LONDON MANIFEST is a short film made in the context of the MA in Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. It presents London with various geographical themes in mind. Our original idea for this project collapsed due to unexpected circumstances. Pressed for time, we improvised an alternative.
We began by exploring the city, letting our minds wander, considering the mechanics of its being. Focusing on core ideas of flux, continuity and performance of the urban environment. Capturing the city in flux, we contemplated points of transit and motion; crowds funnelling through the underground and out into the streets above. In this section, we juxtapose original words focusing on the anonymising transit infrastructure of the city with words from Poe’s Man of the Crowd, recognising the humanity of individuals in the crowd.
In the film’s second part, (Re-)construction, we turn our attention to the city’s ever-changing architecture, analysing the unfinishable nature of urban environments; the continual presence and constant motion of cranes as an indicator of ‘development’.
Following this we then shift to the city’s landmarks, with words inspired by Sharon Macdonald’s book Memorylands. We decided to combine our own contemporary footage of the city’s monuments with archival footage, splicing them together. Through this process we hoped to capture the persistence of monumental structures like Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral, framed by references to the flux. We use music throughout these sections to allude to the continuing and changing rhythms and rhizomes of the city.
In The Unreal City, we focus on the production and performance of London’s cultures. Through an overlaying of skaters with their past and future selves, we seek the patterns of performativity. We explore the notion of the city as a stage where performance has been practised in a backstage environment such as the home; a private space. Citizens give themselves a role to which they shape the attribute. This bounces on fluidity in the sense that performances and choices of movement in the city are influenced by flux and common norms. Further, we move our lens to document the recording of these performances, and the occurrent meta-theatrics.
In the final section, (Re-)orientation, we address our positionality in the city. With reference to the flows and structures of previous sections, we attempt in some way to catch the urban unaware. We feel it is necessary as geographers to re-orientate ourselves in the city, to subvert societal pressures of conformity, and indoctrinated modes of urban understanding. With this in mind we visually and audibly adjust our perspectives. This section features a reading of Etienne Sicard’s A Londres au Crepuscule, in its original French. We elected to use work from another language to offer an alternative perspective on London, as well as to act as part of the re-orientation, subverting assumptions about a massively multilingual city’s Anglo-dominant identity.
Getting the footage of the city was one of the most enjoyable aspects of making the film. We began filming before we actually had the idea of what would develop, as we went to London to gather ‘b-roll’ for the original film idea. The initial idea was about BASE jumping as an urban subversive practice. However, our contact for the film stopped responding the week we were meant to interview and record them. The footage we got initially with the BASE jumping film in mind can be seen at the beginning of the film, as well as during the (Re-)construction section.
Creating the film out of what is essentially 300+ clips of b-roll is certainly an interesting challenge as it relies on the other aspects of the film to carry any narrative or message. That being said, we have tried to make the visuals part of the narrative, such as the use of archival video and our own footage of the same scene, overlaying the skateboarders, and teleporting around London. Overall, the visuals of the film are designed to tie together the poetry to the city.
Written by Matthew Phillips, Emma Christian and Ollie Devereux. Edited by Jack Lowe.