UCL Minds


S1 Ep4: transcript

This episode is all about the capital’s memory maps and why we need to remember and preserve the past as we step into the future. We’ll be taking a look at several memory maps from around London and how these intersect with culture, gender, race and religion.

Tune in to special guests Leah Lovett (Research fellow at UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis), Montaz Marche (UCL Alumna, PhD Student and Research Assistant for the City of Women Map), Lettice Kemp (former Head of Content for the visitlondon.com website) to find out more about the City of London Women project, the Memory Map of the Jewish East End and the Newham Youth Map plus much more.

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Memory Maps of London

Lettice Kemp  0:01  
I think the feeling was that's not going fast enough. So people are just taking it on their own initiative to do stuff.

Leah Lovett  0:09  
This is Future Cities, the series that brings together some of the people exploring and shaping what our cities could be like in the future. I'm Dr Leah Lovett, Research Fellow at UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, and Project Lead on the City of Women Interactive Map. In this first series, we're looking at the Future of London, which is where I'm speaking to you from here at UCL right in the heart of London. From the hustle and bustle of Kings Cross to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, and the urban hub in Canary Wharf. In Episode Four, we want to challenge how we look at London by delving a little deeper into its history. Many of London's streets and Tube Stations are named after men and just 6% of London statues are of named historical women. Many of those such as Mary Seacole have only been erected in recent years. So how representative is London of its population? And what role does the gendering of the city play in safety, security and accessibility? Joining me to explore these topics is Lettice Kemp, former head of content for the visit london.com website. Hello, and Montaz Marche, Wilson Funded PhD student in history at the University of Birmingham and Research Assistant on the City of Women Digital Map here at UCL. Hi. So let's start by taking a look at the way London has been mapped in the past.

Montaz Marche  1:31  
Well, London, I think is and has constantly been evolving, and is a place of increasing change in urbanisation and development. And mapping has had to very much reflect that. So I think back from the 16th century notable surveys by John Stone, John Norden, James, how well to 17th century so Wenceslas hollow after the Great Fire of London, and John Stripe, and Robert Dodds Lee, all the way up into the 19th century with the Ordnance Survey maps. They all reflect the expansion urbanisation of London as well as the fragmented nature of his neighbourhoods and communities. But I'm not sure how much these maps have reflected the cultures and the populations of London. And I think there's a side of history there that has been lost because of maps, and because of the kind of iconic image of London.

Leah Lovett  2:29  
I mean, yeah, just picking up on that, that you kind of went up to 19th century. And there's also 100. And it's more than 120 year project, which is ongoing, which is the survey of London, which is based at UCL. And that's a project to map London, at the building level, really parish by parish. So there's another kind of interesting historic project. Lettice, if you'd like to share some of your experience?

Lettice Kemp  2:55  
thinking about sort of more contemporary ways of looking at mapping London, London, if you take it as a massive data set, you have to divide it up, you have to think about it, how can people interact with London? If you don't, so it's always been essential to do this piece of work. When I was working on visit london.com. We very much were thinking about how do you take this enormous city until little stories that enable people to go Okay, this is what I want to do with my day. This is where I want to stay. Even so sort of bigger things like working on the study London website, where it's where do I study? what's what's my campus environment going to be like, if I'm in an outer London, you know, somewhere a little bit more like a mini city to if I'm going to Central London, that there's a real sense of needing to, to break up with this data, and to map it into stories because otherwise people cannot make sense of it.

Leah Lovett  3:53  
Well, really connected to that there's, there's this growing interest in counter mapping London as a strategy that really is about making room for alternative stories, some of those alternative stories that you're talking about, to be seen and accessed. The memory map toolkit, which is a toolkit that my colleague, Dr. Duncan hay built, is an open source application for mapping cultural heritage. And it emerged from a project with the survey of London, who wanted to explore how digital maps might be used to combine official histories with some of these unofficial local histories of white chapel. So as about how to combine these different layers and the memory bank toolkit which came out of that has since been used to create maps like the Jewish east and memory map with with Rachel Lichtenstein who brought her personal archive built up over 20 years, and contributed that to create this narrative interactive map with with lots of different media. And I guess the memory map toolkit really reveals the opportunity for representing London as a layered city. So I was wondering whether you'd say, We need more layered maps of London so that people can see themselves reflected in the city? And what would the advantages of that be?

