Demand the Impossible: New Communities and Concrete Human Existence: Stephen Pritchard

A great blog and site and an interesting article (amongst many).

This is my paper I presented alongside Cara Courage and Sir Nick Serota at The Coming Community conference at MK Gallery on 24th May 2019. It followed by, overlaps with, and is linked to the keynote I did the previous day in Berlin


The UK is facing many crises. Our NHS is in crisis. Our schools are in crisis. Our government is in crisis. We face a staggering homelessness crisis. Many of our families and children are suffering from abject poverty. Racism and fascism are on the rise. Our culture (or rather our cultures) are in crisis. And, of course, we are facing a housing crisis of a magnitude not faced since the end of the Second World War. People are being dispossessed of and displaced from their homes and there’s nowhere, for many, to go.

And we talk about creative placemaking…

Don’t get me wrong, we need to build entirely new cities, towns and villages and we need to build them all over the UK, not just centred around the South East of England. We need to build much more than just new villages, towns and cities, however. We need to build new economies that deal with the London-centric population and wealth accumulation that has for far too long sucked the life and the people from other UK countries and the English regions into its all-consuming core. This needs new infrastructure and restructured investment of a kind never before imagined.

We need to make new towns and cities and villages that are well-connected - in every sense of the word; that are able to mitigate the climate catastrophe this country and our planet now faces; that provide real jobs that give people real security – not precarious post-Fordist living which fetishises artists as its ragged heroes. We need to return to local living – whether in villages, towns or cities.

We need these new places to have all the facilities that future generations will need. We need community centres and sports facilities and green spaces. Far too many have been sold-off for profit or destroyed by thoughtless developments. And, of course, the communities who have lost the most are those who had the least to begin with: working-class communities. We need communities. We need community spirit. Capitalism and neoliberalism have devastated our communities and our ways of being and living together creatively.

We must Demand The Impossible.

Unfortunately, creative placemaking does not demand the impossible. It reproduces and reinforces the already possible. And it does this over and over and over again. Pretty bunting, patches of grass, rainbow pedestrian crossings, bikeable, walkable, commissioned street art, quirky sunflower street signs, saccharin-sweet salves to the onward march of a neoliberalism that is well-versed in disguising its heartlessly selfish greed behind colourful and fun symbols of capital.

I have written my critique of creative placemaking at length elsewhere and will not rehearse my arguments in detail here today. Suffice to say that we need to think much bigger and demand the impossible right now!

We need to take back our existing cities, towns and villages from the grabbing hands of capital and profit. We need to take back our new towns, cities and villages before they are even built; whilst they are being built. We have a right to the city (and other places where we live) and we must exercise our right to the city by demanding the impossible.

We need to organise ourselves and we need to demand we are, at national, regional, and, crucially, local levels fully able to participate in the planning of our social, economic and political systems at every level.

We live in – and this is becoming increasingly apparent as each day passes – a failing representative democracy that has always favoured the few, not the many. We need to rethink this political system and put people at the heart of everything that we do, every decision that we make. We need participatory democracy and that should be, wherever possible, devolved to as local a level as is possible.

I’m talking about a radical shift in how we govern ourselves and those who have ruled over us for centuries and centuries will not let their grip on power slip. Our rights have never been gifted to us and they will not now. We have always had to struggle. And it is struggle that is behind my notion of place guarding – something very different yet in some ways similar to placemaking.

The trouble with placemaking and, perhaps even more so with creative placemaking, is that it does not and cannot offer people the freedom to take back the city because it is often rolled out as an integral part of neoliberalism’s totalising system. Creative placemaking uses art to window-dress neoliberal regeneration and renewal agendas.

The crucial question here is: ‘Why should we (re)make your places for you?’

People, communities, cultures already exist in places. They produce and reproduce their own social spaces.

