Doing Justice to the Land

A Day Conference held at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 24 February 2009.

Doing Justice to the Land marked the climax of a three-year project undertaken by the Rev'd Professor John Rodwell, and funded by the Trust. The project developed a critique of the notion of sustainability in the UK, challenging claims that justice is being done to the less material aspirations of communities, their often contested histories and to notions of `belonging’ and ‘place’. It argued that all these things are crucial for `Securing the Future’, as the UK Government calls sustainable development.

At the Conference, chaired by the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev'd Richard Chartres, John Rodwell presented the results of his work in a lecture, Redeeming the Land.

John’s project has led to other initiatives. One is the Heimat Project, which networks German and English ecologists, theologians, practitioners in regeneration and landscape architects, together with those among communities of the faithful in the Christian churches in the UK and Germany with commitments to the importance of place. Stations, another initiative deriving from John’s three-year project, involves the Lancaster-based sculptor Alan Ward cutting and lettering stones which recall specific colliery rail termini in the Dearne Valley in Yorkshire. These were places of significance for generations of coalminers and their families, now expunged from a landscape of forgetfulness. The Stations will mark them, recalling the anamnesis of the Stations of the Cross.

The other keynote speakers were John Handley, Professor of Landscape Restoration at Manchester University on Dereliction & Restoration, and Paul Gough, Professor of Fine Arts at the University of the West of England, who spoke on Contested Remembrance.

In addition there were shorter contributions, which came at the topic from a tangent. Ruth McElroy, of the School of Creative & Cultural Industries at Glamorgan University, reflected on the widespread and deep-reaching responses of TV audiences to the BBC Wales series, Inside Coal House.

Janet Johnson, Director of Groundwork Dearne Valley, presented the moving experience of young people at risk of exclusion from school who engaged in the Bolton-upon-Dearne Allotment Project, who had learned, alongside a broad range of skills, to value the specific place of the allotment.

Lou Wilson, a site-specific theatre artist, who runs the Lou Wilson Company, www.louwilson.com , gave a fascinating account of a project, House, a journey of memories and emotions which transformed two 19th century terrace houses in Huddersfield.

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