Lettice Kemp  5:09  
Absolutely. Yeah, I think it's crucial. And I think it enables more people to thrive because they feel like they are part of the city and they want to contribute to it. And the Mayor of London has put together a commission to actually look into what things are called how people are represented. It's, it's, you know, even at a government level, it's important as an individual level, it's important. When you're adding these maps, you're telling new stories. And I think from a tourism perspective, that's exciting, because you don't want people to feel like I've done London, you want people to keep coming back finding new things that relate to them. So you're creating more jobs, because you're bringing people back to the city to discover something new. And certainly, you know, from a commercial point of view that generates jobs that generates opportunity, and it generates job opportunity for people who can then talk about something that really matters to them and to share that. I think that's that's very key to rethink that.

Leah Lovett  6:07  
I think montages that really links to your PhD research. And I wonder if maybe you'd like to share something of that here? Because I think a lot of the things that let us was speaking about just then speak very closely to your motivation.

Montaz Marche  6:21  
Yeah, absolutely. I think what he was saying about how we tell stories, and deciding what stories will promote London and bring people back to London, I think that was a massive part of what drove me. So my research project is looking at Black women in 18th century London, it's an urban mapping project, to plot as many women as I can, and start to analyse their experiences and their presence, and think about how they moved in the London space. And it is very relative to my own experience, actually, because I've always loved history growing up. But in a level when I was studying it, it was mostly political histories and military histories. And I didn't see a lot of women represented. In these histories, there's more kind of the presence of women. And so when, as I pursued more history, in university, I started looking at women's history. And that in itself was it satisfied me but not enough to the point where I felt like as a black woman I was represented. So I had to then look further, and look into the histories of black women in London. And so this project is a way to not only establish my own place in London, and my own history and feel connected to London in the new way, not just as my home city, but as a city with all of this history, that of women just like me, but also to kind of ensure that in the future, other black women, but also women does, in general, have this connection to history and have a visual aid to kind of show their place in London, and how much they've contributed. And I think as well, City of Women, is essentially that same thing, a visual demonstration of the expensive and the intricate, and as well often overlooked nature of women's contribution to London and putting it on a map and having that visual image and telling that story visually, is so important and so powerful. Not only the tourists that come into our city, but also those of us who, you know, call it home to kind of really reengage with it.

Leah Lovett  8:30  
Yeah, and I agree with you. And it's because of your close work on the history of black women in London that you joined this project city of women, which briefly is it's a project to rename the Stations of the tube map after London's great women. It's led by Rebecca solnit, Reni eddo. Lodge and Emma Watson. But here at UCL, we're using the memory map toolkit to create an interactive digital version of their map as part of that project, with funding from the esrc and UCL grand challenges in the centre for critical heritage studies. But I'd like to if I may, quote Rebecca solnit, who made the first city a woman map, together with geographer Joshua Kelly Shapiro for New York, and she said, I think her quote kind of really picks up some of what you were saying, montage, she said, I can't imagine how I might have conceived of myself and my possibilities. If in my formative years, I'd moved through a city where most things were named after women. And many or most of the monuments were all powerful, successful, honoured women. And so they created the New York City of women map as a proposition and that sense and an invitation to imagine a different kind of city and when the city of women London project launches next year. The idea is that you'll be able to explore some of the biographies and the arcus archival materials related to the names on the map through through the kind of digital interactive memory map,

Lettice Kemp  10:05  
I think the tube map is incredibly well known. It's a, it's something that represents London, the design of it, the iconography of it just tells you that is London, it's as instantly recognisable as a double decker bus. And I think that the, the putting those names when you've seen some of the other versions, where people have put names on the tube and where they intersect, it just is a really straightforward and simple way of explaining these stories. And making you think about actually, there's different people here. And it's not just the same thing. You know, as a Londoner, as someone who's interested in London's history, and as someone who has worked a lot with London, London's businesses, I often don't think about this at all. And it's great to be provoked in thinking about it.

