New StoryCubes sets...

Rory's StoryCubes are a favourite resource of mine, and featured here many times.

I've just pre-ordered the latest sets… and they're apparently on their way in the post…

Amongst them is a set called RESCUE which looks like being really helpful for teaching about natural hazards and generating some creative responses to the events that follow earthquakes or other events...
Will share some ideas when the cubes arrive.

Support material for the new AQA 'A' level Geography

Our textbook, published by CUP, which I edited and co-wrote has been out for a few weeks now, and is available from here.

Some of the FREE Teacher support materials, which I also worked on, are now available, and can be downloaded, included a 60+pp booklet which is free of charge and provides further detail on each chapter in the book.

Preparing for the return... summer's end...

30 years ago, I was about to start my PGCE course at Hull University.
I'd found a room in a house in the Avenues area to live in, bought some books and had a hair cut...

30 years on, a lot has happened, and it's now getting close to the return to school to start what will be my 25th year of teaching, which goes along with 3 years working for the Geographical Association, and 2 years as a freelancer.

Even after that length of time, it isn't going to be any easier to go back to the daily commute, the 12 hour days, and the physical and mental exertions that teaching places on you, but equally there's still the irresistible draw of working with young people, and time in the classroom, and working with colleagues at King's Ely, and seeing the creativity of the students as they develop their geographical thinking.
I've had a productive summer, with trips to Salzburg and Portugal, and there've been family holidays and the much needed lie-ins.

I've finished my GeoLibrary project - 365 books for Geographers all reviewed and described.

There's plenty of exciting things planned for the new academic year, which includes fieldtrips, conferences, visiting speakers and the chance to use a range of resources that I've written for the first time…
We have Google Expeditions and Professor Shailey Minocha from the Open University visiting us in a few weeks, field trip to the Norfolk Coast, and plans for our next overseas trip, and also a visit from Daniel Raven Ellison later in the term.

We also have some new microclimate sensors to trial from Do it Kits, and the first teaching of the new GCSE using the OCR B textbooks which I helped to write.

Which means that after a short break it's back to blogging here. The next milestone coming up this academic year will be to reach 7000 posts on this blog alone.

As seen during the Olympics Opening Ceremony


Amazon Inspire

Requested access to Amazon Inspire to see what it's about...

A new place to access teaching resources... is that what teachers need?

Portugal Trip - Post 5

Day 5
The final day for me was not the final day for the Turkish colleagues, but was my last session on this particular trip.
I finished my input by introducing some of the ideas related to andragogy, and the differences between teaching adults and teaching children, if there are any… This has been subject to a lot of discussion, starting with the theories of Knowles.

Before I left, the school Principal came in, and she, Jaime and I awarded certificates to the ‘students’ we had been working with for the week, and it was back to Lisbon for me, to catch my flight home.

If the five posts on my Portugal trip have made you think that you might want to come along and take part in a similar course, then you need to contact your national ERASMUS agency, and apply for funding for the course - I can provide more details if you are interested. You too could be eating grilled sea bass in O Raposo, watching the waves crash against the cliffs in the Algarve, and listening to me for hours...

I am already pencilled in for the same time next year…

Plastic Microbeads

Death Valley National Monument

A good charity shop find for just 50p.

This is useful resource for exploring the changing nature of Hot Desert landscapes, and some of the desert processes that shape them.

Death Valley National Monument has changed considerably over the years, and now has a Twitter feed.
This booklet was published in 1961 and provides the perfect information for a case study of how desert landscapes change over time, and are shaped by natural and human processes. It also features photography by Ansel Adams, which is a bonus.

Would be a useful piece of work to bring this up to date, and see how some of the locations here have changed since the booklet's publication.

Flight of the Swans

Will be following this at the start of the new academic year...

WWT Flight of the Swans from WWT on Vimeo.

Bewick's Swans are in decline, and this journey will follow the migration of the swans by paramotor, from Russia to Slimbridge.