Creative placemaking is ultimately a state- and local authority-led policy, filtered down to arts institutions and then on to artists and down to participants and audiences via agencies, funders and a raft of philanthropic foundations and charities. Agencies typically seek to ‘empower’ marginalised people and places through a mixture of socially engaged art, education and outreach.

Whilst creative placemaking could avoid criticism that it is simply remaking places to fit white, middle-class norms, thereby effectively acting to help gentrify neighbourhoods, by being deployed in new cities and towns, it will still, I argue, serve as a toolkit for state- and local authority-led governance, planning and design principles that are tied to false forms of “participation” and “inclusion”.

Place guarding is different. It puts people first, not place. It puts the people who either already live in an area threatened by redevelopment first, or, in the case of new towns and cities (which of course also have existing populations and environments, etc.), place guarding puts the existing and new inhabitants at the heart of deciding what the new urban space needs.

People need to decide on what development and redevelopment is needed, not be “consulted” when planners and government officials have drawn up “draft” plans.

Place guarding is about demanding the impossible. This impossible is, of course, possible: a realisable utopia.



Utopia stands in opposition to the present culture and against the dominant ideology that controls our social, political and economic thinking with mantras like There Is No Alternative. Critical utopias seek to imagine new visions of that which has not yet been realised but which is immanently realisable.

This type of thinking is about hope for a better world and a radically different world from the one we live in today. It is about thinking about both what has and has not yet been achieved. It is about visualising futures that go beyond a commodity society and global economy based upon the exploitation of humans and nature and natural resources.

Critical utopias imagine futures that cannot be fully articulated because they do not yet exist.

My approach to place guarding is grounded in praxis – in practice as research and research as practice – in thinking and doing. Living and being creatively.

Henri Lefebvre in Critique of Everyday Life wrote:

Our towns may be read like a book … [They] show us the history of power and of human possibilities which, while becoming increasingly broad, have at the same time been increasingly taken over and controlled …

He points out that it is not academics or populists or middle-class people, or even artists alone, who are best placed to decide upon the everyday lives of working-class people. Working-class people and communities should be trusted to build the places and spaces they need and desire together.

Rethinking our cultures is clearly part of that. We must break free of a limited and narrow definition of culture and instead accept that, in the words of Raymond Williams, culture is ordinary. It exists in the everyday. It is everyday life. And it is only by being trusted to fully participate in the unfulfilled possibilities of everyday life and our cultures and cultural activities that everyone can begin to experience the possibilities of concrete human existence.

This is because space is socially produced. It is a concrete abstraction. And to socially produce space based on the principles of neoliberal capitalism transforms such spaces into commodities to be produced, distributed and consumed. This is the language (no matter how it is dressed up) of creative placemaking.

Utopia – and particularly critical utopias – are tomorrow’s possibilities.

Creative placemaking is the product of neoliberalism – make no mistake. And neoliberalism is a false utopia, offering only further oppression for the majority of people. As Lefebvre pointed out in 1968, “To put art at the service of the urban does not mean to prettify urban space with works of art.”

Urban Warfare: housing under the empire of finance: Event March 25th 2019


On Monday Professor Raquel Rolnik will present key arguments from her latest book ‘Urban Warfare: housing under the empire of finance’.


This book launch will discuss how our homes and neighbourhoods have become the “last subprime frontiers of capitalism”.


Raquel Rolnik’s new book explores how financialisation has colonised cities and housing systems around the world, provoking homelessness and dispossession despite its promise of homeownership for all. The book examines housing politics and policy from numerous national contexts including the UK, Kazakhstan, Chile, the USA and Brazil. Rolnik will offer a searing critique of the political economy of housing under neoliberalism and a poignant analysis of how it has decimated households across the globe, as well as an account of how residents and social movements are fighting back.


Monday 25 March, 6:30-8:00pm

PAN.G.01, Pankhurst House

Speaker: Professor Raquel Rolnik (University of São Paulo)

Discussants: Dr Glyn Robbins (Defend Council Housing), Dr David Madden (LSE)

Chair: Dr Suzi Hall (LSE)

 This event is open to all


See you there perhaps…..


