Wednesday evening, Ken Worpole (www.kenworpole.net) spoke to the Memory Maps class about his writing. He spoke about the experience of writing 350 Miles: An Essex Journey (which he kindly brought a copy of for each of us) and working with photographers (Jason Orton and his wife). What stood out most for me was his talk about the importance of bringing together the academic knowledge with the nostalgic/emotional/personal knowledge/experience in a way that everyone can access. It's also interesting to me that he's so into Essex. It's appeal, in part, is that it is a place that's long been ignored and so is now up for grabs to be redefined. East Anglia has been overlooked for quite some time, but Essex holds a special place because it's left out of so much, frequently overlooked, looked down upon. It's often left out of the East Anglia region and it's not one of the home counties. That leaves it as a sort of stand alone county, one of the larger ones, one of the longer coastlines, and one of extremes and in-betweens.
He says he spends plenty of time on Mersea and sets out walking with others at least once a month. He's working on a new book with Jason Orton on the islands of Essex. There are apparently 30 islands around the coast of Essex, but his text will be focusing on seven. When asked how they decided which seven, he said they haven't made final decisions yet, but he's decided he doesn't want to write about Canvey; he spent a few years in his young life on that island and apparently is turned off by it. I think it's not so bad outside the walls. He spoke about the different ideas of islands, as retreats or utopias. About connections and disconnections.
Another topic he spoke passionately about which I found interesting was the destruction of buildings. He equated demolishing buildings to erasing memory, and act which he seems to think is sinful. He spoke of other parts of the world in which buildings fallen in to disuse have been restored or revamped to be used in a new way. This lead to his opinions on appropriate use of buildings. An example he gave of inappropriate use was an old prison turned into a high class hotel.
He spoke very well and interesting on the topic of writing about landscape. He feels that ecological awareness can be used as a structure for writing and that people seek information, so writing shouldn't be afraid to provide it. I enjoyed hearing him speak about the coastal bits because it's been a topic of consideration lately in conversations and in texts; his voice is a great addition. I think his essay for the V&A site on Memory Maps provides a fantastic introduction to the Wild East course.