CURB Seminar - Only Disconnect: Central Heating and the Strange Afterlife of Social Democracy

Wednesday 28 February 2018, 4.00PM to 5.00pm

Speaker: Sam Wetherell, University of York, Department of History

This talk will explore some of the different ways in which the relationship between housing, energy and heat were imagined by governments and urban planners in postwar Britain. Specifically, it will look at district heating networks built in the middle of the twentieth century. District heating, the idea that whole estates, neighbourhoods and even towns could be heated by the surplus heat generated by nearby power plants and factories was an experimental and sometimes utopian technique that was realised on a handful of estates and new towns in Britain. These heating networks were built at a time when planners were optimistic about the centralization of power in municipal authorities, about the reduction of the role of the free market in the provision of energy and about the relative permanence of Britain's industrial manufacturing economy. As housing estates were privatized in the 1980s these systems came under new pressures as tenants fought to secede from heating networks over which they had little control. The talk will reflect on what the awkward persistence of energy networks that were developed under different political climates means for how we theorize the emergence of ‘neoliberalism’ in Britain and relationship between politics and the built environment.

Location: Wentworth College, W/222

Admission: FREE Eventbrite Ticket