Montaz Marche  10:55  
I very much agree, I think, because I've lived in London my whole life. And I've you always see the tube map. And it's such an iconic image. And it's so representative of, you know, the vast space of London and how much is crammed into kind of a, such a small city, but it's so massive in the populations and its diversity and its cultures. And it's something I didn't really question it enough great detail or not interrogate enough. And I think, as a space, it's especially thinking about the tube map. And what it represents. He represents, you know, this massive underground network where most of London I think, interact with that men, women, everyone really. And I remember once seeing a poster on one of the platforms when I was getting off of the train, and it was a historical poster that focused on Hannah, dad's, who was the first woman train driver on the tube. And I didn't really stop that long to look at it. But just to kind of see that representation was really striking to me. And it stayed with me ever since. Because it was it made me It made me imagine looking at the tube and being on the tube in a very different way. And being in London in a very different way and reaching into, you know, how women have reached into different spaces in London, and potentially against the odds as well established and become a crucial part of London's history in London's construction. And it's always enlightening to me to kind of keep reflecting on the different stories that intersect just by being on the tube or looking at the tube in that way.

Leah Lovett  12:48  
That makes me think of a couple of things. I guess one is sort of reflecting on the process of the city of women project and just how many names there are potentially for each station, which is a really heartening thing about the project. But also seeing kind of the concentration of names in the centre, I suppose how the infrastructure of the tube map speaks to kind of women's access to different parts of the city. But it also makes me think about the tube itself, like as the space where people interact, often very silently. But it's a space that shared when the tube first was built, it was quite a radical aspect of it was that people come together in these spaces where you can't really look out of windows, because you're underground. So it encourages a kind of interior looking. And that was probably very challenging, right?

Lettice Kemp  13:37  
Yeah, so I can't put my sauce on this, because I can't remember which book I read it in. But I did read when the Northern line first opened, the directors of the company knew that people were very worried about travelling in it. So they, they did a little thing where they put a man in a lead coffin for half an hour and said, Look, he got out he's fine. So it's fine to travel on the Northern line. And I don't feel like that's a campaign I'd want to run to promote a service. But it's interesting, that sort of way that they went will look, this is how it's fine. It's like being in a coffin. What I would say about the tube is that it's not it doesn't cover all of London. So there's quite a large part of particularly out in London, which and in the south of London, which isn't on the tube. So there are people who can't just hop on it and get in central London, for the same price. They have to pay more to go on the overground. And I think that's can be challenging in terms of particularly, you know, women and low paid jobs and people getting around.

Montaz Marche  14:33  
Yeah, absolutely. I think the process of finding women and putting women on the map was to resettling as many women as possible in who have contributed to undo lived in London who've done incredible things. But we found that because there's such a sparsity between in South London, in areas out of Greater London, as you say that is that they It was much harder to not only place one woman in that space, because there's so many women that could be linked to that. And it's how we had to be really kind of strategic in terms of what kind of stories we were telling. And that we have to continually think about. I mean, it's not something that is set in stone, it's something we're still thinking about. So places, such as Brixton, where there are multiple histories that are particularly of people of colour, who aren't reflected in history, as much as they should be, we had to decide on how to reflect a whole area of history in one person, and we had to be very strategic in that. And there are so many kinds of cultural disparities in terms of who is represented. Are we representing everyone? Are we truly representing the population of Britain, it's almost impossible for the two black to fully reflect every woman that has made massive contributions to history and to present day,

Leah Lovett  16:02  
I mean, yeah, all and all maps are partial representations of the world, right. And this map, when it's complete, will be a kind of proposition, in a way an invitation for kind of multiple other iterations. And as you said, you know, there are so many women whose stories may never surface resurface, but it's good to be able to pay homage to those who's, who's kind of histories are recoverable.

Montaz Marche  16:28  
Just to follow from that, that's okay. And I think as well as kind of a visual as a visual tool, the these memory maps are important for future generations of women. And any other map that is created is for future generation to whoever is representing whosever story that is been told, because not only is it is it partial, so, you know, you can really into interrogate and challenge these these maps and think about who you would put on there. But also future women in this case, can place themselves in that map and think I could potentially one day be on that map and to have that kind of representation. And that those individuals being specifically honoured in that way, is is so crucial for younger generations and how they look at London.

