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All Planned Out? - The Worldwide Impact of the British Town and Country Planning System
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All Planned Out?
The Worldwide Impact of the British Town and Country Planning System

18 and 19 May 2007

Andrew Calcutt

Principal Lecturer, University of East London, editor of Rising East, author of Arrested Development: pop culture and the erosion of adulthood (1998) and White Noise: contradictions in cyberculture (1999).

A child of consensus (born 1955): father on the run from upper class origins; mother on the up from pre-war Depression. Brought up in re-constructed Coventry. Latin and Greek by day (King Henry VIII School), playing in bands by night (Soft Machine meets Ska). Belgrade "civic theatre", new Cathedral and Umbrella Arts Club loom large.

From Bristol University (Drama, 1973 to 1976) to EMI Cinemas (assistant manager) to trade press (B2B magazine editor at 21), all the time playing music and, latterly, making records in London SW4. Recommended by Charlie Gillett and John Peel, but not enough cash coming in to keep Precinct Records out on the road. Anyhow, hybrid of Roots and cheesy Pop clearly inadequate as a response to Thatcherite policing and ensuing "Brixton riots".

Return to Coventry (1982) in time to see it "de-industrialised": consensus city on the scrapheap. Set up, edit and publish community arts magazine ("this city is ours; this space is yours"). Writer-in-residence at de-industrial estate near centre of Ghost Town, financially assisted by West Midlands Arts. Dilemma of community arts: first and foremost, to be activist or artistic? Turn of events (1984) again demands different response: the miners' strike - which side are you on, and what are you going to do about it?

1990s: casual sub-editing shifts (paid well), editing alt.culture in Living Marxism/LM (paid nothing). Enjoyed playing Soho Boho in boom: editor of early online magazine, Channel Cyberia, financially assisted by Microsoft; alongside various short-term media contracts (Clarke TV for Channel 4; Talk Radio). Moved on from media conferences to academic ones; from compressed journalism to long arguments in books.

New century, new campus. Take up "hackademic" post at UEL Docklands, design and deliver new degrees in Journalism. Research the question of mediation, post-Politics.

Established Rising East online as space to debate the re-making of East London and its changing international relations.

click here for Rising East online

Also set up MagLab: magazines under the microscope, a meeting point for inquiring media professionals and industry-oriented academics.

click here for MagLab

Website: and


11.30 to 13.00 on Saturday 19 May 2007

Seeing Through Transparency: the plight of planners without the public


Ostensibly, transparency is all about being ostensible - making a show of what is being done to others outside the circle of those doing it. It is the interface between "little us" (professionals) and "big us" (the general public of which professionals are both a part, and apart).

But the problem with this transparency is that its wider public is nowhere to be seen. There are special interest groups, but these are not manifestations of comprehensive debate or a universal public sphere; instead by their peculiarity such groups indicate the demise of the former and the absence of the latter.

"Transparency", therefore, is far from transparent. It is not like a pane of glass which sheds light from one side to another; it is more like a mirror, black-backed and opaque, which reflects upon the professionals who have generated it.

"Transparency" is planning in the process of ruminating about itself. It highlights planners as creatures of a culture of narcissism: keen to do the right thing but wracked by doubt about how to recognise right from wrong.

Previous generations of planners were given their bearings by expanding institutions (corporations, the state) and reciprocal, popular movements. But the former seem paralysed (except in the frantic arenas of, respectively, financial markets and moral re-/de-generation), and the latter are off the map.

clickOnly Connect: making use of culture in the mediation of social relations (April 2007) 76KB

There are no social movements; but society has not stopped moving. Our times are as necessarily social as they are also dynamic. In these circumstances, peer-review may be the best available mechanism for making planners accountable. Not to a public which has disappeared - for the moment, at least; but to a tradition of professional specialism in which public knowledge and popular experience are distilled and combined.

Seeing Through Transparency: the plight of planners without the public

More to follow shortly...

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