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 chair and two speakers seated on platform , with lectern and mikes.



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 shock  and put the brakes on.

The clip we have just heard is from the intro to  ‘In Town Tonight’, a popular BBC radio  news programme which ran from 1936 to 1964, and it illustrates very well the central issue we are setting out to address here: the mighty  roar of London’s  commerce with the world , has not ceased to intensify as globalisation penetrates ever more deeply into the social fabric of our great city . It  is sweet music to some ears, part of the global urban buzz, whilst to others it is a cacophony  which deafens the voices of its citizens, especially those forced to live  precariously  on the economic margins: the poor, the homeless,  the wretched of the earth .But equally the sudden arrest of this momentum, applying the emergency brake to runaway urban ‘regeneration’ ,’ while it may afford a space and time for alternative visions of the city to be heard,  may also presage the  collapse  of its most vital infrastructures. In the teeming silence, amidst the haunted  ruins of the hollowed out city, some quite nasty things may take root and flourish. This is the great Fear of Brexit and its possibly dire consequences for London’s culture and economy..

This is not a new issue, although it has taken on a special urgency  in the wake of the financial crash and now Brexit., both of which have administered short sharp shocks to our prevailing  system of political economy .

Shock , according to Walter Benjamin writing in the 1920’s was the normal state of everyday life in the big city, linked to the advent of the railway , the automobile and all the other technologies which were speeding up the circulation of commodities, information, and people. Benjamin could never quite decide whether the impact of this accelerated pace of urban life  was to force people into a chronic state of dissociation or distraction, a kind of general numbing down as everyone  cocoons themselves within their own fractured worlds or  whether it would create platforms for the  emergence of new and more dynamic cultural forms breaking out of the parochial, inward looking communitarianism ,associated with  what Hannah Arendt has called the ‘nationalism of the neighbourhood.’

So  shock in this view  is double edged,  a moment of violent disruption , which can provoke a purely reactive, nihiistic  NIMBYism, but  it  can also serve as a prompt for a more creative and proactive response .

Those two perspectives are still held in some kind of  tension in  Benjamin’s  reading of the capitalist city,  highlighting  the contradiction  between  its dynamic modernity , as both  a  creative  and destructive  force , so spectacularly concentrated  in  the downtown areas of commerce and political  power,  and the backward looking  conservatism of so much of its domestic  architecture especially in the sprawling suburbs. That tension is there too  in  the discordance  between  the agitated rhythms of  popular urban culture soundtracking   mass commutes between home and work   and  the leisurely tempo of the bourgeois  flaneur strolling around the  downtown shopping Arcade. Whereas in Benjamin’s Paris or Berlin these  could be  seen as two complimentary sides of the same big  city  story,   today ,  these  different aspects of city life  have hardened into rival camps within the field of contemporary urbanism, and given rise to competing futurologies

. In the first half of the salon we are going  to explore  these contrasting  discourses, which may be broadly characterised as accelerationist and conservationist , through a  head- to -head debate  between two of their leading exponents , each of whom will present their vision of London 2049. After you have heard the arguments you will have an opportunity in the second half of the evening to test or challenge these views  as you  respond to different scenarios of urban future  shock and  work in small groups to create rooms  for a future Museum of London based on what you would like to see removed, restored,  retained or repurposed   to make the city into your kind of town.

So now to introduce our two speakers. Toni Vertigo is  from the Centre for Urban Acceleration. In her recent book  Cities Unbound  she has argued that  the permanent revolution of   urban life,  far from  producing widespread alienation,    will  sweep away existing structures of hierarchy and  inequality and transform  London into a smart city  run by and for its citizens.   In response, we will hear from  Doctor  Annie Ambler  who is   director of  the International Institute of Not Doing Much  and author of In praise of Indolence   in which she argues  that  London should become a city for those who want to live in the slow lane, much of it pedestrianized, with a green economy, low density housing, ‘organic’ architecture,  vastly extended  recreational space, and a public transport system built on a sustainable  eco-technology of ‘slowmobiles’.

