Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Artwork for Wear Your Band T-shirt to Work Day

This is a rarity when it comes to my way of making work, but T-shirts are up for grabs featuring a piece of work Ive made for this Friday’s (27th November) gig at The Underground, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, as part of Wear Your Band T-shirt to Work Day.
Gig info below…
“This Friday live @ The Underground we have The Kitson Trio, a rock & blues band who recently reformed after a six year hiatus. Fronted by popular local singer-songwriter Richard Kitson, the trio will play their last live date of 2015 at The Underground with support from The Rolling Down Hills &New Road Kings, SPLND BSTRDS an acoustic duo that usually make up half of The Black VinesIndiemand Barnsley

Rubber Ring. Gimme Shelter - Copy


I Just haven’t got the resistance to comfort-seeking I used to have in aid of achieving what I had to do. Every day 5 years back, at the back end of 2010, I would go down to my studio (Elsecar, South Yorks), straight after my job, 2 train stops or 2 bus rides from where I live, in the one of the coldest snaps I have experienced in my life. In aide of what? I was working on 2 drawings that were meticulously thought on about how to describe the world we were drifting into; I knew already that Tory rule would mean a intensification of all the things we needed to veer away from to avert future disasters, socially and ecologically. It really did feel like the dawn of a winter, and on the eve of 2011 I felt like I had to be prepared for this more than at any other point. This more intensified slotting of work-making between job and sleep, felt almost like a drill, or something compensatory for the coward I always feared I’d be when pushed came to shove, for whatever one may be shoved into. The studio was so cold the pipes froze and burst around Christmas time, and with my finger-less-gloved hands I’d have to hold my pens with one hand whilst holding an hot water bottle with the other. I miss the sincerity of the devotion to getting these works done, I really do.

 What music reminds me of this? In Bluer Skies, Echo and the Bunnymen


The early stages of the ironically-titled drawing, Global Ghetto, 2045, Marks The Centenary of The Defeat of Fascism


The early stages of ‘I Want None of This’


Monday, 23 November 2015

The Big Smoke (And Mirrors): Stories From Forgotten Space

This is a spoken word/video version of notes and mapmaking from earlier in September this year, over the weekend the Labour election leadership was decided.
It is part in a series of map-making’s of meanderings and musings that coincided with decisive events for the wider society in 2015. My thoughts on the past (my past), present, and longings for a future decisively different from the present loosely congregating around these events. This part covers Manchester, Barnsley and London.

The Big Smoke (and Mirrors): Stories From Forgotten Space from john Ledger on Vimeo.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

“High as You Can Go” (Walking from Darton to South Leeds)

Sometimes these things have just got be done. Today was one of those days. High as you go – still transfixed by the Chameleons’ Under The Script Bridge.

darton to hunslet

Walk out of the Barnsley area, through Staincross down to Woolley, seemingly stalked by two young men in a car, driving around beeping at me. Game playing. I’m sport,  basically, for their boredom. But there’s nothing you can say or do. I’m in a cloud of enough unlocatable guilt and paranoia making me sheepish enough, without dealing with those you can’t deal with. I hate the phrase ‘you can’t educate pork’ spouted from the ‘enlightened’ ones in any given town. I hate having to take the position of seeing folk as irredeemable tossers. But I’m not the one making it hard, I’m happy to get a long with any one if they agree not to give me grief. It doesn’t seem like such a hard deal to make. Most days you can brush it off, but there’s always that day when you don’t stand so tall, and then it hits you hard. My only response is to keep walking and walking indefinitely.



 As a male and female duo jog up and down a lane that stares down at the Vale of York, I come to the conclusion that all there is save total burn out, is stability, a rock in my life, of sorts. Think about my age. Yeah time’s have changed, but I remember how my grandparents got together at the ages of 14 and 16 respectively. Tomorrow when the shame of another heavy night wears off, I know I’ll be back in strenuously independent mentality. It’s no good though, always burn out. Maybe hastening the burn out by walking as far as I can is a good plan right now.

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Long road into Wakefield, things feel on top of me.  It’s make or break.

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Despite the world feeling so cold, and ‘the good life’ seeming unimaginable, there’s still an interest I give to areas that have a nice shape to them. Sandal, with its mix of old houses, and tree lined avenues has the look of a place a me, a different me, of futures and pasts, would like to be a ‘proper’ adult in.

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Decide to carry on past Sandal Agbrigg station, and try to walk on towards Outwood station. I may as well.

