Walking and talking for greater understanding of the modern world

Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:54:00 BST

Almost 100 delegates took part in the World Congress of Psychogeography

‌‌Conference Co-organisers Dr Alex Bridger (left) and Phil Wood ► Conference co-organisers Dr Alex Bridger (left) and Phil Wood

ALMOST 100 people came to Huddersfield and used their feet to gain a greater understanding of the modern world and its ways.  It was the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography – two days of walks and talks.

The event was based at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay and the co-organiser was Dr Alex Bridger – a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and a leading authority on psychogeography – alongside David Smith, Heritage Quay’s Participation and Engagement Officer, and Phil Wood and Tim Water.

Dr Bridger is the author of articles and a forthcoming book on the technique, in which people take walks – sometimes randomly – around the urban environment and learn its lessons.

It is “a creative and playful way of travelling around by foot”, according to the Congress’s own definition.  “This is different to a casual walk or a stroll because the aim is to explore places using ideas and chance or spur-of-the-moment decisions.”

Opening speaker, Phil SmithOpening speaker, Phil Smith

Over the course of its two days, the Congress had a schedule of 10 walks and talks led by a range of experts.  Dr Bridger himself gave a talk titled What is Psychogeography? followed by a town centre walk titled The Northern Powerhouse in a post-Brexit world.  It was designed to stimulate thoughts about consumerism, surveillance, security and ownership.

There were also keynote addresses by Associate Professor Phil Smith – whose latest book is titled The Footbook of Zombie Walking – and Dr Tina Richardson, who recently edited the book Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography.

Other talks and walks covered public parks, hidden mine workings, migrant areas of town and there was a scavenger’s hunt that invited walkers to “follow a trail around the University’s campus in the search of items and stories, mundane or otherwise”.  It was hosted by Dr Sophia Emmanouil, a Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Art and Design at the University of Huddersfield.  She has collaborated with Dr Bridger on a recent paper about psychogeographical community work at the Hoot Creative Arts centre in Huddersfield. 

Delegates setting out on the special 'warm-up' event in Huddersfield town centre, Harold Wilson's Turbo Derive, led by Phill Harding (front right) Delegates setting out on the special ‘warm-up’ event in Huddersfield town centre, Harold Wilson’s Turbo Dérive, led by Phill Harding (front right)

Among the writers, researchers and creative artists who gave talks and led walks were Phil Smith, Sophia Emmanouil, Tim Waters and Phil Wood, plus David Smith and Travis Elborough, whose latest book is A Walk in the Park; The Life and Times of a People's Institution.

Some 95 people signed up for the Congress – including overseas participants.  “It brought together people from many disparate contexts, political affiliations and social groups,” said Dr Bridger.

The event was a success – but all is not what it seems in the provocative and sometimes subversive world of psychogeography.

For one thing, the 4th World Congress was actually the second – the first took place in Huddersfield and Leeds last year – and the next gathering will probably be the 4th World Congress too.  “It saves us having to create a new web page!” said Dr Bridger.  Also, although delegates voted that the next congress will take place in Copenhagen, it is likely to be held in Huddersfield again!


Back to news index - September