Through the lens of the everyday, this book explores ’the countryside’ as an inhabited and practised realm with lived rhythms and routines. It relocates the topography of everyday life from its habitually urban focus, out into the English countryside. The rural is often portrayed as existing outside of modernity, or as its passive victim. Here, the rural is recast as an active and complex site of modernity, a shift which contributes alternative ways of thinking the rural and a new perspective on the everyday. In each chapter, pieces of visual culture - including scrapbooks, art works, adverts, photographs and films - are presented as tools of analysis which articulate how aspects of the everyday might operate differently in non-metropolitan places. The book features new readings of the work of significant artists and photographers, such as Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, Stephen Willats, Anna Fox, Andrew Cross, Tony Ray Jones and Homer Sykes, seen through this rural lens, together with analysis of visually fascinating archival materials including early Shell Guides and rarely seen scrapbooks made by the Women’s Institute. Combining everyday life, rural modernity and visual cultures, this book is able to uncover new and different stories about the English countryside and contribute significantly to current thinking on everyday life, rural geographies and visual cultures.
’In a compelling and innovative account of specific customs and creative practices in rural England, Rosemary Shirley’s focus on the rhythms and rituals of the everyday in non-metropolitan� situations valuably disrupts that still habitual view of the countryside as a timeless and anti-modern landscape to be looked upon from outside, for an understanding of lived sites of modernity which are just as complex, dynamic and evolving as those urban contexts more frequently considered in studies of visual culture and everyday life.’ Ysanne Holt, University of Northumbria, UK ’This exciting and important book reveals the non-metropolitan realms of the UK to be complex, lively and awkward sites of modernity. Challenging us to reconsider what does and does not belong in such spaces, art works, mass observation reports, public campaigns, guidebooks, scrap books, motorways, fast cars, modernist art, litter, pylons, festive rituals, photographs, folk art objects, domestic appliances and home furnishings are marshalled to demonstrate how cultural practices and representations mutate to reveal competing notions of place and identity. In demolishing stereotypical, reified dualisms that distinguish between town and country, the rural is shown to be replete with extraordinary and ordinary assemblages. These collages combine heterogeneous elements that foreground everyday ambiguities and complexities, and fold together the contemporary and the archaic to gloriously confound orthodox conceptions.’ Tim Edensor, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
"Shirley’s method of linking this visual scene to her larger thesis about rural modernity should interest geographers as well as scholars of film and photography, gender, print, and English cultural studies. (…) Shirley encourages readers to find in the visual litter of this countryside ‘different stories to tell about modernity, stories that start from a different place’ (p. 11), a marginal, multiple, non-metropolitan place that has shaped and will continue to shape complex everyday relations between English people and their geography." - Kristin Bluemel, Monmuth University, USA
Contents: Introduction: beating the bounds; Speed and stillness: driving in the countryside; Keeping Britain tidy: litter and anxiety; The networked village: Women's Institute Golden Jubilee scrapbooks; Performing the village: festivals and folk art; Conclusion: limbo dancing; Bibliography; Index.