Showing posts with label Financial Zones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Financial Zones. Show all posts

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Financial Psychogeography: Suitpossum joins forces with CurioCity London

It’s a pleasure to announce that I will be syndicating out blog-posts to the website of the great new London-focused magazine CurioCity. CurioCity was started by Matthew Lloyd and Henry Elliot in early 2010, originally as an informal handmade pamphlet to distribute to friends and family. Back then, a group of us wrote articles and put together the first issue in Henry’s lounge in Kennington. It’s come a long way since then, and the first professionally printed version is now being stocked in iconic London outlets such as Foyles and Rough Trade. The website has now been set up to provide a regular flow of high quality pieces centered on London, suggesting ideas for experiences that are fun, educational, and that encourage a deeper engagement with the city.

Urban adventures in financial landscapes
My main focus is going to be ‘Financial Psychogeography’. ‘Psychogeography’ is a word that means different things to different people, but I’m taking it to refer to:
  1. the exploration of cityscapes with the deliberate intent to break down oppressive or hegemonic ideas embodied in, or implied by, the physical space
  2. and in the process seeking to reinvent or replace those ideas with unorthodox visions and alternative viewpoints… or something like that
Psycho-geography is about trying to identify the subconscious mental programmes that get installed in us by our physical environment. It’s also about creativity. It’s about trying to hack those programmes and reconfiguring the codes of mental DNA that condition how you perceive something. A greater awareness of physical space allows one to take mental control of it, and to re-enchant the cityscape with new perceptions. So basically it's an excuse for me to wonder around financial landscapes and reflect on them, considering what they might teach me about the world, how they might affect the way I think, and then maybe how the dominant ideas they impart can be challenged. This might be an epic waste of time, but if nothing else, it should provide a couple of fun outings and opportunities to embarrass myself.

A brief history of psycho-geography

If you look up the Wikipedia article about psycho-geography, you get some background history which says that psycho-geography was something developed by the Lettrist International, who broke away from some other group (also called the Lettrists) in France. It was spearheaded by a guy called Guy Debord, coming out with classic quotes like ‘the most urgent exercise of liberty is the destruction of idols’. Guy later wrote ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, a classic piece of ‘fuck-you authorities’ literature. By all accounts he and his mates were something like the French equivalent of Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, promoting a type of avant garde Marxism-meets-art sensibility, getting involved in the May 1968 wildcat strikes, and inspiring a generation of Gaulloises adverts and films like The Dreamers. Certainly, psycho-geography does bring to mind intense French students sitting around in cafes chain-smoking and fiercely debating the nature of the world. At its worst, it’s a load of pretentious bullshit, but if it’s done right with a bit of tongue in cheek, it can be a lot of fun. If it’s done really right, it can be transformational. Later generations of psycho-geographers like Iain Sinclair and Will Self have done a lot to bring to life the hidden codes of landscapes, and hopefully I can do the same in CurioCity.

Here is some footage of the launch party. I’m playing guitar in that.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Financial Zones of London: How to get good coffee in Berkeley Square, Mayfair

There’s a troubling question in my mind whenever I’m in Berkeley Square: It’s the mystery of why I can’t find any good coffee here. It’s mysterious precisely because this square is the centre of the world’s largest concentration of hedge funds, and that kind of means the average person walking here commands a salary larger than…well, everyone else in the whole world. So where’s the good coffee?


Have you ever wondered what a hedge fund is? I mean, I can tell you that a hedge fund is a company registered in the Cayman Islands, and that people around the world put money into it, and then it uses that money as collateral to borrow a bunch more money, and uses that to bet on various things like company shares, commodities, bonds, and derivatives…

But does that really tell you what a hedge fund is? To know what a hedge fund is, you should try run your hand over the golden plaques on the doors around Berkeley Square. The names seem unfamiliar, but this is a ring of fire, and these companies are sorcerers channeling enormous circuits of cash. The old facades hide computer networks sending orders to transact in every market on the globe. In fact, I’d give you 2:1 odds that there’s someone in that inconspicuous building over there that’s about to execute a trade that will affect the value of Russian mining companies in Siberia.

But where’s my good coffee? I know where it is. Lansdowne House, 57 Berkeley Square, houses one of the world’s largest private equity companies – The Carlyle Group on floor 3. Those guys must have good coffee. Have you ever wondered what a private equity company is? I mean, I can tell you that a private equity company runs private equity funds, registered in the Cayman Islands, and that people around the world put money into those funds, and then those funds use that money as collateral to borrow a bunch more money, and use that to buy and sell companies.

But would that really tell you what a private equity company is? To know what a private equity company is, put on a heavy Russian accent, walk in and tell the Carlyle Group that you’ve got an ailing Siberian mining business that needs restructuring – they’ll take you to their meeting room and give you good coffee.


Then you can head back to Green Park tube via Berkeley Street. You’ll pass Glencore. It’s Swiss, and it’s one of the world’s largest privately owned companies. The UK office is by the Sainsbury’s on the corner. They’re huge in the global commodity scene, and they’re only about to get bigger, with a gargantuan IPO* planned. They’ve historically not been too transparent, and, word on the street is that commodities can be a dirty business at times, with all that Siberian mining. This area looks posh, but it’s not – it’s all cowboys, assassins, and oligarchs.

*(refers to initial public offering: selling shares of ownership to raise money)