What’s my most difficult walk and other questions

Part 2 of my epic Q&A video where I answer more of your fantastic questions about London and walking. Please subscribe for regular videos

Related videos:
Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art
The Legend of Horsenden Hill
The Legends of Islington

Some of the questions:

  • At the moment I’m working in Waterloo. I’ve become enamoured with this area. Could you walk though it for documentation before it’s lost to “gentrification”.
  • What’s the best area/borough to leave in London now having children comparing with safety, spending and commitment?
  • Worked in London in the seventies and on my time off used to hop on tube to go visit to get to see different places. Did that mean I was an early psychogeographer ?👍
  • In what ways have areas of London like Clerkenwell, KX and Shoreditch changed in your time in London? All have the air of massive transformation, with Exmouth Market now feeding Clerkenwell office workers, the many pubs, bars and restaurants of Shoreditch catering to East Anglian revellers and the incredible modernisation of the once derelict KX. Did you ever think such transformation was possible?
  • What’s your most memorable chance meeting while walking?
  • What is the most ambitious/difficult/technical etc. walk/hike you have ever attempted?
  • Please recommend a good walking shoe/ boot, suitable for walking on wet/ muddy grass in parks and open spaces.
  • If you could do your amazing walks in another UK city which would you choose and why?
  • John what happened to the rising Sun pond.Spent many happy hours fishing there and hiring a boat.

And many more….

Patrick Keiller interview: London the book

Patrick Keiller London book

Patrick Keiller’s film London was released in 1994 and made an instant impact among viewers and critics alike, becoming enormously influential over the years. Filmed in 1992 and composed of 356 moving images of scenes around the city shot on 35mm film, it has now been published in book form with over two hundred high-definition digital scans of the original frames along with ‘the narration, an afterword, and a list of camera subjects and endnotes.’

This publication by FUEL, gave me a wonderful opportunity to ask Patrick Keiller a few questions via email about London, both book and film.


John Rogers: I’ve watched the film London countless times and yet I still found the book a new experience. Certain things took on a significance on the page in a way they didn’t in the film for me – such as the laying of the wreaths on the statue of Charles I which appear to be a marker of time. And also the linking of Brent Cross and covered Brixton Market with the reference to the Russian Formalists with Sterne and Apollinaire. Did creating the book make you see the film in a new light after all these years?

Patrick Keiller: The book led me to pay more attention to some of the pictures, as they can be looked at for longer, and hence in more detail, than when watching the film. By 2017 all the 35mm prints had become too worn or damaged to remain in distribution, and the negative was scanned to make a 2K digital version for cinemas and streaming. In 1993, a few publicity images had been copied from 35mm print trims, but otherwise we’d only been able to look at individual frames on a Steenbeck [editing table], which displays a relatively dim, low-resolution image, especially when paused, and although the prints were very sharp and were sometimes projected on very big screens, none of the images are on screen for very long.

After the scan, it was relatively easy to extract high definition frames for publication, and I was very pleased when FUEL asked me if I’d be interested in a book. There’s much more detail in the pictures than I’d expected, and some of them stand out in a way they hadn’t before – the view along the south side of Spitalfields Market, for example, with a man who looks as if he’s just arrived from 1848, and Christ Church at the end (pp. 146-147). I’d almost forgotten about this image, perhaps because in the film it only lasts for five seconds, and follows the slightly longer, closer view of the church. The book’s cover image – which was FUEL’s suggestion – is a portrait-format detail of the landscape-format view along Cannon Street towards St Paul’s (p. 140), with a No. 15 bus. I’d never noticed this image’s potential for reframing, and until the scan, a detail from it wouldn’t have been sharp enough to publish.

In the past, I’ve tended to talk or write about the film in terms of its subject, but it was primarily an attempt to make convincing images.

Patrick Keiller London book

view along the south side of Spitalfields Market – from London by Patrick Keiller (pub, FUEL)

JR: In the introduction to the book you write that the script and story was written after filming. So can you tell me about the process – did you start with a map and walk the routes first? What informed those journeys? As a film-maker I’m interested in the production process and how it contrasts with how you approach production in the digital age.

