

I don’t have a problem with the idea that there is very little that is new; that we are continually searching for, finding, losing, refinding and refining images, ideas, and skills that have been current for generations. But there is something alive that gets lost in the cliché or the stereotype. We stop paying attention, glibly skating over whatever it was that was struggling to be heard. Behind every assertion of ‘being the odd one out’, for example, lay a detailed, complex history with its own unique trajectory. Perhaps behind the image of the boxing hare or the ploughed field there once lay another nuanced and personal response to the scene that has been stripped away by casual repetition and commercial exploitation.

I noticed in my online search that every now and then I came across an image that made me pause. It was not usually the ones that were detailed and ‘accurate’ representations of the subject, but those few that to my mind and eye had caught something of the character or nature of the crow, for example. It made me think of Gerard Manley Hopkins’  inscape – where something concealed had been revealed. I used to be part of a portrait drawing class, and there were rare occasions where someone’s drawing seemed to have discovered the person that we were trying to draw. I suppose this is in itself another cliché, that this is how we identify true ‘art’.  When is a cliché a truism?

To conclude, I’d like to re-introduce you to ‘Neville’, my first attempt at a Japanese style woodcut. Yes, you could call him a cliché, but despite this I have become attached to him. In my eyes, he has personality – something about him that makes him stand out from the crowd, or flock. It might of course be a sort of ‘parental’ delusion – all my children/artworks are unique and special.  What do you think?








Prints in a group



It’s a long time since I did any sketching and I’m beginning to miss it. For now, printmaking seems to have taken over, and I’ve been fortunate to have my own exhibition locally. It’s a small and intimate affair in a very friendly and attractive local pub/restaurant where I have sat and sketched the view many times.



The reaction, as far as I can tell, has been positive, with one recurring comment that ‘the works are all so different – you wouldn’t think they were done by the same person’.

Well they were, of course, and I have to confess to feeling a little bit smug here. In a very minor way I have managed to stand against the frustratingly simple way that the self is commonly viewed – as a single entity. Personally I don’t see myself that way, and as a therapist I find that approach completely unhelpful. I’ve done a lot of writing about the concept of the self as a group; a number of ‘internal’ characters with different and often conflicting attitudes who have to find some way of working together to enable a person to lead a satisfying life. Just talk to yourself and listen to your own range of different responses and you will start to see what I mean!

It’s perfectly possible and ‘normal’ to hold conflicting or paradoxical views, and we do it all the time. Part of me wants to try out gliding, part of me is scared, part of me is annoyed with the scared part, part of me is imagining disaster, part is romanticising about being able to fly, etc etc. So if part of me produces is one style of  print or art work, and another part does something different, then that is fine by me. There’s an inner group of selves, all busily creating in their own way – that seems to me a plus, not a problem. Plus, if we can learn to manage and respond to our own the inner group, we can be so much more in tune with other people, who are having the same sort of dilemmas and delights themselves.

There is a constant and necessary battle to be fought against simplistic reductionist ways of looking at the world, now more so than ever perhaps. The relentless narrative of self as a unified one dimensional character supports the depressing trend of  being either ‘for’ or ‘against’ –   migrants and refugees, overseas aid, military spending, nationalism, gun control, free trade, nationalisation, open borders, organic growing, glyphosate, biodynamics, etc etc.

That is not to say I think that  no-one should have any strong views; but that these views need to be grounded in an appreciation of the opposing arguments, the available evidence and an awareness of the dangers of self righteousness. In other words, we arrive at a position only after we have been able to hear all the other arguments, listen to the other voices, and make a considered judgment. And if it is a decision that seems to be ‘intuitive’ then there is a lot to be said for asking ourselves whether or not that means we are being too lazy to think or find out about the other point of view! It’s a hard thing to do and I duck out of it at times; the ‘can’t be bothered’ character in my internal group can take over!

Which brings me back to printmaking and my growing appreciation of the necessity to keep on trying. My tutor said that at every stage of making a print there is the possibility of messing it up, from the initial cutting of the plate, to inking, proofing, choice of paper, the setting up of the press, inky fingerprints (oh yes!) and more. It takes me about 6 tries to produce one reasonable print at the moment, so I really need that internal voice that keeps me working at it.



