Projection Art Installation in the Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University

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“Radical Landscapes, Tate Liverpool. Reviews:

” …. Alan Lodge’s photographs (pp.28-30.144,147) at Stonehenge capture that pre-rave, free festival pilgrimage. They are as important to me as Homer Sykes photographs; he was so clearly part of this movement rather than a photo journalist reporting on it. Stonehenge has been a pilgrimage destination for thousands of years. The structure remains the same; the people making that quest have just changed.”

Two reviews in the Guardian … this one is kinder to the show:
“…. The trespasses are represented in the show by 1930s press photographs. Images from half a century later, taken by Alan Lodge, of the confrontation now known as the Battle of the Beanfield between a convoy of new-age travellers heading to the 1985 Stonehenge free festival and the police, illustrate how the story continues.
The notional focus of the Battle of the Beanfield, Stonehenge, reverberates around the exhibition with artists – Ravilious, Henry Moore, Tacita Dean and others – drawn to symbolically powerful aspects of landscape from henges and geoglyphs to ancient oak trees.”
Nukes in the brooks: the artists who weaponised landscape art
Guardian Thursday 5th May 2022
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/may/05/nukes-in-the-brooks-artists-weaponised-radical-landscape-art-liverpool

This Guardian reviewer didn’t like the show .. but liked my bit, well yes, of course 
“…. Alan Lodge shows slides and videos of free festivals in the late 80s including at Stonehenge; the soundtrack had me wanting to shuffle along with these happy idiot savants in a field.
And that’s what this entire show could have been like: joyous, life-enhancing and therefore truly radical. ….”

Radical Landscapes review – ‘Is loving green fields really wicked?’
Guardian Friday 6th May
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/may/06/radical-landscapes-loving-green-fields-wicked-tate-liverpool-tacita-dean-constable

” …. In the second half of the show, it becomes hard to escape the sound of rave music pumping out of a film by Sara Sender next to a slideshow by Alan Lodge, both documenting free festivals in the late 1980s, including a notorious clash between police and revellers at Stonehenge in 1985 (aka the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’.) Tensions between landowners and New Age traveller convoys were all over the news in the 80s.
Radical Landscapes at Tate Liverpool: the battle to reclaim the countryside
https://inews.co.uk/culture/arts/radical-landscapes-tate-liverpool-review-1620022

“ …. There’s a spooky movie of Avebury stone circle by Derek Jarman, his digicam homing in on the enigmatic stones like messengers within the daybreak. Alan Lodge reveals slides and movies of free festivals within the late 80s together with at Stonehenge; the soundtrack had me desirous to shuffle together with these blissful fool savants in a area. And that’s what this complete present may have been like: joyous, life-enhancing and due to this fact actually radical.”
Radical Landscapes review – ‘Is loving green fields really wicked?’
https://www.pehalnews.in/radical-landscapes-review-is-loving-green-fields-really-wicked/1925949

“…. The sound of rаve music pumps out of а film аnd slide show by Alаn Lodge in the second hаlf of the show, documenting free festivаls in the lаte 1980s, including а notorious clаsh between police аnd revellers аt Stonehenge in 1985 (dubbed the “Bаttle of the Beаnfield”).
In the 1980s, tensions between lаndowners аnd New Age trаveller convoys were widely reported. There wаs а surprising sense of аlliаnce between the revellers fighting for аccess to the lаndscаpe аnd the older generаtion who hаd continued to аgitаte for the right to roаm in the post-wаr yeаrs, аs Jeremy Deller’s 2018 film Everybody in the Plаce (not included in this show) points out.”
At Tate Liverpool, Radical Landscapes explores how ramblers and revolutionaries fought to reclaim the countryside.
https://www.cengnews.com/news/at-tate-liverpool-radical-landscapes-explores-how-ramblers-and-revolutionaries-fought-to-reclaim-the-countryside-454945.html

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DiY on Snapchat : Vice report

Interviews with lots of my pictures

https://story.snapchat.com/p/f9fb2dea-098a-45db-b661-0faf9d1ae688/1380103818647552

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Free Party Exhibition – A Retrospective, Bristol

I have pictures in this exhibition, which runs from the 20th – 28th May in Bristol