So first  up  and to begin our debate will you please welcome Toni Vertigo.

TONI VERTIGO ( she speaks fast  using a series of hip hop gestures to punctuate her words : viz Mos Def Wave, Slim Shady Chop and the Ninja Star – these points are notated as HHG )

Thanks for the intro, Phil buddy,  and Hi there  fellow accelerationists ( gestures to the whole audience) . Yes  really I   mean all of you , whether you know it or like it or not, you are fully paid up subscribers to the Accelerationist movement (HHG)..You are all mobile phone users, right? you have Tablets, laptops, right?(HHG) All these digital devices mean you are part of the ever accelerating flow of information, goods and services   that are the life blood of a global city like London; increasing amounts of your work, your leisure and  your personal relations   are dependant on  these  rapid transit  systems.  Whether its  speed dating, snatching a snack at a fast food restaurant  or meeting a deadline for some piece of work and posting it to the other side of the globe in seconds, we are all of us in some way or other part of the digital economy ,  caught up in the circuit of its networked infrastructures. Nowadays  It  just aint  possible to live off grid. , being self sufficient , not having to tangle with the market economy or the state- ,OK   it may be  an ideal  for some , even an attractive one , but its a false utopia .A cop out (HHG).

Why? Cos these technologies offer real fixes , real affordances,  but  they do it in a lopsided way  that maximises profit   for the big corporate players in the digital economy :Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter; and minimises  the pay offs for ordinary citizens .The way to change this , to make sure the digital economy works for the many not the few, is not to  drop out of it, not to ignore it, but to  actively engage with it , to push it beyond the limits imposed on it by capitalism, and the drive for private profit .

This aint exactly news from nowhere (HHG). Marx was the first accelerationist – he pointed out that what he called the productive forces(technologies)   tended  to make knowledge ever more socially productive, accessible and shareable for the public good  but this was being held back by the  relations of production , by private ownership and control, by monopolies, cartels, restrictive work practices. That’s why he was all for  developing technology ,  going all out for full automation,  because he thought that would create  the conditions for  a new kind of  society, in which people were freed from monotonous soul destroying   work and  would be able to concentrate  their energies  on doing  properly human stuff  like educating  and  caring for one another, co-operative enterprises and creative endeavours of every kind.   It would be a society of abundance ,  there would be  enough to go around , from each according to their ability to each according to their need,  based on a universal basic income .

So what would an accelerationists city look like (HHG)? .For a start It would be one where all the obstacles to  free circulation  of goods, services and people had been removed. So yes an end to traffic gridlock, by banning private cars from the centre of London , so yes  the development of free or very cheap and fast public transport systems, monorails, overhead cycle routes and cable cars  . The automobile would finally live up to its name and become fully driverless , getting you from A to Z in the fastest and safest possible time , reducing  untold stress and carnage on the roads. London would become a velo-city( HHG).

And  yes It would mean dismantling all those bureaucratic bottlenecks  which at present riddle the planning process and make London’s governance   unaccountable and  impervious to  popular demands. We will devolve  all power  including taxation to the Greater London Assembly, and if that means London sheering off from the rest of the UK  so be it. In London 2049 , there will be no local councils , because these administrative boundaries are an irrelevance in the  space / time of global flows. Instead there will be a  form of direct  democracy , with  on line  plebiscites on every aspect of urban policy:  housing, education, health, welfare , the environment .  The electronic agora  would make smart cities immediately responsive to the needs of its citizens and speed up the whole process of decision making.

At the same time  bio and nano –technology will create an abundance of  food and material goods .  In what is left of the Green Belt we will build new info- tech nodes, complete  with business parks, high density, high quality  and highly affordable housing.

Cogno-tech will revolutionise the process of learning . Compulsory education for 5- 16 year olds will be abolished, because if you have to compel  children and young  people to learn about the world , you start off on the wrong foot.    Schools will  be replaced by 24/7  community learning hubs   for all ages , with science and technology studies forming the core curriculum along with the arts.  Universal basic income will include life long learning vouchers .  Disabled  and elderly people in London will be issued with free domestic robots to help them  remain independent in their own homes .  All London’s hospitals  will include cryonic centres,  and properly funded  medical technology will transform the quality and quantity of life..

