Politics of Representation

Taking baby steps into the fields of gaze, ownership, freighted space, othering, collaborative and participatory practice and suchlike I need a blog section to hold my notes and thoughts about the journey.  This is it.  I found a phrase which seems to corral these matters into a loose group: The Politics of Representation.    Off we go.

First under the microscope is George Orwell and I spent an interesting Sunday morning digging around the ‘net to discover some of the background to his ‘Road to Wigan Pier’ and his life in general.

Orwell spent some time in The North (actually a fortnight in Wigan) observing the inhabitants who were to become the subjects of his book.  He was not impressed; Northerners offended his sensibilities and it seems from his diary of that time that the most worthwhile outcome of lifting them from abject poverty would be to save him from the deep discomfort he experienced sharing their circumstances.

31.1.36        To Coventry by train as arranged, arriving about 4pm. Bed and Breakfast house, very lousy, 3/6. Framed certificate in hall setting forth that (John Smith) had been elected to the rank of Primo Buffo. Two beds in room – charge for room to yourself 5/-. Smell as in common lodging houses. Half-witted servant girl with huge body, tiny head and rolls of fat at back of neck curiously recalling ham-fat

He only had to put up with it for eight weeks and during that time he had sufficient funds to eat-out for every meal and travel by train wherever he went, luxuries which most of his subjects could barely imagine.  Here are some of his other comments:

Lousy breakfast with Yorkshire commercial traveller

Wandered about slummy parts of Wolverhampton for awhile, then had lunch and walked 10 miles to Penkridge. Wolverhampton seems a frightful place.

Went to Temperance Hotel thinking this would be cheap, but bed and breakfast 5 /-. The usual dreadful room and twill sheets greyish and smelly as usual.

 In Penkridge about 4.30 halted for a cup of tea. A tiny frouzy° parlour with a nice fire, a little wizened oldish man and an enormous woman about 45, with tow-coloured bobbed hair and no front teeth.

Rudyard Lake (really a reservoir, supplying the pottery towns) very depressing. In the summer it is a pleasure resort. Cafes, houseboats and pleasure-boats every ten yards, all deserted and flyblown, this being the offseason. Notices relating to fishing, but I examined the water and it did not look to me as though it had any fish in it. Not a soul anywhere and biter wind blowing. All the broken ice had been blowing up to the south end, and the waves were rocking it up and down, making a clank-clank, clank-clank – the most melancholy noise I ever heard. (Mem. to use in novel some time and to have an empty Craven A packet bobbing up and down among the ice.)  [my bold]

As always and everywhere, the dress peculiar to the locality is considered plebeian

This evening to a social the N.U.W.M …….Round the back a few aged miners sitting looking on benevolently, a lot of very young girls in front. Some dancing to the concertina (many of the girls confessed that they could not dance, which struck me as rather pathetic) and some excruciating singing. I suppose these people represented a fair cross-section of the more revolutionary element in Wigan. If so, God help us. Exactly the same sheep-like crowd – gaping girls and shapeless middle-aged women dozing over their knitting – that you see everywhere else.

All of the above from the transcripts of Orwell’s diary https://theroadtowiganpier.wordpress.com/page/4/

All in all, he found very little to redeem his view of Northerners. His Tripadvisor review was pretty glum too.