24th / 25th / 26th May 2019, Trefresa Farm, Cornwall

Richard King — The Lark Ascending

SATURDAY, Talks Barn


Richard King joins us to talk about his brilliant new book The Lark Ascending, a history of the British countryside told through the relationship between music and landscape.

The Lark Ascending is a lyrical exploration of how Britain’s identity was shaped throughout the Twentieth Century by the urge to reimagine the country’s wild places. From the psychologically altered English landscape Vaughan Williams and his generation encountered as they returned after the armistice, to the agrarian revivalists and of the 1930s; from the ‘Back to the Land’ movement of the 1960s to the changing landscape of the 1980s, which witnessed the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common and New Age Travellers congregating every year at Stonehenge, rural Britain was a source of great social energy and a place of dramatic change. Music was an inspiration and complement to these new interpretations of a British pastoral tradition, from the song written to commemorate the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932, to the moment, sixty years later, when the sound systems at the country’s largest ever illegal rave, held at Castlemorton Common, finally ran out of charge.

Through a series of ‘headphone walks’ and reflective interviews with musicians, filmmakers, ruralists and witnesses Richard King listens closely to Britain’s rural landscapes and the compositions inspired by their beauty and drama. His journey takes him from the west coast of Wales to the Lothian Hills, from the Thames Estuary to the Suffolk shoreline – and from Vaughan Williams to Brian Eno, from Penguin Cafe Orchestra to the Raincoats, from Kate Bush to Boards of Canada, ‘The Sinking of the Titanic’ to Greenham Common…

His unique and intimate history of a nation celebrates the British countryside as a living, working, and occasionally rancorous environment – rather than an unaffected idyll – that forged a nation’s musical personality and provided a space in which life could be experienced on its own terms and its fullest, under open skies, far away from the gaze of authority.

Richard is also the author of Original Rockers, shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize, and How Soon Is Now? which was Sunday Times Music Book of the Year, both published by Faber.