1-3 Elton St, St Jude’s, Bristol BS2 9EH

My main event is on the 28th

https://www.showponies.studio/work/free-party-a-retrospective

SATURDAY 28TH
10am – 1pm – Free Entry to the Exhibition

2pm – 4pm – Private View Film Screening

4pm – 5pm – Talks w. Q&A – DiY (Harry H & Jack), Tash Lodge & Aaron Trinder

5pm – 9pm – DiY Day Party in the garden (Tim Wilderspin & Andy Compton)

10pm – Late – Sound System with Nottingham’s anarchic collective DiY: Pezz, Jack and Grace Sands (ticketed event/secret location)

https://www.facebook.com/events/1052411705631120

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/bristol-venue-host-legendary-90s-7034326

On a hot bank holiday weekend 30 years ago, 20,000 people descended on land in the shadow of the Malvern Hills. What started out as a small free festival for travellers not only went down in history as the biggest illegal rave ever held in the UK, but resulted in a trial costing £4m and the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

A retrospective of work from key contributors of the time to create a unique collection and reunion. Featuring art, photography, audio, film and interactive mixed media.
SP23 (SPIRAL TRIBE) SOUND SYSTEM
DIY SOUND SYSTEM
BEDLAM SOUND SYSTEM
JEREMY DELLER
ALAN ‘TASH’ LODGE (Traveller / Photographer)
MATTKO Exist To Resist – Sunnyside Soundsystem
JUSTIN DANIELS (Filmmaker)
RACHEL LOUGHLIN – BBC’s Between Two Worlds ‘Teenage Video Diaries’
SARA SENDER (Filmmaker)
ADRIAN FISK (Reclaim The Streets / Filmmaker / Photographer)
REFUGEE COMMUNITY KITCHEN
SAMANTHA WILLIAMS (Author of Happydaze- A Personal Insight into the Acid House Era )
ED TWIST (BWPT / Artist)
GLYN STIK (Adrenaline Sound System)
ANGELA DRURY (BWPT)
STEF PICKLES (Traveller)
ANDREW GASTON (Artist / Filmmaker)
DAVE LANGFORD (Circus Warp / Free Party people)
GUY PICKFORD (Artist)
NEIL GOODWIN (Video-Activist)
DAN OOOPS!
MICHELLE MILES
GANPATI 23 FILM MADE BY ZENA MERTO, ALEX AND RORY NEWMAN
JESS WARP

Free Party: a Retrospective is an extensive exhibition which will celebrate and re-evaluate the impact that the free party rave and free festival movement had on culture, politics and protest exactly 30 years to the date that Castlemorton took place. The event will comprise photography, artefacts, memorabilia, archive, film, and installations that will look at all aspects of the movement and the legacy it leaves in present day culture, politics, music and community all around the world.

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Halcyon days at an ’80s Summer Solstice Festival, Huck Magazine

Halcyon days at an ’80s Summer Solstice Festival The wild bunch

Photographer Alan Lodge remembers shooting the mini utopia that was the Stonehenge Free Festival, an event held in the fields surrounding the legendary prehistoric monument.

The Free Festival Movement of the 1970s took the UK by storm, offering a mélange of music, arts, and cultural activities at no cost. Beginning with Woodstock in 1969, the possibility of creating a mini utopia became a dream come true – that was until they became too popular, and the state got involved.

“’Free Festivals’ developed from people being fed up with the exploitation, rules, squalor and overall rip-off that so many events had become. They discovered something… a powerful vision,” says British photographer Alan Lodge, author of the new book Stonehenge (Café Royal Books). 

“People lived together: a community sharing possessions, listening to great music, making do, living with the environment, consuming their needs and little else.” 

“Life on the road in an old £300 1960s bus, truck or trailer seemed like a bloody good option, weighed against the prospect of life on the dole in some grotty city under the Tory Government.”

By the late 1970s, a Free Festival summer circuit was established with stops in May Hill, Horseshoe Pass, Stonehenge, Ashton Court, Inglestone Common, Cantlin Stone, Deeply Vale, Meigan Fair, East Anglia, and the Psilocybin Fair. 