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The footpath vanishes alongside the trunk road that connects Wakefield and Bradford. I realise I’m in one of those types of zone that could only exist in the country in its current sad and bitter mould; a place made for people only if they are inside a car to begin with. For this reason I try to find a cut through to Outwood station  via an ‘enterprise zone’. Why do my thoughts become occupied with the notions of what it is to be mean-spirited when the roads all lead to dead ends monitored by cameras meaning I have to cut through a blackthorn bush in order to get back to the road I originally tried to leave behind? Our country has been structured around meanness. Common humanity helps us break through it, but in times like this at one side there’s a sense of being the weakling, the visible tradegy straggling at the side of the road, and a potential criminal looking up to no good on the other.

“Get down sucker”
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I’m that tired, and spaced-out by the motions of walking, I almost stumble into a passing car. As I approach the junction 41 industrial park I realise this too is not a place built for human scale route -finding; these distribution centres hold possibly nearly everything I eat and drink, and more. Yet they are also deserts, vast areas of emptiness with no signs of how to get out. I have no idea to exit, so have to take the long road, as i walk past the heaps of rubbish, likely thrown into the bushes from the thousands of lorries that pass through here, I decide it isn’t worth going backwards to Outwood station. I’ll head to south Leeds, and catch a bus from there. My legs never ache these days, they are numb.

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Not many roads are made for walking down. Not in the winter. My tired legs are finding it hard to climb onto the verges as the coming dark night makes it hard for drivers to see you. After crossing the M62, and a small road’s walk, it is literally a single field that separates the sprawl of Leeds from here. There is something disturbing about the lifelessness of the housing estate I enter, regardless of the cold of winter. It feels like a stage set from the near-dystopia drama Black Mirror, precisely because things feel that grim at the moment. ‘Britain is a country in the verge of nervous breakdown” – so said the narrator of the Sleaford Mods orientated documentary Invisible Britain, which I saw recently. These words have since narrated my walks through Sheffield, Barnsley, Wakefield and Leeds over the past 2 days. I wonder why…

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I finally make the bus as I arrive in Belle Isle.

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Friday’s Anguish


 The tipping point, on the weekly circuit of emotions. The gate has well and truly closed on the open field of youth. The gates into rites-of-passage-adulthood (property ownership -household, marriage? – as a substitute to the foreclosed horizons of a world beyond work/consume/die) neither entice me or let me in. Every time I look through its window it smiles whilst telling me to fuck off.

Yesterday was Thursday. Thursday evening is the time of the optimist if there ever is such a time. And there is, whilst-ever we remain under the clock of capital. I’m an optimist. I’m too optimistic to forget to forget. And I have become crippled because I’m forever looking for a way out. I can’t, just fucking can’t, accept it. Stubborn bastard that I am, trying every doorway except the ones I’ve been told to open.

So why does Friday always fuck me over? “The end of the working week!”. Maybe I took that too literally? The ending? Yeah, I’m up for that! So I set out across the hallowed avenues and urban hallways of my nearby towns and cities. But as my eagle eyes pick up not a way forward,  but the crush and compression of Now, quick fixes rush through my mind like a stampede of life trying to exit a burning room.”Northern Powerhouse?” Go fuck yourself, that should have meant something – if the future had actually arrived. But you stole that and sold us it back. And right now, not one of your new trendy cafes or real beer pubs can be anything more than a more socially acceptable plaster over a scar than that of those emaciated street drinkers, who increase in numbers in tear-jerking numbers around here.


I’m a badly beaten optimist. I should be able to stand proud with these bruises. But it just gets me so fucking wound up, that I just end up looking for the nearest pub (mirror view of ‘drinkers face’ like watching a collision course with premature old age, in slow motion).

What was once an itch I have scratched into a permanent scar.

My no-year resolution has been to stop cursing others even if they almost literally push my esteem-drained body out of the way within the eternal rush-hour.

I told myself to break a leg, and look for love. To give it that chance you never fucking dared giving it when there still seemed liked there was all to play for. To see if such emotions can be prised out of the interlocked catacombs where they roam up and down until they finally die of exhaustion. I told myself to take risks: say yes to silly escapades into the foreclosed future – because that foreclosed future may turn out to be far from what I expected.

I told myself all the things. I’ve told myself these things every day. But then there is Friday. Or more specifically Friday teatime, when that jaw-bridge on potential lifts up. That ‘new Dawn fades’ onto a another fucked up state. Rounded off with dead end binge drinking in my home town. I need that guide, with its (his or hers) hand to lead me quickly out of the circuitry of the ever-decreasing Dismaland.

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It’s an invisible consolation, when I realise I still have heart, as I feel it break in two as my longing gaze lands on the injustice of a broken army of innocents left to sleep in the streets of possibly the coldest night of the year.

Maybe I should also take consolation in the fact that my anguish is in fact indicative of the fact that I will never stop caring and hoping for something better than this.

