Back in 1992 I saw a poster published on May Day in the Independent by the charity Common Ground. The poster was celebrating local distinctiveness – and highlighted the importance of recognising and fighting for the landscapes, objects and names that define particular places and make one village, town or region feel different from another. The poster stood out from everything else in the paper that day; the woodcut illustrations, the slogans and examples of local distinctiveness from across the British Isles. It resonated with me so strongly that I forked out the £4.50 required to buy a copy. As a student in Nottingham that was a hefty chunk of my weekly budget and could have bought 4 1/2 pints in the right pub.
I still have the poster now, though framed rather than stuck on a wall with blu tac. Years later, around the time I first became a father, I found myself staring yet again at the poster. In, what I suppose was a defiance of Orwell’s pram in the hallway, I thought that I’d like to explore some of its themes in writing and that is where this blog comes in.
From an early age I’ve been especially interested in two things: Books and Cities, or in a wider sense ‘place’. The books part is easy to explain – my parents were both booksellers who loved what they sold so much that a lot of their stock ended up staying at home, where I grew to love it as well. There’s more detail on their shops here.
The city/sense of place thing? I’m not so sure where that came from, but for about as long as I can remember I’ve been keen on nosing into what was round the corner, wondering what makes a place tick. I’ve long found spaces where the built environment intersects with the natural particularly intriguing – be they accidental survivors – old trees in now heavily developed city spaces for example, overgrown derelict sites, or places deliberately left alone and allowed to flourish in their own way. Sites similar to those now often referred to as edgelands, but I take particular delight in those found right in the middle of town, rather than on the outskirts.
My interest is in such places as they are now and in their changing history over time. I like the transient nature of such spots – abandoned private garages, tumbling down and overtaken by plants, a scruffy dell with a rope hung on a tree, which once spurred adventures at the back of Bristol’s Muller Road bus depot, or Johnny Ball Lane, which winds along the rear of Upper Maudlin Street in the centre of Bristol, next to the site of an old cemetery.
This blog is an attempt to record and share thoughts and ideas about these and other mutable areas and sites within cities, as well as posts about books and bookshops I have enjoyed – plus the occasional digression into other territories such as music, art history and landscape in a more general sense.
Why Richly Evocative?
The phrase is a staple cliché of book, film and music reviews. It tends to be used when a reviewer means to convey that a book has some whiff of nostalgic appeal; whether concerning 1970s football, Elizabethan privateers, or the travels of 19th century Persian noblemen.
I once set up a spoof book review website called Richly Evocative, which featured exaggerated examples of hackneyed publishers’ blurbs (at the time I had a job writing copy for Book Club Associates), this site no longer exists, but I’ve kept the name as it seems appropriate for a blog where I bang on about places I have been and things I have liked. I sincerely hope that it offers readers something more than a one-man solastalgia fest.