“As the habit of travelling in convoys caught on, larger groups of performers were established. They were joined by a wide variety of traders of different kinds, and the New Traveller culture was born. It was all about building communities, tribes, and societies.”

From 1974 to 1984, the Stonehenge Free Festival – later renamed the People’s Free Festival – was held in the fields surrounding the legendary prehistoric monument during the summer solstice. It quickly became the place for hippies, punks, anarchists, bikers, and travellers to gather every year, with numbers eventually reaching hundreds of thousands by the 1980s. 

Along with the New Age Travellers, the festival drew countercultural groups including the Peace Convoy, the Wallys, and Circus Normal. Musicians including Joe Strummer, Jimmy Page, The Damned, The Selecter and The Raincoats performed live. 

 

“Stonehenge has long held a fascination for the mystically inclined,” Lodge explains. “When the music was right, the people acted in unison, and that rare communal shared pleasure came to pass – if only fleetingly. Festivals could conjure up a heightened awareness.”

As the festivals became more popular, policing became more aggressive and the mainstream media stoked moral panic. “The papers were full of shock-horror. The News of the World contributed [the headline]: ‘The Wild Bunch: Sex-mad junkie outlaws make the Hell’s Angels look like little Noddy.’ These were read by millions and made ‘folk-devils’ out of peaceful people.”

Things came to a head with the “Battle of the Beanfield” on June 1, 1985, in nearby Hampshire. “It wasn’t a battle. It was an ambush – 1,600 police officers attacked,” Lodge says. 

“Policemen were running down the convoy ahead of me smashing windscreens without warning, arresting and assaulting the occupants, dragging them out through the windscreens broken glass.”

There was no enquiry. Things would never be the same again. But for one shining moment, radicals and revolutionaries found their own halcyon corner of utopia.

Stonehenge by Alan Lodge is out now on Café Royal Books. 

Follow Miss Rosen on Twitter

https://www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/stonehenge-80s-summer-solstice-festival-alan-lodge

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Democracy shrivels in silence. We must protect our right to protest.

Guest blog by Tom Wainwright, barrister at Garden Court Chambers

It is no exaggeration to say that the last fortnight has been one of the worst for freedom of expression, for the right to protest and for civil liberties in the history of the UK.

On 28 April, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act received Royal Assent. Some of its draconian anti-protest provisions will come into effect today, Thursday 12 May, beginning with an increase to the maximum sentence for obstructing the highway, with further measures arriving at the end of June. On 10 May, the Government announced a new Public Order Bill in the Queen’s Speech, which will resurrect many of the provisions thrown out by the House of Lords in the passage of the PCSC Act, furthering this Government’s authoritarian agenda and seeking to quell all dissent, discourse and disagreement.

Cumulatively, this legislation intends to bring the full might of the State to bear on those who protest in any way other than meekly signing a petition or quietly waving a placard. A right to demonstrate only if it is done unobtrusively and unnoticed is a right not worth having. Protest is not something separate and alien to democracy. It is essential to it and a vital safeguard against tyranny. Although almost explicitly introduced to target particular organisations, such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, the removal of fundamental rights will apply across the board, silencing voices on issues local and national, large and small, in a drive for conformity and obedience which should concern us all.

The new Bill aims to stop protestors ‘locking on’, fixing themselves in place so they cannot be removed before their protest is heard; a non-violent form of protest used throughout the world and at least as far back in history as the Suffragettes. It will also create new offences of obstructing major transport works and interfering with airports, railways and printing presses. The Home Secretary seems particularly concerned about the last of those and the impact a demonstration may have on media barons’ profits.

The flaws in the legislation are many. Their incompatibility with basic freedoms is obvious. There is no doubt that much of it will not withstand scrutiny by the courts. It is almost certain the Government knows this and yet will plough ahead, so that when they are defeated they can blame ‘left-wing lawyers’ and play to their tabloid fanbase. Rather than clothe the Emperor, they choose to vilify the child who points out his nudity.

This Bill will have a long-lasting, chilling effect on our ability to express ourselves. Thousands will be deterred from standing up for their beliefs by the threat of imprisonment. Without hope of challenge or change, division and resentment will become entrenched.