Follow the voyage on Twitter

Portugal Trip - Post 4 - The Algarve

Day 4

After three days of hard work, it was time for a cultural visit. The group was interested to see a range of cities and places while in Portugal, and visited Seville and Cordoba after I left, which took them to an even hotter part of the Iberian peninsula.
We met up with Herlander, who I had met on a previous visit, when we were scoping out a possible project involving vocational learning.
We travelled from Cuba to Beja, the regional capital, and then onwards to pick up the toll motorway south. This took us through vineyards, and past an area where the main employment was a large copper mine. We travelled in convoy in 3 cars. After a slow route through the Alentejo, our speed picked up once we passed through the passagem and onto the toll road, and the landscape changed as we headed south, with hills topped with wind turbines.
We had our first sight of the sea, and then onwards along the coast road, and down into Vilamoura. This is a golfing resort, with a range of holiday villas and timeshares – the sort of place you see on TV programmes such as ‘A Place in the Sun’ and not the sort of area that I would normally find myself in.
We parked, and walked down to the beach.  The sea was at a temperature of around 22 degrees C.

We also travelled to the nearby resort of Quarteira, which was less ‘manicured’ than Vilamoura, and where the price of everything was cheaper. This was the sort of beach resort which at this time of year swells with holidaymakers, with lots of English pubs selling full English breakfasts. We sat in a beach front café and had a cold Caneca, then I took a wander around the town, including the market where there was an amazing variety of fresh fish. Lunch was at a fish restaurant with excellent sea bass.
The afternoon was spent at Vilamoura resort, and the marina in particular, which was a little like Portsmouth Gunwharf Quay or similar developments: bars, shopping and entertainment. One difference was the row of super yachts moored outside the Tivoli Hotel, which also included a row of super cars including a Hummer and a few Lamborghinis. There were some people taking pictures of the cars. I found a bar called Parky’s for a beer, and also had some very good Venetian ice cream.

We went to a large mall for our evening meal as the sun set behind the mountains, and we then hit the toll road back North, through the fading light, and made our way back to the hotel and back home for a nightcap and a final beer.

Devon 2016

As always, I spent a week down in Devon this summer. A chance to visit bits of the Jurassic Coast, which can be found in lots of textbooks.
I visited a stretch of cliff that I put into the OCR 'B' textbook too... at the end of Sidmouth promenade.

This has had a few more falls since last year, and retreated a little further back...

Image: Alan Parkinson

Portugal Trip - Post 3

Been a while since Post 2
Here's the 3rd post describing my trip to Portugal at the start of the summer break for those who might be interested...

Another 40 degree plus day of heat was forecast, and indeed happened. Going outside was a bit of an ordeal, and involved walking slowly and keeping in the shade.

Session 4 started with an introduction to the idea of teacher’s creativity, and a discussion of whether creativity could be taught. I used the video of a composer who saw a large group of birds sitting on a wire, and then turned their position into musical notes. It’s embedded above.

I also introduced the idea of a balloon debate, and we had an entertaining session where colleagues were arguing a case for their subject to remain in the curriculum, which got them thinking about the role of education and their subject’s place in it. I shared some of the thinking that we at the GA did when involved in the Action Plan for Geography.
The final Action Plan for Geography report is available to download from here (PDF download)

Session 5 featured the idea of the capabilities approach and the idea of curriculum making. This was drawn from the work that I did on GeoCapabilities, which is an EU funded project that I am involved with, through the making of ESRI StoryMaps, and the development of new curriculum materials.
This led to a discussion on the Capabilities approach, and how our pedagogy could develop these capabilities. For more on this with a geography focus, check out David Lambert’s inaugural lecture ‘Lost in the Post’, which has some interesting messages relating to the importance of Geography.

Session 6 after lunch featured a video that was made to publicise the International school that forms part of King’s Ely, which was fortunately available with Turkish subtitles.
I also shared some ideas on curriculum artefacts, and their importance. The original plan was to have students producing their own, but this was adapted.

We visited O Raposo in the evening, and had the fish, and I had another chance to cool down in the pool and taste some local wines.
A long and productive day.

Slow TV - the Country Bus

The Country Bus is the latest Slow TV programme.
Will be shown on Bank Holiday Monday at 8pm on BBC4

WiFi hunting

A reblog from November 2012

If you go to the Waitrose supermarket in Hitchin, there is (or was when I visited) a wi-fi network which you can pick up outside the store entrance called 'Ken Dodd's dad's dog's dead'...
Which is a bit strange...

This BBC Magazine article has an interesting link to the way that people name their wifi networks. Sometimes the names are meant to convey a particular message.

