CURB Seminars 2016-2017


In January, Prof. Loretta Lees, Leicester University (title tbc).

In February, Dr Dawn Lyon, University of Kent (On Billingsgate).

In May, author Darran Anderson (On imaginary cities).


CURB Seminar: Urban Inequalities: Social Distance and Spatial Division

Wednesday 19 October 2016, 3.00pm to 16:00

Speaker: Professor Fran Tonkiss, London School of Economics

What are the social and spatial implications of deepening economic inequality in cities?  Why does economic disparity matter for the social life and spatial form of cities, and what is distinctive about contemporary patterns of urban inequality?

Fran Tonkiss is Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Cities Programme at the LSE. She is the author of Space, the City and Social Theory and Cities by Design and is currently writing a book on Urban Inequalities: divided cities in the twenty-first century.

CURB Seminar Poster Oct 2016 (PDF  , 75kb)


CURB Seminar: Only Connect: From Green Spaces to Green Infrastructure

Wednesday 16 November 2016, 3.00pm to 16:00

Speaker: Ken Worpole

In recent decades public policy on urban green spaces has mutated from typologies of distinct and inviolable spaces to the more ecological principle of connected networks: hence ‘green infrastructure’.  In his talk, writer and public policy analyst Ken Worpole will briefly chart the key moments in this mutation – which was done not only for ecological reasons but for budgetary and management reasons too – and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of moving from a world of clear typologies of green space to one of boundary-less networks.  He will also say why he loves parks and other urban green spaces so much and why we must defend them against so-called austerity economics!

Ken Worpole is the author of books on architecture, landscape and public policy.  He was a member of the UK government Urban Green Spaces Task Force (2001 – 2002), and an expert adviser to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Urban Parks Programme. Recent books include Modern Hospice Design (2009), Contemporary Library Architecture (2013), The New English Landscape (2014), with photographer Jason Orton, and New Jerusalem: the good city and the good society (2015).

Ken Warpole 

Location: Wentworth College, W/222



Barton Moss Report

You can now download the Barton Moss Report

Click here to download the report BM_final_170216

You can see Joanna Gilmore present her research next month:


CURB Announces Spring Seminars

The following two seminars take place at The University of York in March – no need to book a place, all welcome!

‘Keep Moving!’: Report on the Policing of the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp November 2013 – April 2014

Dr Joanna Gilmore (York Law School, University of York), Dr Will Jackson (School of Humanities and Social Science, Liverpool John Moores University), Dr Helen Monk (School of Humanities and Social Science, Liverpool John Moores University)

Wednesday 2nd March, 5pm, ARRC Auditorium, Alcuin College

In November 2013 the company IGas, specialists in onshore oil and gas, began exploratory drilling on greenbelt land at Barton Moss, on the outskirts of Salford, Greater Manchester, to explore for coal bed methane and shale gas. The possibility of the future extraction of the latter through the process of hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – led local residents, along with activists from around the country, to establish a protest camp at the site.  The protests triggered a large-scale policing operation by Greater Manchester Police – reportedly costing in excess of £1.6m – which led to over 200 arrests and numerous official complaints about the conduct of police officers.

This seminar celebrates the launch of a new report published by CURB which contains interim findings from a research project into the policing of the anti-fracking protest by Dr Joanna Gilmore (YLS, CURB), Dr Will Jackson (Liverpool John Moores University) and Dr Helen Monk (Liverpool John Moores University). The report – titled ‘Keep Moving!: Report on the Policing of the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp November 2013 – April 2014 – documents concerns about the nature, function and proportionality of the policing operation at the camp and the way that policing methods were deployed in accordance with obligations to facilitate peaceful protest underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The authors’ analysis is situated within a contextual framework which argues that the experiences of those at the camp – those who were being policed at Barton Moss – are central to unlocking what happened during the protest. As such, the report provides a view from below, drawing on testimonies provided by camp residents and those involved in direct action.

