Soul City Wandering by Frank Molloy
Psychogeography has become a popular term over the past few decades, promoted by writers, film makers and artists such as Iain Sinclair, Patrick Keller and Alan Moore in his comic book From Hell, whose works have been considered as ‘significant works of psychogeography’.
In Soul City Wandering, Frank Molloy brings psychogeography to the reader, and an ideal example of how this is put into practice in the city of London. What is psychogeography? If we take Joseph Hart’s definition that it is “a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape” then the term becomes much easier to even the lay of readers, such as myself, who are new to the term.
Soul City Wandering presents London, not as a sprawling metropolis, but as somewhere to experience on an individual level. It is a city that has inspired artists, musicians and writers throughout the centuries, and here Frank Molloy presents a new view of London, a ‘psychogeographic’ view, if you will, which the reader can explore and create their own experiences.
The love and enthusiasm from Molloy in this book are evident from the opening pages of this ‘pilgrimage’ and call for readers to ‘engage with their journeys’ and as Blue Badge Guide in London, Frank Molloy is certainly someone whose experience shines throughout. We, the readers, are taken to a number of sites, broken down into three parts, the first being a selection of sights around London, the second the British Museum and the third, around Soho and Charring Cross which not only gave rise to the ‘swinging 60’s in London but also saw the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the UK and the place to be in 60s London fashion along Carnaby Street. Having visited London many times in my previous work I remember these places vividly and my own experiences and feelings at the time. I still got lost.
For me, the highlight of Soul City Wandering was not just hearing the tales of historic London but the British Museum, a place I’ve only visited once during a University visit. Molloy’s research and narrative on this iconic building is perfect and brought back my own sense of awe I felt during my visit. A site that has not only had its own share of historic ventures but has been home to some of history’s greatest artistic achievements, and some of the more controversial items such as the Elgin marbles whose removal from the Parthenon caused outrage from such figures as Lord Byron at the time, although I suspect for more personal reasons that ethical ones.
In Soul City Wandering Frank Molloy creates a wonderful introduction that helps the reader create their own experience on their own journeys, for those with an interest in psychogeography then this is an ideal introduction not just to the subject but also a fantastic narrative on the history of a city replete with its own history and experiences. From here the reader can learn to create their own experiences in their own places.
• Soul City Wandering by Frank Molloy is published by The Choir Press (£9.99). To order a copy go to www.soulcitywanderer.com