But  how will  London 2049  cope with global warming  as it  begins to hit home and flood barriers are  powerless to hold back the rising tides .  No it wouldn’t  be a post apocalyptic  ruin, out of a JG Ballard  story (HHG). No , it wouldn’t  look like something out of Blade Runner (HHAG)  . But it might look like a  high tech version of Venice, with  streets forming a network of canals and  advanced hydraulic engineering  systems  keeping the city afloat. Of course we need  to rethink the built environment  to withstand climate change and extreme weather events. We need a new high density, high tech architecture ,  some of it on stilts, creating vertical living ,working and play spaces linked by horizontal virtual networks. So we need visionary architects , planners and politicians to grasp the opportunities that are opening up to put London at the cutting edge of change in the transition to a post capitalist society. Accelerationists don’t advocate speed for its own sake but because its technologies  open up  a new deterritorialized   space of  social and cultural fluidity  and blow away the fixed  hierarchies, the  command and control structures  of corporate power  .
So,  hey, don’t listen to the techno-phobes and the urban catastrophists, with their lurid  sci fi dystopias (HHAG). Don’t live in the past and cling on to outmoded forms of urbanism.(HHG). Above all  don’t turn your back on the future  because you are afraid of the changes it will bring. Citizens of this great  world city,you have nothing to lose by  throwing  off the chains of capitalism , and releasing  the creative human potential that is locked up in digital revolution (HHG).. We declare that only a promethean urban politics of maximal mastery over the city and its environment is capable of dealing with the problems of globalisation( HHG) . So hey make the accelerationist city work for you!  More speed less haste !!!( clenched fist salute).

PC  Thanks very much , Toni,  for your thought provoking contribution. And now , as they say , for something completely different. Will you please welcome  Dr Annie Ambler


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen (EAG). It is a real pleasure to have been asked to address  you on this important topic.  It puts me in mind of a passage from the novel Slowness by the great Czeck novelist   Milan Kundera. It is so pertinent to my argument that I will quote it in full:

‘The man hunched over his motorcycle  can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time; he is outside time;in other words he is in a state of ecstasy. In that state he is unaware of his age , his wife, his children, his worries and so he has no fear , because the source of his fear is the future and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.

Speed is the form of ecstasy the technological revolution has bestowed on us. In contrast to a motorcyclist , the runner is always present in their body, forever required to think of their  blisters, their  exhaustion; their  weight, their  age , This all changes  when we delegate the faculty of speed to a machine; from then our own bodies are outside the process and we give ourselves over to a speed that is non corporeal, non material , pure speed, speed itself , ecstasy speed.

Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Today   the pleasure of indolence  has turned into having nothing to do  which is a completely different thing. A person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored , is constantly searching for the activity they lack.    Someone who is in tune with  the seasons of his or her own soul, who has learnt to appreciate  long duration, the beauty of small things unfolding slowly is best placed to withstand the onslaught of a future in which everything that is valuable has been reduced to its monetary worth.’

Ladies and Gentlemen (EAG), do any of us need reminding  that the 24 hour city is a city where no –one sleeps. Sleep, where the body and mind slows down, to regenerate  vital functions ,creates a space and time for dreams or reverie which, remains  the last barrier  against its full and final capture of our inner lives.  In fact, to live the dream of capital, is to  exist  in a  state of chronic insomnia  and stress,  as everything that is solid and makes for solidarity in our social  world melts into the thin air of cyborg communication.

How many of you have had dreams of running faster and faster to stay in the same place. This image seems to me to perfectly capture the  futility of life and labour under turbo charged  capitalism . On one side , the constant battle to prevent the rate of profit from falling by producing  ever newer, more obsolescent commodities. A runaway economy inm a  throwaway society .On the other the imperative  to continually re-invent ourselves, driven by the terror that unless we continually adapt we will be left behind and thrown on the scrap heap. And what does the constant acceleration of  new information produce but mountains of data  that are mined for profit but  threaten to overwhelm our capacity to make sense of it all.

