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The countryside and the city: How can we tell them apart?

Menai suspension bridge Menai suspension bridge Photo: Dr Francis Pryor

CPRE's series of six connected symposia will examine the powerful interplay between the countryside, and its urban partner. Come on a journey through concentric circles, from the heart of the modern city, into the suburbs, edgelands, and green belt, and out to the modern countryside, discussing these different landscapes: their history, their transformation, and the way we move through them today.

The Country and the City
andrew-motion-120x180CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion and archaeologist Dr Francis Pryor open the series and discuss the interdependence of the country and the city. Urban and rural are inevitably related, but are the city and the countryside the same now? This event aims to debunk the notion of rural life as simple, natural and unadulterated: what cultural author Raymond Williams called “a myth functioning as a memory”, and the notion of the city as a symbol of capitalist production, labour and exploitation.

Listen: Sir Andrew Motion's speech
A unique look at the relationship between town and country in poetry and literature, from Shakespeare to Ted Hughes via the Romantics.


Sir Andrew Motion's website

Professor Francis Pryor

dr-francis-pryor-120x180Dr Francis Pryor has devoted himself to writing popular books on archaeology, including Seahenge (HarperCollins 2001), was President of the Council for British Archaeology from 1998-2005 and has written and presented series for Channel 4, including The Real Dad’s Army, a review of archaeological remains surviving from 1940. He is also a regular contributor to, and member of, that channel’s long-running series, Time Team. He is currently visiting Professor in Archaeology at the University of Leicester.

"There has always been quite a clear-cut and necessary distinction between town and country. But until very recently the relationship has been symbiotic: each depended on the other for survival and prosperity. It seems to me that the town/country relationship across most of Britain is still balanced and healthy. But something has indeed gone wrong.

A super city, London, has arisen from the ruins of the Blitz. During the Middle Ages London was the wealthiest city in Britain and in early modern times it was to become the first World City. But even so, places like Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow could together match it. Somehow it was still in scale: vast but tolerable. Today all that has changed and it seems to me the town/country imbalance is in reality a Greater London/Britain problem. I suspect that archaeologists in five hundred years’ time will be trying to work out how present generations allowed this monster within our midst to grow with such alarming and unrestrained rapidity. The question that confronts us is grim: is London keeping Britain afloat, or sucking it dry?"

Listen: Dr Francis Pryor's speech

Dr Francis Pryor's website

Coming up in the series

THE GREEN BETWEEN THE GREY: the countryside in the city
24 October 2012 (6-7.30pm at CPRE, 5-11 Lavington Street, SE1 0NZ)
Writer and Senior Professor at The Cities Institute, Ken Worpole, joins Dr Anna Jorgensen, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield and author of Urban Wildscapes, to discuss the greening of urban spaces.

This event examines the diverse mix of green spaces in the city, and the contribution they make to social renewal and our health. Green spaces can help create more liveable cities, but can they also reduce antisocial behaviours and provide an alternative to surveillance society?

LITTLE BOXES: suburbia
31 October 2012
Head of LSE Housing & Communities, Professor Anne Power, and author of Making Sense of Suburbia Through Popular Culture, Dr Rupa Huq explore suburban society.

EDGELANDS: unofficial countryside
7 November 2012
Poets Professor Michael Symmons Roberts and Professor Paul Farley, co-authors of Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness join Marion Shoard, author of the award-winning essay Edgelands to discuss the role of wildness in urban landscapes.

GREEN BELT AND BRACES: green girdles
14 November 2012
Writer, geographer, and CPRE Vice President Nick Crane discusses the role and nature of the Green Belt with Cedric Hoptroff, Secretary of the London Green Belt Council.

CREATED COUNTRYSIDE: unnatural nature
21 November 2012
Professor Anthony O'Hear, author of the essay The Myth of Nature and Howard Davies, Chief Executive of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, talk about managed landscapes, and close the series.

Find out more and book your free place now: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; 020 7981 2813

The town/country relationship across most of Britain is still balanced and healthy. But something has indeed gone wrong. A super city, London, has arisen from the ruins of the Blitz.

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