Action is required now, from across the political spectrum, inside Parliament and out, inside the courts and out, to protect the right to speak out, while we still can.


Tom Wainwright is one of the UK’s leading barristers when it comes to protesters’ rights. He has a formidable reputation as a passionate defender and a strong advocate. As lead author on The Protest Handbook, Tom specialises in upholding protestors’ rights under Articles 8, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and challenging the excessive or unlawful use of force by police officers. Tom’s practice in this area includes the Colston Statue Topplers, the ‘Stansted 15’ and ‘Rotherham 12’ protestors, the ‘Occupy Parliament’ demonstrations, R v Caroline Lucas MP, and R v Zac King and Alfie Meadows.

Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.

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The shiny new Public Order Bill

ok, don’t know how to do this ….! since this group is to do with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. HOWEVER, everything they couldn’t get into that, they are now starting again. So, I introduce to you the latest Public Order Bill. The clock started today.

https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3153

Public Order Bill – Government Bill

Originated in the House of Commons, Session 2022-23

Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

Last updated: 11 May 2022 at 16:58

Long title

Make provision for new offences relating to public order; to make provision about stop and search powers; to make provision about the delegation of police functions relating to public order; to make provision about serious disruption prevention orders; and for connected purposes.

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A Succession of Repetitive Beats

A Succession of Repetitive Beats. BBC Radio4 8pm o 14th May 2022

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0017f1b

Political journalist Tom Barton recalls the rave that changed Britain, at Castlemorton Common in May 1992.

In the weeks leading up to Castlemorton, New Age Travellers had tried to establish small festivals in Gloucestershire and Somerset – but had been moved on by police at every turn.

Arriving in West Worcestershire, they parked up at Castlemorton with the intention, they claim, of gathering just a few hundred people.

But, to the horror and outrage of local people, between 20,000 and 30,000 people arrived, with many staying at the site for an entire week.

The law that was created in response to the gathering, Part V of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, makes it a criminal offence to hold an unlicensed gathering playing any music that is “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

The festival is now widely regarded as the tipping point in a culture war which saw many aspects of the Traveller lifestyle outlawed in the UK.

Presented, written and produced by Tom Barton
Sound Design: Barney Philbrick and Joel Cox
A Bespoken Media production for BBC Radio 4

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Leader of Nottingham City Council Cllr David Mellen, Speech on Russia ‘Victory Day’ in Nottingham

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Irina Speech on Russia ‘Victory Day’ in Nottingham

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FREE PARTY: A RETROSPECTIVE – The Exhibition 20-28th May

Lost Horizon

…FREE PARTY: A RETROSPECTIVE – The Exhibition 20-28th May / 12-6pm / FREE

On a hot bank holiday weekend 30 years ago, 20,000 people descended on land in the shadow of the Malvern Hills. What started out as a small free festival for travellers not only went down in history as the biggest illegal rave ever held in the UK, but resulted in a trial costing £4m and the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

Free Party: a Retrospective is an extensive exhibition which will celebrate and re-evaluate the impact that the free party rave and free festival movement had on culture, politics and protest exactly 30 years to the date that Castlemorton took place.

The event will comprise photography, artefacts, memorabilia, archive, film, and installations that will look at all aspects of the movement and the legacy it leaves in present day culture, politics, music and community all around the world.

Check our website for tickets.

photos: Alan ‘Tash’ Lodge

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Bristol venue to host legendary 90s rave sound systems and DJs at ‘free party’ exhibition

The event at Lost Horizon will bring together some of the most instrumental people from the early 1990s free party scene bristolpost

The free party movement of the 1990s launched the careers of many DJs and sound systems

Festivalgoers these days are used to paying hundreds of pounds for the privilege of spending a few days under canvas in a muddy field. But a new exhibition in Bristol celebrates the 30th anniversary of the free party movement born with the secret raves of the 1990s.

Free Party: A Retrospective will celebrate the birth of the UK’s iconic free party movement, with a week of events, art, music and more hosted at the Lost Horizon venue in St Jude’s. The event will bring together some of the most instrumental people from the early 1990s free party scene and mark the 30-year anniversary of the legendary Castlemorton free festival, the UK’s biggest ever illegal rave which took place in Worcestershire in May 1992.