But ladies and gentlemen (EAG) , I am glad to say this is not the whole story.  In cities and towns across  five  continents  there is a growing  movement   of citizens in revolt against  the endless speeding up of everyday life  and labour. Workers vote to go slow, to regain some control over their work process and mitigate the principles of  hyper-exploitation  built into new management  strategies  for measuring productivity.  Consumers are  rejecting fast foods, in favour of healthier , and that means slower cooking and eating. Conservation areas are preventing slash and burn regeneration; the creation of cycle lanes and pedestrian only areas are slowing the pace of urban life.

The slow movement was started by Carl Honore and its aims are summarised in his 2010 book In Praise of Slow  . The movement  is growing  at an ever increasing pace as more and more people recognise the toll taken by the hurry up culture ,  driving the planet and its population  towards burnout. Time poverty is endemic  . as is living in  a state of chronic impatience and permanent distraction. In response people are beginning to decelerate ; slowing  down helps  them live, think ,work and play better. Being slow means never rushing , never striving to save time just for the sake of it . There has been an exponential growth in slow activities such as  meditation, knitting , gardening, yoga, reading  and walking , so many ways of finding your own tempo in life. Of course in a world hardwired fore speed, slowing down induces feelings of guilt , opens us to accusations of laziness or idleness . But as Paul Lafargue put it in his famous essay, The right to be lazy is a fundamental human right  and  the chief means of resisting the reduction of human life to the brute  struggle for survival . And as Bertrand Russell argued nearly a hundred years ago in his book  In Praise of Idleness,  the reduction of the working week to four days, and each day to six hours  becomes feasible given the vastly  increased productivity of labour; it would not only reduce unemployment  by spreading work around more equitably, but create  the conditions for the creative use of extended leisure by the vast  majority of people , reducing stress and improving health in the population at large.

So these are not new ideas But  more than any generation we understand the futility of constant acceleration  and are determined to roll back the cult of speed.  Demography is on our side.The aging population is also a slowing down population.  But can only the   well -to -do and retired afford to slow down.? Surely it is just as important for the  young, the poor and the unemployed  for after all  they are often the most stressed  because the time they have on their hands is the empty homogeneous  time of capitalism, of clocking on and clocking off, not the richly textured time of imagination and memory.

The Slow Cities movement  started in Orvieto,Italy in 1999 and has now  spread to 183 towns and cities in 28 countries. It is animated by a desire to have less traffic, less population density, less pollution ,less noise and general commotion.The Slow City manifesto contains 55 pledges or criteria, upon which cities are assessed, grouped into six categories : environmental policy, infrastructure, quality of urban fabric, encouragement of local produce and products, hospitality and community awareness. I believe the principles of the Slow City movement are ones that should apply to  all cities no matter how big or small.  And especially to London.

However it seems to me , ladies and gentlemen (EAG) there  is much more to this than a life style choice. The real  issue here  is  the increasing physical separation between where people live and work , and how in London the quest for affordable housing is drawing more and more people out of the inner city  where  the growth in creative jobs is concentrated. Slow cities have to rethink the  relationship between housing, employment , recreation and transport. There is more to this than simply joining up these policy areas. We need a whole new political ecology of the city based on human need  and scale, not profit..

As we know, in the  last twenty years,  London has started consuming itself with accelerating voracity. Change has tended all  in one direction- converting all the qualities of its urban fabric into investment value, especially residential property. This process has threatened  qualities fundamental to the city , its availability, generosity , fluidity and social diversity. If this trend continues  it looks as if London will consume itself at a rate that will liquefy all its vital organs of work and sociality, pricing  all but the very rich out of  access to its  human resources.