Would it be possible to attract funding for such a film now?

PK: The film was commissioned from a document with two parts, each a kind of recipe for half the film: the first a series of brief sections in each of which was a group of possible camera subjects and some sample narration; the second outlining sixteen journeys or trips to specific places. Both the cinematography and the narrative of each part were to last about six months. The narrative was to begin in late September, but I reasoned that we could begin the cinematography whenever we were ready, as long as we ended up with twelve months of footage. As it turned out, we started shortly before what would have been the period of the second part. All that survives from the document in the finished film are a few brief passages of narration, two journeys (two of the film’s three ‘expeditions’) and some of the one-off visits. Otherwise the film made itself up as it went along, as a kind of diary of 1992.

I don’t think it would be impossible to work like this now, but in the current climate it might be difficult for an institution to commission a work that begins by describing someone’s return to London as ‘a journey to the end of the world’.

Patrick Keiller London book

gateposts at Vauxhall Park matching a shot from London – John Rogers 2018

JR: Is there a difficulty in capturing a journey on foot in a film unlike the established genre of the road movie by car. When I walked the route of the first walk in the film – from Vauxhall to Richmond (I didn’t make it to Strawberry Hill due to lack of light) I realised how much terrain sits between Clapham Common and Strawberry Hill. How did you negotiate this in the writing and filming?

PK: The first ‘expedition’ is narrated as a walk along the Thames, downstream from Teddington Lock, supposedly embarked on spontaneously after a visit to Strawberry Hill in Twickenham. The protagonists ‘set out for Strawberry Hill’ on 10 March, ‘but were distracted by events on Wandsworth Common’  – an IRA bomb beside the railway tracks. I don’t think we’d planned to go to Strawberry Hill on that day, but Wandsworth Common was near the likely route, so we went to have a look. On 12 March, they ‘set off again, crossing Clapham Common in the rush hour’, the latter phrase accommodating an unplanned image photographed on Clapham Common on 15 March. On 12 March, we drove straight to Strawberry Hill, where we had an appointment, going on to Teddington Lock in the afternoon. The ‘walk’ downstream, on the other hand, occupied us for weeks, as I wanted to be able to choose from views of every bridge to accompany Rimbaud’s Les Ponts, and we broke off to cover the general election and its aftermath, returning to the river later.

The second and third ‘expeditions’ were a little more straightforward, but even so the cinematography for each was undertaken over several weeks (there are dates and other details at the end of the book). Making the film involved plenty of walking, but I don’t think I ever walked more than a mile from the car – the equipment was quite heavy. The journeys narrated in the film are not always the same as the journeys involved in making it.


JR: How do you feel about the way that the stylistic form of film – the locked off shot and narration – gave birth to a genre – Keilleresque ?

PK: I don’t think I’ve ever heard it called that. When people ask about the lack of camera movement, I still don’t know quite what to say – except that London was hardly the first film in which the camera doesn’t move much.


JR: Robinson is an Art Teacher at the University of Barking – was this based on your own experiences of teaching in Walthamstow?

PK: I taught in the school of architecture at the North East London Poly at Walthamstow from autumn 1974 until summer 1982, for two-and-a-half hours a week, then for two days a week from autumn 1983 – after the school had moved to a site in Plaistow – until summer 1988, returning in 1990, by which time it had become the Polytechnic of East London, until early 1992, when we began the cinematography for London. I also taught at Middlesex Polytechnic, later University, in the fine art department (the former Hornsey College of Art), from 1983 until about 1999, though by then I was only working there for about six days a year. I never visited NELP/PEL/UEL’s site at Barking, but liked the idea of a University of Barking.

Patrick Keiller London book

Abbey Creek West Ham, London p.10-11 – near where Patrick Keiller taught at North East London Polytechnic 1983-92

JR: Could the character of Robinson exist today?

PK: Definitely – they’re everywhere.


