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Edgelands: Unofficial countryside

West Thurrock North Lagoon Flowerrich West Thurrock North Lagoon Flowerrich P R Harvey

Where does the city end and the countryside begin?

Is the wasteland on the border of a city a physical manifestation of the malaise which afflicts that metropolis, derelict land so damaged by industrial or other development that it is incapable of beneficial use without further treatment? Or can beauty, and hope, be found in these spaces as they slowly rewild? 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.


Marion Shoard

marion shoardMarion Shoard worked as CPRE’s first planning specialist in the mid-1970s before leaving to research and write The Theft of the Countryside (1980), which described the damage being inflicted on Britain’s landscape and wildlife by modern farming. Her second book, This Land is Our Land (1987, revised edition 1997), set out the character and history of the struggle over land rights in the UK and advocated a new social contract between landowners and landless. A Right to Roam (1999) looked at how a general right of access on foot could work throughout the country. She has also written many articles and in 2009 received a lifetime achievement award from the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild. Marion became interested in the interface between town and country when revisiting Thanet, where she had grown up, in the late 1990s. An award-winning essay entitled Edgelands  published in 2002 received widespread publicity and sparked off the debate about the nature and future of this kind of landscape which has continued to develop.

Listen: Marion Shoard's speech


Marion Shoard's website

Professor Michael Symmons Roberts

professor michael symmons robertsProfessor Michael Symmons Roberts was born in 1963 in Preston, Lancashire, UK. His poetry has won the Whitbread Poetry Award, and been shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Forward Prize, and twice for the T.S. Eliot Prize. He has received major awards from the Arts Council and the Society of Authors. His continuing collaboration with composer James MacMillan has led to two BBC Proms choral commissions, song cycles, music theatre works and operas for the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Welsh National Opera. Their WNO commission – ‘The Sacrifice’ – won the RPS Award for opera, and their Royal Opera House / Scottish Opera commission - 'Clemency' - was nominated for an Olivier Award. His broadcast work includes ‘A Fearful Symmetry’ - for Radio 4 - which won the Sandford St Martin Prize, and ‘Last Words’ commissioned by Radio 4 to mark the first anniversary of 9/11. He has published two novels, and is Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Professor Michael Symmons Roberts website

Professor Paul Farley

professor paul farleyProfessor Paul Farley was born in Liverpool in 1965 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art. He has published four books with Picador: The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award and a Forward Prize in 1998); The Ice Age (winner of the 2002 Whitbread Poetry Prize, and a Poetry Book Society Choice); and Tramp in Flames, which was short-listed for the International Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007 and the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2009 he received the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a Travelling Scholarship from the Society of Authors. He has also written a book on Terence Davies’s Distant Voices, Still Lives (British Film Institute, 2006) and in 2007 edited a selection of John Clare for Faber’s Poet-to-Poet series. As a broadcaster he has written and presented many arts, feature and documentary programmes for BBC radio and television, including Sunday Features on Wilfred Owen and W.H. Auden, two Archive Hours on Philip Larkin, poetry features on John Clare, Frank O’Hara and Michael Drayton, and several original radio dramas. His poems for radio are collected in Field Recordings: BBC Poems 1998-2008 (Donut Press, 2009) and a selected poems, The Atlantic Tunnel, was published in the US by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2010. He has also written more widely on the arts and literature for The Guardian, Art Review, Granta, Tate etc, the Independent, the Observer and Poetry Review; he is a frequent guest on programmes such as Saturday Review, The Culture Show, Front Row, Night Waves and The Verb. His book, Edgelands, a non-fiction journey into England’s overlooked wilderness (co-authored with Michael Symmons Roberts) was published by Jonathan Cape in 2011; it received the Royal Society of Literature’s Jerwood Award and was serialised as a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. His most recent collection is The Dark Film, which was a Poetry Book Society Choice in 2012. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Professor Paul Farley's website

Listen: Professor Michael Symmons Roberts' and Professor Paul Farley's speech





Coming up in the series


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

Can beauty, and hope, be found in these spaces as they slowly rewild?

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