.Put simply the pattern has been one where private interests have  been given freedom  to exploit and grow up to and often beyond the point of disaster: Fire , disease, overcrowding, sprawl , pollution. It is only when a major shock to the system occurs ,  like at Grenfell Tower,  that there is some major public intervention, and then usually it is too little , too late.  To prevent any of this happening ever again we need to slow down the whole process of London’s regeneration , to ensure that if and when it happens it is with the active participation and assent of the populations most directly affected, those who live and work in the area concerned. Slow regeneration means piecemeal neighbourhood renewal , not slash and burn demolition. The point is that   social ecologies and physical forms should renew through change not be devastated by it. Community and place cannot be bound together for ever, but neither should Londoners  be threatened with uprooting every few years.

So my vision for London 2049, will include widespread pedestrianisation of the centre and inner city , the introduction of electric  slowmobiles in place of cars , the demolition of  all high rise buildings , whether commercial or residential , which are no longer fit for purpose and their replacement by low density , low rise structures  made out of recycled material with minimal  ecological footprint,  the conservation of public space and amenity  , the designation  all  Council  estates built before 1951 as heritage sites, their full restoration and return as secure affordable housing to  low income tenants, the closure of London City Airport ,   the transformation of the Thames into a watersports park and nature reserve   ,  and ,of course,  the  expansion of London’s green belt  into the inner city , leading to  the  greening of    London’s urban fabric and economy.

In conclusion I want to go back to the beginning of our debate. In his introduction our genial host was good enough to mention Walter Benjamin, but , Ladies and Gentlemen (EAG), may I remind you that    Benjamin’s ‘odd idea’ was that revolution might be an act of deceleration, interruption, stopping the ‘runaway train of History’. Marx says that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is quite otherwise. Perhaps revolutions are an attempt by the passengers on this train – namely us human beings – to activate the emergency brake  before it is too late. Thank you for your attention.

PC   Thank you for that, plenty of food for thought there, I think.  So now I will invite a response  from Toni Vertigo , to which the Doctor will reply  before we open the debate out to the floor.


So I listened to the Professor’s pitch  with interest but with  growing disbelief. Basically his message could be boiled down to ‘Stop the world , I wanna get off’. It was  yet another example of project fear  which we have become all too familiar  with , from  both Left and Right   over Brexit, from people who want to  turn the clock back , to return   to some imaginary golden age when Britain ruled the waves .  Instead of grasping the political opportunities which are opening up  to create a  truly post capitalist society , they cling on nostalgically to a  world in which both Labour and Capital  knew their place   in a  period of  relative social stasis  between  1945 and 1970.

Ok so lets cut to the chase. What is to be done to stop London’s political life stagnating . Lets talk about participatory budgeting which is such a buzz word among sections of the Left today. How do you go about  setting up a mechanism of public deliberation about public spending where  all citizens who want to  get to decide what gets spent on what?. In a big city like  London that would only work if you had an online discussion and voting platform accessible to everyone  on the electoral register and that means  a networked information infrastructure that everyone is plugged  into via their phones. In other words the internet (HHG).  The platform would have to be constructed   so  the whole  process of deliberation was speeded up, compressed in space and time. To hear some Lefties talk you’d think that people  had enormous amounts  of time to spend attending meetings, discussing  stuff. They don’t., That’s why they delegate to politicians , as their elected representatives to do the business on their behalf.  If you really want to change that(HHG), if you want direct democracy (HHG), to make London truly governable by its citizens, then you need to accelerate the whole process of decision making and make it accessible to all of the people   all of the time  at the click of a button.

Do we really want to turn London into  the Doctors  quaint prescription of  a Garden City , a city where everyone cultivates their own back yard, grows their own vegetables  and opens urban ostrich farms, , while  sticking  their heads resolutely in the sands of time which are running out and calling it ‘slow city mindfulness’ ?

If Brexit did nothing else it   showed us that politics is no longer business as usual. And after the 2008 crash neither is economics. Doing nothing is not an option . We need to take the future away from the corporate imagineers, to make sure that  technologies  work for us  and not against us and to do this we need to be as quick  on their  uptake  as those who want to use them to defend and extend corporate power and the status quo. So don’t waste precious time scrabbling about in the dustbins of history in a  self indulgent  nostalgic quest for a future  city that never was and never will be . Instead immerse yourself in the  here and now  and accelerate those tendencies in the present that point beyond the limited visions of contemporary urbanists, for whom the future is either more of the same or catastrophic. Instead let us advance together towards a London that is not only post imperial and post industrial but truly post capitalist.