Drawing out emotion

I’ve spent 3 interesting days in Bristol sketching in an urban sketching workshop that has stirred me into writing, as well as drawing! Back in 2014 when I signed up for my first urban sketchers workshop in Oxford, I wrote about the challenge of learning new things and teaching styles. This Bristol workshop was led by the same three instructors (Isabel Carmona, Victor Swasky and Miguel Herranz) so it inevitably prompted memories. Since 2014, I’ve done quite a bit of sketching and they have run a lot of courses, so we meet again older and wiser! (?)


The other big difference was the project, for having written about ‘what’s the point’ of urban sketching, here was something with a clear purpose; we were sketching at Elm Tree Farm, run by the Brandon Trust, to showcase their work with vulnerable adults. Len Grant, also a participant of the 2014 Oxford workshop, was there with his expertise, having sketched for a number of projects in Bolton, to inspire us to engage with people whilst drawing. So a group of 15 friendly and interesting sketchers swarmed over the farm, talking with whoever they could find and sketching away like mad.

One of the interesting themes was finding a balance in drawing between information and emotion. At first glance this sounded like don’t put too much ‘stuff’ in your drawing, and let rip with colour, but of course nothing is that “black and white”.

It’s not that easy to convey emotion; emotion is slippery and subjective. Where I see panic, you might see excitement, for example. Between despair and joy there are many subtleties, and expressing them challenges everyone’s preferred style. Emotions find their way between line and colour in ways that are frankly, mysterious.

How emotion is expressed varies too. I am used to, comfortable with, reading emotion from small gestures and expressions and exploring what is going on. I don’t see that the person who shouts or cries has any greater capacity to feel than the person who sits tight lipped and rigid. Expressed emotion and experienced emotion are not necessarily the same thing: We can feel something powerfully and hold it in our hearts. It will probably change if and when we share it – but the silent version can be as big a disturbance as any screaming, fighting, shouting, weeping outpouring. There are some beautiful paintings by Vilhelm Hammershoi that, for me, make this so apparent.

Somewhere there is an elusive balance between containment and expression. Either ends of the spectrum give us difficulties in relating to others. We can be drowned by, or starved of feeling in a relationship, and much of group therapy is involved in discovering a rewarding mixture where there is mutuality; learning to both contain and express emotion in ways that acknowledge the other; learning to communicate how we feel without dominating or controlling.

How this translates into drawing is very much work-in-progress! I would love to finding a balance in sketching between the explicit and the implied, giving enough to enable the viewer to fly off in their imagination and make their own story.


This relates to a style that I really enjoy – a composition of small frames, each giving a glimpse of the overall scene. I think it plays into my ideas about multiple versions, fragmentary glimpses, paradoxes, the multidimensional selves that are so apparent in groups.

It’s a style of sketching that seems to me playful, and so much fun that it verges on the ‘not really sketching but messing about’ boundary. Interestingly the other thing I drew that  felt similarly playful  was a map. Here I am trying to draw all the pieces together to make sense of the whole – there are so many links between sketching and psychotherapy!




Where we come from: Place and Colour


‘I know where you are coming from’.

If I hear this is a group therapy context, I’m expecting it to be followed up either by a version of – let me tell you about my own experience – or – but I think you’ve got it wrong here. It’s a statement of solidarity and a permission to disagree at the same time, which could be seen as another version of family: People who know the most about you, who can be on your side and also oppose you.

Our language is awash with geographical metaphors used to convey often complex emotions and interactions. I’m increasingly pondering the “geographical’ in that sentence, having spent years of talking and writing about internal landscapes. I’ve always been focused on the emotional content, but now I’m taking the actual physical terrain more seriously.

I’m wondering about our earliest experiences of place, and the ways in which we attach to/detach from this place. There’s no easy correlation, as in people born by the sea always want to get to the coast, or those whose first years were spent in high rise flats love climbing mountains. But I believe that there are influences; that the impact of place is never erased, however subtle or hidden. Perhaps rather than attach to a location that can be described in terms of contours and features, we resonate with the mood of a place? So how  do we ascribe a mood to a place ?

