Richard White

explorations in place and time

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The Finest View in Europe.

“The road from the little village of Bath to the Fountain of the Medicinal Spring, is most horribly romantic, and partakes very much of those anticipations of the sublime of Nature, which, in his progress through particular vallies, the traveller cannot fail to have frequently experienced. The narrowness of the path, and the precipices upon one side, are to strangers somewhat alarming; but the beautiful scenery with which the journey is rewarded, affords some consolation.”

(Beckford W:  A descriptive account of the Island of Jamaica)

Join me on foot or online Saturday 28 May

Saturday, May 28 Bath School of Art and Design Sion Hill, Lansdown   BA1 5SF

Open the conversation. Meet at reception 11.00. Approx 3 mile walk. Return approx 13.00.

ud stepped logo small versionin conversation

Opening and closing on foot. Walk and talk. Listen. Sense. Consider the views.

A free and open conversation in which artists, writers, thinkers and anyone else who wants to join in can engage with themes that correspond with the best of our aspirations and the worst of our nightmares.

11.00 Open the conversation, stretch minds and legs on a networked walk to

The Finest View in Europe (but it may cost you to get in! Please fill in the contact form if you are coming and we can get a group discount)

Out of the enchanted city, over the fields, up the hill and back again down the road. Disenchanted.


1330 for 1400 – 1700   Lecture Theatre

Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe

Guest speakers include:

  • Kate Rigby, the newly appointed Professor of Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University and author of Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe;
  • Linda Williams, a specialist on human-animal relations, climate change and mass species extinction; and
  • Rachel Withers, writer and critic, focussing on art and ideas.

17.00 Wayfaring in the Enchanted City

The conversation continues in the café, online and on foot walking through the heart of utopian Bath, approx 19.00 arriving at “Bath’s Artisan Quarter” for exhibitions and the utopian/dystopian pub, The Bell, in Walcot Street.

In the two walks opening and closing the day I hope you will join us, share thoughts and generate resonances on utopian/dystopian aspects of the city. Follow and contribute @walknowlive and #walknow #utopiadystopiaSomerly Beckford book title

more from this book by William Beckford of Somerly (our man’s cousin) here:


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Walking not Drowning…

Walking not Drowning …Some thoughts to walk with considering the purity of spring water…..

In the days of the Atlantic trade a significant proportion of people enslaved in West Africa did not survive the journey. Thrown overboard like fruit gone rotten, forced overboard for resisting, abandoned at sea in insurance scams. The heritage is a watery one, relics perhaps as bleached bones at the bottom of the ocean. On the plantations enslaved people built irrigation canals,  and with the wealth generated  back in England the beneficiaries employed labourers to construct country mansions and reconstruct the landscape.

Its in the water: memories, traditions, sounds, enchantments. The hotsprings were the draw for Bath, slaves built and serviced the first city here. Coldwater springs fed the streams that drove the mills and the second city grew. The River Avon harnessed for  hammering, shuttling, crushing, rolling mills, the energy that shaped the metal and powered the factories. The once tidal river became the Navigation, put the labour of enslaved people at a distance and the flow of wealth fed the enchanted city.
May Day Walk notes unedited
Thundering bridge where for years there were warning signs: men working below. The signs always troubled me. No one there as we walked through liminal Avonmouth. The river slow off  to the estuary almost more mud than water.

bridge view rail

We walked thinking about the river and what it carried  and more and more I am thinking of the memory it holds. A legacy that is with us and part of us. From the heady heights the road roared, bars restrained us and coaches teased us. The lure of speed in its deadly spate, great chunks of metal roaring past us. The past roaring at us from behind bars looking down to the river.

Smoothing down and out of that epic adrenaline enchantment to more overgrown tracks we walked into Pill. Here as promised a ghost crossing to the Lamplighters. The river drifted by its run slowing as the tide turned. An indifference.
Avon ghost crossing Pill to ShLamplighters
Down this river went the brass and cloth from mills at Keynsham, Saltford and Bath; guns, gunpowder and more from Bristol. Where were the shackles made? Boats built, repaired, cleaned, loaded unloaded along this river. Here. We tried to imagine them going by. Boats returning feeding the european addictions, sugar, tobacco, rum:  wealth on one form or another.

We spirited up a galleon decked with flags first down river then motoring up where strong men would have heaved. A pirate ship, a heritage spectacle not even harnessed to the wind, an enchantment of adventure and enterprise appeared on cue.
Cabot boat Matthew wide
So we walked on into the wreckage of neoliberalism. A contemporary epic narrative of adventure freedom and enterprise decides who deserves, seizes ownership of shared assets and re-writes the story of collective mutual support. Those deemed undeserving are abandoned. Thrown overboard. Assets are repurposed. The legacy of slaveownership runs deep.

At last arriving at Bristol old wharves, great red brick boxes, the bonded warehouses in which I once imagined the merchants counting their gold by candlelight, loomed through the gorge. Under Leigh Woods, graffitti walls for years emblazoned with Hendrix Lives. Deeper and out of site another palladian mansion stands triumphant the origin of its wealthy statement barely challenged.

graffitti locked in