Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Forgotten Places by Gareth E. Rees
I wasn’t aware of Garth E. Rees and the website Unofficial Britain until only recently. In Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Forgotten Places, Rees explores the unknown narrative of our modern-day Britain, in which we live from day to day and largely either take for granted or ignore completely.
Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Forgotten Places, is Gareth E. Rees’s personal journey through the mystery and folklore of our Britain. This is not the Britain of our ancestors and the halcyon days of Empire but the story of modern constructions and how they themselves have managed to embed their own narrative within themselves. This is the story of electricity pylons, housing estates, roundabouts and motorways, creations of the, mostly, post-war Britain which we today either ignore, take for granted or embellish with the graffiti of this week’s town ‘artist’. However, once we look past these structures, which so often clash with older architecture creating a juxtaposition of grotesque visuality we find that these places have found their own stories.
Places like Spaghetti Junction have created their own rich cultural history, with its canals and fishing; a place where one can get lost in its maze, housing estates and motorways have become sites for regular hauntings, industrial estates are known for their use in television programmes, which have now all become part of the tapestry of our modern way of life.
For me, this is one of the most engaging parts of Unofficial Britain, as a writer who is creating folklore then the creation of this new myth and folklore which we are already surrounded by is something that drew me into the book. The idea that our concrete car parks, or motorway service stations have become so embedded within our culture is something that not only I overlooked but something that I’d argue that most people don’t even give time to concern themselves. However, one of the striking aspects for me is that with the demolition of our past I have always felt that the heritage and tales we lose from that demolition is something we’d never recover, and in many ways losing a part of ourselves, but with new structures comes new stories for the future generations, which in many cases is now ourselves!
Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Forgotten Places not only engages the reader but it’s a highly personal and highly entertaining book that now holds pride of place on my bookshelf. Rees not only reminds us not to forget our past but also embrace the future as there may be hope for us yet!
• Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Forgotten Places by Gareth E. Rees is published by Elliott and Thompson Books (£14.99). To order a copy go to www.thepilgrim.org.uk