Radical Walks will bring a Marxist perspective to EC1 developments

EC1 has a rich history; some hidden, some obscure and a great deal that is still up for debate. The present feels uncertain, the future one of many possibilities, but with hope and fear in equal measure.

Can the future of EC1 be a continuum with its past? Can there be a radical development of the area which expands the possibilities, or will all succumb to concrete, glass and steel? Come along to the Radical EC1 Walk for an exploration; of time, space, aesthetics, hope and liberation. Danny Bee

We need a diversity of views in thinking about the past, present and future of the City of London, so I’m delighted to have had a hand in prompting Danny Bee to run Radical Walks in EC1.

The first one is December 11th, starting at Barbican Station, and it is featured in the current edition of the EC1 Echo.

The origin goes back to re-meeting Danny at a party in July where I talked about Exploring EC1 with maps and media, and caught up on some of the walks Danny had organised: for example, Radical Battersea with John Archer, London’s first Black Mayor and Shapurji Saklatvala, the first Indian and first Communist MP in England; and Radical Bermondsey, the political base of Ada and Alfred Salter who had a vision of Bermondsey as a Garden City.

For Sunday’s walk Danny is focussing a very small area from Barbican tube to Farringdon Station via Charterhouse Square, Bartholomew Close and West Smithfield.

I’m expecting something rather different from the usual guided tours of the area – fascinating though they are – not least because of Danny’s latest blog post linking a Marxist analysis of the production of commodities, and Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language.

In the New Year Danny will run a Clerkenwell walk. The Echo asked:

Given that EC1 is so instrumental in the radical tradition, why has Danny not done a walk here until now? “Partly because Clerkenwell the area has been well covered by walks,” he says.

“But it is such a rich fascinating area with many themes that are still rich in potential.” So as well as covering history’s big hitters such as the Peasant’s Revolt, which culminated in Smithfield in July 1381, it will look at board schools, hospitals and council housing, libraries and swimming pools: anything designed to improve the conditions of the working classes.

Indeed, Danny’s speciality is the modern period from the 1880s to the present day. “That was the beginning of mass production and consumerism when mass trade unions, the women’s movement, national liberation movements and socialist parties all developed,” he says. “Also, part of the fun is in discovering things that might otherwise be overlooked. Some radical tours might not look at schools, for example, but the London School Board was created in 1870 to bring light into newly built schools, and was one of the first institutions which women could be elected to. Powerful and influential women stood in these elections, including Elizabeth Garret Anderson (who lent her name to EGA school in Islington).”

Book onto Danny’s walk through his blog at commodityfetishism.com or just turn up on the day. It’s free, although a hat is passed round – “Like a busker,” Danny says – and the tour lasts about two hours.

More about Radical Walks in this article for Living Maps Network

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