Ladies and Gentlemen (EAG),  contrary to what the previous speaker implied  I am not a Little Londoner, let alone a little Englander. Nor am I a techno-phobe or a passe-ist.  Far from it . But  neither do I want to be treated as a ‘node’  in some vast  global network  which I can neither grasp concretely  , nor control .  Of course we need change and we need technologies to make our lives better,  but we need  the scale and tempo of urban change to be at a human pace and scale and nowhere more so than in London . Contrary to what the accelerationists think, human life is not like an action  adventure movie . The processes of urban growth cannot be captured speeded up  by time lapse photography.  As  the exponents of slow cinema remind us,  and as great  film directors like Bela Tarr or Tarkovsky show us, it is when we immerse ourselves  in the sensuous depth of  long duration , when we  grasp the  physical detail  and fabric of everyday  life in which our projects are embedded   and unfold, that we truly appreciate  the fact that we are historical agents- that we can intervene to change the course of events.

As regards London I think we need to go back to the future  spelt out by the Abercrombie Plan  (1948) which set out  such a  progressive vision for the reconstruction of London after the war . You  may  remember the famous map  where London is shown as a  network  of urban villages , considered as  distinct  units of regeneration, each with a distinctive character and containing  all the elements – affordable housing ,  rewarding jobs, accessible amenities, educational  and cultural opportunities , and cheap transport-, that make  living in a big city such a worthwhile and  exciting experience. The plan was never realised , it was ahead of its  time, but many urbanists today think its principles have become even more  relevant  than they were more than half a century ago.

Now lets  go  back even further in time , to the Charter of the Forest that   was made at the same time as Magna Carta. It enshrined popular liberties ; it protected  the  people’s  right to access and make use of  the environment as a source of livelihood and  amenity; today it  provides a template  for  resisting  the enclosure of public spaces and loss of public  amenities  through privatisation and financialisation  – something which is happening all over London as I speak. Pubs and clubs  closing and being turned into luxury apartments; valuable public space being eroded  , waterside industries and small enterprises  being closed down  or forced out , parkland and gardens  tarmacked over or  built on, leading to an increase in pollution levels, and a deterioration of public health . Against these trends  the Charter  offers us  a  truly contemporary vision of communal stewardship of pooled assets and resource .It is a ready made manifesto for the greening of London’s economy,the preservation and extension  of the urban commons.

So rather than  blindly embracing the future,  and ignore the lessons of the past, ladies and gentlemen (EAG)  let us pay attention to those projects which  were perhaps ahead of their time , but which we now have the  means and the capacity to realise , provided the political will is there.

PC  Ok thanks very much . So now over to you – any questions to our two speakers , or  comments on the issues raised?

The lights are dimmed and we hear the following pre-recorded tape setting  the scene for the shock scenarios.  Three different voices  reading  sections of the text..

Welcome to UnLundun 2049 : A Travellers Tale

PC:  It was Michelet who said that every epoch dreams of the one that follows it   to which Walter Benjamin added – that in doing so it actively  creates that future .   In a moment,  we are going to invite you  to imagine what London 2049 might be like to live and work in  and how it might be transformed into your kind of town .  But first to set the scene  we would like to take you on a journey, to tell you a time travelers tale with the help of a few writers.. So welcome to UnLundun 2049 .

Voice 1) We reached the village of Suthuk which is on the edge of the river bed of the Thames, most of which is reclaimed land planted with cabbages, the export of which form the principle staple of the country’s economy  since Brexit  …

Our first destination was the vestiges of the once famous Lun-dun Bridge mentioned in many accounts and in one folk lore ballad which has come down to us beginning, ‘Lun-Dun bridge is  falling down’. Several arches of this structure now span the intervening space between the village of Suthuk and the extremely picturesque ruins  of the Shard .

