In 1992, a group of young people began to protest against the extension of the M3 motorway through Twyford Down outside Winchester – a new road that would, by the hands of the Conservative government, cut seven minutes off the journey time between London and Southampton, whilst carving through the chalk hill in one of England’s ‘protected’ Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Dongas Tribe, as they would later be known, named after the Matabele word for ‘gully’, radically altered the UK environmental movement, lauded by the Guardian as having ‘kickstarted a major shift in green attitudes in both government and the public.’
Twyford Down became a symbol for a further 1,000 protected heritage sites across the UK which were planned to undergo the same process, removing idiosyncrasy from the landscape and presenting an ideal for a country based on mobility and so-called ‘progress’.
Emma Must’s searing collection, published 30 years after the Twyford protests, considers the role that language plays as witness to our impact on the Earth. These powerful, moving and honest depictions of the campaign explore the ways in which language reaches us, saves us, or fails to convince us. Here, the land reveals its histories to the reader, whilst protest actions are juxtaposed with judicial statements, teetering between the active and passive voice, the human and non-human.
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