Inspired by and working alongside the creators of ‘Free Party: A Folk History’, a major independent documentary currently in post-production, Free Party: A Retrospective, is a mixture of free activity and ticketed club night events from the people who lived and breathed this movement. Organisers say it will celebrate part of cultural history and be a place to revisit memories as well as understand the journey that built today’s free party and festival scene from the perspective of those involved in it from the start.

The week-long programme of events will include free talks, panel discussions with Q&As, and an exhibition of photography, audio, artwork and film. Partygoers will also be able to buy tickets to an array of club nights from legendary sound systems of the time such as SP23 (Spiral Tribe), Bedlam and DiY, alongside Bristol collectives such as Duvet Vous.

Profits from the tickets and donations will go to related causes. These include Refugee Community Kitchen, Spirit Wrestlers, Drive2survive and Friends Families and Travellers.

One of the images on display at the Free Party retrospective

Speaking about the programme of events, director of Free Party: A Folk History and curator of the exhibition, Aaron Trinder, said: “When independently embarking on the idea to make a feature documentary about the Free Party movement I had no idea of the breadth and depth of the stories I would find when interviewing people from the scene, including Circus Warp, DiY, Spiral Tribe, Free Party People, Bedlam and many others within the travelling, sound system and rave communities.

“As a result, I realised that the film could only ever show so much of such a rich and interesting cultural history, so the notion of an exhibition, allowing many of the contributors to the film to tell their own stories came about.

“Thankfully the Arts Council liked the idea, so I’m very excited that, with the efforts and support of Showponies and Lost Horizon, we’re able to give people free access to this amazing cultural story, told by those who lived it, for the very first time.

Free Party: A Retrospective opens on Friday May 20 at Lost Horizon. Ticketed events from some of the most iconic free party sound systems will also take place on that day and also on Saturday May 21, Thursday May 26, Friday May 27 and a final day party on Saturday May 28.

More events are being added over the course of the next few days and tickets can be bought here.

Bristol Post

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/bristol-venue-host-legendary-90s-7034326

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BBC Click – Virtual Raving

BBC Click – Virtual Raving !!! Crickey … whatever next [starts at 19.00mins]

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00178ks/click-drones-rapping-and-raving


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Etienne Stott MBE, Speech of Extinction Rebellion XR

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Nadia Whittome MP [Nttm East] Speech. Mayday Event

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Radical Landscapes : Art, Identity and activism Tate Liverpool

Extract : ” …. Alan Lodge’s photographs (pp.28-30.144,147) at Stonehenge capture that pre-rave, free festival pilgrimage. They are as important to me as Homer Sykes photographs; he was so clearly part of this movement rather than a photo journalist reporting on it. Stonehenge has been a pilgrimage destination for thousands of years. The structure remains the same; the people making that quest have just changed.

” The new old ways ….

“MOST PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN CITIES OR TOWNS HAVE LOST THAT CONNECTION TO THE MAGIC OF RURAL LANDSCAPE.”

About yourself or your country and humanity, you can project them onto these structures – Stonehenge especially. People can take whatever they want from them, because we’ll never know the true meaning of them and so there’s a huge spectrum of interpretation. It’s something that represents our national identity and yet is absolutely a mystery, which is good. For me Stonehenge is the most contemporary structure in Britain, because every week, there seems to be a new story about it. Stonehenge is about what’s happening now, in a way that archaeology is not about the past as much as it’s about the present and future; it’s about how we see ourselves now and the stories about Stonehenge are limitless. Jumping forward in time, can we talk about how the rural still can have a ludic and communal function with things like rave culture? Communities can congregate in once place and form identity in some sense in the land.

JEREMY If only for 24 hours. I think one interesting aspect of early rave culture is that it redrew the map for a lot of people and their relationship to the countryside. Instead of going into city centres to nightclubs or parties, young people would get in a car and go on a journey, a quest into the countryside and found themselves in a place they’ve never been to before. The quest part of it was a really interesting- you might see the lights on the horizon and follow it, it’s potentially a very mythic journey in a sense. The stories of trying to find these raves or not finding them or being prevented from finding them is possibly as exciting as the party itself. Most people who live in cities or towns have lost that connection to the magic of rural landscape. I have no idea what to do when I get into the countryside. I don’t know where I’m allowed to go; what is and isn’t allowed. I feel a bit lost and much safer when in a city. For people to gather in rural places they’ve never been to before, that’s quite a statement, regardless of the ancient arcane laws around land in the UK.

