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07 OCTOBER 2013

Bingo, Barbie and Barthes: 50 Years of Cultural Studies

"Fifty years after Richard Hoggart established Cultural Studies with the founding of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Laurie Taylor takes a personal look at what this new discipline has given us –– taking cultural studies out of the academy to ask: has it really narrowed the separation between high and low culture, or just been an excuse for soap fans to write dissertations on Coronation Street?"

(BBC Radio 4)

First broadcast: Monday 07 October 2013

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TAGS

201450th anniversary • academic discipline • Angela McRobbieBarbie dollBBC Radio 4 • bingo • Birmingham • Caspar Melville • Centre for Contemporary Cultural StudiesChristopher Fraylingcontemporary culture • Coronation Street • critical language • critical tools • cultural studies • cultural thinking • democratised culturehigh culture • Lady Chatterleys Lover • Laurie Taylor • leisure activitylived experiencelow culture • Lynsey Hanley • mass mediamassification • Matthew Hilton • Owen JonesPaul Gilroy • Paul Willis • popular arts • popular culturepopular musicpost-warRaymond WilliamsRichard HoggartRoland Barthessoap operasocial change • street culture • Stuart Hall • tabloid • the academyTV

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
07 JULY 2012

The history of the UK Design Council

"The Design Council started life in 1944 as the Council of Industrial Design. It was founded by Hugh Dalton, President of the Board of Trade in the wartime Government, and its objective was 'to promote by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry'. And that was to stay unaltered through half a century of social, technological and economic change."

(UK Design Council)

Fig.1 "1951 Festival of Britain", Graphic created by: Design Council/Council of Industrial Design | From University of Brighton Design Archives. [JRGS Alumni Society: http://www.mel–lambert.com/Ruskin/News/News_Archive/JRGS02A_News_Archive32.htm]

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TAGS

1944 • Board of Trade (UK) • Britain Can Make It • British industry • Buy wisely in Britain • CABE • Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment • consumers • Council of Industrial Design (UK) • Creative Britain • creative economy • David Kester • Design Centre (UK) • Design Council (UK)design educationdesign fielddesign historydesign industrydesign practitioners • design reform • design work • Festival of Britain • good design • Hugh Dalton • industrial design • Ivor Owen • John Sorrell • Keith Grant • manufacturing • Millenium Products • post-warprofessional association for designrealisation rulesrecognition rulesretailers • S C Leslie • shared practices • Sir Gordon Russell • Sir Paul Reilly • technological changeUKwartime

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 JULY 2012

Sense of adventure: what happened to playgrounds that give children space?

Aldo "Van Eyck believed playgrounds should challenge a child's imagination without jarring the adult's aesthetic sensibilities. His abstract, elementary forms – often manufactured out of metal tubes like modernist furniture – were meant to belong in a well–mannered streetscape. During the same period in Britain, however, we were developing a tradition of playground design that was almost diametrically opposed. The first 'junk' playgrounds emerged amid the rubble of the Blitz, and the results were far less polite. Consisting of makeshift structures cobbled together out of roof beams and detritus, they were often designed with the assistance of the children themselves. That essential character survives today in descendants such as Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell, east London, a riot of skew–whiff woodwork and clashing colours, and an odd hybrid of post–war austerity and postmodern assemblage.

The junk playground model was created by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen, who believed playgrounds should reflect the imagination of the child not the architect. In 1943, having observed the creative way children play in construction sites, he developed the prototype junk playground on the Emdrup housing estate in Copenhagen.

The concept was brought to Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who tested it out on the site of a bombed church in Camberwell and then built dozens of what she called 'adventure playgrounds' – the term 'junk' tended to turn local mothers into nimbys. Not only did Allen feel that ordinary playgrounds were sterile places ('it is little wonder that [children] prefer the dumps of rough wood and piles of bricks and rubbish of the bombed sites'), but she believed in the healing effects of exposing children to the urban scars of warfare. At the same time, having them take part in the post–war reconstruction effort was deemed a good way of shaping model citizens.

Essentially, all playgrounds are designed to do the same thing: to help children develop their abilities, use up excess energy and keep them off the streets. But the ideology of the adventure playground is interesting for several reasons. First, there's the notion of not restricting children to the repetitive motions of the slide or swing, because the sooner you reach the technical limits of the equipment, the sooner you have to stretch those limits – hence all those swings you see coiled around the crossbar. The adventure playground was designed to liberate the wild thing within and, by exposing children to risk, teach them personal responsibility (all forms of play are underpinned by some form of didactism, so it's worth reminding ourselves that this is also simply more fun). Just as crucially, it was intrinsic to the concept that children be involved in designing the playgrounds, dreaming up weird structures and adapting them later by tacking on extra elements. This participatory dimension, managed by volunteer play leaders, is key to the development of their creativity.

It's curious how much the ethos of the adventure playground chimes with the language of a new era of design today: a 'participatory' process, recycled materials, an adaptive product. It doesn't sound like the 1940s. But equally valuable is the zone of exception that the adventure playground represents in the city, one of improvisation and informality that, pace Van Eyck, does not blend in to a polite streetscape.

