Sunday 18 January 2009

Temporary School of Thought - a round-up

Image courtesy of Lloyd Davies

I've had a lot of people coming here over the last few days to read about the Temporary School of Thought in Mayfair. I'm hugely inspired by what the organisers there have achieved - not least because of the contrast to the introspective factionalism of the squatted social centres I used to hang out in a few years ago. So I thought I'd do a round up of some of the great blog posts, podcasts and pictures documenting what they've achieved over the last couple of weeks.

The Temporary School's curriculum has been impressively eclectic, with hands on workshops in everything from welding to treehouse-building to portrait photography. A number of the talks from the more ideas-based strand of its activities are now available online in various forms, including my talk on Deschooling Everything:

  • Vinay Gupta on Infrastructure for Anarchists - audio / lecture notes

  • Vinay Gupta on Avoiding Capitalism for the Next 4 Billion - audio / lecture notes

  • Dougald Hine on Deschooling Everything - audio (5 mins of chat before it starts)

  • Ben on Virtual Reality and the Immersive Ideal - audio

  • Mike Bennett on Setting up the Post-Capitalist Enterprise - audio

  • Vinay Gupta on Biometrics for Freedom - audio

I'll blog the video of my talk as soon as it's edited. Meanwhile, as a balance to the newspaper headlines, here are some more thoughtful accounts of the Temporary School and responses to it from around the blogosphere:

  • Londonist writes "What do you do with five floors of long-abandoned Mayfair luxury, complete with hand painted Chinese wallpaper and a warren of servants' quarters? Tidy the place up, for starters. Then launch your own school."

  • (You) Enoch has pictures which convey the full the grandeur of the place - while there are more images here.

  • Travels with my Teenager has a nice account of her visit, concluding: "This is real education. I just wish my daughter didn't have to spend so long at school."

  • Lloyd Davies tells how he ended up at the Temporary School as a result of The Tuttle Club - and has a video of the juggling workshop.

  • Dan Gould puts the Temporary School in the context of School of Everything and The School of Life (which I must go and check out soon...).

  • Badger on Fire went down for the Virtual Utopias session and ended up offering to run a Super 8 movie-making workshop.

  • Ligress focuses on the wider context of squatting and the number of empty properties in London and beyond - as well as the French book binding workshop.

  • Dave Bones reflects on how the Temporary School and squatters in general deal with the mainstream media. (For what it's worth, I agree with him about working with journalists rather than excluding them, though I understand why people are cautious about this.)

  • Speaking of the mainstream media, I was amused to discover TSoT had made The Washington Post! [Registration required.]

  • Contemporary art review site Axis has a rather snotty write-up from Josie Faure Walker, who - in true postmodernist style - seems to have difficulty remembering whether she's being ironic or not.

  • Finally, one of my favourite pieces is from the (difficult to link to) The More I [...] Blog:
    Worth observing about these schools is how much better than universities they are at promoting learning. Universities, these days – all thinkpods and co-ordinated swivel-chairs, in drab contrast to the joyfully cobbled-together Temporary School of Thought – all look much the same. The tube posters advertising higher education here in London echo this, be they intense and corporate, stressing the exact probability of a career after graduation, or trying desperately to be down-with-it. There just isn't enough be-tweeded, elbow-patched, avuncular rambling in those classrooms; nothing, in short, to hark back to a time before league tables.

    Instead, learning is miserably positioned as a means to an end. Compare, for instance, the respective websites for a leading university and the School of Life. The latter encourages a thorough flurry of clicks from the get-go, with the welcome accompaniment of intellectual whimsy. Most importantly, perhaps, it assumes a base level of scholarly curiosity. You don't get that with the university – instead, what comes across is a one-track treadmill; a site segregated immediately into department and subject, before you even get any proper sense of what the institution stands for. [see entry for Tuesday, 13 January 2009]

The organisers are finalising the programme for week 3 - and I'm back there on Wednesday at 5pm with a session on Economic Chemotherapy. (I'll be thinking out loud about the possibilities for reversing economic growth, why this might be desireable and how we could thrive in such a scenario.) Beyond that, who knows? I'm hoping the Temporary School is a sign of a renaissance of improvised, informal learning spaces across London and beyond in 2009. The London Free School folks are already organising a weekender for 20-22nd February. And there are plenty more under-used spaces around the city that could be put to use.


Jim pointed me towards his blog, The Posh Squatter, which has some great stories from the heart of the Temporary School. I particularly liked his account of the day the house's former owners, a down-at-heel aristocratic family, come round to visit:

When they left, they took my number so they could find out how we get on when the building's owners take us back to court. They wished us luck and wondered "Is there any chance you might get to keep it?"

Meanwhile, messenger-zine Moving Target has a great write-up of Jim's talk about his experiences as a bike messenger, No Fixed Ideas. It's a great example of the mixture of worlds that come into contact with each other in a temporary space like this.


Dol said...

Looking forward to your session on economic chemotherapy: will there be audio again?

kerstin said...

Thanks for the plug. There were some great lectures there, I only wish I had more time that week to see them all.
Vinay Gupta is fascinating and I would have liked to attend the French book binding and the deschooling talk.

LuckyJim said...

Great work collecting all these links together. Could you please add my blog? I'm one of the guys inside the house...

Though it's more easier navigating from here:



Dougald Hine said...

@Dan - cheers! Wish you were going to be there to ask me difficult questions - though I'm sure there will be others on hand. There should be audio and video (thanks to my new Sanyo Xacti micro-video camera, which I'm very chuffed with!).

@MsMarmitelover - no problem! There's lots more going on this week, too, by the way. Here's the new timetable.

@LuckyJim - really glad you pointed me to your blog! I've just added links into the original post. Was very interested in your take on the decisions over media policy. I'm a bit jaundiced about the whole activist/media dynamic, having spent too long working for the BBC while spending my spare time hanging out with anarchists. Both sides end up unnecessarily paranoid about the other because of lack of understanding and a tendency to read deliberate intentions into actions that are the unintended result of structures and/or worldviews. But I've written about that before on here, so I'll shut up!

happyseaurchin said...

excellent blog

kerstin said...

oh damn,
saw your response too late!
I guess it's all over now.

Dougald Hine said...

@MsM - It is for now - but I suspect the TSoT crew will pop up again somewhere else before too long. I'll keep an ear out for rumours!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link. You've got a new fan of the blog.

To help with linking to (difficult I know!) I've created a hyperlink to the specific post you mention:

Hope that helps.

All the best


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