Friday is the crusher. But as far as things stand I have always got back on my feet again. The fact that I get back on the same two feet to enter the same old crusher seems illogical to most. But maybe it’s time to take pride in my stubbornness.

….and I’m STILL currently listening to Under The Script Bridge by The Chameleons

Something So Vital always Feels out of Reach.


“I realise a miracle is due. I dedicate this melody to you. But is this the stuff dreams are made of. If this is the stuff dreams are made of. No wonder it feels like I’m floating on air. Everywhere, it feels like I’m everywhere.” – Second Skin, The Chameleons
I always return to The scene within a short space of its occurrence whether something messed-up happened,  or if it was something that seemed to offer more. (failed attempts to live in cities, hyper-paranoiac festival disasters, or that time when someone held my hand for a few seconds). Looking for that Thing, that different Thing, like it was a black box recording. It occurs to me it has something I need.

It always occurs to me after an heavy drinking, and enjoyable, evening. Maybe a false sense of connection to things. But I realise why my apparent stubbornness and refusal to ‘change’ is not going to go away.

“when I was a child is had a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye. I turned and looked but it had gone”.


I don’t think it’s merely about rare openings to the potential of romance, or a glimpse of a life of brighter colours to this one, aided by drink from the night before. They are just signs that lead to something that has nestled in my unsettled guts for as long as became a socialised being.
But then the night draws in, that space draws in, as the rush hour begins, and the dream-like-ness is washed away.

Whatever it is, it refuses to be rejected as fantasy, whilst it continually remains out of reach, as if my arms can’t stretch far enough, or there is always a pane of glass between me and it.
But the tide is ebbing on the open field of youth. It’s make or break, now. No more resignation to the slow suicide of mundane type.

This blog was written whilst listening to Under the Script Bridge by the Chameleons. It damn well had to be listened to.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Debtland (2015)

I’ve been on and off with the idea for this piece of work for almost 2 years now, with the initial idea for a work called Debtland coming to mind traveling to Leeds via train on a cold February night I  2014. So I’m glad I finally got around to putting it all together. Sometimes the ideas for my drawings are instantaneously in the right place, and I get on with making them straight away. Pieces such as Debtland sort of grow into so etching worthwhile in the background for a year or so.
Debtland (2015, 110X77cm, mixed media on paper)



Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles (May 2015)

Here is a spoken word version of my May blog, Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles. An account of myself and Michael Hill, walking around old haunts (Around South/West Yorkshire), conjuring memories, and futures of the past, on the eve of the 2015 UK General Election. Taking routes where long gone bus routes used to take us.

(John Ledger and Michael Hill) walking around old haunts (Around South/West Yorkshire), conjuring memories, and futures of the past, on the eve of the 2015 UK General Election. Taking routes where long gone bus routes used to take us.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Nothing New under Digital Rain


One hand on a remote Control, a joystick, a keyboard,  a touchscreen, itching with a need to turn over stones. Nothing ever matches up, but I feel so wired up that the urge to carry on searching wins every time.

To begin I have to talk about how uncomfortable my disinterest in a recent discovery breakthrough made me feel. News of the Rivers of Mars’  (the headline on the shitbag-from-nowhere The Metro) left absolutely no stain on my train of thought. There seemed to be this lingering sense that it should mean something to me, that the news should run right through me as if I was an electrical rod. Of course, I want it to mean more – I’ve been reared through decades in a society where the words ‘science’ and ‘progress’ are nearly always used in an evangelical light. Yet there is a near total collapse in our faith in the idea that we are progressing to somewhere/something better, all-the-more impounded by the sickly sound the word ‘growth’ has when spouted from the mouths of our world leaders.