The report highlights the various procedures adopted that had the effect of curtailing the right to protest, and seeks to substantiate unacknowledged claims that the policing operation was violent, incongruous to the size and peaceful nature of the protest, and carried out with impunity. Ultimately it raises serious questions about the nature of democratic accountability and policing in England and Wales.

The Rhythm of Non-Places: Marooning the Embodied Self in Depthless Space

Les Roberts

Wednesday 9th March, 5pm, W/243

Taking as its starting point the spatiotemporal rhythms of landscapes of hyper-mobility and transit, this paper explores how the process of “marooning” the self in a radically placeless (and depthless) space—in this instance a motorway traffic island on the M53 in the northwest of England—can inform critical understandings and practices of “deep mapping”. Conceived of as an autoethnographic experiment—a performative expression of “islandness” as an embodied spatial praxis—the research on which this paper draws revisits ideas set out in JG Ballard’s 1974 novel Concrete Island, although, unlike Ballard’s island Crusoe (and sans person Friday), the author’s residency was restricted to one day and night. The fieldwork, which combines methods of “digital capture” (audio soundscapes, video, stills photography, and GPS tracking), takes the form of a rhythmanalytical mapping of territory that can unequivocally be defined as “negative space”. Offering an oblique engagement with debates on “non-places” and spaces of mobility, the paper examines the capacity of non-places/negative spaces to play host to the conditions whereby affects of place and dwelling can be harnessed and performatively transacted. The embodied rhythmicity of non-places is thus interrogated from the vantage point of a constitutive negation of the negation of place. In this vein, the paper offers a reflexive examination of the spatial anthropology of negative space.

Urban Exploration as Heritage Placemaking Seminar

As part of their YOHRS (York Heritage Research Seminars), Archaeology are having Dr. Brad Garrett up from Southampton to speak:
Urban Exploration as Heritage Placemaking
Urban explorers are groups of people committed to researching, locating, scoping, exploring and often photographing temporary, obsolete, abandoned, derelict and infrastructural spaces in the built environment, usually without having permission to do so. From 2008-2015, I undertook ethnographic work with a community of urban explorers in London to better understand their nuanced and complicated relationship with places that accepts, without juxtaposition, contested and multiple material manifestations of the city. Explorers are, on the whole, not interested in conversations about preservation of material remains, yet embrace what Fredric Jameson (2002: 215) has called ‘ontologies of the present that demand archaeologies of the future’ by forcing transparency of ‘hidden’ heritage locations. Their stance toward the remains of the past, I will argue here, is both critical and celebratory of investment, construction, waste and ruination and driven by, more than anything else, a desire to disrupt notions of material stasis. In this talk, I will take you on a photographic tour of dozens of fascinating locals and make some suggestions about what I think we can and should learn from their explorations of the liminal city.
King’s Manor K/111
17:15 October 6

CURB announces new Visiting Senior Research Fellow

Professor Sue Clayton is Professor of Film and Television, and Director of the new Screen School at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her  most recent film as director is the award-winning documentary HAMEDULLAH: THE ROAD HOME (2012) which tells the story of a young refugee in the UK who was deported back to Afghanistan, and to whom she gave a digital camera. The film has screened at the United Nations in Geneva, and submitted to the Select Committee which seeks to change the law on deporting young people to war zones.
Sue is currently working with CURB co-director Dr Simon Parker on a research project documenting the trajectories of migrants and refugees via the central Mediterranean to northern Europe as part of the International Centre for the Study of Urban Vulnerability (ICSUV). Her pioneering film work with young Afghan refugees is the subject of a major investigation by BBC News and BBC One World.

Sue also co-wrote and directed the following dramas: THE LAST CROP starring Kerry Walker (The Piano) and Noah Taylor (Shine); British Academy-nominated HEART SONGS starring Tom McCamus, and the award-winning feature film THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FINBAR for which she discovered Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Bend it like Beckham, Vanity Fair) and which was released worldwide by Film Four and Buena Vista International.
She was chosen from 600 new European directors to have her work showcased in New York and Hollywood (First Film Foundation/Panavision awards) 
Her rising career was the subject of a Channel Four documentary Upstarts, Broadcast on Channel 4 in August 1999.

