My Journal of Historical Geography article, ”A local habitation and a name’: Writing Britain’ is now open access online on ScienceDirect here, thanks to Elsevier. The abstract:
The history, natural resources, and constitution of the land of Britain have preoccupied writers from the ancient Greeks onwards. The Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibition currently at the British Library presents these histories in a tour around a series of place-writing genres (Rural Dreams, Dark Satanic Mills, Wild Places, Beyond the City, Cockney Visions, and Waterlands), using the work of individual authors to build an eclectic composition of the magical and factual realm of Britain. In both the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue, a neo-romantic version of the idea of genius loci works to celebrate literary Britain as a ‘cornucopia’ of local and localised texts, invoking chorographical traditions. This article examines the problematic geographical vision of Writing Britain, particularly its supra-historical approach, its reductive truth binaries, and its conservative reliance on belonging. Its ‘exhibition as landscape’ approach is also compared to that of the 1951 Festival of Britain and to another 2012 exhibition at Tate Britain, The Robinson Institute.
The forthcoming article in this ‘Historical Geography at Large’ section is also open access and is of interest: Felix Driver’s overview of a decade of collaborative, engagement-based, and cross-disciplinary work in historical geography.
Above are a few of the photographs from Amy Todman’s curated evening LODGED, in which my prototype for ‘GLOSS’ featured alongside small-press texts and rock samples from a number of artists and contributors, including Morven Gregor, Gerry Loose, and Lila Matsumoto. There is also a short video below of the opening night of NATURE RESERVES, the exhibition on archives and the natural environment, curated by Tom Jeffreys, in which my work ‘PINE’ featured. (One of the talking heads actually mentions my work!)
Also recently announced – spaces are available here for Grass Routes, a free event to which I’m contributing as part of the Art Licks weekend in early October. Blurb:
Grass Routes is a series of artist/poet-led walking tours around Peckham taking in hidden elements of the area’s history and architecture, exploring places where nature peeps through uninvited and facilitating a critical engagement with the fabric of the area. Each walk lasts approximately 2 hours and features poetry readings, participatory activities, discussion, collection, creation, performance and some practical “naturing” which may well take the form of low-energy manual labour.
Different portions of the walk come under the “leadership” of a different artist, poet, botanist or forager, exploring the area through a range of different critical lenses, but are threaded together through a shared interest in community, place and the changing relationship between humans and the environment.
Artists: Amy Cutler, Edmund Hardy, Mendoza, Camilla Nelson, James Wilkes
Curator: Tom Jeffreys
Finally, the Duke’s Wood Project (above) has released its full brochure online here, along with essays. I will be contributing on Saturday August the 31st as part of an event on the history of woodland bowers in literature, and the event series also includes night-time walks, hunt cabins, drawings, a talk by forest geographer Charles Watkins, and tours and symposiums on the industrial, oil-based and military past of the woodland site, as well as its future, with Nottingham’s Cultural and Historical Geography department and the curatorial group leading the project, Ordinary Culture. They state,
Duke’s Wood can be seen as a place where engaging with a very specific local historical context enables a framework from which to interrogate prominent issues in the wider global/political economy, opening up a space to ask questions (…) The artists working at Duke’s Wood confirm such a claim. Through diverse exploratory practices the wood has been reawakened and a new form of prospecting commenced, where the elision of ecology and industrial history sets the scene for new meanings to be made, new and jarring structures to be built, and new actions to occur that at once problematise and revitalise our understanding of a place.
More information can be found on the project blog here, and the list of events, including the one I’m collaborating on with Alec Finlay and Hanna Tuulikki, is online here. Some images of work available on the blog so far by the participating researchers and artists are above; these will coalesce into the events at the end of August. Dr. Charles Watkins has written short pieces here and here on the imaginative historical forests of Nottinghamshire and the historical role of ash, elm, and coppicing at Duke’s Wood.
I have just come back from the New Forest, where I was looking at the expressions of history in the forest’s management – particularly in the New Forest Museum, above (where forest ‘war memories’ and forest ‘work memories’ were available on the oral history telephones). Next to this an area of the museum floorboards can be seen, which clearly marks out the social histories (important battles, royal lifespans, etc.) within a dendrochronological scheme.
For the time being I will be updating this blog rarely as I am tied up to work while finishing the PhD. Above, this week’s reading, which is bang on topic: a review copy of Placing Poetry (ed. Ian Davidson and Zoë Skoulding), and my contributor copy of Poetry & Geography: Space & Place in Post-War Poetry (ed. Neal Alexander and David Cooper). It’s still quite exciting to see my name in print!