Voice 2)  As evening drew on we went to what was left of Tower Bridge to watch ‘The Para-Olympic Dream’, marvelling at  the  flickering figures as they vaulted over the sandbagged parapets in their giant wheelchairs.   Our  gaze  was   inevitably   drawn   downriver   to the famous motto Amplius, Charius, Colossicus, written in neon lipstick  against the city’s darkening rim. It was time to visit the Olympic Park and sample   the remaindered glory of the Games. We  hired a gondola jetski at the Isle of Dogs and     as we approached the site were overwhelmed by the awesome spectacle of the Orbital Tower, now leaning more crazily than ever Pisa’s did, with noxious weeds from foreign parts clinging to its superstructure creating a veritable hanging  garden  of  London Babylon.

We disembarked at a pontoon where in happier days the late Sir David Beckham had handed the Olympic torch to Bradley Wiggins, fresh from his triumph in the Tour de France. Little did either of them dream of the disaster to come. As we made our way across the deserted walkways toward the tower we were dismayed by the signs of neglect and decay all around: broken railings, park benches vandalised, drought-withered gardens, a derelict open air café where only a few tables bolted to the ground remained as mute witness to the conviviality they had once entertained. And everywhere the hidden hand of the graffiti artist mocking the ambitions the 2012 tag had once evoked – ‘Live the nightmare’ … ‘Everyone’s a loser’ … ‘Betray a generation’ – and other, cruder, slogans were blazoned in dayglow colours on wall after crumbling wall. The stadium itself, abandoned by the ill fated ‘Hammers’, after they were relegated to the lower divisions of our once famous football league, now served as a travellers’ encampment; from time to time this community organised a horse fair or produce market to which the remnants of the Cockney tribe flocked from the outskirts of the city where they now eked out an existence on their allotments. As we skirted the settlement the smell of cooking and the shouts of children playing amidst the ruins of the velodrome sent a welcome message that at least there was some human life that remained. At last we approached the Tower itself, that monument to the shared hubris of a steel magnate, a famous sculptor and a London mayor. The building was now officially classified as a dangerous structure since the death of two visitors from falling debris. We resolved not to get too close.

Voice 3) Since  the Thames barrier had been destroyed  in the Great Deluge of 2045 this part of the city  had become an extension of the Lea Valley and looking further east all we could see was vast marshlands stretching to the horizon  with only  the broken stump of   Westfield and  Stratford International , long occupied by  squatters  since the economic collapse of 2030,  to remind us that this had once been a thriving business quarter . The wind was getting up , creating an ominous vapour of dust which hid the  setting sun  and  we decided  to leave  this benighted  Allah forsaken place and head back to town.

Our digimap showed that almost all the roads  leading from the Olympicopolis   site had been converted into canals  but  there was not a Gondola jetski to be seen.  We looked around for some other means of transport .There were no cars of course  but there were plenty of other vehicles. Some were carts tugged by  zebras  or ostriches , others  were pedal-powered. Not bicycles though.The travellers perched on jerkily walking stilts linked together to form  a kind of train.  We hopped on one of these strange velocipedes as they were called,and soon found ourselves travelling past  open fronted houses full of old and odd looking equipment.  Most of the houses were open access  designed for travellers ,  nomadic tribes and mendicants, our guide informed us.The streets were mostly red brick like  the old London terraces but considerably more ramshackle, spindly and convoluted. Houses leaned in to each other and storeys piled up at complicated angles like something out of a cubist painting. Slate roofs lurched in all directions. Here and there , where there should be a house there was a low tree with open fronted bedrooms , bathrooms and kitchens perched in its branches .One entire three floor building was made out of rubbish. There were fridges, a dishwasher or two , hundreds of record players, old fashioned pre digital cameras , telephones and typewriters  all   stuck together with thick cement. Our guide told us that this was where a strange  tribe   called  The Recyclists  lived.