The partnership between economic prosperity and civilisation is probably most visibly now defunct in our ambivalence towards discoveries, new technologies that would have, at one time, served as star signs to a better world. Something has turned our radars towards such horizons well-and-truly off. Certain forces have set in, serving as a ‘slow cancellation’ of our faith in the future, making us “oppressed” as Mark Fisher writes (in his book Ghosts of My Life) “by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion.” Yet we are still forced to get out of bed in a morning. We have no choice but to go through the motions.
Despite being laced with hypocrisy like an old oak beam is laced with woodworm, Victorian and postwar Britain sustained a collective belief that we were turbulently sailing the seas towards a better world. These pacts that endured through their hypocrisy were torn apart by the emergence of the neoliberal (or market fundamentalist) political economy, and it’s hammering home of its vision of individual guile amidst failed social projects.
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There is a synonymous relationship between the move towards neoliberal economics in the 1970s and the rise of the dominance of computer (digital) technologies. It is beyond doubt that they both serve and strengthen each other’s stronghold over reality. In fact the anthropologist and general all round bullshit-buster David Graeber argues that the “profound shift, beginning in the 70s, from investment in technologies associated with the possibility of alternative futures, to investment in technologies that furtheres labor and discipline and social control” was instigated by the then-emergent New Right (with their perfect storm-broth of Neoliberal economic theory with Neoconservative politics). He suggests that the economic program they would eventually set in motion under Thatcher and Reagan was motivated by their ‘concerns’ over the potential of a less-work-more-leisure, less economically-driven, and less competitive Western world in the wake of the cultural revolutions and hippy movements of the 1960s. Graeber argues that the Right had finally caught on to the somewhat truth behind the Marxist conviction that “capitalism’s very need to continually revolutionize the means of industrial production, would eventually be its undoing”. Spooked by the social and political progress of the 1960’s they helped put the brakes on this by leading us into an age where one technology would underpin the rest, limiting possibilities and forcing us into an even more work-orientated structure. 40 years later when our ability to contemplate anything, never mind alternative social systems, is literally broken up by our craving to use the devices at our fingertips to find ever-more tasks to complete, we can see who won the war of ideas in the 1970’s.

The premise here isn’t that nothing new is possible (I dearly hope the opposite is true), but that the proliferating digitisation of life into security codes and distributive media, that is aggrandized as offering us limitless discovery, actually does more than merely limits our horizons, but actually makes us increasingly tired of life. Computer technologies foreclose all other horizons, compressing them into the same one dimensional blocks of information as everything else, who’s production and distribution, despite promoting difference, hammers down a sensory-attack of the ever-same. There’s Nothing New under Digital Rain.

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Unending apprehension. Nothing sticks. 2015 doesn’t really exist.

The words Nothing New under Digital Rain came to me last week whilst hurriedly walking to work, as I end up doing nearly every morning. I have to enter the rural gap between the disjointed conurbations of West and South Yorkshire to get here – hardly the epicentre of cyberspacial connectivity. Digital Rain is a track by the music artist Zomby (from his 2011 album Dedication), who’s very sound takes the one-time-euphoric sound of late 20th century rave music, and takes it under the digital downpour of the 21st century, from where it literally sounds like a disintegration, a collapse of all narrative into an abyss of disbelief.

Even in this relatively broadband-free area, I still exist in a state of apprehension, anticipating unanticipated interruptions to the here and now, and thus having no sense of the here and now. Indeed I am occupied daily by a sense that nothing sticks anymore, that I have no real memory of the past few years, an era in which cyberspacial dependency has increased in conjunction with austerity-age-fueled survivalist anxieties. This clearly isn’t an isolated sensation when 2015 exists as as CGI-version of the 1990’s – the final full decade before the digital downpour. 2015 doesn’t believe in itself. Perhaps here, away from the warm glow of screens, as I walk feverishly quick in order to avoid the embarrassment of being late for work,  I can more noticeably recognise that I (we) have been perpetually put to work. Perhaps the term ‘The Cognitariat’ (which came to my attention through the writings of Italian thinker Franco Berardi) is the best at hand to describe the residual psychological exhaustion of a continuous and largely unrewarded work-life.
In a performance piece myself and Leeds-based curator/artist John Wright undertook earlier in the year, called Non-Stop Inertia: a Stuck Record (named after a succinct account on the contemporary work-life predicament by Ivor Southwood), we concluded that you no longer need to be in the midst of an interruptive Non-Stop environment to be in a state of perpetual apprehension, and that this continual anticipation of the unanticipated may itself be altering our ability to concentrate on the here and now, perhaps more so than computer devices themselves fostering it, which we largely scapegoat the younger generation with, accusing them of speaking in soundbite form. Indeed Jonathan Cary in his book 24/7, suggests that the 24/7 life “has produced an atrophy of Individual patience and deference that are essential to any form of direct democracy: the patience to listen to others, to wait ones turn to speak.” This spreads into every corner of physical life in the all-against-all fixed-race of up-to-our-neck-in-it neoliberalism, where “the waiting that one actually does now – in traffic jams or airport lines – acts to intensify resentment and competitiveness with those nearby”. A work colleague was literally physically attacked in a unprovoked incident recently as a motorist got out of her car and hit her on a seemingly calm autumn morning.

If we aren’t utterly detached, continually sharing ‘buzzfeeds’ and cuddly pics like an electronic-Eloi, then we’re snarling and swearing at those who languish in the very same predicament as us from behind our steering wheels, or within ticket queues. The system is literally sending us mad, and we need to find an exit strategy.


Backwards to go forwards. An acceptance of defeat?

