New publication based on Whit Walks research

This paper has now been published online in the journal Space and Culture and is co-authored with Prof Dominic Medway. It is based on the work I have been doing on the Whit Walks and examines how they can be used as a lens to understand how urban placemaking functions neither from the top-down or bottom-up but from the middle! Click here for the paper but please do just get in touch and I am happy to send a PDF file if you do not have institutional access.

This paper offers a critical analysis of how urban placemaking as a top-down or bottom-up action, involving organizational intervention or facilitation, is typified by problematic angles of approach. Instead, we evidence a flat ontological perspective, entering into urban assemblages to feel the chaotic and ever-changing forces that make places. Specifically, we use the Deleuzoguattarian lens of the refrain to employ a transversal analysis of the placemaking inherent within an urban event—the Manchester and Salford Whit Walks, a Church of England procession that has been iterated for over 200 years. This reveals the importance of always-becoming place, characterized by ongoing repetition with difference, and embodied in the notion of Sometimes. . . Sometimes. . . Sometimes. . .. We conclude that urban placemaking is not something that can be simply started through organizational intervention, or facilitation of community-led approaches, but a process that needs to be engaged with from the middle.



Battling the banners – Materialities of the Whit Walks 2019

I have just been reviewing my photos from yesterday’s annual procession and as it was the first time I have witnessed the Walks in more blustery weather I appeared to have taken quite a few shots of the banners. The relationship between the weather, the Walkers, the banners and other materialities which come into play is part of what constitutes the Whit Walks over time and space. The care and attention that is paid to these banners is also worth noting. Especially the traditional banners which have probably seen more Walks than those walking yesterday. There are also more modern banners which are produced through modern technologies rather than hand sewn.


The Procession: Ordering and (and, or, and, or) disordering?

I should be writing a conference presentation. It is nearly done, I promise, but I entered a bit of a wormhole of thinking as I am unsatisfied with the ideas presented so far in what I intend to cover (I mean when are we ever satisfied as academics). I  have been reading different studies of processions and parades for a while now and there seems to often be two lines of thought – processions are about order or, they are about disorder. This thinking has been taken up by Sam Griffith’s in his work on procession is Sheffield where he critiques that this ordering is imposed on the urban context but rather emerges from it (ok it is a much more nuanced debate than that and I highly recommend reading his work). However, if we take a protest march as a processional form the intention or the function is one of disobedience or disorder. However, by its very nature, a procession is an ordered movement through space. Whilst their may be flashes of disobedience in these marches one must proceed forward in alignment with the other marchers (Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s work on movement in concert is important here). So, there is a tension here between form and function of the protest march?

Also, as I have been working on for a while order is not maintained in terms of the same processional form year on year. There is slight disorder (or lines of flight – nods to D&G) which keeps the procession functioning year on year – minor adaptions (intentional and unintentional) which ensures the future is secured for the form of procession.

What I am trying to unpick is how can you capture this ordering and, or, and, or, and, or disorder (again – doffs cap at D&G)? What forms of language or visualisation can be sought to understand how this takes place. I feel like this is somehow a part of why processional forms are compelling. At present, I am looking at a topological analysis of processions to account for this structure and change all at once in the same space – open to ideas dear reader!!

Processions as dwelling… a short film

A while ago I played around with making some ideas I was having about the Whit Walks into a short film. I am by no means skilled and it was thrown together using iMovie with zero idea what I was doing! I roped my Dad in on the action and had an amusing day recording the voiceover (they live on a flight path!). The result was shared at a couple of conferences but I didn’t want to share it more widely as I was concerned about permissions for some images. So I have recut it using images that are my own and some archive footage that I do have permission to use from the Northwest Film Archive (to share on this blog and at conferences etc).

Forgive its rough nature but I wanted to express some ideas more visually to give people a sense of what the Whit Walks are!

The Whit Walks in Visual and Popular Culture

So I haven’t blogged in soooo long for two reasons:

  1. I have been busy doing the work!
  2. I sometimes feel like I have little ‘actual work’ to show for all the work (i.e. papers under review but not published/bids written but waiting answers).

