National Park City – Walking Week Talk

John Rogers illustration by Liam O'Farrell
Painting by Liam O’Farrell https://www.liamofarrell.com/2024/05/john-rogers-talk/

Back in early May I had the pleasure of giving a talk about my new book, Welcome to New London – journeys and encounters in the post-Olympic city for London National Park City as part of Walking Week. The venue was a disused chain coffee shop on Fleet Street, just yards away from where the River Fleet flows beneath Farringdon Road. It was a great evening.

The wonderful artist Liam O’Farrell attended and created the fantastic painting you see above (ok, I’m biased) and wrote a blog post about the event and the book. I’m enormously grateful to Liam for both. You can read Liam’s post here and visit his online gallery of London artworks here.

National Park City event Fleet Street
National Park City event Fleet Street

Video: In conversation with Iain Sinclair at Hatchards Piccadilly

Here’s the full unedited video of my wonderful conversation with Iain Sinclair at Hatchards Piccadilly on 25th January. The event was to discuss my new book, Welcome to New London – journeys and encounters in the post-Olympic city but we wandered as we’re wont to do and even had a chat about Iain’s latest book Pariah Genius.

Buy Welcome to New London: journeys and encounters in the post-Olympic city from Hatchards here

Iain Sinclair’s new book Pariah Genius is published on 25th April 2024

A walk around King’s Lynn

Back in May I headed up to King’s Lynn to do a talk and walk at Groundwork Gallery for a fantastic show by arts collective Haptic/Tacit called FieldWork. I’d produced a commissioned essay to accompany the show which you can read on the Groundwork website:

Field work is the work. What follows is the echo. I sit in this very chair skimming through video clips of expeditions through the West London Industrial Belt, the newbuilds colonising Albert Island, the looming transformation of Thamesmead, the freakzone on Orford Ness, the point in Essex where the shimmering sand tempts you to do a death walk along the Broomway. All of England, both real and imagined crumbles into the North Sea off the Suffolk and Norfolk coast. This is edgeland in its most literal sense. The ghost church bells of the lost city Dunwich tolling beneath the waves. W.G. Sebald striding through the East Anglian landscape, walking away from a gnawing melancholy yapping at his heels. ‘Read Sebald and you can never look at the landscape in the same way again’, wrote Suffolk resident Roger Deakin.

continue reading here

After the talk at Groundwork Gallery and a look at the Haptic/Tacit show we went for a stroll around the medieval quarter of King’s Lynn in the company of three town guides with my occasional interjections. Amongst the feast of heritage architecture we were led through a low doorway into a garden where the 14th Century buildings would have faced a wharf where goods were unloaded from across Europe in the period when the town derived great prosperity from being part of the Hanseatic League. The newest buildings in this former commercial enclave dated from the 16th Century.

Our walk ended looking out along the waters of the Great Ouse towards the North Sea. It was a fantastic introduction to the wonders of this storied Norfolk town. I must return soon to further pick up the threads of its watercourses and pilgrim trails.

Wanstead Social Distance Club

I really enjoyed delivering the first Zoom talk to the Wanstead Social Distance Club on Monday lunchtime, via Giles Wilson of the brilliant Wanstead Fringe Festival and Wansteadium blog. I talked through some of the walks I led for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 and answered some good questions at the end including the classic, ‘Exactly what is a psychogeographer?’.

 


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Exploring London on Foot talk at Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society

exploring london on foot john rogers

It was an enormous honour to be invited to give a public talk by the Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society last week. I joined the Society shortly after moving to Leytonstone and still have a binder containing editions of their brilliant ‘Understone’ newsletter. It was however pointed out to me on the night that I allowed my membership to lapse some years ago.

John Rogers film screening Leytonstone

We had a full house in St. John’s Church Hall for my talk on ‘Exploring London on Foot’, which I’d deliberately left vague enough to allow me to talk about pretty much anything. So I ranged from The Situationists to Alfred Watkins as an introduction to my walks with Iain Sinclair. And I managed to stray along the A40 to talk about the Remapping High Wycombe project I did with my sister Cathy between 2004-05, where I first applied some of the ideas about walking that I’d been thinking about for a number of years.

Fringe of London Gordon S. Maxwell

It also gave me an opportunity to emphasise the influence of the inter-war topographical writers on my work, Gordon S. Maxwell’s The Fringe of London being one of the most significant in spelling out a credo to which I still adhere:

“The border-line between folk-lore and fairy-tales is not more nebulous than that between topographical research and “nosing about.”
The former, in either case, is but a grander name for practically the same thing. I mean the outdoor part of topography, not the many hunts in the land of books that usually follows later.”

“The way of the topographical rambler is sometimes hard, often muddy, usually interesting; but never dull.”

 – Gordon S. Maxwell – The Fringe of London, 1925

geographia london atlas 1955

It was great to be able to enthuse to an audience about the everyday wonders that await on our doorsteps – whole other worlds just around the street corner. As Pathfinder wrote in 1911, ‘Adventure begins at home’.