On the Wrong Side of the Track? East London and the Post Olympics

  On the Wrong Side of the Track draws on insights from the human sciences to challenge the arguments of Olympophiles for whom the Games can do no wrong as well as Olympophobes for whom they can do no right, using 2012 as a lens through which to examine underlying trends in contemporary culture. What did the 2012 Olympics tell us about who we are, who we were, and who we want to be? This book takes 2012 as a starting point for a debate on national identity, community cohesion, urban regeneration and the persistence of inequalities in British society – from the vantage point of East London not only as the main Olympic venue but also as the main argument why Britain won its Olympic bid. Part one sets the scene, exploring the changing social and physical landscape of East London from the inside – including voices from East [Read More…]

On the Wrong Side of the Track Gallery

Below are images from the book On the Wrong Side of the Track which is described here.   Click on the image to advance.

Thinking Through The Olympics: Some Online Resources

The field of Olympic Studies exists at the intersection of many disciplines, each of which has its own angle, its own story to tell: the historical sociology of sport; media and cultural studies; the anthropology of performance; urban and community studies; political science, and so on. The field is also traversed by what might be called hyper-disciplines – theories and methodologies that claim to provide general paradigms of understanding for the human sciences viz Marxism, feminism, post-colonial studies, post-structuralism, each of which has its own strategy for topicalising the field, its own preferred reading of the issues centred variously on class, gender, ethnicity or discourse analysis. It is not easy to bring these different approaches into any kind of productive dialogue, let alone concordance, yet that is the challenge and excitement of working in this field. Below I have compiled some online resources to inform, provoke, amuse and entertain. I [Read More…]

Olympic Dreams and Nightmares

This gallery of 192 images  contains the following sections: Mix n Kitsch Scenes from the Tempest The Nay Sayers :images of protest The Anti-Industrial machine The Ceremonies-inter-ludology Carrying the torch- Ideal worlds and imaginary cities Dialectics of the Enlightenment It is designed as a visual essay to compliment Part two of ‘On the Wrong Side of the Track?’   Download the PowerPoint here:  Olympic Dreams and Nightmares.  Please note that depending on your connection speed the download may take some time due to the size of the file.  To view the media, the gallery above contains the same slides.

East London – A Journey through the Ruins

A Journey through the Ruins of East London.   Download the PowerPoint here: Journey Through the Ruins.  Please note that depending on your connection speed the download may take some time due to the size of the file.  To view the media, the gallery above contains the same slides.

Body Politics

This gallery of 120 images in Body Politics contains the following sections: Elemental Labour-Mummers, miners and sweeps Time and Motion Studies-Automata Youth culture and extreme sport Physical culture and the dream of the collective body Masculinity and  manual labour in a post industrial world. It is designed to support ‘On the wrong Side of the Track?’ and ‘Borderscapes’. ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]  Download the PowerPoint here:  Body Politics.  Please note that depending on your connection speed the download may take some time due to the size of the file.  To view the media, the gallery above contains the same slides.

 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…]

SPEAKING OUT OF PLACE : reflections on London’s post Olympic legacy

Q: Who said: ‘As a microcosm of what we hope to achieve,  look at the Olympics and their Legacy….We have set ourselves the goal of ‘convergence’.  The idea is that kids growing up in East London should have the same life chances as anywhere else. There is no reason why the kids of East London should not benefit from, say, rugby, as much as the kids from Richmond. After two hours of hard physical exercise such as scrumming and tackling around the ankles, a 16 year old is less likely to want to get into a gang fight.’ A:Boris Johnson in 2020 Vision. The Greatest City on Earth: Ambitions for London   The Olympic Games are unique  amongst mega sporting events, not just because of the scale of infrastructure investment and impact on host cities, not even because of the scope of media attention, which provides an unparalleled platform for [Read More…]


‘From its delirious counter-factual opening, through a cavalcade of arguing and asserting voices, a necessary, intelligent, and balanced response to a moment of local and national hallucination is achieved. If the book works, the Olympic madness can serve a useful purpose: in making us look harder at ourselves and the place where we have chosen to live.‘   Iain Sinclair                                                         0-0-0-0-0 Phil Cohen’s cantankerous, meticulous, jam-packed investigation of the coming of the 2012 Olympic Games to East London, On the Wrong Side of the Track? East London and the Post Olympics (Lawrence & Wishart),took me by surprise. It is the kind of guide to presentday  Spectacle I had been waiting for. Back in the 1960s, Cohen was the most brilliant of the early English readers of French Freud and the structuralists. I remember pages of his impatient handwriting peppered with Lacanian algorithms aiming to reconcile, or at least analogize, the structures [Read More…]

This is East 20? Urban fabrication and the re-making of Olympic Park 

  Introduction The Olympic Park has been  defined in many different ways :as a ‘lieu de memoire’ for Olympophiles, a  vision of the future city,   a local public amenity for East Enders, a global  visitor destination, a major  venue  for sports enthusiasts, and  the location of a series of residential neighbourhood eventually housing over 20,000 people. How can these different functions be  combined, if at all?  This chapter looks at the plans  for the Post Olympic transformation of the site, and the translation of East 20 from  the fictional address  of   the nation’s favourite  TV programme  to  the real mis-en- scene of a rather different kind of soap opera. The chapter explores the complex  process of urban fabrication: the creation of new infrastructure, its investment with  meaning through  official promotional discourses and locally situated narratives, and the evolving patterns of social navigation and use of the built and landscaped environment. [Read More…]