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Field Trip Psychogeography Symbol Uncategorized

Rosyth Edgelands Dérive

Rosyth Edgelands Derive

We are in dangerous territory, walking westward out of the town of Rosyth, along the A985, one of ‘Britain’s killer roads’.  This arterial incision into the connective tissue of the Rosyth edgelands is to fully engage with the disruptive polarities emanating from two monolithic structures, which have recently appeared on either side of the road. There is a real sense that the landscape, skyscape and mindscape have all been irretrievably altered.  Whether this is benign or malevolent who can say?  It is this that we must investigate  and address head-on with our dérive. Establish relations, resist, remap, and reclaim as necessary.

As we set off, along the ridgeline of the A985, there is an undercurrent of fear that a vortex of radiant, colliding energies may threaten to rip us, stalking walkers, apart or even lure us into the path of oncoming traffic on the killer road. This is a risk that we are prepared for and must take.

The first stretch of road between two roundabouts is almost classic edgeland topography. On the right hand side, the small favela of allotments, with waves of canes, poles, pallet fencing and water butts; shanty sheds and corrugated iron knitted together with plastic pipework. There is a disordered/orderliness about the place; a charivari of utility and resourceful exchange, which resists the carefully manicured garden porn displayed in garden centres and lifestyle magazines.  You can tell that this is land that is worked, loved and loves back.

On the other side of the road, past the football pitch, stands the ‘old Lexmark building’, supposedly  the location of ‘the factory’ in Gregory Burke’s play Gagarin Way. We  have investigated this building before and continue to monitor its energy levels , but no sign of the smoked salmon fishes as yet.

As we traverse over the second roundabout, there are clear intimations that the interzone between the town and edgelands has been breached.  For the car driver, flooring it off the roundabout and opening up to the straight road ahead  it’s as if the gravitational pull of the town loses its grip, supplanted by a carnivalesque impulse to wind down the window and toss the debris of consumer society into the hedgecomb of trees and shrubs edging the road.  Here lies a graveyard of inert excess, an inventory of impulse purchases; eating and drinking on the hoof and a veritable time capsule of the non-biodegradable floatsam of consumer culture.  Like true twitchers, we must record our spoils:

Diet Coke, Fosters, Tennant’s, McCoys, Irn Bru, Sprite, Muller, McDonalds, Pepsi, Corona, Red Rooster, Lucozade, KP, Dr Pepper, Costa, Coke, Yorkie, Milky Bar, Pampers, Cadbury’s Buttons, Starbucks, Walkers, Carling, Graham’s Dairies, Tesco, Diet Pepsi, Asda, Smoking Kills, Ginsters, Pizza Hut, Golden Wonder, Red Bull, Powerade, Wild Bean Cafe, Huggies, Greggs,  Snickers…

Fired up on caffeine,

the sugar rush floods

the synapses,

foot to the floor,

screech, toss

and off.

We are also struck by how thIndustrial Units for Sale or Leasee edgelands are places where things are simply forgotten about. Advertising signs from a more benign economic environment offering ‘Industrial Units for Sale or Lease’ are falling down and are never replaced; road signs tilt at 45 degrees; posters on substations intimate long forgotten concerts and  doors on the mysterious roadside bunkers have all disappeared.

We are now out in the true edgelands, hugging the ribbon of verge by the side of the road as  every vehicle utterly tanks it past us. We are pebbledashed by huge swathes of road spray and the draught, from the huge artic lorries that pass, threatens to pull us foot-powered perambulators into the middle of road.  However, the objects of our effort and attention can now be clearly seen on either side of the road. We can feel their energies drilling into us and can only marvel at the scale of their transforming presence on this stretch of the edgelands.  As long as we can stay vigilant and remain on the ribbon verge, we can resist the siren call urging us into the killer road.

Over to the right, in the middle distance, is a 100 metre column, on top of which sits a rotating turbine with three, colossal, scythe -like blades. This somehow reminds us of the free gifts of plastic spinners that you used to get sellotaped to the front cover of children’s comics like The Beano and The Dandy.  Thus  we have a name for our monster – Spinner – a vital part of the engagement and neutralisation process.   Spinner is of such a scale that it doesn’t look quite real. It’s as if it is projecting some perspective morphing force field which shrinks or obliterates the elements within the landscape which offer any indication of human scale.

Spinner belongs to FMC Technologies, a Houston, Texas headquartered business, which manufactures subsea systems for the oil and gas and renewables industry.  The 1.5MW turbine is projected to supply up to 40% of their energy needs at their Dunfermline facility and was financed by Triodos, the ethical bank.   We stand and watch the strange poetry of the rotating blades dancing with the wind, quite hypnotic and completely silent from our vantage point. There is some some sense of good energy radiating from this structure and there is a fluidity and engagement with the elements.  Spinner could probably only be a product of the edgelands. A place where a turbine of this size can be erected then lost and forgotten, despite it’s landscape transforming qualities.

