Plot 188, The Precarious Landscape with Ian Nesbitt

Concerned with what it means to the people of a city when the decisions made about its changes are beyond their control.

The Precarious Landscape tried to encourage more expansive and collective ways of examining and understanding Preston’s changing landscape. It manifested as a 5 day walk, a discovery in the archives, a bus tour and a community exhibition in a new housing development.


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The Precarious Landscape

We began with a 5 day walk. Examining the topography and cultural landscape of Preston by walking its bounds, recording what we experienced and talking to residents along the way. We found a changing landscape, neglect of public rights of way, huge swathes of new houses, lots of farming and tensions around proposed sites for fracking. 

We spent time considering how we connect to the land through the ‘spiritual’ and ‘ritual’, as well as ‘bureaucratic’ and ‘metric’.

We presented our findings in Woodplumpton and District Club in the form of a performance lecture entitled Field Notes during The Expanded City symposium in June 2016.

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The Bus Tour

In December 2017 we took a group of participants on a bus tour to four sites on the western bounds of Preston, including a Holy Well at Ladyewell, the a naval base HMS Nightjar at Inskip, Roseacre - a proposed Hydraulic Fracking test site and a farmers field in Cottom.

Following the tour we held a lunch at the local village hall, and a discussion chaired by landscape archeologist Bob Johnston. We asked the group to consider what we'd come to call the precarious nature of this landscape. How market forces dictate what happens to the land. Agriculture, housing development, road building and hydraulic fracking were all key components to the changes in the area. We were keen to give space for people to reflect on this as well as give rise to different voices that may be called upon for alternative narratives – voices from the community, from history and from the landscape itself.

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The John Weld Collection

John Weld was a Preston resident who lived at Leagram Hall during the 1800's. He was an antiquary, naturalist, and amatuer water colourist of exceptional ability. He recorded and documented hundreds of sited bird and insect species as well as flora and fauna. He was concerned that these species were being lost as the countryside was being taken over by industry as the industrial revolution gained momentum.

We spent some time in the Harris Museum archives exploring the collection, subsequently making work and selecting pieces for display in our community exhibition.

John Weld
Courtesy of Harris Museum

Plot 188, Notes from a Precarious Landscape

Following on from two public events at Preston Market and The Harris Museum and a number of local press articles inviting people to contribute, we develop a community exhibition 'Notes from a Precarious Landscape' which included contributions from residents of Preston and its surrounding villages. The exhibition was staged in a vacant Plot, 188, on the Story Homes Waterside development in Cottam. It explored the relationships between people and place, city and surrounding landscape, through the lens of the people who live and work in Preston and included prints, poems, maps, sound recordings, photographs.

The exhibition also housed watercolour paintings from the John Weld collection at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery and an audio work in the garden which consisted of 92 species of birdsong that John Weld had listed. 

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Credits / Links

In Certain Places

Ian Nesbitt

All photos by Ruth Levene, Ian Nesbitt, In Certain Places. Plot 188 Outside shot by Gary Cook

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