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Lifecourse, Narrative and Landscape

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First symposium – Lifecourse, Narrative and Landscape 4/12/20

Biographical perspectives are especially relevant to the ways landscape use and needs change with age (Bailey, 2009; Fincher, 2007). Both children and the elderly have distinctive needs and patterns of use in relation to landscape that have only recently begun to be acknowledged (Sleight, 2016; Wen et al, 2018). Conservation organisations such as the National Trust have achieved significant progress in adapting their properties and gardens to the needs of both younger and older visitors, but can this approach be extended to landscapes, and landscape decision-making, on a larger scale? Is it possible to give children and young people (of all backgrounds) a meaningful voice in landscape decisions, perhaps through social media and online discussion forums? How can biographical perspectives and personal narratives of this kind help landscape stakeholders to manage land assets in age-inclusive ways?

Click on the links below, download and open the file to view presentations from this symposium. These presentations have been posted with kind permission from the speakers.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Music for the Landscape: Preserving Leith Hill Place, Dorking.

Parker T. Gordon, University of St Andrews

Abstract: Folksong-inspired melodies and pastoral soundscapes are commonly recognised tropes in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s music, but this paper shows that his interactions with the landscape extend much further. Connections to Leith Hill Place and the surrounding Dorking countryside are specific and evident across Vaughan Williams’s lifetime. Leith Hill Place was his childhood home and the ancestral family home on his mother’s side. Vaughan Williams composed and conducted for the Leith Hill Musical Festival from its inception in 1905 until 1953. After two decades of living in Chelsea, the composer returned to Dorking to live at The White Gates, where he composed many of his mature works. And, with the collaborative efforts of his neighbours, the novelist E. M. Forster and producer Tom Harrison, Vaughan Williams contributed music to two local pageants that emphasised not only the history of the surrounding area but also the importance of the landscape’s future. Searching for allusions in a composer’s music can be problematic, but we can identify Vaughan Williams’s engagement with the landscape more clearly through his activism and efforts to support preservation.

Thinking Life Course, Narrative and Landscape Through Ideas of Time, Affect, Atmospheres, Ecologies of Memory and ‘the Wake’.

Owain Jones, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University

Abstract: This speculative paper seeks to question ideas of life course and what it might be to be in the (heritage) present in terms of space and time. This should have some relevance for the objectives of the programme in thinking about ‘how landscape stakeholders manage land assets in age-inclusive ways?’ This paper draws extensively on the work of Jan Slaby of the Free University of Berlin and his work on violence, affect and time. Particularly the paper “The Weight of History: From Heidegger to Afro-Pessimism” (2020). This also extends previous work I have done on the past in relation to nonrepresentational theory (NRT), and also ecologies of memories. There is no simple pay-off here in terms of management, but a series of starting points are made. Any life course and point in it, should not been seen as too defined, knowable, linear and fixed, but more as a living turbulence or a wake in time. Every individual life course maybe much more ecological and mysterious than can be easily known. As the film “Our Little Sister’ shows so wonderfully, children can carry burdens and sorrows as a freight of life experience, just as much as an older person can, and joys too.  My suggestion is that there is a need to manage landscapes so they are that are as rich, varied, and mutable as possible, teeming with affective possibilities; messy, makeshift, always on the brink of other possibilities. This might make them places in which people, as varying flows of affective becoming out of time, can find connections, spaces and possibilities. Also, the (violent) history of any place must be acknowledged. Any heritage project needs to see itself as part of a collective truth and reconciliation endeavour.  If that sounds extreme, consider Hicks (2020) analysis of museums which are, in their current forms, ‘sites of unending violence, ceaseless trauma, colonial crimes committed again every morning as the strip lights click on’ (Riley, 2020). Also drawing on Slaby – the role of affect and atmosphere in place is critical. How these are ‘engineered’ in any given place is a key question.

Rethinking Inclusive Landscapes: History, Culture and Sensory Diversity in Landscape Use and Decision Making. 

Dr Clare Hickman (University of Newcastle) and Dr Sarah Bell (University of Exeter)

Abstract: This session will highlight and encourage discussion based on the work of the AHRC network, ‘Unlocking Landscapes: History, Culture and Sensory Diversity in Landscape Use and Decision Making’ led by Clare Hickman and Sarah Bell. One of the central aims of the network is to complement landscape management and decision-making approaches that foreground biodiversity with a focus on human diversity. Through the network, we will consider the complex ways in which landscapes become meaningful to diverse individuals and groups through their senses, personal memories and shared histories. As part of this approach we will use this session to share early reflections by network members about people’s varied landscape relationships and perceived challenges in terms of embedding social inclusion in future decision making in this area. We will then open up the discussion to all attending. As the project is considering diversity as something that is influenced by cultural, physical and historical aspects, we are keen to learn from others about what designed landscapes mean for them.

‘In all the Stages and Stations of our Lives’: Landscape and Lifehistory in the travel writing of Celia Fiennes (1682 – 1712)

Professor Nicola Whyte, Associate Professor in Landscape and Social History, University of Exeter

Roundtable Discussion

Dr Jeremy Burchardt, Professor Clare Griffiths, Professor Paul Readman, Dr Rosemary Shirley


4th December 2020
11:00 am - 4:00 pm

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