Alan Lodge’s photographs (pp.28-30.144,147) at Stonehenge capture that pre-rave, free festival pilgrimage. They are as important to me as Homer Sykes photographs; he was so clearly part of this movement rather than a photo journalist reporting on it. Stonehenge has been a pilgrimage destination for thousands of years. The structure remains the same; the people making that quest have just changed.

ALEX Covid has encouraged people back outside, to connect with the landscape. We always get up at dawn on May Day and in 2021 we joined Martin Green, a musician who was making a radio programme about rave and Morris Dancing. It was a dazzling morning and there were some ravers there. They were seeing in the dawn and we were all inhabiting the same space but coming at it from different angles and it was really special. We’d adapted some of our yearly rituals to take place up on the common near Stroud and we noticed more and more school kids just hanging out and it feels that there is a movement back to the land or away from the inner city. People are reclaiming their right to inhabit the rural common spaces in different ways. JEREMY DELLER & BOSS MORRIS

Radical Landscapes | Trailer | Tate

Radical Landscapes Exhibition, Tate Liverpool

Reviews:

Two reviews in the Guardian … this one is kinder to the show:

“…. The trespasses are represented in the show by 1930s press photographs. Images from half a century later, taken by Alan Lodge, of the confrontation now known as the Battle of the Beanfield between a convoy of new-age travellers heading to the 1985 Stonehenge free festival and the police, illustrate how the story continues.

The notional focus of the Battle of the Beanfield, Stonehenge, reverberates around the exhibition with artists – Ravilious, Henry Moore, Tacita Dean and others – drawn to symbolically powerful aspects of landscape from henges and geoglyphs to ancient oak trees.”

Nukes in the brooks: the artists who weaponised landscape art. Guardian Thursday 5th May 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/may/05/nukes-in-the-brooks-artists-weaponised-radical-landscape-art-liverpool

This Guardian reviewer didn’t like the show .. but liked my bit, well yes, of course …!

“….  Alan Lodge shows slides and videos of free festivals in the late 80s including at Stonehenge; the soundtrack had me wanting to shuffle along with these happy idiot savants in a field. And that’s what this entire show could have been like: joyous, life-enhancing and therefore truly radical. ….”

Radical Landscapes review – ‘Is loving green fields really wicked?’ Guardian Friday 6th May

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/may/06/radical-landscapes-loving-green-fields-wicked-tate-liverpool-tacita-dean-constable

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My video : Radical Landscapes Exhibition, Tate Liverpool

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Radical Landscapes | Trailer | Tate

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Tate Liverpool launches its summer 2022 exhibition | The Guide Liverpool

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Another Guardian review : Nukes in the brooks: the artists who weaponised landscape art

Two reviews in the Guardian … this one is kinder to the show:

“…. The trespasses are represented in the show by 1930s press photographs. Images from half a century later, taken by Alan Lodge, of the confrontation now known as the Battle of the Beanfield between a convoy of new-age travellers heading to the 1985 Stonehenge free festival and the police, illustrate how the story continues. The notional focus of the Battle of the Beanfield, Stonehenge, reverberates around the exhibition with artists – Ravilious, Henry Moore, Tacita Dean and others – drawn to symbolically powerful aspects of landscape from henges and geoglyphs to ancient oak trees.”

Exploding myths … detail from Haywain with Cruise Missiles by Peter Kennard (1980), which features in Radical Landscapes.
Exploding myths … detail from Haywain with Cruise Missiles by Peter Kennard (1980), which features in Radical Landscapes. Photograph: © Peter Kennard

From a cruise missile Constable to a rampaging neon giant, artists have always used rural settings to confront the uses and abuses of land. We go behind the scenes at a riveting new Liverpool show that captures their rebellious spirit

Nicholas Wroe Thu 5 May 2022 06.00 BST

It used to be pretty clear what landscape art was. Within the British tradition, it was artists such as Gainsborough, Constable or Turner who provided the default images of rural settings, and from them a line could be traced to the present day taking in a range of artists such as Paul Nash or Eric Ravilious. It was the accepted view well into the 20th century that this tradition – especially the masterpieces of the 18th and 19th centuries – represented something that was somehow safe, fixed and broadly reflective of the natural way of things.