Leah Lovett  17:15  
And I feel I should mention that part of this project has been to, you know, there's been teams, researching women, but there's also but there was also a public call out. So a lot of the nominations of people have come from public contributions nominations, as well, which has been kind of a wonderfully open part of this project. So Lettice, in your opinion, will memory maps, these kind of layered bottom up maps change the way we look at the future, and how

Lettice Kemp  17:42  
I don't think it's the stories that you're collecting the wealth, and the knowledge that you're collecting, because we don't unlearn it. And once people know, it's there and realise it's there, and they get interested in it, you're sparking a passion for delving further. So the format is less critical than the information in the same way that learning about women's history doesn't mean we forget about our kings and queens and generals and statesmen. It just adds to the story. And I think this this wealth, of new ideas and new information, and new research is adding to it. And certainly from a tourism point of view, you know, the black history tours are thriving at the moment, there's a slavery in the city to that I desperately want to go on. And lots of people want to go on because it's, it's just retelling the story with all this new information. And I think that's, that's fascinating. And the same with the Haley ribbon hold spoke about jack the Ripper is suddenly the focus isn't on this mysterious man that nobody knows about, rather than the five women who have names and who were people, and we do know about them. So you're just twisting the narrative to tell more layered stories. And I think that people respond to that. I think it's exciting. And it's really interesting. So actually, when you start to share the information you've collected, I think people will be very excited about it. And I think it will remain knowledge that's been put together in future and people will want to use it.

Leah Lovett  19:20  
So it's about changing perspectives on stories. How do we deal with these histories sensitively and in ways that empower the women that feature in these stories, so to something you know, the City of Women Map is, is being organised around the accomplishments of women and non binary people? And I wonder how? Yeah, I wonder how we tell stories where, for instance, that it's the women victims, that the victimhood doesn't become the defining feature of the story.

Montaz Marche  19:55  
Yeah, I think there's always a difficulty in navigating story. Because, particularly when this is when we're telling stories of other people, and then they don't necessarily have they haven't had the opportunity to tell their own story, and define their own narrative. And it's about recognising the person. And I think it's about putting yourself in that position. So for example, if I was looking at a particular woman story, if I were her, how would I want my story to be told? How would I want to be remembered? And I think it's about in a lot of senses about empathy. And it's about recognising that, you know, the power behind a lot of the words and identities that we placed upon people. I think as well, in terms of remembering, particularly for women, there are a lot of labels that seem to be demeaning, but are actually quite, they're equally powerful. They're equally in emboldening, so you know that the phrase of the housewife and a homemaker is if that's not a powerful and important position. So I think it's just taking away the stigmas of the labels, and employing empathy for whenever we are engaging in someone else's history and someone else's story.

Lettice Kemp  21:08  
It's about presenting the facts presented in the context. And being thoughtful about what you say, just not making assumptions and questioning those assumptions.

Montaz Marche  21:19  
Absolutely, I think assumptions is one of the biggest challenges, I think, to history, particularly in my field, where I'm looking at Black women, a lot of the assumptions of black woman in 18th century are that black women were servants. And a lot of women were servants. And I'm not denying that. But there's a lot more to that experience. And there's a lot more to the humanity and the personal side of a servant. And just because there is an occupation or a place that you hold does not mean your experience is the same as anyone else. And it's recognising the individuality of every woman, every story that we tell. It's just recognising that each person is a person and treating them with that person in that respect of honouring that, humanity. And I think when we kind of engage with that, in those histories, it's so refreshing. It's so enriching. And it forces us to ask questions are more difficult questions, not only of the way we are looking at history in the way we're looking at our cities, but also what questions we're asking and who's asking them and the position that we hold when we're asking them, I think those are always important questions or reflections to have, when engaging with these things.

Leah Lovett  22:25  
It seems to me it's also key in terms of how we connect with the spaces we occupy and how we see ourselves reflected in them. And kind of right, the right that we have to be there and to access them thinking in terms of, you know, looking back to look forward being so important, because it's, it's recovering stories that were always there that maybe have been covered up or become invisible, overcome or raised.

