Symposia

The Network plans to organise five symposia. Students, academics and representatives from a variety of voluntary organisations, community groups, charities and relevant organisations will be invited to attend and participate in these events.

Second symposium – Whose Landscapes? 30/3/21

One of the major advantages of a biographical/narrative approach is the potential it offers to open up our understanding of landscape to a wider range of voices. A particular focus of concern in the UK context is the ways in which landscapes, especially rural landscapes, can be constructed as ‘white spaces’ that exclude ethnic minorities (Neal and Agyeman, 2006), an issue recently highlighted by MK Gallery’s ‘The Lie of the Land’ exhibition and Beth Collier’s ‘Wild in the City’ initiative. Class exclusion is a major and enduring structural feature of, especially, rural English landscapes, as the National Trust’s ‘People’s Landscapes’ initiative recognizes.

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.

The disruptive politics of Brexit: rural communities, dependency and migration

Professor Sarah Neal, University of Sheffield

Anti-blackness and the racialization of the British rural countryside space – how racial prejudice and place are intertwined yet contested

Maxwell Ayamba, Sheffield Environmental Movement

‘White and pleasant land?’ Racism and exclusion in the English countryside, 1948 – 2020

Lottie Jacob, University of Reading

Progression, extension, development, and the origins of The MERL

Dr Ollie Douglas, The Museum of English Rural Life

Green Unpleasant Land: English Rurality and Empire

Professor Corinne Fowler, University of Leicester

The problem with the preservationists: conflicts of class and amenity in the ‘industrial Pennines’

Dr Katrina Navickas, University of Hertfordshire

Footpaths, heritage, and limitations on popular access to land

Professor Paul Readman, King’s College, London

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

Third symposium – Changing Landscapes, Changing Values

Landscapes undergo continual modification as a result of environmental processes, associated ecosystems services, socio-economic change and political decisions. These changes are often gradual but can be disruptive and even catastrophic: for example, Parliamentary enclosure, conifer plantation, forest and heath fires, requisition by the armed services and the construction of large-scale infrastructure such as new roads, railways, housing estates and renewable energy installations. Biographical and narrative perspectives are crucial in elucidating the effective impact of different kinds, scales and rates of landscape change and also in explaining the often-chequered history of the restoration of disused landscapes such as former mines, quarries and airbases (Milbourne and Mason, 2016; Jardine Brown, 2012). The symposium will also examine how narratives of local, regional and national identity reconfigure landscape preferences over time (Faulkner, Berry and Gregory, 2010; Trower, 2015). How, for example, can once reviled landscape features like the Didcot ‘A’ cooling towers become cherished markers of local identity? In addressing these questions, the network will build on research undertaken by ERC-funded ‘The Past in its Place’ project.

Fourth symposium – Creative and Heritage Practice in Landscape Decision Making

This symposium explores how contemporary heritage practice might create a forum for landscape decision making, building on a 2018 Cluster for Climate, Culture and Society workshop. The symposium will draw on the growth in participatory methodologies in heritage (Simon 2016 and 2010; Black 2011) to explore how we might create spaces for democratizing discussion around future landscape decisions. This approach engaged with academic research regarding emotion and heritage practice (Tolia-Kelly, Waterton, and Watson 2017; Smith, Wetherell and Campbell 2018) by exploring how narrative and biography inform the way in which we ‘feel’ about place and how this affects what we ‘care’ about and how we make decisions with regards to heritage landscapes (e.g. De Silvey 2017). Hence this workshop will integrate current theory and methods around co-curation by bringing activist stakeholders into the conversation. Finally it will bring in creative practice to explore how heritage organisations might work with creativity to engage audiences with deeper issues around landscape and bring different voices into the debate. Based at the Museum of English Rural Life, the symposium draws on MERL’s Arts Council England designated collection of archival, library, object and art materials related to the changing English landscape. The collection includes both the archives of pressure groups such as the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and policy archives from government bodies such as the MAFF. The Berkshire Record Office’s Thames Conservancy Archive will also offer an insight into 250 years of planning along the River Thames. Collections will be used as prompts for discussion around past approaches to making, enacting, and resisting landscape decisions, with a focus on how narrative and biography were used both by policy makers and activists in this process. The discussion groups will include academics (scientists, social scientists, and arts and humanities), non-academic stakeholders, and creatives and will be audio captured. A creative installation will also be used as a prompt for discussion and to catalyse future academic-creative-stakeholder co-curated creative installations at the Museum of English Rural Life and beyond.

Fifth symposium – Better Stories, Better Landscapes

This final symposium aims to take the insights arising from the exchange of knowledge and ideas in the previous events out into the landscape. It will be hosted by the New Forest National Park Authority in the unique setting of Wood Green Village Hall, a building that meets modern needs while respecting and indeed enhancing the surrounding landscape. The symposium will draw on the perspectives of National Parks England the New Forest National Park Authority), outlining some of the ways life stories and narratives inform landscape and land asset decisions and management in national parks, and specifically the New Forest. Prof Tom Oliver (Defra Systems Research Programme) and Prof Simon Mortimer (Loddon Observatory) will also be invited to give presentations on the prospects (and challenges) for reconciling the biographical and narrative approaches the network has focused on with ecological and agri-environment methodologies. The symposium will conclude with a round table discussion of the most promising avenues for integrating the landscape insights offered by biographical and narrative approaches into applied landscape decision making tools.