Radical Landscapes at Tate Liverpool, which, true to its title, has adopted an expanded and inclusive view of what landscape art is, unsurprisingly doesn’t include Gainsborough’s famous c1750 double portrait of Mr and Mrs Andrews on their grand estate. But it does include a video clip of John Berger critiquing the painting in his 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing.

They’re a mirror of Britain. Stonehenge is the UK’s most contemporary structure: there’s a new story about it every week. Jeremy Deller

Essentially, Berger’s argument was that rather than reading the painting as a simple marriage celebration with the accompanying corn field symbolising fertility and so on, this was a bald celebration of property and private land, and a statement about who had access to it and who didn’t. As Berger points out, the painting was made at a time when a man who stole a potato risked a public whipping and the sentence for poaching was deportation.

This spirit of questioning the ownership, use of and access to land animates a show that was initially conceived at the height of Brexit debates about identity, belonging and “taking back control”. Curator Darren Pih was interested in notions of thresholds and borders, as well as the reality of large areas of the UK being off limits to most people for a multitude of reasons, ranging from private ownership – including by offshore trusts – to militarisation and discrimination.

Surreal stone … Claude Cahun’s Je Tends les Bras (1931).
Surreal stone … Claude Cahun’s Je Tends les Bras (1931). Photograph: © Courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collections

As the exhibition developed, and after several Covid-related delays, it has moved to examine our relationship with land through the lenses of the pandemic, the climate emergency and nuclear threat, as well as more mystical and emotional bonds to the rural landscape. The links between access to land and class, race, gender and disability are likewise probed in a specific context of activism and protest.

This wide brief is fulfilled by a suitably eclectic collection of more than 150 pieces of work, largely and imaginatively gathered from the Tate’s collection and augmented with some astute loans and commissions. The upshot is pleasingly surprising and diverse. Constable’s much confected depiction of Flatford Mill is to be found alongside banners made at the 1980s Greenham Common peace camp. Claude Cahun’s surreal photograph of a pair of arms emerging from a stone monolith sits near catalogues from the Festival of Britain. There’s an examination of the resource-efficient lives of the Romany community, and Peter Kennard’s Haywain with Cruise Missiles montage.

Pih says he “wanted to explore why we have such an emotional attachment to land and why we protest when we see it being threatened”, and while the show nods to the history of the enclosures and Highland Clearances in Scotland, its real historical and political starting point is the rambling and then trespass movements of the early part of the last century, which culminated with the mass Kinder Scout trespass of 1932 in the Peak District. Led by ramblers and young communists, it eventually resulted in the establishment of national parks in the UK.

Neon warrior … Jeremy Deller’s Cerne Abbas (2019).
Neon warrior … Jeremy Deller’s Cerne Abbas (2019). Photograph: Jack Hems/© Courtesy the artist/The Modern Institute, Glasgow.

Although clearly from a lineage of older rural protests, these mass trespasses were largely urban working-class attempts to access land at a time when cities were polluted and access to green space was limited yet essential to good health. The parallels with the pandemic are clear. The trespasses are represented in the show by 1930s press photographs.

Images from half a century later, taken by Alan Lodge, of the confrontation now known as the Battle of the Beanfield between a convoy of new-age travellers heading to the 1985 Stonehenge free festival and the police, illustrate how the story continues. The notional focus of the Battle of the Beanfield, Stonehenge, reverberates around the exhibition with artists – Ravilious, Henry Moore, Tacita Dean and others – drawn to symbolically powerful aspects of landscape from henges and geoglyphs to ancient oak trees. 

Jeremy Deller, who has made films about henges and whose neon depiction of the Cerne Abbas giant is in the show alongside his acid house smileys made of straw, reflects that, “The beauty of most of these sites is that there is a sense of shared ownership, physically and conceptually. They’re this huge, mute mirror of Britain. Whatever your views about yourself or your country and humanity, you can project them on to these structures. For me, Stonehenge is the most contemporary structure in Britain, because every week, there seems to be a new story about it.”