Anyway, I was at Tate Britain last week and they have a LS Lowry painting on display ‘The Pond’

At the very bottom of this painting is a small procession with a banner. Now, I am not clear if this is a trade union procession or a Whit Walk but it got me thinking. LS Lowry has other works which depict processions more explicitly such as The Procession’  and the Whit Walks in South Wales are depicted in ‘Procession in South Wales, Whit Monday’

I am going to have a look into these artworks more closely but it got me thinking about other examples of Whit Walks in visual arts and popular culture.

The most notable example is in the film of Salford playwright, Shelia Delaney’s play, “A Taste of Honey’. More recent use of the Walks in a film is the wonderful opening scene of the 1999 film ‘East is East’ (based on the play by Ayub-Khan Din) where the walks set the scene for the working class milieu of Salford in the 1970s.

Clip from East is East opening scene (1999)

What I am thinking of doing to collating examples of the Walks representation in visual, literary (‘The Manchester Man’ being an example here) and popular culture to understand how they are imagined in the wider popular consciousness.

Please do let me know if you know of any examples!

I also promise to blog more!


A few photos from Whit Walks 2018

I haven’t had a chance to look through all my images and videos properly yet but here is a random selection from the Walks today in the glorious Manchester sunshine. I will do a full post once I have time to go through all my field-notes and processed my thoughts! There were many new churches but also many I have become familiar with over the last few years were missing. There are plenty more photos (hundreds!) to sort through and I will post more soon.


Processions: A dissertation together with practical suggestions

I have recently acquired a short book published in 1932 by Bishop Colin Dunlop (1897-1968) who was, in 1955, appointed as the first chair of the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England. In his short book ‘Processions: A dissertation

together with practical suggestions’ he outlines the nature of religious procession historically and in current form. He is critical of the decline of the proper use of procession and makes a series of suggestions of how it can be reinstated as, “a liturgical means of leading modern congregations into a more ready understanding of the Christian faith” (p. 9).

In the first section of the book Dunlop charts the history of processions. He makes the link between processions and pilgrimages in that processions had a purpose and were directional.

“Plainly these processions are not mere marching for the sake of marching; they are made in order to arrive at certain holy places; on arrival lessons are read and prayers are said appropriate to the place and season at which the visit is made” (p. 11)

Indeed, this is something that I have been reflecting on in terms of defining a procession and there seems to be a general agreement that a procession leads somewhere. However, he comments that processions have shifted from plain to becoming more lavish and whilst he is not critical of this necessarily he appears to be more aggrieved with processions that have no purpose. He speaks of processions that take place within churches and how they often end up where they started – for him this is not defined as a procession. He draws on the 1883 work of Canon T. A Lacey ‘ The Liturgical Use of the Litany and quotes him directly…

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Manchester and Salford Whit Walks: A really potted history

Whilst this is by no means a comprehensive history of the Whit Walks, I thought I best provide a bit more context for the posts in this blog. There are a few more comprehensive overviews out there I would recommend Canon Jim Burns’ book if you can get hold of a copy as the most interesting overview complete with personal reflections from people who have walked over the years (available in Manchester Central Library). I do intend to try and develop a fuller explanation – we have gathered over 200 years of news archives related to the Whit Walks in Manchester which we are in the process of making sense of. Below is work that is pretty much pasted from a conference paper I delivered so is a really condensed explanation! Here is a picture of my Grandma doing the Whit Walks in Denton (South-East-ish of Manchester)….

Alice Platt (my grandma) taking part in Denton’s Whit Walks

During the beginnings of industrialisation in Lancashire, the Whitsun holiday was seen as one of the most important times of the working classes calendar (Fielding, 1989). The Walks were traditionally undertaken on Whit Friday for the Catholic churches and Whit Monday for the Anglican churches during the religious festival of Pentecost. Pentecost celebrates the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as described in The Act of the Apostles in the New Testament. Fielding states that the first Anglican walk took place in Manchester in 1801 with the Catholics following the tradition by 1844 (Fielding, 1989).

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