On Thursday July 3rd, we held a one-day conference to mark the 40th anniversary of J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island, his updating of the Robinson Crusoe story within a patch of wasteland to the side of the elevated Westway road in London. Concrete Island offers a prescient and analytically rich portrait of the material forms of post-war urban environments and the types of social interactions they encourage. It remains remarkably relevant in helping us to deepen our understanding of the cities and spaces we live in, and pass through, on a daily basis.
This was an interdisciplinary event, gathering Ballard scholars from across the humanities and social sciences, with backgrounds that span English Literature, Archives, Architectural Theory, Design History, Geography, Politics and Urban Studies. Made possible through the support of the Department of Sociology, and co-organised by members of York’s Centre for Urban Research (CURB) and the Humanities Department at York St John University, the conference brought together researchers from the British Library, Anglia Ruskin University, UCL, York St John, and the Universities of Brighton, Edinburgh, Leeds, and York to discuss the book. The focus on one text worked very well at opening up wider debates around the intersection of contemporary technologies and mobilities, their shaping of the everyday urban fabric, and their influence on the lived and multi-sensual experience of place.
The papers are currently being assembled for an edited collection, which we hope will be published before the end of this year – watch this space!