Seriously, is it not possible that the recent craze around the 21st October 2015 being the date when Marty and The Doc traveled into the then-distant future in the 1989 hit film Back to The Future 2 may have been motivated by a longing for us to be able to go back, an then forwards, again? This time onto a better course? Like much retro-phenomena, we are potentially missing the point: that our obsession with them may be down to them alluding to different futures than the one that became our present. One thing is for sure, even if some of the technologies predicted in Back to The Future 2 did arrive, they could not have predicted the depressive nature and lingering sense of broken promises that constitute our digital Dystopia. In 1989 the neoliberal idea was only just beginning to vanquish all other ways of living among each other, and was still far off creating the reality we endure today.

Speaking to my friend/artist Dave Jarvis recently, amidst the initial clarity of drinking, he said “maybe we need to admit we’ve failed?”. This was no knee-jerk reaction. It was a reaction of someone (like myself) who is almost pre-programmed to defend the benefits of contemporary technologies, yet who’s found himself soberly coming to the conclusion that computer technologies have got us so ‘stuck’, in the face of some of the biggest human and ecological crises in the history of our species, that we may have to admit we’ve failed. Concluding that we might have to stop looking for the answers within this technological framework, (which is admittedly hard to do when you’re doing almost everything you do within it), and if not take a step backwards, then at least try to move sideways, out of the way of the glare of the screen.


“One of the standing affronts of disempowerment within 24/7 environments is the incapacitation of daydreaming or of any mode of absent-minded introspection that would otherwise occur in intervals of sloe or vacant time.”

 Jonathan Crary’s 24/7 is one of the most moving pieces of prose I have read in a long time. There is an unflinching devotion to the human condition running through the book. He is clearly captive to the longing to see our species transcend capitalist relations. The subtitle of 24/7 is “Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep”, and the book warns us that “sleep is a standing affront to capitalism”, due its unproductiveness, and it is being systematically eroded. Yet Crary isn’t just talking about sleeping per-se, it’s about the space to dream, concluding his book with the suggestion that “in many disparate states, including reverie and daydream – the imaginings of a future without capitalism begins as dreams of sleep.”

Such a sentence moved me profoundly, as I suddenly realised how much I shared this sentiment. We are all seeking arrival, a moment when we can finally fucking ‘log out’ for good. Nobody is on the social media all the time, job searching sites in their spare time after work (continuing the daily commute of physical space into cyberspace), because that is where they want to be. They want to be where media platforms promise but never allow them to final arrive at. Over recent years blogs, Facebook posts, and Twitter trends have revealed how the majority of us share the same distress about the world we live in. Social media, unlike Television and Newspapers before it, has allowed us to see that most of us basically want the same things (even if some are led into the destructive demonisation of other social groups). But even if it helps as an initial platform, computer technologies must finally be moved away from as the dominant technological force within our lives.

Acceptance of this does not mean running to the forests, away from the 24/7 world, it means accepting that computer technologies, as David Graeber argues, may not actually be true progress at all, not in the sense of the epoch-defining breakthroughs that went before it. If we can accept that, we may be able to pick up the new tools, ideas, products that have been probably created in-spite of the digital downpour. As my friend John Wright suggests, it’s more than certain that they do already exist, but possibly just can’t be seen by us at the moment: that the tools towards a tommorrow cannot be understood amidst an eternal present under digital rain.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Manchester and The Morning after… (Stories From Forgotten Space)