Colour and light immediately come to mind. Beyond any simplistic associations – cheerful yellows, angry reds, gloomy greys and so forth – colour plays upon, expresses and creates emotion. In a recent tribute to Howard Hodgkin, Colm Toibin writes,

 ‘There was no colour in his work, he emphasised, for its own sake; he was not involved in making decoration. Nor did he allow colour to stand for some generalised set of emotions or experiences. He always thought of himself as a representational painter. The paintings arose from precise occasions, precise emotions, from a memory, something very specific and personal.’ (The Guardian 11.03.17 )

 Colour is for serious artists.  I describe myself as someone who is ‘not good with colour’, but that is a sentence, like the one that precedes it, which is too glib for comfort. I like greys – and blue-greys, green- greys, brown-greys and even yellow-greys. Why?

There are many possible factors, but the one that I am thinking about here is childhood landscapes of the Thames estuary. I remember it as muted, overcast, and yes, mainly grey! I’m not sure if it is a landscape that I am ‘attached’ to, but I do feel that its colours have seeped into me somehow. In my sketches I have periods where I consciously try to use vibrant, noisy colour – but I always either blot it away or just don’t like the end result. Colour and place are entwined. I’m not at home in hot vibrant noisy places any more than I am drawn to hot vibrant colour.

Psychotherapy enables us to go beyond our early programming, but reminds us that certain aspects of ourselves are foundational. I’m thinking that also applies to the way we respond to and use colour. It can connect us to the geography of our lives and that of our preceding generations, and it can introduce us to new ways of appreciating the current places that we and others inhabit. So to challenge the idea that I am forever entranced by greys, here are a few of my latest lino prints. You may know where I’m coming from, but look where I’ve got to!










Walking together: psychogeography and psychotherapy


( This is the article that I wrote for ‘Therapy Today’ , with added sketches – so longer than usual but hopefully interesting enough to hold your attention to the end!)

Unfortunately I missed the 4th World Congress on Psychogeography held in Huddersfield this year. I then discovered that the 4th World Congress was actually the second – the first took place in Huddersfield and Leeds last year – and the next gathering will probably be the 4th World Congress too. Also, although delegates voted that the next congress will take place in Copenhagen, it is likely to be held in Huddersfield again!

This might just seem silly, but as with Monty Python, some serious comments can be made through absurdity. A professional organisation demonstrating its importance through an expensive ‘world congress’, uncritically situated in the globalised economy and at home in fashionable Copenhagen is exactly what psychogeography is not! Psychogeographers are a more radical and diverse assortment of varied professionals, artists, amateurs and others with roots in surreal and absurdist critiques of society, who are more likely to be found at the edges and in the margins. They seem to me to combine intelligent, thought provoking analysis with the refreshing capacity to laugh both at their own pretensions and those of others, and I think they have interesting ideas to share with psychotherapists.

Psychogeography sprawls across many traditional academic demarcations and, like psychotherapy, is a model of multi-disciplinary cross fertilisation. This makes a concise definition difficult, and that flexibility is perhaps one of its strengths. There seem to me to be two key elements to the definition: psychogeography is concerned with the effect of geographical location upon emotion and behaviour; this is tied to an emphasis upon walking, paying critical attention to the (generally but not exclusively) urban landscape and the power structures that have shaped it. There has been much written about the impact of the ‘natural environment’ and its part in therapy, but I want to focus here upon ‘urban’ living – whilst acknowledging that the boundary between ‘natural/rural’ and ‘man made/urban’ is by no means straightforward.

For a detailed appraisal of the current definitions and varieties of psychogeographies, I would recommend Tina Richardson (2015). Here however I want to introduce psychogeography via those pathways that first attracted me, in the hope that along the myriad routes there will be something that resonates with each reader. So I have sketched out a map and invite you to walk with me through a landscape where psychotherapy and psychogeography can enrich each other.

The starting point for me is the relational environment. Group psychotherapy pays sustained and concentrated attention to the power of the relational environment that both clients and therapists inhabit and make. It is the context of others that shapes who we are, and who we in turn shape. In groups, especially long term, we witness this process whereby members insistently draw out and co-create their relational environment, until hopefully liberated by a growing capacity to understand and challenge each other’s attempt to shape the environment.

Any account of being human that reduces an individual to a singleton in a world of singletons is missing the point. We are who we are in the context of others. Although this may be at its most obvious in group psychotherapy, it is clearly just as crucial in any individual therapy. Liz Bondi (2005) suggests that this relational psychotherapeutic perspective can benefit human geography, which often ascribes emotion to individual subjects rather than taking a systemic view.