Go with the grain … Ingrid Pollard’s Oceans Apart (1989) features in the show.
Fixing what’s been hidden in plain sight … Ingrid Pollard’s Oceans Apart (1989). Photograph: © Ingrid Pollard. All Rights Reserved, DACS, 2022

After the Battle of the Beanfield, the venues for contested mass assembly moved to the burgeoning rave scene, culminating in 1992 at the huge unlicensed gathering at Castlemorton (the show features rare film footage of the rave), which indirectly led to changes to civil liberties via the criminal justice bill. But legal battles around contested sites and access were only one way of restricting who could, or should, occupy these spaces. Issues of discrimination, exclusion and erasure are widely explored in the show.

Ingrid Pollard, whose work has long revealed what has been hidden in plain sight in the landscape tradition – the absence of black figures – evokes themes of colonisation through family photographs. A film made by the neurodiverse collective Project Art Works explores another group often excluded from the traditional landscape narrative by following a group of neurodiverse artists, their families and carers for several days during a trip to a remote Scottish glen, again expanding the view of who has a right to enjoy the countryside.

For there to be access to the natural world, that world needs to be cared for. The environmental strain in the show includes a newly commissioned installation from Delaine Le Bas, an artist of Romany heritage – another marginalised community often absent from landscape history. Rinkeni Pani (Beautiful Water) produces a sense of the artist using the pictorial conventions of landscape art, explains Pih, “but the work is also about climate change. Le Bas’s grandmother always told her to preserve precious water as part of a nomadic life that was also a way of low-impact living that valued precious natural resources. It’s another way of thinking about who is an activist.”

Idyllic view … John Nash’s The Cornfield (1918).
Idyllic view … John Nash’s The Cornfield (1918). Photograph: Joe Humphrys/Tate Photography

Other large-scale installations include a newly commissioned piece by Davinia-Ann Robinson in which she uses salvaged soil to comment on land art as well as colonialism, and Ruth Ewan’s Back to the Fields, her reconstruction of the French Republican calendar, in use from 1793 to 1805, in which plants and objects from the natural world and from rural life – twine, a goat skull, a tree – represent a single day. A symbolic return of the land to the people, it is also a fascinating challenge to the Tate curators, who have to look after its living plants in the carefully regulated environment of a museum.

In terms of the climate crisis, Gustav Metzger, now seen as a pioneer of environmental art, emerges as a key presence in the show with a striking, large 1998 photograph of the construction of the M3 carving through Twyford Down, Hampshire, surrounded by the caterpillar track of an earth mover. There is also a 1965 liquid crystal display powered by ambient heat. A member of CND’s direct action Committee of 100 in the early 60s, Metzger’s personal connection to humankind’s propensity for destruction – he was sent from Germany to the UK in 1939 aged 13 on the Kindertransport, and most of his immediate family perished in the Holocaust – strongly influenced his concerns about technology having the potential to bring environmental annihilation.

Ruth Ewan, Back to the Fields (2015).
Ruth Ewan, Back to the Fields (2015). Photograph: Marcus Leith/courtesy of Camden Art Centre

The show’s broad canvas well illustrates the endless complexity and interconnectedness of issues related to land and landscapes. Maybe surprisingly, one of the featured artists who best straddles the apparent boundaries is Derek Jarman. He is represented by work – assemblage, photography, paint, film – made at Prospect Cottage, site of his seaside garden in Dungeness, Kent. But his career trajectory seems particularly apt for a show in which activism and rebellion are an intrinsic part of the relationship between nature and art.

In the 70s, he had made work in response to Avebury and its standing stones before adopting a more activist and public role to offer a critique of Thatcherism. When he was diagnosed with HIV and became ill, he retreated to his cottage to access the recuperative and regenerative qualities of nature. While there, he created his now famous garden that, in its philosophy, public setting and beauty presented itself as useful an example as any of a radical landscape.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/may/05/nukes-in-the-brooks-artists-weaponised-radical-landscape-art-liverpool

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