Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt
Impact Hub Birmingham Co-Founder and Director of Urban Innovation Andy Reeve will be in conversation with John Grindrod. John’s latest book Outskirts has just been published and looks at the modern mystery that is our green belt.
The Green belt: a mystery of modern life. It doesn’t appear on maps, it is not signposted, and it is hard to know where it lies. It also stirs up fiery emotions. Green belts surround urban areas to stop them spreading outwards. People are fiercely protective (or critical) of them, and of all the issues – housing, the environment, farming, transport – that they stir up.
Outskirts: Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt tells the story of the creation of these mysterious tracts of land: the people who dreamt up the idea (from Elizabeth I to National Trust founder Octavia Hill); how and when they came into operation (more recently than you might imagine); and what people get up to in them (everything from golf to dogging, it turns out).
Outskirts is also deeply personal. As well as telling the story of the vision of the green belt, the complex and divisive position in which it now resides, caught between two worlds, it is also the story of growing up there. John Grindrod grew up in the 1970s on the edge of the green belt in Croydon, South London. His upbringing mirrored the wider tensions: in addition to the bigger historical picture, Outskirts is the story of his family’s move from the centre of London out to a new estate, and their awkward attempts (a wheelchair-bound mother who’d had so many x-rays her husband claimed she glowed in the dark, a brother who developed agoraphobia in the new expanse) to fit in on the outskirts of the estate and the countryside beyond. It is the human story of these tracts of land as much as the historical one.
Outskirts puts a refreshingly human face to an abstract, political and contested entity. The first book to tell the story of Britain’s green belts, it is at once a social history, a stirring evocation of the natural world, and a poignant tale of growing up in a place, and within a family, like no other.
John Grindrod worked as a bookseller and publisher for twenty- five years. His first book, the critically acclaimed Concretopia, told the tale of the rebuilding of Britain after the war. It was described by Alain de Botton as “charming”, by the 20th Century Society as “witty and informative” and by Leo Hollis as “powerful and personal”. John lives in London and has spent much time discovering where the green belts actually are.
‘A terrific, and very moving read. Fascinating study in the emotional landscapes of cities. A hymn to the peripheral that is totally on target.’ – Leo Hollis, author of Cities Are Good For You
‘What better lens to view the current friction between nature and our engorged cities than the Green Belt? A brilliant idea, brilliantly executed.’ – Tristan Gooley, bestselling author of The Walker’s Guide
Copies of Outskirts will be on sale and John will be happy to sign books at the end of the event.
Tickets are £3.25 (including booking fee) and can be booked via Eventbrite here.