Starting out from this relational environment, it is a small step to embrace the physical. It might not even been necessary to move, but just to look around at the space in which therapy takes place. In our own therapy rooms we may attempt to create spaces that are containing but not intrusive, calm but not cosy, interesting but not over stimulating. However most of us work at times in spaces that we have no control over, which are hostile to the task in hand; rooms full of desks, cupboard sized spaces, consulting rooms with beds and screens, stained carpets, noisy corridors and so on. Neither patients, clients, students nor therapists can fail to be aware of the powerful intrusions from the physical environment.

What is said is linked to where it is said; to disclose our most intimate feelings we need a sense of emotional and physical security that derives in part from the place we are in. Spatial metaphors abound in the psychotherapeutic vernacular. A safe space, where you’re at, stuck in a corner, deep in a hole, falling through space; we so often turn to geography to find words for our experiences, so should not be surprised that geography shapes experiences. The unwelcoming ‘counselling room’ that clearly is also a cluttered storeroom will affect the communicative web between therapist and client despite all attempts to ignore it.

Of course we can explore this impact, and the possible resonance it has with previous environments. It could well lead into a consideration of power; who controls this space, who decides its usage, who is excluded from the decision-making, for example. This way it becomes even clearer that not only who we are is profoundly shaped by place, but that place involves power.

We have reached a place on the map that we will return to from many different approaches. Here psychogeography brings our attention clearly to the ways in which the spaces we move through and inhabit may be controlled by particular interests. Gated communities, CCTV cameras, car dominated routes, huge parking areas, gentrification, regeneration, lighting, signage, street furniture, graffiti, litter; places where men may walk but women avoid, no- go zones, threatening streets; the more we question the ways in which our environments are designed, built and used, the more we become aware of the values and interests that are shaping the terrain.


In October 2016, the United Nations held the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, to agree on a ‘New Urban Agenda’ in the face of the massive increases in urbanisation globally. The UK Economic and Social Research council is undertaking a collaborative research project with China, South Africa and Brazil, mapping the web of water, power, energy, food, transport and behaviour within cities. Important elements are “lock-ins” and “path dependencies” Both are features that inhibit certain developments and favour others – regulations facilitating new developments may prevent green transport systems, for example, or the historical ghettoization of one community may be a block to innovative possibilities.

Thinking about this on an everyday walk in our own areas may be an eye opening exercise.

Looking around at our streets, it’s startling when you first notice it: like waking from a dream and forgetting where you are. A moment of disorientation as your eyes make sense of the shadows and see the room for what it is.

After that, it’s unmistakable: our streets are not our own. From the parked cars that line the roads to the traffic that speeds along them, in many of our cities we are second-class citizens if we’re not inside a motor vehicle’ ( Laker 2016)


This is one reason why psychogeographers walk rather than drive. Walking can bring us into contact with the environment in a visceral and attentive way where we have time to look closely, to think and to explore. Walking in a psychogeographical sense is not the same as a stroll or ramble; it is observant, analytic, and self-reflective. It finds unfamiliar routes, individually or as part of a group, wanders without preconceived ideas of route or destination, and records the subjective experience in a multitude of styles. The kinaesthetic qualities of movement combine with reflection and analysis in a way that Rose (2015) suggests –

‘affords the opportunity to rupture the banal and disrupt the monotony of capitalism, (re)connecting with space, (re)mapping according to personal affect and (re)creating with multitudinous new stories’ (p.161)

Whether we walk or not for our own purpose, and so many do (“A good wander unveils the city” 2016 ), as psychotherapists and counsellors we recognise its potential. As therapy, or part of therapy, it is used in many different formats; in groups, individually, with mindfulness, with or without therapists, in conjunction with other interventions or on its own. It appears to have an effect that does not relate to energy expenditure or exercise per se, and is often recommended as a component in the treatment for depression (Robertson, Robertson et al 2012).

Therapists working with the elderly, especially with dementia, will recognise the way in which places remain embedded in even the most fragmented of memories. Andrea Capstick (2015), using walking interviews, finds that communications thought to be meaningless can accurately reference particular places in the past. She challenges the act of locating ‘amnesia’ solely in the individual rather than in a society that undervalues and forgets its own past.