There are many intersecting wi-fi networks in most urban areas, and if you open the network settings on your mobile device while walking through an area, or while travelling on a train or in the car, you'll often come across a range of options, often including things like 'Ben's iPhone' etc.
Why not go on a wi-fi hunt and see who can find the most interesting or unusual name ?
Ones that I've found include 'Mother Theresa', 'I like sausages' and 'Ferret fingers'....

What can you find ? Please add any good ones below as a comment, or perhaps your own wi-fi network has an unusual name ?

Bonus points for geographical discoveries...

This is marvellous

New resources for the new term from Simon Jones

Simon Jones has been making a range of really nicely designed resources available to teachers for the last few years now, and has made available a range of new resources at low cost...

Check out Simon's Slideshare page for some of the freely available ones.

Then check out his POP UP SHOP.

Follow Simon on Twitter too 

Simon's resources will be in use in my classroom in the new academic year.

Distress migration...

Subvertisement workshop booklet

A YouTube video showing the subvertisement workshop which we will be using later in the year with Year 8 students. I helped with a few of the final elements of the booklet.
Great work by Eeva and Ian.

A raven worth praising

Fjallraven is a clothing brand which I've liked for some years now, for it's functional style. They also have a good approach to their corporate social responsibility.

"Our goal is a healthier outdoor life, now and for future generations."  Aiko Bode, Fjällräven's Chief Sustainability Officer, explains how we work with sustainability throughout the entire company.
Fjällräven makes functional, timeless and long-lasting outdoor equipment – all in order to have the lowest negative impact on the environment as possible. But our responsibility goes beyond our products. In 2013 we launched The Fjällräven Way, guidance tool  for our sustainability work, where we have chosen the compass as a symbol to show us the way. It contains four areas of activity, with the cardinal directions borrowed from the universal tool for way-finding.
In The Fjällräven Way, N stands for Nature and Environment, E for Economy and Business Processes, S for Social Responsibility and W for Wellbeing.

National Coastal Tourism Academy

National Coastal Tourism Academy has a good resource hub, which has a range of useful reports and other documents which would be of use for anyone exploring coastal regions.

Do it Kits... coming to King's Ely

Fellow Mission:Explorer Helen is behind a company called Do it Kits.
She's been making a range of exciting and interesting kits for schools, which have an Arduino (or similar) board at their heart.
Helen's latest kit is currently being made, and laser cut, and the good news is that I'm getting some to play with at King's, and use them in the Geography department (and perhaps with my Geography Explorers' Club sessions)
We'll be using them to explore microclimates on the school site, of which there are quite a few, and trialling them.... as part of our Year 7 work.
Here's an image of the kits in Helen's workshop....

We'll be sharing what we do with them here and over at my Geography Teacher 2.0 blog.

Check the website for more on Do it Kits.

The Invention of Nature

This is my current reading. It's also one of the last books that I added to the shelves of the GeoLibrary. It's a biography of Alexander von Humboldt.
THE INVENTION OF NATURE from Sea Blue Media on Vimeo.

It also has an accompanying StoryMap made by the ESRI team using the Cascade app...

Media literacy, geographies of consumption and subvertisement guide

Here's the latest resource that I have worked on (a little - I gave some guidance on the contents and Finnish translation and activities)

It's been developed by Eeva Kemppainen and Ian Cook, who I've worked with previously.

Developed for Pro-Ethical Trade Finland

This guide sets out an approach to teaching media literacy and the geographies of consumption that has been developed by the NGO Pro Ethical Trade Finland (Eettisen kaupan puolesta ry), with funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland.
A subvertisement workshop involves interpreting and subverting the messages made in product advertising.
With their teachers, students are shown how to critically read advertisements brought into the classroom and encouraged to work out:
• How images and texts are designed to convey a message about a commodity
• How advertisements convey relationships between people, places and things
• What claims advertisements make about the origins and uses of commodities and what information and imagery is missing
• How advertisements can be altered to convey alternative messages
• How and where subvertisements can encourage critical readings of advertisements?

Children and young people are bombarded by diverse commercial messages on social media, on the street, on TV, in movies and in games. Teachers can help students to learn the differences between journalism and marketing as well as develop their capacity to critically interpret what they see and hear.

Would be useful for Cultural Geographers and also connections with Changing Places units as well.

You can download a copy of the whole guide in English (unless you want it in Finnish) as a PDF file.

