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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, June 30, 2006
    All change
     
    Working on national or regional identities is a slippery subject - they change so often. Raphael Samuel, quoted by Dave Russell, on how outside perceptions of the North of England radically changed in the 1980s:

    The very qualities which had recommended [the North] to the 'new wave' writers and film-makers now served as talismans of narrowness. The rich associational life, such as that of the workingmen's club, was seen not as supportive but as excluding, a way in which the natives could keep newcomers and strangers at bay ... The solidarities of the workplace were reconceptualised as a species of male bonding, a licence for the subjugation of women; while the smokestack industries which had been the pride of the North now appeared, retrospectively, as ecological nightmares. In another set of dialectical inversions, the modernizations of the 1960s were stigmatised as planning disaters, imprisoning the local population in no-go estates and tower blocks.

    I've not read Samuel's book. I will, I hope - because he reportedly ends up wondering whether another reversal will come, writers finding in the "sink" housing estates a rich literature and music of reminiscence, in cowboy entrepreneurs and fly-by-night businesses the evidence of renewed dynamism, and in the deindustrialized landscape "ecological corridors and wildlife sanctuaries, bringing the country into the city". I think it could.