Note : This piece of writing, in which real events in my family  history  are interwoven with  those fictions of  self  invention  which Freud called the family romance, is in part a response to  the current  furore in the UK about antisemitism on the Left  and the problematic nature of Jewish identity politics. 1.Genealogy This much I was told: by night you slept soundly, framed between pictures of Lenin and Kropotkin as if guarding still untroubled dreams of Power and Freedom joining hands in  Zion’s promised land. By day you sold blankets  and Socialism  door to door to  miners wives  who bought them both on tick and left you broke but rich in expectations. Your papers  said Place of Birth Vitebsk, by trade a tailor. It was enough   to allow me, years later, to picture you flying like Chagall’s bridegroom ,leap frogging over Tsarist police, making landfall in Glasgow,in time [Read More…]


left fields and the quest for common ground  A day of discussions and debates  bringing together different generations of   writers,  researchers and activists to consider the political and cultural legacies of  1968, their bearing on the  future prospects for a more democratic, equal  and participatory society and for modes of research in the arts, humanities and social sciences  that can underpin it. We aim to rekindle the intellectual ferment of that time but focussed around contemporary issues. Date: September 22nd 2018  Venue: One University Square, Stratford E 15 1NF Tickets:  Early Bird  £10/£5.  After July 30  £15/£7.50. Booking:  Rationale ‘Left field’ is originally a baseball term, but one which was taken up by commentators and critics in the 1980’s at the high point of post modernism to promote the originality of artists and thinkers whose work was not otherwise on the cultural map. In this context the term took [Read More…]

After 1968 :Left legacies and the politics of remembrance

There is an old saw about the so-called swinging sixties: if you can remember it you weren’t there. This  has the rather interesting corollary that if you were’nt there, if you have to consult the archive  or rely on second hand accounts rather than your own experience, then you are more likely  to grasp  the events  in more detail, depth and  accuracy  than someone whose hippocampus and neural pathways have been irreversibly damaged by taking too much acid while ‘on the scene’ . We are living in a culture whose collective memory is no longer primarily conveyed  through to face to face story telling ,  but  is stored, retrieved and disseminated through  the prosthetic devices of digital technology and social media. Whatever we remember or don’t about 1968, whether we were there and actively involved or not, our sense of  this conjuncture and  what it represented,  is massively mediated  in [Read More…]

 LONDON AFTERSHOCK:    Museum of London Salon Script

  This is the full script for a  salon organised by LivingMaps at the Museum of London in December 2017, as part of their City Now, City Future programme. THE GREAT DEBATE The chair and two speakers seated on platform , with lectern and mikes.   Introduction In Town Tonite sound/music sequence with accompanying visuals , freeze on STOP Announcers Voice :We halt the mighty roar of London’s traffic  to bring you : Welcome to our salon. I am Phil Cohen , Research director of Living Maps and we have put together an  evening of live performance, multimedia, debate and play  in which we will be exploring  different visions of life in London in 2049 when it has become a city of perpetual commotion, officially dedicated to those who like living life in the fast lane. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe,  some Londoners have chosen to defend themselves against future [Read More…]


In the age of Instagram and Facebook, when people are constantly  ‘updating their status’,  and keeping family and friends ‘in the loop’ about the smallest detail of their everyday lives, a Xmas  blog  looking back and reflecting on the year’s events, both personal and political, must seem  either redundant or an act of self indulgence, along with too many mince pies. Yet annual stock taking is still  perhaps too necessary  a business to be left to the professional commentariat  or to  business people with  their overwhelming interest in seeing a return on their  investment of time and energy  in the form of  ‘quick hits’ or ‘results’.  Once we take  financial accountancy out of the moral equation  we discover that ‘benchmarks’, ‘gauges’, ‘ litmus tests’, ‘yard sticks’, ‘barometers’, ’milestones’   and all the other pseudo- material tropes for conjuring  measures of progress  out of  an increasingly de-materialised economy, are  indeed hollow  metaphors [Read More…]