For more on the previous work that I have done with Ian and Eeva check out the Follow the Things education page.

Pole of Cold Exhibition

If you are heading to the Historic Dockyards at Chatham over the next few months, you can check out a specially expanded version of the Pole of Cold exhibition which has been to several other locations over the last few years.

This is the expedition which I got involved with in a small way by writing the educational resources, funded by the RGS-IBG (as was the expedition).

The resources won a Scottish Association of Geography Teacher's (SAGT) Award in 2014.

Read more about it in earlier posts on this blog.

Further details of the exhibition:

Discover the mystical world of the Arctic and the people who live there.  From Shamanism to ice cream. Kent’s very own polar explorer Felicity Aston MBE presents a diverse and exciting exhibition, which combines the natural world, adventure and art.  This compelling exhibition gives an insight into the coldest place on earth.
Pole of Cold explores what life is like in some of the coldest permanently inhabited places in the Arctic.  The photographs and words are from the expedition led by Felicity Aston and are visually stunning.
This exhibition mixes stunning photography with a number of interactive elements:
  • Try on a pair of snow goggles or mittens worn to protect against the cold
  • Design your own polar clothing in our own version of a Siberian house
  • Listen to traditional chants known as ‘joiking*’
  • Discover a series of little known facts about the peoples of the Arctic through your journey in the gallery
  • Tell us what winter means to you!

Now available… CUP AQA 'A' level textbook

Breaking into the summer break for some important news

The AQA 'A' level Geography textbook that I worked for over 2 years on editing and co-writing (and re-writing) is now in stock at the publishers! 
Order your copies now.

Thanks again to everyone who helped with the project!

Should also be available on the GA website with a good price for members in a week or so's time.

Image: Caroline Walton from CUP

Summer break….

Annual blog break. Back in a few weeks… 

GeoLibrary project complete

So, back in January 2013, I started a 365 project which was supposed to take one year.
Each day I was going to focus on one of the books on my book shelf, which had a geographical connection and post a picture of the cover and some details on the book…
I got up until mid-August without a problem as I was freelance at the time, and had rather more time to do such frivolous things. Then I got a job back in teaching and suddenly all my spare time disappeared... and the project stalled.
Since then, I've been adding a few more books as and when I get them, and when time permits - often it's been displacement activity when I really should have been doing something more important...

I've had nearly 20 000 page views so far, which is great.

But now it's done... and I have a book for every day of the year.

I hope that you will find some books that you hadn't heard of, and perhaps inspire you to add them to the shelves of your own GeoLibrary.

What books have I missed?
What would you add as your February 29th - extra leap year day book?

I'll probably keep adding significant new books as and when. There are probably still another 100 or so books on my shelves that I haven't added...

Finding Dory

Highly recommended, and the short film 'Piper' that precedes it is lovely…

Crystal Serenity…. boldly going...

This post has been in draft for a couple of months, and the story has evolved since it was first announced. This would now be a useful idea for exploring fragile cold environments.

I'm going to try to develop this as an evolved case study piece, but ran out of time… will come back to this I think

I've just read a Jonathan Franzen piece on Antarctica in the Times which was excellent and worth hunting out...

The Crystal Serenity is a large cruise ship, which is going to boldly go on a voyage this summer, setting off in August 2016… and it's one that all geographers should be fascinated by. The ship is going to sail around the north of Canada, and go through what would have been referred to in the past as the Northwest Passage.
The ship's website has a range of detail on the voyage, which includes the itinerary and the route that the ship is going to take. I won't put it here due to copyright, but it's well worth hunting out and taking a look.

The voyage is rather expensive too (at over $20 000 per person), as all Polar voyages are, and apparently all the places have been booked.

This has attracted a lot of interest given the size of the ship, and also the nature of the voyage, which is a commercial voyage through an area which is being changed by human activity, and the ship may well cause other interruptions to daily life for people who live in the area.

The ship will be accompanied on the voyage by the BAS ship Sir Ernest Shackleton.
This has a heavily armoured hull which can withstand ice, and will also be able to have a
range of additional equipment and potentially help with an evacuation if there is a problem with the cruise ship. There has been some criticism of a scientific ship being used in this way.
There is a Canadian radio show here which includes a useful 30 minute report on the proposed voyage, although it won't be there for ever.