This is the 5th blogpost in part of a series that has thus far have largely centred around times/spaces where gatherings/events have felt like ample territory for my thoughts on the past (my past),  present, and longings for a future decisively different from the present. This post is centred around the demonstrations taking place outside the Tory Party Conference 2015 in Manchester. There is an urgent aim to map out the here and now, as I don’t otherwise seem to be able to sense it –  constantly looking back over ten years to when it felt that memories and experience stuck, rather than blew away with every given day. These half-truths of stories based around cognitive mapping processes are an attempt to counter this sensation..
4 October 2015
“Michael picks me up early on and we head over to Ossett, a small town sandwiched between Wakefield and Dewsbury; a ligament in the West Yorks conurbation of towns. On the car radio a program speaks of French Electronica, such as the likes of Air – of whom a sample is played. A warm, lush sound. “Why don’t I listen to this more often?” I think to myself, knowing full well I won’t, as something of my reality cancels it out; the warm sunny glow it evokes is squeezed out between the fear and disbelief of the ‘always on’ existence. We pick up Tony and Michael’s partner (both of whom I cannot remember if I’ve met before), and as we drop down the hill that brings you to Dewsbury (an attractive town that always surprises you for being so, due its unjustified negative press in the shadow of the Leeds/Harrogate/Ilkley perception of what is good/nice) I have a moment of open embarrassment and inner concern over the utter absence of any memory of meeting Michael’s partner at an event almost exactly 2 years ago. I haven’t felt there to be any duration to time or continuity to its passing during the past few years, to the extent that nothing seems to stick anymore – not like it used to. Further more, if this is a common complaint from the elderly who suffer memory loss, could this suggest that something of contemporary life could be bringing about an epidemic of ‘premature’ Alzheimers? – cold stabs of terror that aren’t appropriate to bring into the conversation right now. But any life so uneventful that nothing sticks, and nothing registers until death, isn’t a life worth living, and this is actually one of the reasons contributing to the utmost emphasis I began to place on partaking in political demonstrations in the wake of the May 8 election results. The sun shines on the now-sandblasted yellow sandstone that Dewsbury is built from. It doesn’t look so dissimilar from my home town, Barnsley, which stands alone in Yorks for being a former mining town that looks more like a former mill town.”kkk 
“As we wait for our delayed connection in Dewsbury station, two Manchester Airport-bound trains race past at a pace that can’t help impress in a way that an ever-quicker broadband connection can never. Trains used by TransPennine Express franchise trains aren’t the world’s fastest, but in relation to the still-slightly-slower pace of Sunday life, they are like horizontal space rockets, that force our primitive responses to watch them off into the distance towards the Pennines. As our train approaches we see the Sardine Can-scenario usually reserved for the weekday peak-time commutes. It’s heaving, and the member of staff on the train’s tannoy apologises for this in a tone that may as well have openly spoke of the inadequacy of privatised rail services for not putting on extra carriages. He could probably judge the spirit on board this train, as the majority of the passengers were clearly on course for the anti-Tory demo over in Manchester, and a general good air quelled any of our felt-grievances about being crammed into the wobbly section between the two carriages. With people from the Newcastle, Middlesborough, Leeds Metro areas all piled upon this train, there’s a feeling that The North can show London that not all big demos have to gravitate to the capital. My lack of window views means I’m missing out on my felt-need to see the Pennines as they rise up to separate Yorkshire from the blueprint for modernity – the sprawl of Manchester. However, I find great encouragement in that a man is walking around handing out free copies of the left-wing paper The Morning Star; such a refreshing gesture in comparison to the UK’s usual commuter misery-staple The Metro, which somehow still manages to present itself as not being a right wing rag.”
“As we approach Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), towards the gathering of people, via the carpark next to the Aquatics Centre (a onetime novelty addition to this built-up environment, constructed for the 2002 Commonwealth Games held here), I look up at the surrounding fir trees and into the clear blue sky – it looks computer-generated. I am moving in and out of a melancholia over an unfinished course (at MMU) that is a cipher for an unfulfilled adult life – I lapse into melancholia whenever self doubt and estrangement kicks in when I’m in large social situations.  All the more appropriate that I am telling the other two about always feeling like a spectator of my own life, like I’m always in 3rd person to myself, as we’re discussing a potential lack of political engagement within my age group (late 20’s to late 30’s?) compared to those either side of us. Perhaps what my age group shares is the experience of growing up amidst mass political indifference as the so-called ‘end of history’ 90’s passed into the 00’s via the smoke and mirrors of Blair. An ambivalence to anything happening around us that was only compounded by the illusion-of-democracy-erasing military invasion of Iraq, which sent the “nothing you can do but get pissed [find your own privatised happiness]” mentality into a full-throttle common conclusion. My MTV-ED age group share an inability to act, to risk getting our noses broken in the midst of political fracas – maybe because there was an assumption around that millennial moment that everything had already been said and done, and was on constant replay for us now? Whereas today, the only thing that seems to have meaning is to overthrow this ‘nihilizing’ empire, and those ten years younger than I are politically active not because they haven’t been jet-washed with the isolating media technologies and forms like us (as they’ve had it ten times worse since the birth of Broadband), but because they have been left with no illusions about this political-economy offering them any future worth enduring.”
“I move in and out of the crowd, to the toilet and to find [expensive bottled] water, and back onto Oxford Road – the crowd density distorts my perceptions to make me think I am walking far further away. I get Flashbacks to my time here after now standing on this section of road for over two hours, as if the duration of my presence is helping me absorb my old haunts. As I reflect on my inability to act, I realise that doubt is the main obstacle to invention and intervention, and I’m plagued by way too much of it. And all I usually find I can resort to is the sober resistance of a long-time depressive. I think of my life since I came to this place aged 19, and it conjures a soundtrack that is one constant noise….and it makes me nauseous. Leaving that course due to severe weight loss-provoked-anxiety/dysfunction meant I had to go back and face certain demons I’d been literally running, cycling [and swimming – at the Aquatics centre!] away from. This forced out the beginnings of my political awareness and the beginnings of being on the road I am still on.”

