Losing Your Place
Sue Clifford and Angela King
The main players fall silent, the filming is over, the recording is finished, but the sound technician has hushed everyone to get some 'atmos'. Coughs, car noise echoing off the warehouses, birdsong, boards creaking, trees breathing in the wind, these are the sounds of the everyday, so particular to this place, that to cut the film and add studio voiceovers needs an underlay of this local atmosphere in order to ensure continuity and authenticity.
That elusive particularity, so often undervalued as 'background noise', is as important as the stars. It is the richness we take for granted.
How do we know where we are in time and space? ...view middle of the document...
It is held together by stonewalls and subsidies, ragas and Northumbrian pipes, Wensleydale sheep and halal butchers, whiskies of Islay and Fenland skies, bungalows and synagogues, pubs and the Padstow Obby' Oss, round barrows and rapping, high streets and Ham stone, laver bread and Devon lanes, door details and dialect Places are process and story as well as artefact, layer upon layer of our continuing history and nature's history intertwined. Places offer an exposition of their evolution, given sensitive development and barefoot education, everyplace is its own living museum, dynamic and filled with sensibilities to its own small richnesses. These are places we know when we are in them. Meaning is entrapped in the experience of change, symbolisms and significance cling to seemingly ordinary buildings, trees, artefacts. Particularity based in nature on the foundations of geology and climate, has diverged with the alchemy of life, the articulation of the social and economic demands of successive societies, the narratives of myth and legend, and the ethical and cultural variations over the time. Places are different from each other.
We have long recognized the importance of diversity. Most travel guides, geology books, volumes on architecture and language begin by asserting how varied our land and people are. Yet we have been party to a massive burst of homogenisation, some of it in the name of conservation, which is bleaching the richness from our lives.
The variegation which we and nature have created in sharing our development seems to appeal to our eye for richness. We may scientise our interest in biodiversity, offer critical appraisal of stark geometric buildings, intellectualise arguments about differentiation being 'a good thing', but the truth is that we revel in detail. Subtlety and complication, flavours which are not immediately apparent please our palate/palette.
We are able to pick out a face in football crowd, see a tiny yellow bird high up in a tree of a hundred thousand leaves, we can place a wine by its taste and sneeze at things we cannot even smell, we have acute faculties which enjoy the challenges of complexity. We often know and feel things for which words cannot be found, despite having one of the richest languages in the world. We are emotional, subjective beings, with memories and with interests in the future, as well as the here and now. We are provoked to reverie by the smallest of things.
How then has it happened that we can stand in many high streets, factories, fields or forests and feel we could be anywhere? Why does MacDonald's force upon our high streets an idea born in corporate strategy meetings thousands of miles away? Why do we have huge brown signs from motorways telling us where to find Robin Hood Country and the White Cliffs Experience? Why are we planting the same trees everywhere? Why are only mountains 'beautiful' landscapes, and big and old buildings worthy of care and attention? Why does...