GoliathIf Spinner has a slightly ethereal, alchemical quality, transforming wind into electricity, over to our left is a structure that looks as if it is marauding up towards the ridge, like a mechanised robotic toy about to attack.  This is the aptly named Goliath crane recently transported from China’s Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co Ltd, where it was manufactured.  Goliath is the largest crane installed in the UK and across its 120m beam is the clearly visible signage:

aircraft carrier alliance

Goliath sits in Rosyth Dockyard which lies over the hill down on the Forth.  In effect, we are only seeing the top of the crane which at 90m high almost rivals Spinner in height.  Goliath is part of the most expensive project in British naval history with two aircraft carriers presently being constructed at £3 billion a pop. We have already been told that once constructed, one will be mothballed immediately and the other will have no planes  to fly from it.  Try explaining this logic to a five year old. The carriers are to be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.  The sheer folly, financial carnage and symbolism of this whole escapade is such that it almost fries our collective brain into meltdown.  However, very soon we are all whistling and singing Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding – the Robert Wyatt version naturally – so we can hum the piano solo with our kazoos.  This has the desired effect, tames the beast and calm descends. As we walk further along the road, we can gain a better vantage point to look down Rosyth Dockyardover the dockyard and see the true scale of Goliath.  Our fear turns to pity as we realise  that all we are looking at is simply a dumb, beast of burden, a heavy lifter, on which has been foisted the indignity of jingoistic colours, the White Ensign flag and the reek of failed empire. Also lurking down there, somewhere in the bowels are seven decommissioned nuclear submarines, still radioactive and we are reminded of some possibly apocryphal tales of technicians metal-capped boots glowing green in the dark. Isn’t it amazing what can be buried in the edgelands.

Back on the A985 and another juggernaut threatens to drag us into the road as we alight on Windylaw Path which leads down to the villages of Limekilns and Charlestown.  We’ve had enough of the road but happy to have got the measure of Spinner and Goliath. Our dérive receptors are once again activated when we read that Windylaw Path is a coffin road.

Who could resist that and was Limekilns not mentioned in Stevenson’s Kidnapped?

Windylaw, The Coffin Road

As we head up the coffin road, a buzzard soars overhead…


Now playing: Brian Lavelle – Lambent

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Psychogeography Uncategorized

Reclaim

I pass the old Lexmark factory in Rosyth on an almost daily basis. One of those US campus style buildings, nestling incongruously amongst manicured landscapes, with obligatory pond and water features. 

This was supposedly the inspiration of ‘the factory’ in Gregory Burke’s Gagarin Way.  Another example of Scotland’s inward investment bribery policy whereby multinationals steam in hoovering up every ‘grant’ going and as soon as the subsidies expire they’re off to the next one. 700 jobs lost. The fluidity of global, multi-national capital.

The factory closed in 2006 and although some maintenance has clearly been going on, ‘nature’ has stealthily been making her mark. Lichens and green algae creeping over the sleek post-modern surfaces; roof foliage sprouting healthily; the pond now completely covered by water plants. How long before it all crumbles to dust reclaimed by greenery?

EDIT: A new sign has gone up this week!  Norwegian fish company Morpol is to buy the factory and use it to process Scottish smoked salmon.  Good news for Rosyth but wonder where the fish will come from? What sort of energies will a fish factory radiate? We shall monitor and investigate!

Now Playing : Asva – Presences of Absences.

Categories
Psychogeography

Why Fife?

Why Fife?

The great sites of psychogeographic exploration have perhaps not surprisingly tended to privilege the urban environment with London and Paris the primary lodestones of psychogeographic endeavour.

Taking a lead from Patrick Geddes, the great polymath, regional theorist, activist and (as yet, unacknowledged) proto-psychogeographer, the FPC believe that both urban and rural environments are mutually constitutive and therefore equally valid as spaces for psychogeographic wanderings.

What better a site than Fife?  A virtual island interzone, betwixt and between the cities of Edinburgh and Dundee; an ancient Pictish Kingdom, bounded by the Firths of Forth and Tay.  Where a New Town is built on a 4,000 year old henge and 18 feet menhirs brood on a ladies golf course, under the shadow of Largo Law.  Not far away, the statue of  Alexander Selkirk, gazes out, projecting his own haunting presence into the psychogeographic mindscape.  If Selkirk was the inspiration for Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, it is the ghost of Robinson who wanders and stalks through many a tract of the psychogeographic imagination. Witness Rimbaud’s supposedly derived verb robinsonner (to travel mentally, or let the mind wander) or the unseen and unheard researcher in Patrick Keiller’s films London and Robinson in Space.

Ideas crackle, tussle and fizz, throughout the ether over this Scottie dogs heid. Kirkcaldy’s famous son Adam Smith  tossed a large brick into the pool of economic theory with a Wealth of Nations (and let us not forget The Theory of Moral Sentiments) written on a site now housing Greggs the Bakers.  The self-interest of the baker to supply us with Steak Bakes is alive and well. (The debate as to whether Smith, the moral philosopher, has been hijacked by the right will be left for another day). There is a also a hauntology of radical socialism. In Cowdenbeath, Lawrence Storione founded the Anarchist Communist League and West Fife elected Willie Gallacher as the first Communist MP.  In Lumphinnans you will find Gagarin Way, a street tagged in honour of the Soviet cosmonaut and from which Gregory Burke named his first play.

Concrete hippos and dinosaurs traverse the urban landscape in Glenrothes; cup and ring marks lie mute on Binn Hill whilst a green witch’s shop sits on the high street of Aberdour to deliver up soothing potions to the contemporary unwell.  A secret bunker channels cold war paranoia and the devil is reputedly buried on Kirkcaldy beach, interred by the occult energies of the dark magus Michael Scott.

These are just a few random scatterings from this space of possibilities. ‘A beggar’s mantle fringed with gold’… a palimpest of histories and vibrations.  A site for exploration.

Now playing: John Cage’s Etudes Boreales