“I’m awash with an hard-to-explain fusion of personal and political memories and feelings as The Manic Street Preachers’ If You Tolerate This  plays out to the large crowd packed into the quintessentially narrow streets of this sardine tin-city of mills and terraces. Somebody shared this song on the all-important Facebook newsfeed during the past few days. There is something appropriate about it in 2015, even though it was released 17 years ago(!) this autumn, with a Brit-pop after-the-party musical style, in the year between the ‘things-can-only-get-better’ New Labour victory and the millennial malaise that had Travis/Toploader as its let-down soundtrack.  The Manics’ song almost shouts at us “hey, why the hell didn’t we pay attention to the meaning back in the late 90’s?”. They are playing this song, among others from the stage where speakers are soon to enter articulating opposing ideas to the Tories with the aim of giving this crowd hope. If You Tolerate This, in the face of what we’re fighting against, and what disturbing policies are being suggested at the conference up the road, sends shivers all down my arms and legs -“this is serious, deep stuff”. But shivers are nothing close to what hearing The Smiths’  ‘There is a light that never goes out’ is like, played out onto the streets of this city. This all-so-private song, that yet millions upon millions of us have a special place for in our lives, without shame. It’s like when the radio plays your favorite song, and you know that everyone else is hearing too, and how that makes your hairs stand up on your neck. But I bet nearly half the crowd are thinking and feeling exactly like me right now. Why does such a song seem to unite the longings for emotional companionship with the desire for a socio-political revolution? Yet, it does: emotional loneliness and the miseries of living under a ruthlessly-market driven system that requires our atomisation, are part of the same process. Such a song jerks those tears ever-harder in an age when we are all ‘lost-in-commute’ in cyberspace, trying to find our destination, and sick, ever so sick, of living under this system. There is a Light is like a minute’s silence within a national anthem for a de-territorialitised nation of ‘sensitive type’s’, unable to reify themselves for the market-individualism of these times; a silent moment in which they all silently contemplate how they’ve endured, to which the ‘light that never goes out’ becomes an optimistic beacon for our will to survive. As the crowd begins to move, I suppose the sight of wheelchair-bound protesters, draped in skeletons with placards saying ‘fit-for-work’ is a sobering and chilling reminder of the stakes on survival in these times. “Don’t get ill, whatever you do”. One placard sticks with me more than any other: “ConServitude and Social Darwinism” – but so many reminders, yet no sign yet of a closure on this compassion-less reality”
“We watch most of the demonstration pass us, and as we stay stood down by MMU we join it right at the back. After heading under the bridge, where Oxford Road passes under the inner ring road, we pass a large camp supporting the homeless (echoed by the large graffiti lettering saying ‘homes for the homeless’ written onto a derelict building just over the way). On a visual level only, it resembles the scenes of urban inequality when US cinema dares to show us that nation’s rotten insides. And this is frightening; Manchester is no longer the chilled millennial studenty-indie-music city it became sold to us as in the late 90’s; the politics of class war is once again visible on its streets – a stark reminder that we can’t return to that bubble, we have no choice but to fight back.  As we head towards the town hall, we end up clustered among the Black Block – hoods up and mouths covered (“should I be doing that?”). They are frustrated because the crowd has stopped; “what we fucking stopped for?” says one of them with an accent that sounds neither north nor south. Their haste for more direct action against the conference opens up the wounds of my dilemma between who I am, what I think is right, and that inability to act on this makes me uncomfortable about being more cowardly than I wish I was. I begin to lose my temper for reasons I can’t figure out, as my emotional confusion creates my own haste. I leave the crowd and go walking by myself, angry, and mildly paranoid that my abnormal movements will attract attention from the airborne police who may think I’m up to something, rather than just being my aimless self. Constantly feel a need to prove myself, but just walk around chuntering to myself. ”
“I eventually return to a level of sociality, retreat from my desire to find a pub, and locate my friends near a pub at Deansgate – where I do have one pint. We head down from here towards Oxford Road, surrounded by an increasingly fragmented group of demonstrators. I assume ‘the demo’ has come to that ‘glass of cold water in the face’ moment of late capitalist ‘realism’ where everyone starts thinking about work tomorrow, and what’s in their fridge for when they get back home (a thought conveniently attended to by the Sainsbury’s store we are now approaching). But as we begin to walk back down Oxford Road this proves to be a massively wrong assumption: whilst stood around the The Thirsty Scholar pub under the railway bridge, the police jump out of a van, approach and arrest a couple of members of an anarchist-leaning group who are having pints outside the pub. Tensions flare up as members/or friends of the young men being taken jump up, brandishing the cards we got handed earlier which state that the police have to state a clear reason for why they are detaining somebody. One of the friends I traveled with tries to intervene to help the young men being incarcerated, only for a police reaction to result in a scuffle that looks like it could get very messed up. And although it doesn’t, the potential sends my cowardly heart right into my mouth, and I’m shaking like always. I watch for what feels like an age with my customary dumb-spectator-glare, only to get more and more annoyed at my inability to act. I end up manically meandering up and down the nearby alleys where the graffiti-mural of ‘dirty old town’ Manchester no longer has that tame-millennia-mush-reflectionist-culture feel to it, and now takes on a look of ‘why we fight back’, which is what could be said of Manchester-2015 in general. As my friends stand on the pavement of Oxford Road absorbing what has just happened, they are in hearing distance of a pub bouncer who is that deeply bored with existence that his initially “everybody hear me(!)” dislike for the protesters is cut short to start talking about the football scores. I’m still shaking, and give in to half a pint within this focal point of trouble, The Thirsty Scholar. I realise I’ve walked into a poetry event, as the woman on stage recites verse on her guilt on walking past an homeless person who is asking for spare change – a guilt I feel I have documented thoroughly during the past few years. The event turns out to be part of this weekend’s nationwide ‘We Shall Overcome’ events.”