JR: There was a particular mood in London during 1992 which is brilliantly captured in the film. Was it intentional to shoot in an election year and how would a Labour victory have changed the film?

PK: We hadn’t intended to coincide with an election, though I knew there was going to be one – it couldn’t have been put off any longer – but I don’t remember wondering how to deal with the result – either way – until afterwards.

If Labour had won, perhaps the film would have stuck more closely to its initial intention, which was to identify what made London feel so different from mainland European capitals. Or perhaps it could have looked forward to a future that would be at least less unattractive than that envisaged under the Tories (risking pale imitation of Humphrey Jennings’s A Diary for Timothy). It would have lost some of its sense of alienation, probably many of its crowd scenes, and one of its stars, John Major.


JR: Parts of Robinson’s Vauxhall are unrecognisable from the time of his expeditions. Has the ‘problem of London’ changed since the early 90’s?

PK: For Robinson in 1992, the ‘problem’ seems to have been an overall sense of absence, including what Herzen described as ‘the absence of Continental diversions’, but for more practical people the problem of London, then as now, was housing, except that now, as everybody knows, it’s much worse.

In 1992, however, Robinson ‘argued that the failure of London was rooted in the English fear of cities […] the fear of Europe’. I doubt that he would say that in 2021, when the city’s political, economic and cultural differences from most of the rest of England have become more marked.


JR: Do you think there was something about the Thatcher era that inspired a revival of interest in the idea and practice of psychogeography. In the film Robinson engages in exercises of psychic landscaping and free association. What is your idea of the term?

PK: I did write something like that in 1999, suggesting that by then ‘the transformation of everyday surroundings [was] achieved much less by physical rebuilding than by other means’, that ‘perhaps the impulse to poeticise landscape in this way always coincides with periods of heightened political tension’, and that it might be a response to an absence of radical new architecture. But even I was surprised when Pasqual Maragall, former mayor of Barcelona, in London to receive the RIBA’s 1999 Royal Gold Medal on behalf of the city, compared London’s stasis under Thatcher with Spain’s under Franco.

My understanding of the term is from Guy Debord: ‘Psychogeography will aim to study the precise laws and specific effects of the geographic milieu, consciously planned or not, acting directly on the affective comportment of individuals’. He added that ‘it is not forbidden to think that a future urbanism will apply itself to structures, no less utilitarian, taking into the largest account psychogeographic possibilities’, and it’s always seemed to me that the practice was conceived as preliminary to the creation of spaces that were in some way revolutionary – ‘the hacienda must be built’. For this reason, I used to see it as much too ambitious to apply to what I was doing. But now it’s on the back of the book, so there’s no avoiding it.

Patrick Keiller London book

JR: The film and book seem more prescient with each passing year – how do you feel about the political direction of the country since 1992?

PK: It’s very generous of you to say that! Though I don’t think how I feel about it is much use to anyone, least of all me.

Preparing the book, I was reminded how peculiar the Tory ‘eurosceptics’ seemed in 1992. In the 1990s, the UK’s – or at least England’s – ‘identity’, if any, seemed to derive from its supposed diversity and openness to incoming cultures. As I remember, ‘Britishness’ only began to crop up in the mid-2000s.

It’s always seemed to me that there’s a longstanding discrepancy, much greater than those in comparable European countries, between the UK’s claimed economic performance, measured by GDP etc., and its visible poverty and dilapidation. I think a lot of what I notice results from the increased dominance of the economy by services, particularly finance, which has led to the UK’s current vulnerability.


JR: What are you currently working on – many people are eagerly awaiting your next work?

PK: Just recently I’ve written a brief text to accompany some images that I made last summer of the flight of a pipistrelle bat above the gardens behind the house I live in. Before that, I was devoting a lot of time to preparing the text and pictures for the book, and made a sort of website to accompany its publication.

Meanwhile, and for longer than I care to remember, I’ve been attempting a ‘novel perception’ of the UK’s material economy. I’m trying to find out how 65-million-plus people manage to live here, many of us in relative prosperity.