Today, there are few true adventure playgrounds left, but occasionally another is built that follows all the essential tenets, such as the Kilburn Grange Park playground in north London, designed last year by Erect Architecture and based on the ideas of local kids. Increasingly, though, 'adventure playgrounds' are produced by specialist manufacturers and merely designed to look rustic. You can't adapt them, or at least anyone who tried would be carted off. These are the products of a health and safety culture that watered down adventure playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. There was a minor revival a few years ago, when the Labour government invested £230m in new play spaces across England, but the coalition government freed that budget up for other uses, so it was short–lived. And now, with the cuts, several adventure playgrounds, including the giant ones in Battersea and Kilburn, face losing the play workers that make such playgrounds what they are.

It's worth remembering just how cheap and yet how luxurious these spaces are. We should let kids loose on this new breed of sanitised playground, to inject a little of the old spirit in them. I hear the builder behind Kilburn Grange Park salvaged the formwork from Zaha Hadid's Olympic diving towers – that could come in handy."

(Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 3 July 2012 15.40 BST, The Guardian)

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TAGS

1940s19431980s1990sad-hocadventure playgroundAldo van EyckAlfred Trachselausterity • Battersea • bomb site • Camberwell • Carl Theodor Sorensen • challenge imagination • childhood imaginationchildren • clashing colours • coalition governmentcobbled together • construction site • CopenhagencreativityDanishDenmarkdetritus • didactic • didactism • dream up • elementary forms • Emdrup housing estate • Empress Frederick • engagement • Erect Architecture • exposure to risk • formwork • free expressionfun • Glamis Adventure Playground • healing effects • health and safety culturehybridimaginationimprovisation • informality • junkjunk playgroundjunk playgrounds • Justin McGuirk • Kilburn Grange Park • Labour governmentLady Allen of Hurtwoodlearningmakeshift • model citizen • modernismmodernist aestheticmodernist furniture • new era of design • NIMBY • open-endedopen-ended play spacesparticipatoryparticipatory processpersonal responsibilityplay • play leader • play spaces • play worker • playground • playground design • playscapespost-war • post-war reconstruction • postmodern assemblagerecycled materialsrisk-takingRobinson Crusoe • rough wood • rubbishrustic • salvaged • sanitised • scriptible spaces • Shadwell • skew-whiff • sterile placesstreetscape • Theodor Sorenson • urban scars • warfare • weird structures • Zaha Hadid

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
04 FEBRUARY 2012

Kenneth Anger & Brian Butler's Technicolor Skull

"Technicolor Skull performs their first West Coast appearance at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles on November 19, 2011, as part of the opening reception for Kenneth Anger: ICONS. This exhibition will showcase the films, books, and artwork of one of the most original and enigmatic filmmakers of post–war American cinema. This coincides with the release of Technicolor Skull's self–titled recorded debut, a one–sided, bloodred 180 gram 12' vinyl LP limited to 666 copies.

Technicolor Skull is an experiment in light and sound, exploring the psychic impact of a magick ritual in the context of an improvised performance. With Brian Butler on guitar and electronic instruments, and Kenneth Anger on theremin, their collaboration is a performance contained inside a ritual of unknown origin, tapping into occult stories that extend musical language into initiation. Hidden messages escape through gesture and light, manifesting as a one–time–only event."

(Richard Metzger, 18/11/2011)

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12 inch • 12 inch vinyl LP2011 • 666 • American cinemaavant-garde • Brian Butler • colour • electronic instrument • enigmatic filmmaker • eventexperimentgestureguitar • hidden messages • ICONS (exhibition) • improvised performance • Kenneth Angerlight • light and sound • limited edition • livelive performanceLP • magick ritual • magick ritual of light and sound • MOCA • Museum of Contemporary Art • musical language • occult • one-time-only • performancepost-warpsychedelic • psychic • retrospective exhibitionritualskull • Technicolor Skull • Thereminvinyl recordvisual spectacle

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 FEBRUARY 2006

Claustrophobic spaces of German modernity and agoraphobic spaces of American post-war film genres

"Running throughout our essay as its leitmotif is the opposition between the claustrophobic spaces of German modernity (epitomized in Expressionist cinema and in the noir films directed by Germans in Hollywood) and the agoraphobic fear of wide open spaces, exemplified by post–war American space (suburbia and the urban "superblock") and by the post–war film genres of the western and the road movie. Lacking a frontier myth, Germans fantasized about an expansive sense of space and dreaded a claustrophobic one. By contrast, the American cinema developed a morbid fear of open spaces devoid of human community and fantasized about the possibility of a tightly–knit urban community."

(Ed Dimendberg and Anton Kaes)

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agoraphobia • American • Anton Kaes • claustrophobiaclaustrophobic spaces • Edward Dimendberg • expansive sense of space • expressionism • Expressionist cinema • filmfrontierfrontier mythgenreGermanGerman Expressionism • German modernity • Hollywood • human community • modernist architecturemodernityopen countrysideopen spacesperiurbanisationpost-war • post-war American space • post-war film genres • postwar • road movie • suburbia • superblock • tightly-knit urban community • urban • urban superblock • Westernwestern film genre • wide open spaces

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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