5 October 2015
“Trying to wake up this morning, after yesterday, was incredibly hard. Is it specific to my own make-up that I find ‘attending’ demonstrations to be an emotional rollercoaster to such an extent that I experience what a more far-flung version of myself would attribute to ‘jet-lag?’. But the emotional ‘wave-pool’ hasn’t died down yet, as now I’m up and about I’m borderline manic, which I make visibly evident in my haste of avoiding the subway on the way to Wakefield Kirkgate station, skipping over the dual carriageway, and jumping over the railings. I feel charged, you see, and I don’t want to go back to anxious sleep-walk of ‘everyday’ life, from where it’s ‘nihilizing’ affects beat me into daily-depressive-pleasure-seeking. This is why the sight of a stag-do on platform 1, gearing up for a night out (likely heading to York or Newcastle), already spilling beer everywhere, at 12pm on a dreary Monday, doesn’t initially stand out for being out of context. But then I realise that this isn’t down to that fact that I’m out of sync with any normal sequence of events: it’s because such a sight is utterly normal fullstop. It’s just one of many potential scenes from an already-anticipated slideshow; one of limited imagination and possibilities; a slideshow on endless-repeat. The return of the 80’s; not in class warfare, but in caricature, comic book and video-game fancy-dress-rehashing. A now-seemingly-obligatory ceremony for a Nowhere Time. And it’s literally standing in the way of my need to sustain the idea that there’s something beyond this Flat Earth Digi-box-Dystopia. I’m now on platform two as the train pulls in for Barnsley. I’m restless. I’m sat behind two men of baby boomer age – one with a Lancastrian accent, the other American. I can’t help it, but beneath the perpetual turmoil of my self-esteem, I’m quietly looking at the other passenfers and thinking “do you want social change? Are you sick of all of this too?”

“As I leave Barnsley train station I notice the headline on the piles of The Metro newspapers, ready to pounce on the easy-target of commuters made porous to such amnesiac-titillations by the drudgery of their 9-5’s. Today’s dish is a slur, focusing on a few minor occurrences to tarnish the entirety of yesterday’s demonstrations. It annoys me so much that I head into the interchange, down to the bus bays, looking for a copy I can take with me for documentation purposes only. I become engulfed by a sinking feeling, which captures me off guard as I battle with faltering energy levels. There is an era-long set-in sense of defeat around here. People may use the word ‘depressed’ to describe a place with a derogatory slant with the aim of shining a preferential light on themselves for not being from there (fuck knows what city of gold they come from...). Being from there, well, the word takes on a very different slant altogether. If the song ‘There Is a Light…’ compounded and united disparate longings I have whilst in Manchester yesterday, then it’s The Smiths’ lyrics “…for there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I’ve seen them, but not very often” that currently gives voice to an otherwise unjustified sense of let down, as I walk past the bus lanes. In the wake of being at/or doing anything that momentarily suspends this so-called ‘everyday’, I always get this sense articulated by these Smiths’ lyrics, as I come back to my extended-sleeping-quarters  (for most my life) of the Barnsley Borough. I have seen slight glimmers of something that could take the place of this ‘everyday’, and I’m in no way referring to town centres such as this one being ‘Shorditched’ into an unending hipster’s paradise cyberparty. I’m talking of something that feels alive, and is beyond the black and whites of ‘fun/boring’ of this current reality.”