In recent years she has focused on screenwriting, and has written JUMOLHARI, a screenplay set in Bhutan, produced by Donald Ranvaud (City of God, Central Station) and an adaptation of THE LOST GIRL by DH Lawrence, with support from Yellow Bird Films (Wallander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

These are some of the websites relating to Sue’s current refugee project:

Building the Northern Powerhouse from the Rubble of the Old

Simon Parker, CURB’s Co-Director, has written a chapter ‘Building the Northern Powerhouse from the Rubble of the Old’ for a newly published ebook, ‘Forging Economic Discovery in the 21st Century Britain’ edited by Johnna Montgomerie and produced by the Political Economy Research Centre (PERC) at Goldsmiths University, London. Simon Parker discusses the challenges of re-balancing the UK economy in the context of an intensifying concentration of infrastructure and wealth in London and the South East and the need for a more even distribution of investment and employment opportunities not only in the Manchester city-region but also in less privileged urban regions such as the North-East where public sector driven austerity has deepened socio-spatial inequality since the 2008 financial crash.

Other contributions from the ESRC Goldsmiths ‘Recovery to Discovery’ seminar include chapters by Ruth Pearson, Andrew Gamble, Mick Moran, Andrew McGettigan, Will Davies, and Johnna Montgomerie.

The book is free to download at

Prof. Simon Parker CURB Co-Director

CURB Announces Summer Seminars

The three seminars in the CURB series for this summer have been announced. They are Steve Hanson, Joshua Kirshner & Simon Gunn. All three seminars will take place in room W/243, Wentworth College, University of York between 4pm and 5:50pm. There is no need to register, just come along!

The CURB summer seminars

The CURB summer seminars

Call for papers: Spaces of Urban Vulnerability: Abjection and Resistance in the Austericity.

Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference, University of Exeter, 2–4 September 2015.

Call for papers: Spaces of Urban Vulnerability: Abjection and Resistance in the Austericity.

Session convenors: Simon Parker, University of York; Daryl Martin, University of York, and Jonathan Darling, University of Manchester.

This session seeks to explore the vulnerabilities, risks and political possibilities produced through contemporary urbanism.  Framing the risks that human actions present at a planetary scale and recognising the implications of social practices on the physical world have been assisted by using the Anthropocene as a particular way of articulating geo-politics. The Anthropocene offers a different way of grasping long histories of the human impact on the earth and of anticipating dangers to future styles of life. Yet, if this idea is to allow sufficient analytical purchase on understanding the political dimensions of how we live, and to encourage interventions in such debates, we must think of ways of accommodating its lessons at different scales. In this session, we seek to consider how urban research might contribute to discussions over the politics of vulnerability, risk and abjection in the Anthropocene. Our concern with the urban is not to dismiss the imaginaries of planetary politics often associated with the Anthropocene, but rather to suggest that there is a need to be wary of allowing its conceptual reach to overwhelm the vitality of other approaches to apprehending the risks to our social systems, community lives and cities. Alex Schafran suggests that political theory “largely has it backwards, theorizing the political system and then applying it to the thing to be governed” (2014: 327), and, as urban researchers, we should not let the Anthropocene assume the status of a master narrative imposed on questions that may be most effectively asked in other ways and at different scales. This session thus seeks to position urban research on vulnerability, abjection and the political potential of the urban within the Anthropocene, but never fully determined by the Anthropocene.

With this in mind, we call for contributions that assess the particular risks experienced in contemporary cities, in both the Global North and South. Specifically, we are interested in developing a comparative approach to understanding vulnerable urban spaces and the populations that they contain. There is a long history of using cities as a means of governing populations whereby social issues assume spatial forms (Osborne and Rose 1999); most recently these processes have been exacerbated in the context of austerity politics and its urban manifestations. As the costs and risks assumed in ensuring a continuation of institutional forms operating across borders have been devolved down to disempowered groups in urban settings, so new forms, and spaces, of vulnerability and precarity have emerged. As Peck has argued, cities and their populations are increasingly “where austerity bites” (2013: 629); they are vulnerable to rising levels of poverty and the fracturing of social relations.

