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The loss of an icon? The Crescent Pub in Salford

The Crescent Pub, Salford (image taken from their website, http://www.thecrescentpub.com)

On Sunday after a weekend visiting the old haunts in Manchester for the weekend (and spending a day watching Jimmy Anderson skittle out South Africa’s batting line up), I took a slow drive along Chapel Street as I made my way back to the motorway. I wanted to see my old employer, the University of Salford as well as the changes to the area that I’d heard about from ex-colleagues. I was taken aback by the raft of identikit housing, the beautified (and frankly much better) ‘shared space’ of the new road layout, and the new cladding on the previously tired looking Salford Crescent Station. But the main draw for me was my old watering hole, the Salford Crescent pub. However, after noticing a small white notice on the window of the pub, I stopped the car to take a closer look. “Closed until further notice”. It was a troubling sign, not least as it meant I couldn’t pop in to have another look around.

But it wasn’t until this news article appeared that I now realise that me peering at that sign was probably the last time I’d see that glorious little pub. If the rumours are to be believed, it faces imminent closure and probable development into luxury housing or some other equally stereotypical gentrified usage.

Anytown, UK. The new (identikit) look of Chapel Street

Public houses are shutting across the country, so why is this one any different? Well, the Crescent isn’t just any pub. It has been a tavern since the 1830s, is a focal point of the community (hosting live music, meetings, and social events), a hub of student activism, and most famously, it is supposedly where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels met to discuss writing the Communist Manifesto. None of these things class a pub from being exempt from closure of course. But they combine to create a little island of anti-corporate sentiment being besieged by capital flows that are transforming the neighbourhood. Yes, it is a commercial venture that survives by having to sell goods and services, but it’s rich socialist history and its distinct community-orientated present operates within that to offer services that are now, sadly, genuinely unique.

Salford itself is also a city rich in working class history. The squalid conditions that Friedrich Engels encountered within the slums of Manchester and Salford inspired him to write The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. Since then, the city has been somewhat of a cauldron of working class struggles. It has a proud industrial history, and its politicians were instrumental in national welfare reform in the nineteenth century. It is also home to the Working Class Movement Library, and just last year, the University of Salford unveiled a statue of Engels on their central campus, a simulacrum to a communist history in the heartland of the commercial university. Over the last few years though, as Manchester has grown, it has begun to engulf Salford. The location of MediaCityUK in Salford Quays was a major coup for the city. But it has catalysed the extension of Manchester’s transport links to permeate Salford, blurring the boundaries of the two politically and in the general zeitgeist (speak to laymen and the BBC’s northern base is in Manchester, not Salford). This inevitably leads to the larger city dominating the smaller one, with Salford now struggling to maintain its identity amidst Manchester’s global city ambitions. The development of Chapel Street only serves to blur these boundaries further, turning it into little more than a commuter community for central Manchester.

The imminent closure of this pub then is somewhat of a symbolic watershed moment. The runaway gentrification of Chapel Street, the erosion of Salford’s rich socialist and communist history into a simulacrum, and the loss of a genuine community space in the midst of all this, all combine to make the loss of the Crescent particularly saddening for me. If it does ever open its doors again, I urge everyone to soak up the atmosphere (as much as the carpet soaks up the split ales) one last time, for it really is one of a kind.

 

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Scrolling Beat ’em ups, urban blight and the neoliberal city

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The best scrolling beat ’em up: The ultimate neoliberal fight against urban decay?

The first computer game I can recall playing was Target Renegade on the Amstrad. Essentially, you would scroll through various urban landscapes, kicking and punching other men (and some women) along the way. You had to walk  through car parks, urban streets and snooker clubs(?!) using nothing but your fists and feet (and the occasional appropriated weapon; a baseball bat, chain, mallet and yes, a snooker cue) to fight your way to the end-of-game boss. A tried and tested format which became one of the most important computer game genres of the 80s and 90s.

