A thoughtfully kaleidoscopic and deeply researched exploration of the many radical characters connected with Epping Forest, from poet John Clare to sculptor Jacob Epstein to the punk band Crass. Will Ashon weaves a thread between them that reveals serendipitous similarities, irrelevant of century; they are outlaws, poets, mystics, sometimes undefinable and often misunderstood. Personal, down to earth, fascinating.
This is London by Ben Judah
This is the new London: an immigrant city. Over one-third of Londoners were born abroad, with half arriving since the millennium. This has utterly transformed the capital, for better and for worse.
Ben Judah is an acclaimed foreign correspondent, but here he turns his reporter’s gaze on home, immersing himself in the hidden world of London’s immigrants to reveal the city in the eyes of its beggars, bankers, coppers, gangsters, carers and witch-doctors. From the backrooms of its mosques, Tube tunnels and nightclubs to the frontlines of its streets, Judah has supped with oligarchs and spent nights sleeping rough, worked on building sites and talked business with prostitutes; he’s heard stories of heartbreaking failure, but also witnessed extraordinary acts of compassion.
This is London explodes fossilized myths and offers a fresh, exciting portrait of what it’s like to live, work, fall in love, raise children, grow old and die in London now. Simultaneously intimate and epic, here is a compulsive and deeply sympathetic book on this dizzying world city from one of our brightest new writers.
Ben Judah was born in London. He has travelled widely in Russia, Central Asia and the Levant. His writing has featured widely, including the New York Times, the Evening Standard, the Financial Times and Standpoint. His first book, Fragile Empire, was published by Yale University Press in 2013.
Slow Burn City by Rowan Moore
London has become the global city above all others. Money from all over the world flows through it; its land and homes are tradable commodities; it is a nexus for the world’s migrant populations, rich and poor. Versions of what is happening in London are happening elsewhere, but London has become the best place to understand the way the world’s cities are changing.
Some of the transformations London has undergone were creative, others were destructive; this is not new. London has always been a city of trade, exploitation and opportunity. But London has an equal history of public interventions, including the Clean Air Act, the invention of the green belt and council housing, and the innovation of the sewers and embankments that removed the threat of cholera. In each case the response was creative and unprecedented; they were also huge in scale and often controversial. The city must change, of course, but Moore explains why it should do so with a ‘slow burn’, through the interplay of private investment, public good and legislative action.
Rowan Moore is architecture critic of the Observer and was named Critic of the Year at the UK press awards 2014. He is the author of Slow Burn City and Why We Build.
Ben and Rowan will be in conversation with Guardian writer and Hackney resident Dave Hill.
Rebel Footprints by David Rosenberg
The radical response to conservative heritage tours and banal day-tripper guides, Rebel Footprints brings to life the history of social movements in the capital. Transporting readers from well-known landmarks to history-making hidden corners, David Rosenberg tells the story of protest and struggle in London from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.
From the suffragettes to the socialists, from the Chartists to the trade unionists, the book invites us to step into the footprints of a diverse cast of dedicated fighters for social justice. Individual chapters highlight particular struggles and their participants, from famous faces to lesser-known luminaries.
Rosenberg sets London’s radical campaigners against the backdrop of the city’s multi-faceted development. Self-directed walks pair with narratives that seamlessly blend history, politics and geography. Specially commissioned maps and illustrations immerse the reader in the story of the city.
Whether visiting it for the first time, or born and raised in it, Rosenberg invites you to see London as you never have before: the nation’s capital as its radical centre.
Night Walking with Matthew Beaumont
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night,” wrote the poet Rupert Brooke. Before the age of electricity, the nighttime city was a very different place to the one we know today – home to the lost, the vagrant and the noctambulant. Matthew Beaumont recounts an alternative history of London by focusing on those of its denizens who surface on the streets when the sun’s down. If nightwalking is a matter of “going astray” in the streets of the metropolis after dark, then nightwalkers represent some of the most suggestive and revealing guides to the neglected and forgotten aspects of the city.
In this brilliant work of literary investigation, Beaumont shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake and his ecstatic peregrinations and the feverish ramblings of opium addict Thomas De Quincey; and, among the lamp-lit literary throng, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens. We discover how the nocturnal city has inspired some and served as a balm or narcotic to others. In each case, the city is revealed as a place divided between work and pleasure, the affluent and the indigent, where the entitled and the desperate jostle in the streets.