Through a series of newly-commissioned artist short films, Right of Way explores contemporary issues of access and inclusion in the UK countryside, raising a discussion about who has a right to the great outdoors and who’s excluded from it.
Set up to resist sweeping industrialisation, the protected zones of the National Trails 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 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?
- black strangers, Dan Guthrie, 2022, 8 mins
- Pastoral Malaise, Ufuoma Essi, 2022, 11 mins
- Syncopated Green, Arjuna Neuman, 2022, 14 mins