East End Film Festival at Whitechapel Gallery, Wednesday 29th April 7pm followed by panel discussion with Will Self, Iain Sinclair, Andrea Philips and John Rogers
“The cinema of John Rogers is like a combination of…the physicality of Kotting with the Deep Topography of Keiller.”
– Iain Sinclair
Featuring contributions from Russell Brand, Will Self and Iain Sinclair
The London Perambulator is a documentary about our relationship with the edgelands of the city, the under-imagined liminal spaces at the fringe of London. This is the city that we deny, overlook, malign. But it is in these spaces that we find the key to the true soul of the city, it’s past and it’s future.
Three leading London cultural figures, Will Self, Iain Sinclair, and Russell Brand discuss the work of Nick Papadimitriou, writer and self-styled ‘Deep Topographer’, a man who had dedicated his life to mapping, archiving, forming an almost religious attachment to these locations.
“Nick knows about woodlands – he’s been a conservation worker; he knows about ecology – he’s written scientific reports on the subject; he knows more about the topography of London than anyone I’ve ever met. All in all Nick’s psychogeographic credentials piss on mine from the height of Angel Falls, so when he says “Jump!” I politely request: “Broad? Triple? High?”.
– Will Self, The Independent 22 April 2005
Brand, Self and Sinclair talk glowingly at length about the man who they see as being the perfect embodiment of engagement with the real city as opposed to the virtual metropolis of the property developers. Russell Brand describes Nick as “like some ludicrously pragmatic mystic, some dull trudging trainspotting alchemist. He hoovers up magic from stone and brick and concrete”. This is a film that takes us beyond conventional notions of psychogeography and urbanism into a deeper engagement with the urban landscape and towards a future where the whole city becomes Edgeland.
The interviews are intercut with actuality footage as we follow Nick on journeys on foot through the heart of his London, invariably connected by underground water-courses. As Will Self says, “Places that feel left behind by the passage of history”. Unseen, non-spaces that are passed in sealed pod-like cars on the way the airport and the out-of-town shopping complex. Edgelands that Iain Sinclair notes are, “between permitted territories”. Brand also notes, “we’ve become so removed from a landscape that has been lacquered in concrete”.
At Wormword Scrubs, Nick remembers his time inside where he befriended the notorious serial killer Denis Nilsen. He walks the Grand Union Canal with his friend of 23 years, Will Self, as they head out towards Heathrow. They talk candidly about addiction, how walking is laden with narrative and memory. In the industrial estates of Stonebridge Park, Nick connects his attachment to the neglected city with his own sense of alienation from the urban realm of Sunday Supplement living. He takes us inside his archive, Deep Library, consisting of found objects, journals, maps and photos salvaged from abandoned houses and suburban skips.
“(Nick) Is like a perfect figure at the edge of the city, a kind of freelance historian of great knowledge and a kind of archivist gathering up everything he could to do with Middlesex and writing, without any particular hope of publication, great tracts that were like strange rhapsodies and poems of the city.”
– Iain Sinclair