Northern Soul Scene Book Launch - May 1st 2019

The launch of this groundbreaking book takes place at Birmingham City University on May 1st. It is an all day event with a variety of presentations and discussions and all are welcome.


To find out more about the book: 

Im very pleased to have been invited to contribute a chapter to the book, details below:

I'm Still Looking for Unknowns All the Time: The Forward (E)motion of Northern Soul Dancing

Paul Sadot


Drawing on the author’s embodied knowledge as a Northern Soul dancer, and his work as a practice research scholar investigating popular dance forms, this chapter investigates two distinct Northern Soul scenes: the ‘oldies’ and the ‘newies’. It places in dialogue notions of space, temporality and musical taste to examine how each scene constructs and relates to Northern Soul history and the different movement vocabularies that result. In doing so, the chapter discusses evolving musical diversity on the northern soul scene, set against notions of fixity, historical re-enactment and pastiche, and their relationship to a version of northern soul dancing that has gripped the imagination of outside UK media and academics for some time. It explores how these corporeal myths are often acted out by insiders on the oldies scene and examines the possible impact on the dancing styles of younger participants.


Sadot, Paul. I'm Still Looking for Unknowns All the Time: The Forward (E)motion of Northern Soul Dancing. The Northern Soul Scene. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 292-310 Feb 2019. ISBN 9781781795583.

In My Beginning Is My End' by Stephen Pritchard

‘The instrumentalisation of our arts and culture reduces our culture to money – to economic outcomes, cost benefit analyses, jobs created by the “creative industries” (Adorno turns in his grave), etc.; and to numbers – people and places are counted and analysed, their individuality, their cultural differences, their collective identities, their very humanity turned into dots and lines on graphs and pins and coloured segments on maps.’

Taken from the blog: ART, ACTIVISM & POLITICS IN THE PLACE WHERE WE LIVE by Dr Stephen Pritchard - for full article

This is culture-by-numbers.  A dot-to-dot culture.  A culture of imposed uniformity, categorisation, stereotyping and exclusion.  A new system that meets the insatiable demands of neoliberalism based upon an old system of elitism, power, wealth, property, manipulation, and control.

Instrumentalism reproduces and reinforces our subjugation, our suppression, our exploitation, our oppression.  When our arts and our cultures are instrumentalised (both directly and indirectly) by governments and government agencies (central and local alike), corporations, NGOs, and other third sector organisations alike, as they clearly are today, they become vehicles for “outcomes” which are inherently political and economic in nature. “ (Pritchard, 2018)

Book Launch - Choreomania: Dance and Disorder: Kélina Gotman

A reminder the launch event for Choreomania: Dance and Disorder (OUP, 2018) will be taking place at the Horse Hospital, Bloomsbury, next Wednesday 20th June 6.30-8.30pm. Featuring film screenings, theory bursts, and good cheer. 


On the book:


Choreomania: Dance and Disorder

Kélina Gotman

Oxford Studies in Dance Theory, Oxford University Press, 2018, 384pp.

When political protest is read as epidemic madness, religious ecstasy as nervous disease, and angular dance moves as dark and uncouth, the disorder being described is choreomania. At once a catchall term to denote spontaneous gestures and the unruly movements of crowds, choreomania emerged in the nineteenth century at a time of heightened class conflict, nationalist policy, and colonial rule. In this book, author Kélina Gotman examines these choreographies of unrest, rethinking the modern formation of the choreomania concept as it moved across scientific and social scientific disciplines. Reading archives describing dramatic misformations of bodies and body politics, she shows how prejudices against expressivity unravel, in turn revealing widespread anxieties about demonstrative agitation. This history of the fitful body complements stories of nineteenth-century discipline and regimentation. As she notes, constraints on movement imply constraints on political power and agency. In each chapter, Gotman confronts the many ways choreomania works as an extension of discourses shaping colonialist orientalism, which alternately depict riotous bodies as dangerously infected others, and as curious bacchanalian remains. Through her research, Gotman also shows how beneath the radar of this colonial discourse, men and women gathered together to repossess on their terms the gestures of social revolt.



