Edgelands

References
Jenkins, D.J. (2002) Remaking The Landscape: The Changing Face of Britain. (Main edition) (s.l.): Profile Books.

Roberts, M.S. (2011) Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness: Written by Michael Symmons Roberts, 2011 Edition, Publisher: Jonathan Cape []. (s.l.): Jonathan Cape.

I first read “Edgelands” back in 2015 on the recommendation of Andrew Conroy, my first OCA tutor. I keep a diary of everything I read, along with a few notes on my thoughts about each book, so I find it interesting to revisit my impressions at the time. I wrote at the time “It doesn’t read like the work of two people; there is an overall organic feel to everything. The subjects are mostly interesting (although it gets more interesting as it goes on) and dry humour as well. It does a good job of bringing forgotten and unnoticed places to our attention”.

Although I appreciated the book at the time, my response seems quite cool, as if I reacted in quite a cautious way. This was quite early in my OCA life and still felt rather like an outsider to the world of art. This time round I felt much more engaged with the book, with the imagery that the authors use to illustrate their subjects. I found myself constructing ideas in my head for a photographic response to some of the places that they talk about – and by this I mean as interpretation, not just straight representation. It is hard to see personal growth from inside at times, so it is pleasing to realise how I have become more engaged with art in the last four years.

Since Farley and Roberts themselves mention Marion Shoard’s essay “Edgelands” in “Remaking The Landscape: The Changing Face of Britain”, I thought it a useful exercise to compare her original words with their interpretation. Because of their different backgrounds there is obvious differences in emphasis. Shoard’s work is primarily concerned with the arguments for and against planning controls being out in place over these border areas, whereas Farley and Roberts are far more concerned with the feelings and emotions that these places produce. This does cause Farley & Roberts to expand the scope of what is meant by edgelands; Shoard, speaking as a planner, is only referring to the unplanned developments on the physical border between urban and countryside. Farley & Roberts expand this to include places that are already completely planned – venues, hotels, airports – and invoke ideas of psychogeography and alienation.

As with all good art, this expansion of terms is perfectly legitimate if you can back it up. Farley & Roberts mostly manage this successfully, with the help of a healthy dose of humour. Keeping each chapter fairly short helps, the overall effect being not unlike a poetry collection. Who would have thought?

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