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Ken Worpole: Under East Anglian Skies

In this talk, writer and social historian Ken Worpole tells the story of the extraordinary world of mid-20th century East Anglian artistic and radical dissent, based on interviews with those who grew up in this milieu and remember it from childhood.

In 1937 artists Cedric Morris and Lett Haines opened the East Anglian School of Drawing and Painting at Dedham on the Essex/Suffolk borders, before moving to Benton End farm in Hadleigh in 1940. Close to Dedham, in the village of Langham, poet Max Plowman and critic John Middleton Murry had already established The Adelphi Centre, a rural cultural settlement where writers such as Vera Brittain, George Orwell and Iris Murdoch gathered to discuss politics, communitarianism and pacifism.

Next door to The Adelphi Centre was the farm of the Jewish chronicler of East Anglian folklore, S.L.Bensusan, whose sister Esther was married Lucien Pissarro, who also lived there. This gathering of bohemian outposts was enlarged in 1943 with the acquisition of Frating Hall Farm nearby, a back-to-the-land pacifist community with artistic connections to Dedham, Langham, and the Colchester Art Society.

This talk is based on Ken’s new book No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen: back to the land in wartime Britain, published by Little Toller Books.

  • Ken Worpole

    Ken Worpole

    Ken Worpole is a writer and social historian, whose work includes many books on architecture, landscape and public policy. He is married to photographer Larraine Worpole with whom he has collaborated on book projects internationally, as well as in Hackney, London, where they have lived and worked since 1969.

    His principal interests concern the planning and design of new settlements, landscapes and public institutions - streets, parks, playgrounds, libraries, informal education - based on the pioneering achievements of 20th century social democracy and the environmental movement. In recent years he has focused on recovering the social history of communitarian experiments in both town and country, drawing lessons for the creation of new residential and environmentally sustainable forms of settlement for an ageing population.

    Ken has served on the UK government’s Urban Green Spaces Task Force, on the Expert Panel of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and as an adviser to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. He was a founder member of the Demos think-tank and of Opendemocracy.

Image: Field adjacent to Benton End, Suffolk (c) Matt Collins