We passed an enormous  building , like a cathedral,  perforated in several places with what looked like random holes and bursting from them  were railway lines. They sprang in different directions: horizontal, up  like a roller coaster  then corkscrewing down and plunging into holes in the street and down into  the darkness  of UnLundun.

Voice 1)Our guide explained that UnLundun’s terrain was difficult as a result of the impact of global warming. There were thin tangled streets , sudden steep hills, deep pits, patches  where roads seemed to be made of something too soft for wheels  on which pedestrians bounced along .To deal with the various difficulties of their routes the unLondon buses had adapted. They trundled on caterpillar treads. They rolled on enormously inflated rubbery wheels. They coasted on skirts like hovercraft. We saw a giant aerobus  pick its way delicately  over the roofs on four enormous lizard legs that sprouted from its wheel housings, its padded  feet closing  silently around buttresses and splayed on slanting roofs , leaving no marks behind as it speeded through the gathering  gloom .

Voice 2)After almost an hour we came upon one of the few new districts that had been constructed in response to the changed conditions. It   had been designed by a famous planner of the neo-cubist  school  to demonstrate  the principles of counter intuitive urbanism. The layout of the neighbourhood  was designed to   provoke a  systematic disordering of normal ‘lines of desire’. It was no good for example expecting your house to be where you’d left it  in the morning  when you returned  at nightfall. You had both moved on in spacetime   and it was necessary to  use a new, previously agreed,  homing device  to  ensure you  once more coincided  with your dwelling place. Equally streets that you thought of  as being busy thoroughfares  or shopping malls might be replaced by  quiet residential cul de sacs once your back was turned  unless ,instead of following your habitual route,  you went with the  flow of   traffic in the direction of your chosen goal.

It was quite usual to experience   having been somewhere  before   even  though you knew it was the first time you had ever set foot in that particular place, or to  come back to where you first started  after you had set out to leave it  behind. In  all these circumstances you had to  act as if  none of this were the case, and you could rely on arriving at some approximation of your original destination. Perhaps not surprisingly the  inhabitants  of this neighbourhood, which was called Dromoville, had developed a horror of the déjà vu, and of anything which might slow down their erratic but speedy  progress.

 Voice 3) In order to  establish some principle of order in this otherwise  chaotic metropolis  known as   UnLundun  the  city state government – which had declared independence from the rest of the country  when Britain crashed out of the EU-    had introduced  a rigorous zoning policy; there were exclusion zones for various types of illegal migrant – and all migrants were by definition illegal  – , a homeless containment zone  situated on the island that had once been Westminster,   special narcotic enforcement zones where addicts were confined and drug free zones where you could not even smoke a cigarette without risking arrest. But above all, literally and metaphorically,  there was a fast track   transit network which enabled  category A citizens –designated as such by virtue of their special  contribution to  the Post Brexit economic regeneration plan-  to move speedily about the city on their business  unrestricted by the  rest of the population who moved so sluggishly   dragging their feet as they promenaded through the  maze of canals and dead end streets  in search of  distraction while they eked out their universal basic income.



The audience will break out and choose one of the work stations- long tables with chairs round. Each group will work on a large outline map of London , using specially designed stickers, post- its, and felt tips to  construct a response  to a  particular shock scenario.

The Incredible Shrinking City
(Facilitator Debbie Kent)

After Brexit, the flight of City money sets off a housing market crash and sends the economy into freefall. The map of London now reflects an alternative economy – but what does it look like? A game in which you have the chance to reshape that map.


We Can Stand the Heat
Facilitator: John Wallet)

Global warming has sent temperatures rocketing, raised the level of the Thames and made extreme weather a run-of-the-mill occurrence. The built environment has had to adjust to cope – how has it changed? Unleash your creative/destructive  urges and help us redesign the city.

 Revolution in the Streets (Facilitator : Blake Morris)

The decades between 2018 and 2049 were a time of social and political unrest and transformation. What were people demanding in the Great Protests of those years – and what did their demonstrations look like? Imagine being part of that glorious resistance and fill the room with placards, slogans and actions.

At the end of this exercise the audience will re-assemble, the maps will be presented  followed by a general discussion .