Lettice Kemp  22:52  
It's add, it's adding, isn't it, it's adding stories, it's not taking away existing stories, it's adding new ones that were there, and you know, bringing them to the front to share that spotlight. with, you know, a limited number of stories that have always been there, you're not just pulling up more than saying, these are all the stories we have. I think it's interesting, the debate around statues and who should have a statue. And the fact that people feel so strongly in, you know, completely opposite directions about it, that in itself is going to become part of history, that we as a society debated that. You know, people have very strong opinions about it, but it's part of our developing society, that we do have that debate that we do say, look, you know, should we should we have a statue of someone who we now retrospectively find distasteful. And that story becomes part of history, it doesn't mean that if we take the statue down, he never existed, or the story never existed, is that the work you're involved in at the moment? It was, the last piece of work I was doing before I left London partners was to really think about the diversity and inclusion and how we both incorporated it internally, and how we sort of reflect it out towards London. And just really thinking about the conversations that as a tourism body you might need to have with museums with galleries. And I've been doing I've had a lot of conversations over the years, with museums, with galleries with bids and with councils about the culture work they're doing in that space. And when you see, on the one hand, you might have a local museum who's like, oh, everything here is English in London, and oh, Barbara, you won't find anything foreign. And then you have another borough who is embracing the fact that the bar is diverse and bringing people in to tell the stories of their lives. Croyden museum is a really good example. They've just done a queer Croydon exhibition. They've done this amazing experience is curated by people who have lived experience in the Borough of what was going on and it changes you. I think it's really about thinking about how you communicate that externally and how you be honest and authentic about what your city is.

Leah Lovett  25:05  
what you were saying about which stories we choose to foreground is also key as well. You know, I think of the fourth plinth project has been such a fascinating project in terms of temporary, the temporary occupation of that plinth in Trafalgar Square, which ultimately, is The public square in London, organised around, you know, Nelson on this towering column, surrounded by lions and generals. And there isn't a parity of in terms of the stories that we're telling at the moment. So, yes, it's additive. But it's also about how do we even out the narrative?

Lettice Kemp  25:39  
I think it's a huge challenge, because you compare a woman with a tube station on a map. But when someone walks out of that tube station, in the real world, they're not going to get a sense of that unless someone is taking an action. To put something like that in place. There was an interesting campaign, just before Christmas, around black plaques, where two organisations actually paid for posters to be put up around London with sort of mocked up black plaques, commemorating brilliant local people. The official blue plaque scheme has less than 2% representation of Black and Asian Londoners. But I think the feeling was, that's not going fast enough. So people are just taking it on their own initiative to do stuff. I guess that's how it always works. People put up a statue because, you know, someone does a campaign or says, right, we need to statute this person. I'm a big fan of them. I want to statute them. You know, it's always a lot of this stuff is driven by individuals, I think, and always has been. So I think that will always be the case, really, people need to get a bee in their bonnet about the fact that someone important has not been commemorated, and take action.

Montaz Marche  26:53  
I think that's a really important point. I think it's about ownership. There's a motivation in terms of why people want to tell these stories and bring up new stories or stories that have been raised is a sense of ownership and owning the space that they live in and feeling like they have a place there. And so repositioning the narratives that have been told, in order to reinforce that, and I think we should encourage this sense of ownership and recognising that, you know, each and every person that walks in the London space has a story and has a history that should be embraced. And you're absolutely right. It does take individually, it does take local people to kind of come together and tell those stories, because there are a lot of stories that still remain unknown even to you know, the upper echelons. And they tell those stories, not necessarily their own books, but it's you know, all histories, its films, its photography, and all these different incredible mediums. And using that and taking, you know, taking a stand and saying this is my history to have a look. That's how we can kind of almost unite so many tiny stories into one incredible story of London.

Leah Lovett  28:09  
You've been listening to Future Cities brought to you by UCL to hear more podcasts from UCL search for UCL Minds wherever you download your podcasts. This podcast is an Auntnell production. The producer and editor of this episode was Shivani Davey.

Transcribed by otter.ai