The destruction of memory lies as much in the outer world with its demolition sites, road widening schemes, bomb damage, slum clearance and gentrification as it does in the ‘damaged’ brain of the person with dementia’ (p212)

Identity is bound to place. This systemic thinking forms the major highway between psychogeography and psychotherapy. The environment is not the backdrop, but is woven through our identity. One early strand of psychogeography clearly rejected the idea of environment as backdrop, seeing it instead as the screen upon which the experiences of growing up in a gendered body became symbolized and played out. (Stein and Neiderland 1989).

Exploring identities – our own and that of others – involves an appreciation of the powerful influence of place. The word ‘home’, for example, conjures geographical location, emotional resonances, attachments, images and memories, and more. It straddles the external and internal landscape in a way that demonstrates the permeable boundary between the two. We each, according to Fitzgerald and Rose (2015), inhabit

‘not an ‘objective’ space, but our own cognitive map of place and space, freighted with affects and memories, with its risks and hazards, its threats and lures, its familiarities and alien places, its locales of sanctity, solidarity, support, and much more’.

 We find ourselves attracted not only to particular people but to places; like a fingerprint, we have a unique patterned response to our environment created through our experience. Certain landscapes, streets, atmospheres, colours, sights, sounds and smells resonate, teaching us much about our own selves, if we pay attention. Exploring our own relationship to place can be a rewarding pathway to personal development.


There is a substantial body of research looking at the impact of space upon mental health. Laura McGrath (2015) examines the impact of different types of space on those with mental illness, and argues that experiences of distress, rather than being determined by static internal processes, are contextualised. Those deemed to be ‘mad’, who once would have been in the designated space of an asylum, are now ‘in the community’; a similar redesignation of space has happened with children’s homes and special schools, for example. Losing the allocated space and becoming part of the ‘community’ creates a context that often belies the warm connotations of the phrase. For many the reality is dominated by surveillance rather than support whilst some find themselves in the least attractive margins of available public space – rough sleeping in derelict areas, underpasses, etc.

Osborne (2015) writes about the milieu – the space we live in, ‘cut from’ the environment material available. Cities, he suggests, are overlapping series of diverse and contradictory milieus –

‘milieus for some and not others, milieus for the rich, milieus for certain kind of business enterprise, milieus for consumption, and so on but not a single milieu of any sort. And for the excluded and dispossessed, cities are indeed simply environments.’

 It seems to me that therapy cannot afford to ignore issues of space any more than it can ignore social justice. Psychogeography offers a radical, subversive, challenging critique of space that psychotherapy can benefit from.

In addition, if offers fun. Winnicott would certainly have applauded the playfulness and creativity that psychogeography embraces. Walks may be directed by rolling a dice, for example, or following the gaze of a CCTV camera; arbitrary, whimsical, free associative wanderings that allow unconscious processes the space to flourish. Critical psychologist Alex Bridger (2015) uses walking based research methodologies derived from psychogeographical ideas, arguing that their playfulness can challenge routine behaviour and assumptions and promote creative rethinking of urban space. Psychogeography challenges the dominance of the cognitive in understanding the world, pushes against boundaries and conventions, honours the subjective experience – surely enough common ground to establish a mutually enriching relationship with psychotherapy?

Now we have visited, albeit briefly, most of the places marked on the map and it is time to consider the map itself. It seems that map making is an activity that is wired into humanity. The Bedolina petroglyph at Valcamonica in Italy is one of the oldest known maps still to exist, carved about 4,000 years ago. (Harmon 2004) We constantly map what is around us – the terrain, routes, geology, seas, space – and what is within us– MRI being the contemporary ‘scientific’ version. Maps are our attempts to orient ourselves in an environment and to grasp not only where we are, but who we are.

‘We all travel with many maps , neatly folded and tucked away in the glove compartment of memory – some of them communal and universal, like our autonomic familiarity with seasonal constellations and the shape of continents, and some as particular as the local roads that we have all traipsed.’ (Stephen Hall, p.15 in Harmon 2004)

 Psychotherapy has a close association with maps. As we ‘walk alongside’ the client, we travel through internal landscapes of desired utopias and feared hells, in order to find new pathways through old and scarred territory. We examine and unearth buried cities and civilisations, patiently expose skeletons and artefacts, draw up timelines and map future projects. Geography, geology, archaeology, and cartography all meet in my experience of psychotherapy.