The Guardian has published an article on the voyage, which provides some useful additional information.

However, Klaus Dodds, who specialises in geopolitics has pointed out that there are lots of different perspectives at play in the Arctic, and this is just one of them. This is excellent on how Nunavut and Cambridge Bay is preparing for the visit.

And via Twitter, I came across a useful few tweets with ideas that are relevant, including from people living in the area.

A Pew Trust research report also contains some very useful diagrams and data on the growing changes in the Arctic.

There's a splendid infographic on this National Post article.

And finally, there was a report published recently on the sustainability credentials of cruise holidays, and the impact of these large ships on the sea through which they sail.

American Pickers and place-making...

I've blogged before about American Pickers, a show on Dave that is one of my guilty pleasures. The show's main character, Mike Wolfe is concerned about the history of places, and often donates finds to local museums to return them to the place where they originated.

Mike Wolfe has now added his name to a campaign to rediscover PLACES.

There is a range of resources available for the project, some of which would be really good in the classroom. The project is called THIS PLACE MATTERS, and you can download a range of logos and other things related to rediscovering place. I like the idea of having a picture of yourself at a place that matters to you. I will be doing this in a number of locations to get ready for disseminating the idea.

Everyone has places that are important to them. Places they care about. Places that matter. This Place Matters is a national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities.
This campaign isn’t just about photography. It’s about telling the stories of the places we can’t live without. Through This Place Matters, we hope to encourage and inspire an ongoing dialogue about the importance of place and preservation in all of our lives.
We are certainly going to be making use of these pins around the school, and for a range of projects…. I can't wait to get some of these laminated, and handed out to students for their use….

Well done to Ollie Bray

Ollie has just finished an amazing 4228.5 mile unsupported ride across the USA from West to East. A really inspirational ride, and look forward to reading the book.

TransAM Miles: 4228.5 miles

Getting Lost / Accessing Services off-route miles: 36 miles

Total Miles: 4264.5 miles

Total Time: 28 days, 2 hours and 46 mins

Average miles per day: 152 miles

Longest Mileage Day: 202 miles (who even thought that was possible!)

Shortage Milage Day: 73 miles

Normal time cycling each day: 16/17 hours

Total punctures: Six

Tires worn out: Five (three back and two front)

Brake Pads worn out: Two sets

Crashes: One (Day 14 - all healed now but week three was pretty sore!)

Lowest Point: Sea Level 0m/ft at Astoria and Yorktown

Highest Point: 3617m / 11,539ft at Hoosier Pass, Colorado

Tubes of Chamois Cream used: 2.5

Favorite State: Wyoming (Can’t beat Yellowstone and the Tetons + good to re-visit some of the places that I peddled on the 2008 Divide Route)

Least Favorite State: Kentucky

Total Beers consumed: Three (yes, three in 28 days… that's how tough / little time there has been!)

Bikes for sale: One (well used but loved and with full service history from one careful male owner…)

Ollie at the start:
On the continental divide:
And at the finish....

Staycation... a rhyming challenge...

I was interested in this article in the Sunday Times…
It talks about the possibility of more people doing a staycation: a holiday in the UK following the drop in value of the pound relative to other currencies after the Brexit vote, and a number of terrorist attacks in public spaces and cities in Europe.

I've been abroad twice this summer so far, and also had a long weekend in Center Parcs, and have a couple of other trips within the UK coming up including our usual week in Devon.

I was interested to see the headline of the article opposite, and thought it would make a good rhyming challenge...
Think of two places: one outside the UK, and one inside the UK...

Umbria or Cumbria is the one suggested....

Here were some of the ones I came up with - can you do better?
  • Paris or Harris
  • Boston or Boston (bit of a cheat that one)
  • Rotterdam or Rotherham
  • Ghent or Kent
  • Bern or Herne Bay


A useful Geographical magazine article on the way that Airbnb is changing some cities, and the impact that it is having on housing stock availability in cities such as Reykjavik and Barcelona.

How Airbnb is reshaping our cities...

There have been demonstrations about the impact that it is having in some cities, with people unhappy that it turns residential areas into hotels without the permission of neighbours.

I've been looking at Airbnb as a possible source of accommodation for a trip later in the year, and it seems that several people I know already use it for accommodation as an alternative to finding a hotel. I can see that there might be some benefits in this route...

