Wasted Common: a reading/viewing/listening list

24 Jun 2014 | David Bell - Nottingham, England

There were a lot of inspirations for Wasted Common, and I drew on a lot of peoples' research and ideas in making the programme. This list is in part to acknowledge those debts, but also to provide links people may want to follow up on for further information.


One of the biggest inspirations for Wasted Common were Ewan MacColl and Charlie Parker's Radio Ballads. They were incredibly groundbreaking, and mixed interviews, incidental music, song and field recordings. The sampling of Ewan MacColl's 'Dirty Old Town' at the beginning of the programme was partly a nod to this influence (though the lyrical content also fitted perfectly as it could describe The Island in the 50s). The radio ballads also had a social conscience, of course (even though Parker was a Tory when he began making them - I think I'm right in saying he became increasingly leftwing throughout the process though). The Ballad of John Axon (1958) is a wonderful portrait not just of a brave man but of a particular form of labour, whilst The Travelling People (1964) is one of the most moving studies of abjection and prejudice imaginable. I can't recommend them highly enough. Those that have survived are available to buy here.

I'd also like to really thank Resonance FM for commissioning this piece in the first place, and for being so open to experimental radio forms. Their brief to try and do something that could only be done on radio, and to push the boundaries of the format, was refreshingly empowering.


When we began working with The Island, we thought of our methodology as a kind of 'stalking'; and then we remembered Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (stream it free here) and noted that The Island has some similarities to 'the zone' in that film (time is perceived differently there, and the ruined industrial buildings look similar). In fact, we showed Stalker at our launch event a couple of years back. Eduard Artemyev's soundtrack was a big influence on the music made by Surfacing (of which I'm a member) for the programme, and as in Stalker I wanted a central refrain that could be reused throughout to bind the at times disparate subject matter and unsettle linear time.

Two very different films I saw too recently for them to have had any real influence on how this panned out, but which touch on similar issues and that I can strongly recommend are T Dan Smith: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Utopia by the Amber Film Collective and Concrete Heartland by Steven Ball and Ratsko Novakovi?. 


How could anyone not be inspired by Einstürzende Neubauten's joyous repurposing of wastelands and urban space; especially when making a programme partly about wastelands in Berlin. There's a risk of disasterbation in their work, perhaps, but they did it before it became such a widespread cultural phenomena and with a hell of a lot more subtlety. And there was also an important critique of the optimism around the German economy at the time. That became particularly prescient with the rush to redevelop after the fall of the wall, which has created some pretty startling inequality. I'd also strongly recommend Jennifer Shrayne's writings on the band.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Set Fire to Flames were also strong influences: partly for the way they fused music with field recordings and interviews, but also for the way they seem to create such a strong sense of place through their music - to me, at least. And there's a sense of hope despite the ruins in their work too.

The 'utopian' trance section is inspired by, well, my love of cheesy trance. Straightforward utopianism is, of course, always 'problematic' (to coin a phrase), but it's great fun to let yourself go sometimes.

Dan Horner and Remi Fox-Novák - my bandmates in Surfacing - are also constant sources of inspiration. The semi rhythmic percussive sound that forms a lot of the incidental music in the programme is an instrument Dan made from bed springs abandoned on The Island.


 *=link is free to read/download

**=free with university login

Italics means it's a book, everything else is a chapter/article/pamphlet

Many of the books have been 'commoned' in .pdf form in libcom's library

On the commons and enclosure:

David Eden - Autonomy

Peter Linebaugh - Stop Thief! The commons, enclosure, resistance

Luther Blisset - Q*

George Caffentzis - In Letters of Blood and Fire

John Holloway - Crack Capitalism

Midnight Notes Collective - Promissory Notes: From Crisis to Commons*

Alex Jeffrey, Colin McFarlane and Alex Vasudevan - Rethinking Enclosure: Space, Subjectivity and the Commons**

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri - Commonwealth 

On ruins porn/disasterbation:

Denis Diderot - The Salon of 1767

John Cunningham - Boredom in the Charnel House: Theses on 'Post-Industrial' Ruins

Out of the Woods' libcom blog

Brian Dillon, ed. - Ruins

Owen Hatherley - The New Ruins of Great Britain

On wastelands:

Matthew Gandy - Marginalia: Aesthetics, Ecology and Urban Wastelands**

On abjection:

Imogen Tyler - Revolting Subjects

On 'creative' capitalism/gentrification/regeneration:

Southwark Notes

Andrew Harris and Louis Moreno - Creative City Limits: Urban Cultural Economy in a New Era of Austerity*

Urban Pamphleteer

Tom Slater - Gentrification of the City*

Not In Our Name! - Hamburg artists against gentrification*

Joel Kotkin - Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class*

David Panos - Create Creative Clusters*

Benedict Seymour - Shoreditch and the Creative Destruction of the Inner City* 

General inspiration:

Doreen Massey - For Space (link to podcast)

Marcus Doel - Poststructuralist Geographies: The Diabolical Art of Spatial Science

Henri Lefebvre- Rhythmanalysis

Fredric Jameson - Archaeologies of the Future: the desire called utopia and other science fictions

Stevphen Shukaitis - Imaginal Machines*

Lots of utopian, science-, weird-, fantastic fiction: Margaret Attwood, J.G. Ballard, Ursula le Guin, China Mieville, Marge Piercy...

 And finally...

The biggest inspiration, of course, comes from the people I've worked with through the project: Mathew Trivett and Rebecca Beinart of Wasteland Twinning Nottingham; Alex Head in Berlin; Ferdiansyah Thajib in Yogyakarta; and Ansgar Reul in Amsterdam, as well as all the artists we've worked with in those places. Plan C's guided walk around Leeds inner-city also sparked a lot of important thoughts.

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