Introduction: Choreomania, Another Orientalism
Part I: Excavating Dance in the Archives
1. Obscuritas Antiquitatis: Institutions, Affiliations, Marginalia
2. Madness after Foucault: Medieval Bacchanals
3. Translatio: St. Vitus's Dance, Demonism and the Early Modern
4. The Convulsionaries: Antics on the French Revolutionary Stage
5. Mobiles, Mobs and Monads: Nineteenth-Century Crowd Forms
6. Médecine Rétrospective: Hysteria's Archival Drag

Part II: Colonial and Postcolonial Stages: Scenes of Ferment in the Field
7. "Sicily Implies Asia and Africa": Tarantellas and Comparative Method
8. Ecstasy-belonging in Madagascar and Brazil
9. Ghost Dancing: Excess, Waste and the American West
10. "The Gift of Seeing Resemblances": Cargo Cults in the Antipodes
11. Monstrous Grace: Blackness and the New Dance "Crazes"
12. Coda: Moving Fields, Modernity and the Bacchic Chorus 

“A conceptual tour-de-force! Gotman effectively mobilizes Foucault, Said, Foster, Agamben, and Gilroy to assemble a discursive history of choreomania. Progressive, 21st-century thinking that incorporates critical race theory, feminist theory, and the crucial critique of modern scientific approaches to movement. A triumph for dance studies that reflects an always-changing world-in-motion, ever-activated by shifting political circumstances.”—Thomas F. DeFrantz, Professor of Dance, African and African American Studies, and Theatre Studies, Duke University

 “Offering an astute history of ideas about dance that charts both fears and desires about bodies in movement, Gotman crafts a truly insightful way of thinking, which is to say moving, across and among the archives and the fields in which ‘dance’ is practiced and given to remain, deployed and never quite contained. Throughout Gotman’s keen analyses, 19th-century choreomania is read not only in relationship to but also as the best and the worst of modern biopolitics.”—Rebecca Schneider, Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University

Elisabeth Murdoch's appointment to ACE signals Corporate takeover of the Arts in UK: Sign Petition

Elisabeth Murdoch's appointment to Arts Council England National Council is a corporate takeover of the arts - a takeover facilitated by Sir Nicholas Serota and his wife Teresa Gleadowe

"The appointment of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth Murdoch to Arts Council England’s National Council is not only deeply troubling, given her close ties to the Murdoch corporate empire, but is also a glaring example of how nefarious the UK arts establishment has become. The appointment of ex-Tate boss Sir Nicholas Serota as Chair of Arts Council England has clearly ushered in a new era of favouritism and nepotism in which a tiny select elite grease the palms of each other and their friends and family. Just look at the biographies of the other members of the National Council."


Radio Show: Guest with Annie Turner on The Outer Limits

The Outer Limits with Annie Turner

Absolutely thrilled to be able to let you know that joining us in the Radio Newark studio on Monday 18th December is Paul Sadot. Dancer, choreographer, director and actor.

He plays "Tuff" in one of my top five films of all time - Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes, set in the heart of the Midlands alongside Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch and Newark's own Toby Kebbell and unfortunately for him he meets a very nasty end indeed.

He'll be choosing some of his favourite tracks and chatting about all sorts. Please join us at 8pm on 107.8FM or online

KISMIF (keep it simple make it fast) Conference - call for proposals

You don’t have to research punk to get involved in KISMIF Conference, it’s about sociology, popular music, youth and arts cultures and on and on. It’s a huge event in social sciences, humanities and arts. It’s not only about music, it’s a fantastic academic experience. It’s a life experience. Make your proposal today here