Finding uncommon ground: working-class identity politics after Labourism

Finding uncommon ground: working-class identity politics after Labourism[1] Don’t talk to me of fucking representing the class yer were born into any more. Yer going to get ’urt and start resenting it’s not poetry we need in this class war. Yer’ve given yerself toffee, cunt. Who needs yer fucking poufy words. Ah write mi own. Ah’ve got mi work on show all ovver Leeds like this UNITED ’ere on some sod’s stone. Tony Harrison, V You don’t choose the family or the circumstances you are born into but you can choose your tribe Katy Perry Between tribe and multitude: the shape-shifters of class For many on the British left, ‘identity politics’ emerged out of the radical student and youth cultures of the late 1960s, at a time when the onward march of Labour was beginning to grind to a halt in the face of the first wave of de-industrialisation. Identity [Read More…]

London 2012  and the Post Olympic City- A Hollow Legacy ?

Edited by Phil Cohen and Paul Watt Published Palgrave Macmillan  May 2017 ISBN 987-1-137-48946-3 The strap line for 2012 was ‘Inspire a Generation’, and with the advent of the Rio Games a new chapter in Olympic history is  being  written – now is the time  to both look back and forward , and reach a considered verdict about how far that promise has been delivered. The London 2012 Olympics are widely seen as a success story. In the referendum debate the Brexiteers  made much  of a moment in which the nation came together to surmount its internal   divisions and triumphantly  stood on its own feet  to show its best face to the world. Even if the moment did not last long,  there is still an official optimism that   2012 will provide a lasting legacy of benefits to the host communities of East London.  As always there is a counter-narrative, in [Read More…]

Livingmaps Network

  LIVINGMAPS is an international  network of artists, activists and academics concerned to develop  the theory and practice of critical cartography . It was founded in 2013 and established as a not- for profit- company in 2015. We collaborate with a wide range of organisations,  from community  and youth groups, to museums, galleries and university research departments. Our conceptual  approach is trans-disciplinary, bringing together  geographers, photographers and ethnographers , digital and environmental  activists, visual and performance artists  in common projects and discussions. Our practice  explores  innovative   methods  of  counter-mapping drawing on state of the art technologies.    We are committed to developing cartography as a participatory and democratic platform of civic engagement  with  all forms of social inequality and injustice . ONLINE JOURNAL Livingmaps Review is an open access journal published twice a year in Spring and Autumn.It carries scholarly articles together with shorter more experimental pieces, reports of work in [Read More…]

February Blog There goes the neighbourhood

FEBRUARY BLOG :THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD – AN URBAN TRIPTYCH   1)  Chic by Growl   I recently moved into a new neighbourhood in Islington. My flat is  in  a large Peabody Estate, off the Essex Road, quite close to the area which Ruth Glass  made the object of her famous study on ‘gentrification’. I am living in one of the earliest ‘ model dwellings’  built in the 1860’s for the ‘industrious working classes’ by  the great Canadian philanthropist and which  became  an inspiration for the  development of social housing in Britain. Today the estate’s inhabitants are a cross section of all those  who cannot  afford to buy or rent in the private housing market, and increasingly this is including middle class professional people  like myself. A recent study of local housing conditions concluded that by 2020  you would have to be either very rich or very poor to remain [Read More…]

Finding Uncommon ground : re-thinking  working class identity politics in post Brexit Britain 

  Part One : Subtle Dialectics,Crude Thoughts  ‘In order to save the Party we had to destroy it’ (with  acknowledgement to Bert  Brecht) After the so called uprising of June 23/When  business and political leaders /had leaflets distributed /stating that the people/had forfeited their confidence/and could win it back only/by redoubled efforts  in another referendum /Would it not be easier in this case /for the government/to dissolve the people/and elect another?/Such a subtle dialectic/Trading places with  such crude thoughts. After the  attempted  coup of June 28/when members of the PLP/had leaflets distributed/stating that their leader/had forfeited their confidence /and could only win it back/by giving up the ghost/would it not be easier in this case also /to dissolve the membership/and elect a committee of psycho-pomps/to lead the now non-existent party/to a new underworld ?/Such a crude thought/In search of  subtle dialectic. I wrote this poem  because I was  invited to [Read More…]