As forms of governance increasingly seek to manage pressures and threats at not only the national level, but also the planetary scale privileged in a turn to the Anthropocene, cities may be seen to occupy a paradoxical position. On the one hand, they are argued to represent sites of global networking, collaborative problem solving and political potential (Barber 2013; Magnusson 2012), yet, at the same time, they are argued to be increasingly “post-democratic” spaces denied the political autonomy of their forbears (MacLeod 2011). In this context, this session seeks to ask how we might account for, and examine, the contradictions that produce and may challenge urban vulnerability.   How may “spaces of urban vulnerability” in what we might call the “Austericity” be conceptualised, and to which socio-economic purposes? Can politics be re-thought at the scale of the urban, drawing in lessons from thinking critically at other scales of the social? Can cities be the sites of resistance to the re-drawing of boundaries of risk and vulnerability being visited on their populations?

We seek contributions from geographers and others interested in these questions and the following:

• How do we classify vulnerable spaces and urban populations within and between national territories?
• What are the key factors implicated in urban decline and how can we map and measure them over time?
• What forms of governmentality are involved in state/capital divestment and strategic withdrawal from discrete urban   settings and how and why do they operate?
• How should we survey and acknowledge social harm in spaces of urban abjection?
• How might academics and others work collaboratively and creatively to facilitate the voices of disempowered and silenced publics?
• How do we integrate quantitative and qualitative methods and different scalar analyses in the service of developing cross-national research on spaces of urban vulnerability?

Speakers will each have 15 minutes for their presentation followed by 5 minutes for questions.

Abstracts should be between 200-300 words and should be emailed to all three convenors at the following addresses:

by Friday, 13th February 2015.

Natural Resources in Kazakhstan: Energy.


With increasing urbanisation and a growing energy intensive society Kazakhstan relies on inefficient coal based power plants which lack sufficient emission containment technology. Although there are proven coal reserves of 37 billion tons [1], retrofitting current energy consuming systems (domestic, commercial and industrial sector), and more importantly decarbonisation of the whole energy sector is important to prevent long term environmental damage and detrimental health effect due to air, water and land pollution caused by emissions. Additionally, in order to meet the 25% (baseline 1992) reduction in carbon emission agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, decarbonisation from current fossil based technology or at least shift toward clean fossil technology is necessary.

The utility of natural resources and low carbon alternatives for energy generation in Kazakhstan efficiently and sustainably offer both opportunities and challenges.

Local Resources

Exploitation of natural resources, namely Wind, Solar, Biomass, Uranium and Water for renewable energy generation is an untapped area with huge potential. With an average wind speed of 5m/s, over 50% of Kazakhstan, wind energy can contribute up to 760 GW towards the projected 180 TWh electricity demand in 2030 [1]. Kazakhstan receives 2200-3000 hours of annual sunshine with an average insolation of 1500 kWh/m2. Only one 2 MW solar PV plant is in operation currently. Bioenergy, is the least utilised renewable energy with only about 10% utilised as fertilizer and cattle feed [1]. The 13 Mt of agricultural waste has potential to provide energy to remote regions as well as use of pellets/biocoal at centralised facilities. Hydro power accounts for 13% of current total capacity, but trans-country reliance, lack of stable water supply and aquaculture needs limit further utilisation.

Research issues

Key barriers preventing cleaner energy systems are lack of reliable resource data, gaps in technical expertise, lack of effective governance/policies, as well as geographical challenge coupled with absence of foresight from top down has resulted in limited development and motivation.

