As we write this newsletter, we enter the final year of our COST Action Writing Urban Places. In the past few years, we have been able to establish and expand this dynamic and diverse network, which brought people from various disciplinary and geographical backgrounds together – physically, in our meetings and training schools in different European cities, and virtually, in webinars and zoom meetings, email correspondences, website posts and padlets. Our meetings gradually moved from a focus on working groups, to cross-working group workshops. Since September 2021, when after covid-19 restrictions were gradually lifted and in-person meetings became possible again, we have met in Tallinn, Porto, Osijek, Tampere, Canakkale and Skopje, for fieldwork events and training schools.
Summer 2022. Hovering over the map, we could see Europe as an immense Luna-park, preparing for the season: yet no longer the amusement of summer days of yore, but an unstable territory troubled by divisions and outrageous rebounds, the mediatic unfolding of ordinary lives, the reinvented buzz of tourists, old and new refugees, the flooding of airports, precarity and waste, fluctuating temperatures, the televised war that we cannot avoid but that tends to loiter and risks being trivialized in our eyes and screens. Carousel, ghost train, tunnel of love, target shooting, mirror maze, roller coaster, all here and at the same time.
This year opened with the promise of a series of exciting activities when the world finally started to open at the end of the long pandemic period. Now, the invasion of Ukraine burst to prolong uncertainty and serious concerns for the future, not only for European but also global context. We are worried about the proximity of the war terrain, in the neighboring countries – Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Turkey – from where come many of our participants and where some of our activities are planned.
This newsletter is, at the same time, an epilogue, a work-in-progress and an opening. The epilogue of a year, and of a too long and complicated period of the pandemic, in line with the best speculative fiction. Even so, for Writing Urban Places it was a year rich in knowledge and experience, from the distance and on-screen meetings and webinars to the opening of live activities, that was achieved at the Training School in Tallinn and, finally, in a hybrid format, to the mid-term conference in Porto.
After more than a year of restrictions and uncertainty, this newsletter is a positive, promising one.
In the past year, we have found ways to work around the complicated conditions that prevented us from organising the intended in-person and in-loco meetings. However, what started as a “Plan B” developed into a highly productive and engaging series of webinars. These four webinars, each hosted by one of the Working Groups, have allowed us to further discuss and define the key themes of the action, from theoretical, practical, methodological and communicative perspectives. In the following months, we will finalise the reports of these webinars and make them available to all members of the network, as they are already shared in video to all interested.
As we are writing this short introduction, it is exactly a year ago since we had to cancel our planned Training School, which was supposed to take place in late March 2020 in Tallinn, Estonia.
It was the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we had no idea that the situation would remain critical for such a long time.
Now, a year later, we have adapted to the situation by organizing our Working Groups’ Meetings online, and by starting what soon became a series of live webinars, each time hosted by one working group yet bringing together discussions across the entire network.