Of the many scrolling beat ’em ups that adorned our consoles over those years – Final Fight, Streets of Rage (1 and 2, 3 not so much) and even Two Crude Dudes – there was a similar trope being played out. A violent crime syndicate had taken over the city, and a group of dedicated, tough and very talented mercenaries took it upon themselves to clean up the streets, and perhaps rescue a loved one along the way. Like other cultural artefacts, do these games (and the genre more widely) reflect their contemporaneous social trends and anxieties, in this case, US inner-city decline of the 70s and 80s and the rise of neoliberalism and ‘enterprising self’ as the mode of social progression?  Continue reading


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Why you should do Cultural Geography

Flowers planted in used tear gas grenades form a memorial garden on the spot where, in a 2009 demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil'in, Bassem Abu Rahme was shot and killed with a high-velocity tear gas grenade fired by Israeli soldiers, Bil'in, West Bank, October 4, 2013. The grenades are left over from clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians during the weekly protest in Bil'in.

Flowers planted in used tear gas grenades form a memorial garden in the West Bank village of Bil’in, source here

With 2016 finally behind us, many of the New Year’s resolutions have been to roll up our sleeves and get to work protesting the perceived injustices of more intense neoliberalism, creeping fascism, growing wealth and income inequalities, and further environmental degradation. Resistance to these large-scale ideological movements is in many, many forms; for example taking to the streets post-Trump’s election, the massive demonstrations in Seoul, industrial action from junior doctors and other public sector workers, organised campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, and a multitude of anti-gentrification campaigns; and these are just the few that have held my attention over the last 12 months or so – there are many, many more. Continue reading


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CfP Boston #AAG2017: Rage Against the Machine: An exploration of the multiple geographies of rage, anger and hatred

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Organiser: Oli Mould (Royal Holloway, University of London)

The twenty-first century has been dominated by increasing ideological conflict. This has often manifested in ever-increasing political contestations, urban conflicts, religious fundamentalism, social polarisation and cultural marginalisation. The rise of far right and left political parties, the Arab Spring and the global Occupy movement, unfettered expansion of neoliberal philosophies, religious extremism, increasing wealth inequalities, homelessness; the symptoms of a multiplication in differing philosophical and ideological tendencies, all rubbing against each other within the every day.

Many of these phenomena are characterised by an articulation of rage.

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Activist Geographies Reading Group

For the first term of 2016/7, I will be convening an Activist Geographies Reading Group (AGRG) for undergraduates studying at Royal Holloway’s Geography Department – information re dates on the poster below.

Numbers are strictly limited, so if you want to come, I will be giving preference to students who can make ALL 4 sessions and who can demonstrate that they are invested in activism and activist scholarship more broadly. Do email me (or tweet me @olimould) if you want to know more.
agrg

 


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London plc. in 2026: 10 years on from the ashes of Brexit, a City-Corporation flourishes

Having been CEO of London plc. for 5 years now, Stuart Gulliver can step down from the role knowing that he will go into the history books as perhaps the greatest businessman of all time. London wasn’t even a company when he took over, and today in 2026, it is has a bigger turnover than any of the tech giants of the West Coast Division of Trumpland, and employs more people than the recently floated NHS. Reluctantly taking the role in July 2021 after the now infamous ‘Londexit’ vote, Mr. Gulliver was the obvious choice having been the CEO of London’s biggest financial institution HSBC for some 10 years previously. Continue reading


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The Calais Jungle – A slum of London’s making

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Were it not for the freezing winds, driving rain and half a foot of mud underfoot, walking around the Jungle camp in Calais could be mistaken for Dharavi or Kibera. The makeshift shelters of wood and tarpaulin, the improvised roads, open sewers and stench of human waste; there are many ugly ways in which the Jungle compares to the slums of the Global South. But also, there are thriving businesses, social services, educational programs and human creativity on full show; there are many positive ways the Jungle compares. And like the slums of Mumbai, Nairobi or other megacities of Global South, the Jungle is a product of the inequalities radiating from the nearby metropolis. But in this case, that metropolis is London. Continue reading