You can buy the book directly from FUEL here

Walking Keiller’s ‘London’ – the first walk

This is the first walk in Patrick Keiller’s seminal film London, shot in 1992, where Robinson and the unseen narrator set out from Vauxhall to walk to Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, which Robinson believes is the birthplace of English Romanticism.

My walk took me from Vauxhall Park through Stockwell and Clapham North to Clapham Common, then Wandsworth Common and Earlsfield. I then passed between Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common and through Alton Estate, Roehampton to Richmond Park. This was a route I had to devise based on only a few images in the film – starting at Vauxhall Park – the only other images used in Keiller’s film between there and Strawberry Hill were of Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common.


The film features an audio excerpt from a project at Roehampton by my sister Cathy Rogers.

You can watch London on the BFI Player

The DVD is available here (affiliate link)

More info about Roehampton

The influence of Le Corbusier on Alton West Roehampton is clear, particularly in the eleven-story slab blocks which were inspired by a visit to the recently completed Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles – read more here

Richard Rogers on Roehampton for BBC Building Sights (1996)

Interview with Patrick Keiller about London from May 1994

Adam Scovell’s interview with Patrick Keiller from the British Film Institute, June 2017

The Future of Landscape interview with Patrick Keiller by Andrew Stevens for 3:AM Magazine

Some of my favourite footpaths

Parkland Walk Haringey

Parkland Walk, Harringay

Benfleet, Essex

Benfleet, Essex

Kensington Church Walk

Kensington Church Walk

Holyfield Marsh

Lea Valley Walk, Cheshunt

John Rogers Gants Hill station

Gants Hill Station

Epping Long Green

Epping Long Green

The Ridgeway near Chinnor

The Ridgeway near Chinnor, Bucks

River Stort Navigation

River Stort Navigation

footpath to Barn Hill Sewardstone

footpath to Barn Hill Sewardstone

Barn Hill, Sewardstone

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Pitstone Hill Ridgeway

Ridgeway at Pitstone Hill, Bucks

Wanstead Flats Leytonstone winter frost

Wanstead Flats, Leytonstone

Epping Walk

Epping Forest

Argyle Walk

Argyle Walk

Argyle Walk, WC1

Epping Footpath

Epping in the direction of Harlow

Hainault Forest

Hainault Forest

Stepney Green

Stepney Green


Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail, Suffolk

Harringay Passage

Harringay Passage

Greenway Hackney

The Greenway, Hackney


River Lea Navigation


Southwold, Suffolk – footpath on the disused railway line

wooburn field 1-lores

Wooburn Green, Bucks



Shooters Hill

Shooter’s Hill

Theydon Bois

Theydon Bois

Aldeburgh Beach

Aldeburgh, Suffolk


Hughenden, Bucks

London Loop Section 20 in the snow – Grange Hill to Havering-atte-Bower (then to Romford)

This time a week ago London was covered in snow – the ‘Beast from the East’ returned and plunged us back into the Ice Age (or so it felt, the hyperbole is justified). Looking out at my snow-drenched garden I had a strong urge to hit the high ground, walk head-long into a blizard, confront this beast face-to-face. So I got the tube to Grange Hill bound for Havering-atte-Bower.

Hainault Forest snow

I’d done a portion of this walk with Rick Pearson for his podcast, London’s Peaks, and at the time vowed to return, partly to capture this majestic route on video but also to see how the walk could be extended.

London Loop section 20

From the top of Grange Hill to Havering-atte-Bower (the highest point in the London Borough of Havering) follows most of Section 20 of the London Loop, which starts at Chigwell. I’d covered the Chigwell end with Rick and also about a decade ago for my radio show, so I cut that part out in favour of extending the walk at the other end.

Redwood Trees Havering

As you would expect with the temperature below freezing there were very few people about, Hainault Forest virtually deserted. The climb into the foothills of Havering Country Park, wading through deep muddy puddles was tough but the reward more than adequate compensation. There’s an avenue of majestic Californian Redwood trees that runs though the top end of the wooded park that takes the breath away – it was an honour to be in their presence, these huge benign gods of the glade.

