an away day in Bedford

2 Oct

Yesterday we held a walkabout-cum-learnathon-cum-exploration-of-space-cum-awayday in Bedford. We were hoping to learn something about unemployability. We learned:

  1. about historically-defined administrative units of wapentake, hundred, shire and county. We learned about their role in feudal enclosure and political control and taxation. And in our wondering why they developed as they did, with different flavours in different spaces/places, we reflected upon their historically-situated and defined emergence, and the historically-situated and defined emergence of new possibilities. Just because it was, doesn’t mean it has to be;
  2. about the role of public schools and rowing clubs and rugby clubs and the aristocracy in the early development of football and the way in which the town provided a space for former colonial administrators, in the history of Bedford. And we learned about the sacking of the town under Henry III and its pivotal medieval role on the River Great Ouse. And we wondered about how that inscribed the place and the space with a particular culture and set of explicit values that denied other histories and possibilities by enclosing and refusing them;
  3. about the ways in which the successful defence of the line in rugby union offers a sense of hope and relief and release through a real-world focus on place and space. And the attritionality and precarity of our actions in the world. And we wondered how that shared engagement in a space, shared for immanent and yet disparate reasons by a crowd, and that co-operative association might enable new forms of production and use to emerge in other spaces. Or we wondered whether there always had to be dominant and dominating rules inscribed and imposed on our land.

And we thought about how walking through a place like Bedford, historically-situated as an amalgam of cultures, reflected by a distinctly conservative culture, might enable us to re-think our solidarity with #occupywallst, and prepare for action ahead of #nov9 and #nov30. And we wonder about this in the real-world, and in face of the proletarianising reality of austerity, and we reflect on the need for direct action, in enabling possibilities for a world of #unemployability that is against capitalist work as the primary organising principle for all our our lives.

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One Response to “an away day in Bedford”

  1. Gervase October 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Very good stuff, and far more impressive than the words that usually follow a Blues league game. (I can’t claim to have been thinking about much other than the next beer, and karaoke in The Blarney Stone!)

    A clarifying historical point… Bedford Blues were founded as an amalgamation of the Britannia Ironworks team (Swifts) and another linked to a working men’s club (Rovers), so be careful not to characterise it in the same bracket as the rowing and Harpur Trust schools. The perpetuation and success of the Blues has had a bit to do with this set, but more so the PE college (now University of Bedfordshire) and the fact that the team plays in the town centre, unlike the football club, so draws beyond usual rugby supporters. It is owned by 2,500 shareholder fans who raised half a million quid in a week to save the club a few years ago. Donations started at ¬£25 and of the supporters I know, maost have nothing to do with the schools, and are far from dripping in money. Socially, it provides a rare space for community in a town where the majority of working class pubs have gone, even since the 1980s.

    In terms of identity, we’d be football fans if the Eagles (Bedford Town) had stayed in Queens Park, or if I’d been born in Luton… and it would have been a very different awayday! Being a rugby supporter – and much less won over by football – is now an entrenched part of my identity, even though it happened by chance of birthplace and against the grain for a multi-ethnic/religious state schooling.

    Most importantly, Bedford have now lost two in a row and face the top two sides – Welsh and Pirates – next. :-/

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