We’re told we all have a right to roam in the countryside – but does that apply to everyone equally?
Right of Way, is a special preview screening presented by Independent Cinema Office and LUX Moving Image. It mixes stunning new artists’ films with historic travelogues and asks questions of access and inclusion in the UK countryside.
Marking the beginning of a new season at Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival Dan Guthrie will join us at the Maltings to introduce his new film black strangers.
In the spirit of Right of Way, there is an optional short post-screening walk, culminating at the pier in Berwick and a visit to Chloë Smith’s Installation This endless Sea.
Dan Guthrie (@danglefree) is an artist, researcher and writer whose practice often explores representations of Black Britishness, with an interest in examining how they manifest themselves in rural areas.
More about Right of Way
The programme is inspired by the foundation of the National Trails. Set up to resist sweeping industrialisation, these protected landscapes were created with a vision to ‘connect people to the rural landscape’. But during the COVID-19 pandemic – as people realised anew the importance of nature and open spaces for our health and mental wellbeing – inequalities of access to rural land were being exposed, revealing the disconnect felt by millions of people towards the UK countryside. A 2019 government review found that many Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people view the countryside as an ‘irrelevant white, middle-class club’, concluding that this divide is only going to widen as society changes and ‘the countryside will end up being irrelevant to the country that actually exists’.
The new commissions interrupt and challenge the enduring perception of the rural idyll as an untouched and unchanging space where time stands still. What happens when Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse people enter these landscapes? How can our natural spaces be homes to protest, trespassing, activism and raves? Paired with archive films that show that the life of the countryside contains multitudes and disrupt simple narratives, this programme is a terrific platform for debate on historical and contemporary discussions about who has a right to the great outdoors and who is excluded from it.