Research Recommendations

  1. Collect reliable resource data for wind, solar, biomass including agricultural and urban waste
  2. Improve efficiency of energy use in buildings (domestic, commercial, tertiary and industrial) and processes (commercial and industrial)
  3. Collect data for heat/electricity and load profiles and scenario generation for next 50 years to be delivered
  4. Design and develop Kazakhstan specific generation and supply side solutions (systems and services) whilst working with the existing systems (not against them). The systems to be developed must take into account realistic resources available near urban centres (Astana and Almaty) and involve local experts. It is thought that the most pertinent technologies for Kazakhstan will comprise optimised combi solar-biomass, solar-wind, biomass-wind to displace carbon intensive energy technologies. These technologies can be showcased at the Expo2017.

Bhavish Patel (Imperial College London), Harjit Singh (Brunel University), Aisulu Taisarinova (Kazakh-German University), Ahilan Sangaralingam (University of Leeds).


Marat Karatayev, Michèle L. Clarke, 2014, Current Energy Resources in Kazakhstan and the Future Potential of Renewables: A Review, Energy Procedia 59, 97-104.

The view from Astana: Funding growth in tough times

Summarising focused discussions at the Sustainable Cities Workshop in Astana, Kazakhstan, this post investigates some of the threats and opportunities surrounding economic resources in Kazakhstan.

Keywords: Kazakhstan, Astana, green growth, finance, infrastructure

Andrew Sudmant

Graham Thrower

Carla-Leanne Washbourne

Economic clouds on the horizon

Kazakhstan’s centrally driven economic policy ‘Nurly Zhol’ (which has echoes of Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal) includes a 5 year economic and social infrastructure plan aligned with the 2nd 5 year Programme of Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development (PAID). This envisages spending of 6 trillion Tenge ($33bn) of which 85% is targeted to come from private investors. This figure includes economic (transport, energy and logistics) and social (health, education etc.) infrastructure. In addition to Astana, Almaty and inter-regional connective rail, road, air, and energy systems; other key areas of spend are the Khorgos economic zone (Kazakh-China gateway) as well as industrial petrochemicals at Atyrau and Taraz.

There is a vulnerability to the economic slowdown in the EU, China and Russia, and the recent (and likely enduring) softening in oil price. This may manifest in depressed government revenues (from oil exports), reduced Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) appetite, and a slowdown in economic growth; all negative factors on the Kazakh sovereign credit rating (currently at BBB+) and hence impaired access to international capital markets. At the least it might imply increased borrowing costs at the sovereign level.

Structural mitigation provided by the Kazakhstan National Fund (modelled on Norway’s Petroleum, and other ‘rainy day’, Funds) currently stands at $76bn and, according to President Nazarbayev in a speech made in November 2014, aims to shield the economy against external shocks, including protracted depressions in key export commodity prices. Disbursements are being made already from this fund to provide broader economic stimulus, execute specific projects (e.g. Astana EXPO-2017), and to provide for previous bad loans in the Kazakh banking sector (another structural concern). Further sources of developmental finance include the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Asian Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank particularly in the area of public utility systems.

Choices to be made

The threats and opportunities in Kazakhstan’s economic policy are perhaps nowhere more evident than in the new capital, Astana. Since being made capital in 1997 (and renamed in 1998), Astana, located in the North central plains of the Kazakh steppe, has grown from a town of 280,000 in 2000, to a city nearing one million inhabitants in 2015. Modern apartment blocks ring tree lined squares, glass skyscrapers modelled to recall the northern lights parallel the river and new more impressive buildings are rising on every corner. Foreigners here are surprised to find references, and complete reproductions, of The White House, the Arc de Triomphe, The Brandenburg Gate and light displays from Las Vegas mingling with the National Mosque, a pyramid of glass (the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation) and the Bayterek Tower – a monument and observation tower at the centre of the city designed in Turkic folkloric reference to look like a poplar tree holding a golden egg.

Bayterek Tower Night © Xiu Gao.

The Bayterek Tower at Night © Xiu Gao.