As psychotherapists and counsellors we are engaged in the vital challenge to understand and communicate at depth with different cultures, races, and experiences. We recognise the on-going struggle to relate at depth to the other, and its central place not only in the work that we undertake but the communities that we live in and the societies we help create. In our thinking too, we need to cross boundaries. Engaging with other disciplines is part of the process of expanding our cross-cultural communicative possibilities and understandings. Encountering psychogeography is simultaneously like greeting an old friend and discovering a stimulating, quirky, innovative and challenging new acquaintance. As Stephen Hall (p.18 2004) writes-

’(T)he most important thing a map shows, if we pause to look at it long enough, if we travel upon it widely enough, if we think about it hard enough, is all the things we still do not know.




Bondi, Liz. (2005). Making connections and thinking through emotions:

between geography and psychotherapy, online papers archived by the Institute of

Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.

Bridger, Alexander John. ‘Psychogeography, Antipsychologies and the Question of Social Change,’ pp.227-240 in Richardson, T. ed(2015)

Capstick, Andrea. ‘Rewalking the City: People with dementia remember’, pp. 221-226 in Richardson, T. ed (2015)

Fitzgerald, Des, and Rose , Nikolas (2015) ‘The Neurosocial City’

Hall, Stephen S. ‘I, Mercator” in Harmon,K (2004)

Harmon, Katherine (2004) You Are Here: Personal geographies and other maps of the imagination. New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Laker, Laura.( 2016) ‘Will car drivers ever learn to share the road with bikes?’ Guardian Cities

McGrath, Laura. (2012) ‘Heterotopias of mental health care: the role of space in experiences of distress, madness, and mental health service use’.

Osborne, T. (2015) ‘Should we look to develop a renewed vitalism of the city?’

 Richardson, Tina, ed. (2015) Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography. London: Rowman and Littlefield

Robertson R, Robertson A, Jepson R & Maxwell M (2012) Walking for depression or depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Mental Health and Physical Activity, 5 (1), pp. 66-75.

Rose, Morag. ‘Confessions of an Anarcho-Flaneuse, or Psychogeography the Mancunian Way’, pp147 -164 in Richardson T. ed (2015)

Stein, Howard F. and Neiderland, William G (1989) Maps from the Mind: Readings in Psychogeography. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press








What’s the point?

Events like food can take some digesting. The urban sketchers symposium in Manchester was exciting, tiring, disappointing, and inspirational. (More on this later).That was last week. Now I’m beginning to appreciate it in from a calmer, well-fed perspective.



I saw a lot of very beautiful sketchbooks, each page skilfully drawn, coloured and often annotated. Part of me wants my own sketchbooks to look so perfect and impressive, but then part of me reacts against that constraint. Sketchbooks of artists’ as opposed to ‘sketchers’ have a different purpose. They are not in themselves the ‘art’ but underpin it, sometimes detailed, sometimes minimal, and often messy, explorative.

What’s the point of my sketchbooks then? I enjoyed being challenged  by Marina Grechanik who asked us ‘why are you drawing this?’ in her workshop.

Is there a story I want to tell? Something I want to point out? Or am I just drawing whatever is in front of me? Am I making a visual diary? Is each page part of a longer narrative or a self contained instant? Am I going to use the sketches in some way?

Does it have to have a point at all? Isn’t it about looking at the world from new perspectives, learning to see? Learning a new skill?

So far I can list the personal benefits of sketching. It’s absorbing, in the moment, challenging, and creative. It makes me look at my environment rather than glide through it inattentively. It can often be fun. It brings me into contact with a large and varied group of people and has been the starting point of some lovely friendships.

It provokes lots of thoughts connecting different aspects of my life – hence this blog. It challenges me to do more, in different ways, to develop and grow rather than recycle what I can already do and know – so life affirming!

But despite this impressive list, I do still come back to the ‘what’s the point?” question. The idea that urban sketching could make some contribution to the community still hovers around. I admire Len Grant’s sketches of food bank users in Manchester, for example, or Richard Johnson’s sketches and conversations with the homeless. The urban environment shapes so many lives. Looking at it critically, sketching it, can make visible  the people and things that often get ignored.

I was disappointed not to be able to get to the ‘ Loitering with Intent” exhibition at the Public History Museum  whilst in Manchester. Here are a group of people discovering the urban environment through walking together, noticing CCTV cameras, ‘no entry’ signs, the fences and obstructions that control movement in the city, demolition and construction. Finding the history as they walk and realising what has been lost and found as they go along. How fascinating to link urban sketching into this sort of project!