Phil Cohen Biography

Phil Cohen is a cultural theorist, urban ethnographer, community activist, educationalist and poet. His is currently an Emeritus Professor in the Centre for Cultural Studies at the  University of East London, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London and Research Director of the Livingmaps Network.

Phil now has a Wikipedia entry!  Click here to view it.… Read the rest

Reading Room Only: Memoir of a Radical Bibliophile

Reading Room CoverFive Leaves Press Nottingham April 2013

Political activists  are popularly  supposed to be  wild eyed visionaries or ranting dogmatists  who spend their time manning  real  or imaginary  barricades. Bibliophiles, in contrast, are expected     to be quiet retiring  academic types who send their whole lives in libraries and can only relate to the world at second hand  through books.

In this memoir, Phil Cohen, alias Dr John of the London Street Commune, and erstwhile Professor of Cultural Studies  at the University of East London,  explodes these stereotypes as he re-traces his   chequered career from blitz kid  to public school dropout,   from hippy squatter  to cultural theorist, and from  urban ethnographer   to poet, through his obsession with books. … Read the rest

Autographologies: Reflections On Writing A Memoir

Autographologies (text)

This essay draws on the experience of writing  a memoir- ‘Reading Room Only’- to reflect on current trends, models and motivations within the genre. Philippe Lejeune’s notion of the ‘autobiographical pact’ is used to look at how different approaches to memoir-writing stake their claims to be an ‘authentic’ discourse of the self. In addition it is argued that life-story scripts, conveyed primarily through family and schooling, play an important role in the process of authentification, albeit one that is shifting as a result of changes in the culture, economy and society.… Read the rest

Scenes From A Missing Childhood

 Introduction:   ‘Scenes from a Missing Childhood’ is based on the author’s experience of growing up in London during the blitz; it consists of a sequence of short prose poems depicting screen memories associated with the V2 bombs,  his being sent away from home as an 18 month old baby to his grandmother in South Wales and the subsequent return. These pieces seek to create a narrative from fragments of experience which remained embedded like shrapnel in a badly damaged landscape and to convey a some of the feelings that had to evacuated in order to hold on to a sense of identity, however tenuously sustained.The… Read the rest

Formations Of Self And Society 1943-73: A Conversation With Cynthia Cockburn

2008  was forty years after  the student uprisings which  caused a storm in the teacups of the political establishment across the world. The anniversary was an occasion for  that generation, my generation, to take stock, to look back at the conjuncture  and consider how it had shaped  our politics  and subsequent lives.  As someone who  had been a student in the early sixties but had dropped out and become part of what became known as the ‘underground’ counter culture in London, I felt somewhat ambivalent about this spate of ‘memory work’,  most of it produced by ex student activists who had gone on to become established academics.… Read the rest

The Way We Were Then

The Way We Were : 144 Piccadilly  squat

A few years ago a TV company approached me to see if I would be interviewed for a programme they wanted to make about the Street Commune squat at 144 Piccadilly. It was to be broadcast as part of a series entitled ‘The Way We Were’ in which people who had been directly involved in recent historical events were asked to talk about their experiences, the interviews being intercut with archive film footage of the scenes being described.… Read the rest

144 And All That Proud Archivist Event

I was recently invited to read from my memoir ‘Reading Room Only’ and to reflect on the political legacy of  Sixties Counter Culture for the current struggles of ‘generation rent’ and the new precariat. This is a video recording of the talk. I hope you enjoy it. I would love to hear back from you if you have memories of this period and/or any comments on the contemporary relevance or otherwise of the London Street Communes.… Read the rest

Ben Cohen – My Story No Mean City

Click here view the slide tribute to Ben Cohen and check out the interview with Ben entitled  MyStory – No Mean City: Memories of the Gorbals in the twentiesRead the rest

A Tribute in Words and Pictures to Ste Thomson

We would like to thank  everyone  who attended the funeral and who sent messages of condolence and tribute   for their  support during this difficult time. It was especially moving to learn that Stephen had so many good friends, many of whom  turned up ,  and who also organised a face book network of over sixty people to share their memories of him.  … Read the rest

A Long Life in the Making


Phil’s has created a Vimeo video of the book with selected readings.


This is an afterword to my father’s  memoir which I have just edited  for forthcoming publication by eyeglass books.

I thought that the reader might  be interested to know a bit more  about the biographical background to this memoir, what motivated and influenced my father to write it,  its relation to other books about life in the Gorbals, and finally what was at stake for me personally in editing  the text.… Read the rest