Any thoughts on Airbnb? Anyone used it? 

A useful set of data and mapping to explore... 

Cold Environments videos on the GA website

A new series of short videos have been added to the GA website. They are presented by Professor Chris Clark from Sheffield University, and would be useful for those who are teaching about glaciation for the first time in a while perhaps, and need a refresher on some of the processes and landforms involved.

OCR 'B' GCSE Scheme of Work builder

Now that you've bought the OCR 'B' GCSE book from Hodder, which I hope you all have, you'll need to start planning.
Hodder have a range of suitable resources to take the edge of that, and do some of the hard work for you (because we've done that), but there's also a useful tool on the OCR website which allows you to put together a Scheme of Work and timetable to help track the work you are doing with young people.

The scheme of work builder allows you to create a bespoke scheme of work using the extensive range of resources we have provided for each specification. Each specification has been broken down into statements and mapped to individual teaching activities. You can be sure that your scheme of work has complete specification coverage.

Five step guide to creating your scheme of work

  1. Choose the statements from the specification that you want to cover
  2. Choose from the activities mapped to the statements
  3. Add notes of additional materials or resources that might be needed for a particular lesson.
  4. Use the handy overview feature to preview and print your scheme of work.
  5. ‘Print to pdf’ to save your scheme of work (browser dependent).

By the way, the OCR 'A' book will be here in about a month's time….

And the AQA 'A' level book from CUP is out next week!

Sales pitch over… back to 'Homes under the Hammer'...

Virtual fieldtrip to the Favelas

Google has been working in the favelas of Brazil to produce a virtual fieldtrip experience which, with the Olympics about to start in earnest (some events have already started) is well worth taking a look at. Thanks to Ben Hennig for the tipoff to this resource.

Favelas are being mapped because "a big part of having an identity is having an atlas".
They are not just a place, they are a people, and to fully understand them, you must go inside...

This is colourful and is well worth experiencing (make sure that you wear your headphones when you do)

The Gig Economy

I've been reading and writing about this recently, and it was the subject of a large article in a recent Sunday supplement.
The Gig economy is defined as follows:

A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.

The Guardian article here is useful.

The gig economy refers to those people who earn money by doing numerous small jobs, such as freelancing and independent contract work. There are also many people on zero hours contracts who may line up additional work for days when they are not otherwise working. I am currently on a zero hours contract for ease of payment for work that I do with the Institute of Education.

There are also thousands of Uber and Deliveroo drivers who are involved in the Gig economy...

Something I shall return too later in the year when I have a moment...

Geography Tweet Catalogue from Geogabout

A rather fine effort on the Geogabout blog from David Drake.

There are hundreds of catalogued tweets since 2011 which are related to al aspects of Geography (arranged alphabetically)

You can also access a whole range of tweets which are specific to the new AS and 'A' level Specifications.

Check out the rest of the blog for more awesome resources.

Cromer Goats

Cromer has introduced a new management method on the cliffs in the last couple of months. Goats are grazing the cliffs. I went to see them today.

Here's a local news feature on them. 

Image: Alan Parkinson
goats_for_web from ITV Anglia on Vimeo.

The best music videos about city life

A useful article in 'The Guardian' explores some of the ways that cities are represented in music videos. This could be useful for those who are exploring the new Changing Place, Changing Places units, or the idea of Representations of Place.
There's a set of songs about city life too.

Here's one from me to start my list... what would be on yours?


Here's some suggestions from Brendan Conway

Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Reason: Superb celebratory evocation of an urban place.

Summer in the city - Lovin' Spoonful
Reasons: Really captures life in a busy hot city with traffic jams and smog.

Do you know the way to San José? - Dionne Warwick.
Reasons: Captures the downside consequences of rural-urban migration but in a pleasant, catchy inoffensive tune - a trick which the likes of the Beautiful South followed more recently: 'And all the stars that never were, Are parking cars and pumping gas'.  Also, when travelling around the USA by Greyhound, I remember arriving in downtown San José with a naively pleasant image of the place in my head from the song, but the reality was very disappointing.

Ghost Town - The Specials
Reasons: Captures the early eighties zeitgeist in many British cities but still has contemporary resonance.  Have often used this in lessons. 

I also like Mary Chapin Carpenter's 'I am a town'