The 2022 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture – “Myths and Realities of ‘Left Behind’ and ‘Levelling Up’”

Rhian E. Jones, Independent writer and researcher, and co-editor of Red Pepper magazine

Join us from 16:50 to 18:30 on Thursday 1st September in the Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University for the 2022 Antipode Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Lecture. The Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception sponsored by Antipode’s publisher, Wiley. Those attending the virtual conference will be able to join us via Zoom, and the session will be recorded and later hosted on AntipodeOnline.org. Those attending the conference in-person are encouraged to read the chair’s statement on inclusivity and safety and Society’s code of conduct.

Abstract: The past few years have seen the rediscovery by political and media commentators of areas in post-industrial Britain characterised as “left behind”. It is rarely acknowledged that this attention to regional inequality has only come about after decades of political neglect and cultural erasure of these areas following deindustrialisation. Current ideas about regional inequality and proposed solutions to it—from the “Red Wall” to “levelling up”—are often conceptualised in ways that in fact continue this neglect, by homogenising these regions and imposing top-down narratives about their demographic and political nature. This paper will contrast these developments with new approaches in several parts of the UK, focusing on democratic localism or “community wealth-building”, which have seen communities in “left behind” areas already addressing regional inequality, and offering their own alternative economic and social models, in a way that presents a more nuanced picture of both class and regional identity.

Rhian E. Jones is a writer, critic and broadcaster from South Wales, now living and working in London. She writes fiction and non-fiction about history, politics, popular culture and “the places where they intersect”, and is co-editor of Red Pepper magazine.

Her latest book, co-authored with the leader of Preston City Council Matthew Brown, Paint Your Town Red: How Preston Took Back Control and Your Town Can Too (Repeater Books, 2021), looks at the city’s efforts in recent years to generate and democratise wealth, drawing out lessons on how “local actions can meaningfully transfer economic, social and political power back to communities”. Combining and developing these with analyses of community wealth building from around and beyond the UK, the book offers a guide to a significant and growing movement to take control of economies and communities, arguing that it might well hold the possibility of transforming our currently failing system. (A recent review of the book, by Antipode author Matthew Thompson, usefully situates it in relation to the scholarly and activist literature. Outlining the book’s considerable value, and also noting its limits, Thompson concludes that it’s a “handbook for making it happen”, for getting us out of what the authors call “the mess we’re in”.)

Rhian’s earlier books include Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them (co-edited with Eli Davies, Repeater Books, 2017), Triptych: Three Studies of Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible (co-authored with Daniel Lukes and Larissa Wodtke, Repeater Books, 2017), Petticoat Heroes: Gender, Culture and Popular Protest in the Rebecca Riots (University of Wales Press, 2015) and Clampdown: Pop-Cultural Wars on Class and Gender (Zer0 Books, 2013). Rhian hosted the fantastic podcasts Border Country: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Wales and Handbags and Gladrags: A Podcast on Gender, Politics and Culture, and among many other places (see https://rhianejones.com/rhian-e-jones-publications/) her writing has appeared in Tribune, New Humanist and New Socialist.

As an introduction to Rhian’s 2022 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture, we have made the articles below available to readers without a subscription. Together they reflect themes germane to her work, and will, we hope, offer a primer or further reading to her lecture. If you would like to purchase Paint Your Town Red, a discount code can be found here. Many thanks to Rhian, from everyone at Antipode the journal and the Antipode Foundation, for agreeing to join us at Newcastle University and to Wiley’s Grace Ong and Rebecca Barber for all their help with the lecture and reception. And a special thank you to Sarah Evans at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)—we couldn’t feel more welcome at the Annual International Conference, and we’re thrilled to be back in-person this year.

Andy Kent
August 2022

Virtual Issue

Alternative Economies and Commoning Practices in Catalonia: Unpacking Ecoxarxes from a Social Studies of Economisation Perspective” by Xavier Balaguer Rasillo and Manuel Wirth (2022)

‘What is Our City Doing for Us?’: Placing Collective Care into Atlanta’s Post-Public Housing Movements” by Akira Drake Rodriguez (2022)

A Logic of Care and Black Grassroots Claims to Home in Detroit” by Jessi Quizar (2022)

‘Revenue Generating Machines’? London’s Local Housing Companies and the Emergence of Local State Rentierism” by Joe Penny (2022)

Remunicipalisation, Mutating Neoliberalism, and the Conjuncture” by Andrew Cumbers and Franziska Paul (2022)

The Mixed Potential of Salvage Commoning: Crisis and Commoning Practices in Washington, DC and New York City” by Christian M. Anderson and Amanda Huron (2021)

The Political Intricacies of Common Space: A Rancièrian Approach to the ‘Public Land Grab’, London” by Louis Volont and Tom Dobson (2021)

Bridging Materiality and Subjectivity: Expanding the Commons in Cooperation Birmingham” by Sergio Ruiz Cayuela (2021)

New Municipalism and the State: Remunicipalising Energy in Barcelona, from Prosaics to Process” by James Angel (2021)

A Postcolonial Critique of Community Energy: Searching for Community as Solidarity in India and Scotland” by Ankit Kumar and Gerald Taylor Aiken (2021)

Metelkova as Autonomous Heterotopia” by Nathan Siegrist and Håkan Thörn (2020)

The Politics of Crisis: Deconstructing the Dominant Narratives of the Housing Crisis” by Julia Heslop and Emma Ormerod (2020)

Victories from Insurgency: Re-Negotiating Housing, Community Control, and Citizenship at the Margins” by Claire Cahen, Jakob Schneider and Susan Saegert (2019)

On the Transformative Potential of Community Land Trusts in the United States” by James DeFilippis, Olivia R. Williams, Joseph Pierce, Deborah G. Martin, Rich Kruger and Azadeh Hadizadeh Esfahani (2019)

Beyond the Local Trap: New Municipalism and the Rise of the Fearless Cities” by Bertie Russell (2019)

Ripping the Heart out of Ancoats: Collective Action to Defend Infrastructures of Social Reproduction against Gentrification” by Nikki Luke and Maria Kaika (2019)

Between Boundaries: From Commoning and Guerrilla Gardening to Community Land Trust Development in Liverpool” by Matthew Thompson (2015)