silk road 2018

The Silk Road is one of the oldest trade routes in the world, linking the regions of the ancient world in culture and commerce. For centuries, the ancient capital of Xian was connected via a network of land routes to European cities such as Venice and Istanbul, although as new sea routes and technologies were established from the fifteenth century, the old land based networks fell into disuse.

In January 2017 the first direct rail freight train from Beijing arrived in Barking, London, marking the beginning of a modern rail-based trade connections between China and Europe. Plans for the further integration of transportation and trade networks across Europe, Africa and Asia are already under construction, with China and neighbouring Russia investing heavily in infrastructural projects to fulfil ambitions for the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Driven by the forces of modern globalisation, the revival of the Silk Road aims to create an unimpeded free trade zone across 60 countries with 4.4 billion people. These renewed trade routes are spawning the development of a network of new ghost cities, with miles of vacant housing blocks now waiting in silence for the planned migration of an estimated 100 million people from the countryside, in what will be the biggest planned urbanization process since the Soviet mass housing experiments of the 1950s.

Once again taking the train carriage as our base and observation post, for our summer 2018 expedition Derailed Lab will explore these new rail networks connecting east and west, traversing five different time zones across four countries, setting foot upon vast landscapes, highly dense urban fabric and boundless deserts. 

We will visit cities such as Xian, the start of the old Silk Road and a fundamental trade node; Lanzhou, one of the many ghost cities built on a million tonnes of flattened sand mountains, waiting for a new life; Urumqi, a regional epicentre of manufacturing and logistics; and finishing in Astana, the new Kazakh city built on oil, trapped between a Soviet past and a market savvy future.

We are looking for 14 people to join us this summer, in July- August for 3 weeks. We will meet in Yiwu and make our way back towards Astana. At the end of the trip we will present our findings and work through writings, drawings and film in London. We will spend approximately 4 nights on the train, so be prepared! It will be an adventure!

Please send us your CV and cover letter if you'd like to join or if you have any other questions.  

Programme: Dates 17th of July to 03th of August (tbc) starting in Yiwu, China and ending in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Cost: £tbc (includes all programme costs between the above dates, excludes food) 


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