Havering-atte-Bower snow

The snow started coming in horizontal when away from the cover of the Redwoods, the wind whipping it up off the Havering Hills. Edward the Confessor had his hunting lodge here, some say this is where the pious king died. Havering-atte-Bower feels like an ‘out-of-place artefact’, a hill village in London that would be more at home in the Chilterns.

Havering-atte-Bower snow

I push on through the intensifying flurry, to Bedfords Park, losing my bearings in Bower Wood before crossing into Rise Park and out onto the A12 to catch a Route 66 bus home.



The Last London – in conversation with Iain Sinclair

Last week at the Wanstead Tap I had the great pleasure to talk to Iain Sinclair about his new book The Last London.

He read a passage about a walk along the Barking to Gospel Oak branch of the London Overground, a walk that I accompanied him on for a short section through Leytonstone, on the morning of Donald Trump’s US election victory.

“My theories at the time of Lud Heat, deriving from E.O Gordon, Alfred Watkins, John Michell, Nigel Pennick, were about lines of force connecting the churches, making patterns, and provoking crimes, rituals visitations, within an unregistered sphere of influence. What I now understood, in steady rain, on this morning of political madness, tracking an inoperative railway to a place nobody wants to go, is that the walks we are compelled to make are the only story. Walks are autobiography with author.”

Iain Sinclair the Last London

photo by Keith kandrphoto.com

Iain Sinclair’s work has had such a profound influence on London writing over the last 30 years at least, an influence that has stretched into film and visual arts. He synthesised a way of understanding the city and helped codify a new form psychogeography, distinct from its intellectual French roots. He expanded on the background to his hugely influential book Lud Heat:

“There was a period when you were able to absorb so many eccentric influences from all over and it goes back for me to a kind of collision for me between cinema and poetry which were my twin obsessives when I was very young and coming to London to be in film school and beginning to do long rambles and wanders and generally just to find one cinema to the next, whatever it was, and later as a gardener realising that the structure of these churches were enormously powerful and were in some ways, if you looked from the top of Greenwich Hill, connected. London was an irrational city but with rational plans put on top of it at various times generally doomed to fail in their own way but to become part of the story of the city.

I got very intrigued by that and from those kind of interests emerged a hybrid form of writing that was live day-to-day reportage of what I was doing as a gardener in an exciting part of London that I was only beginning to discover. And secondly then having the time to research the churches and their history in places like the Bancroft Road Library, which is sort of more or less gone now, which is a huge resource of local history and the librarians were so knowledgeable, they’d open up dusty boxes and show you all this stuff. It all fused together into a kind of writing that combined wild speculations, satires to do with the awful way the workers were treated down there and the idea that these jobs would disappear and that the landscape itself would disappear because we were treading on the ghosts of the future Docklands, ghosts come from both sides you know, ghosts of the things you find in the past, the ‘scarlet tracings’, but there were also ghosts of the future and they met in that landscape.”

Listen to the full audio of the conversation above.

Iain Sinclair and John Rogers

photo by Keith kandrphoto.com


Photos by Keith Event photos by Keith www.kandrphoto.com

Charles Dickens on walking at night

Charles Dickens London walks

Night is generally my time for walking. In the summer I often leave home early in the morning, and roam about fields and lanes all day, or even escape for days or weeks together; but, saving in the country, I seldom go out until after dark, though, Heaven be thanked, I love its light and feel the cheerfulness it sheds upon the earth, as much as any creature living.

I have fallen insensibly into this habit, both because it favours my infirmity and because it affords me greater opportunity of speculating on the characters and occupations of those who fill the streets. The glare and hurry of broad noon are not adapted to idle pursuits like mine; a glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street-lamp or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full revelation in the daylight; and, if I must add the truth, night is kinder in this respect than day, which too often destroys an air-built castle at the moment of its completion, without the least ceremony or remorse.”
– Charles Dickens – “The Old Curiosity Shop”