Drifting in Bromley-by-Bow

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.(Guy-Ernest Debord)

On a cold and rainy day in February, equipped with cameras and notepads, the London team took to Bromley-by-Bow in a first collective approach to uncovering conditions of scarcity on the ground. In his dérive, Jeremy Till discovers ‘legislated scarcity’ in the ‘pink bins full of recyclable stuff deemed unrecyclable’ and a series of signs proliferating Bromley-by-Bow’s marginal status. He is interested in the opportunities of repairing scarcity as they present themselves in the countless examples of ‘improvised and unlegislated’ urban farming or ‘provisional architecture for provisional times’. Flora Bowden is struck by the ‘scarcity of people’ to be encountered in the area, and the ‘blurred boundaries of private and public space’, suggesting that the excessive legislation of Bromley-by-Bow’s public spaces has ‘led people to domesticate’ and to discover ways to creatively overcome conditions of scarcity. Claire Harper uses Michael Sorkin’s ‘Bill of Rights’ to explore scarcities as the restrictions to these rights and freedoms. She notices the silence of Bromley-by-Bow as precluding the freedom of anonymity; ‘overspills’ from private into public space as symptomatic of the lack of residential space; or the ‘tagging’ of public estates as preventing individuation. Dougald Hine notices the ongoing privatisation of older public spaces and institutions, including housing, and development strategies aiming at ‘tidying up’ despite the risk of menacing ‘sterility’. He, too, sees potential for future research and action in the ‘outbreaks’ of ‘improvised’ acts of appropriation in the built environment. Deljana Iossifova embarks on a photographic journey along the official border of Bromley-by-Bow to record instances of material scarcity so as to loosely link and situate them within a broader context of urban sociospatial change. Kate McGeevor identifies corporate community gardens, inconveniencing building sites, the scarcity of natural colour in the area, emerging racial tensions, and, most importantly, the lack of connections: ‘with nature’, ‘with neighbouring wards’, and ‘within the area itself’. Click here for a detailed account of the Bromley-by-Bow dérive.