The economic logic underpinning these investments in Astana is clear: Astana is earmarked to become the cultural and economic centre of a new Kazakhstan. But the opportunities foregone for investments in new infrastructure and striking architecture in Astana rather than other regions or other sectors of the economy – the ‘opportunity cost’ of this investment – is not insignificant. Although the economy boomed in the 2000s, 42% of the population, primarily in industrial towns in the west of Kazakhstan, remain in poverty (World Bank, 2014). And the risks of major investment projects, built on the assumption that oil prices would remain high, are now a drain on Astana and the nation’s finances. With oil prices having more than halved over the last 6 months, Kazakhstan’s balance of payments and budget (which are based on an assumed oil price of $90 USD per barrel) will, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF, 2014), turn negative.

There is also a multiplier effect to consider here. Expenditure on an project ineligible or unattractive to private investment creates an equal amount of economic impact. Were that sum to be deployed as equity in Public Private Partnership (PPP) type structures we could reasonably expect that to be able to leverage in significantly more FDI type capital and result in an accordingly greater economic impact. In the context of the Kazakh economy this could amount to billions of dollars of vitally needed external investment at a time when endogenous public finances cannot alone meet projected infrastructure demand.

Growing the green economy

Focused initially on the ‘Green Bridge Partnership Programme’ of investments, initiated in response to the Rio +20 Earth Summit conference and supported by the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), the Kazakhstan Government developed, and in 2014 adopted, its own Green Economy Concept, providing a policy context for development of the country’s green economy. This plan outlines Kazakhstan’s ambitions, and recognition, of greening their economy. Plans include spending $3.2 billion on green investments each year, achieving 3% of energy supply from renewables by 2020, and cutting carbon emissions by 40% by 2050 from 2012 levels (World Bank, 2014).

In a speech in January 2014 President Nazarbayev vocally affirmed his government’s commitment to integrating the green economy agenda into national development, with particular focus on ‘mainstreaming’ the green economy in to economic policy decisions. This has important implications not only for the Kazakh economy, but offers the potential for regional and international cooperation in technology and finance, including setting policy precedents for green economy practices across European, Asian and Pacific regions (IIED, 2011).

Evidence of these plans, however, is sometimes hard to see in Astana and one wonders if the benefits of green investment have been overlooked. New multi-lane avenues have been built without infrastructure for mass transit, apartment buildings have air conditioning units on their windowsills (suggesting that centralized air conditioning has not been included), and smoke and dust from nearby low-grade coal power plants are a significant health issue. There is also concern that a restructuring within Kazakhstan’s government, and specifically the closure of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Water Resources in August 2014, has the potential to affect the implementation of plans related to the Green Economy Concept as some important topical areas such as ‘ecosystem services’ no longer clearly sit within the policy purview of the remaining Ministries (IIED, Oct 2014).

The opportunity, however, is substantial. Research suggests that cities in the developing world, and especially those that live with extreme weather conditions, can spend more than 10% of city GDP on energy alone (NCE, 2014). With a focus on energy efficiency and efficient transport this expenditure can be turned inwards to the local economy, generating jobs and sustainable growth.



Bloomberg, 2014. “Kazakhstan Sets Prices for Energy From Renewable Sources”.

Gouldson, A., Colenbrander, S., McAnulla, F., Sudmant, A., Kerr, N., Sakai, P., Hall,S. and Kuylenstierna, J. C. I., 2014. Exploring the Economic Case for Low-Carbon Cities. New Climate Economy contributing paper. Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, and Stockholm Environment Institute, York, UK.

IIED, 2011. Next steps for a Green Economy Working Group in Kazakhstan Notes from the Astana Green Economy Dialogue, 24-26 November 2011.

IMF 2014. Regional Economic Outlook Update: Middle East and Central Asia. Available from

Ospanova, S., 2014. Assessing Kazakhstan’s policy and institutional framework for a green economy. IIED Country Report. IIED, London.

Ospanova. S., Oct 2014. Are Kazakhstan’s plans for a greener future at risk? IIED, London. Available from <;

World Bank 2014. Kazakhstan Overview.