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Exploring Animal Histories at the Edges of the City

Running Time: 75 minutes
Price: £4

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About this event

This online event explores the creative possibilities of local history, as part of the Creative People and Places Hounslow Visual Arts Programme exhibition Animal Stories

The city can seem like a monument to everything the animal world is not. Hard, shiny, noisy and towering – versus soft, tangled, stealthy and burrowing. 

Animals meanwhile appear a memento of everything the city forgets. We see them on our television screens in grave warnings about climate change, on our streets in the form of scavenging foxes, and of course in our homes as pets and occasional pests. But what about the edges of the city, where perimeter fences are grown over with meadow flowers and golf courses edged with woodland? 

This online discussion, chaired by researcher Alistair Cartwright invites three speakers who have explored these spaces through poetry, art, historical archives and personal experience to delve into the often overlooked edges of the city, starting with our very own borough of Hounslow. 

While the explosive growth of cities and industry has driven all but a few species away from centres of human population, the same development has made animals all the more visible – through the work of naturalists, collectors and animal welfare activists in the 19th century, to our own awareness of ecological collapse. 

Hounslow is a place where these different forces come together, often clashing but also throwing up unique ecologies of their own. From the rare species of snails found on Isleworth Ait, to the thousands of animals entering the UK through Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, to the famous Chiswick House Menagerie and the migrating birds of Cranford Park – Hounslow past and present is rich with animal histories. 

Join us for this very special, online event as we take a closer look at the edges of the natural and human-made worlds, asking whether these unique places can offer clues to a more culturally and ecologically diverse, hospitable, sustainable urban environment. 

This event accompanies the Animal Stories exhibition, part of the Creative People and Places Hounslow Visual Arts Programme. 

You can explore the exhibition online here: https://hounslowvisualarts.org.uk/exhibitions/animal-stories/ 


Paul Farley was born in Liverpool in 1965. His first poetry collection received the Somerset Maugham Award and a Forward Prize in 1998. His second collection won the 2002 Whitbread Poetry Prize, while his third book of poems, Tramp in Flames was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. His co-authored non-fiction work Edgelands (2011) charts a journey into England’s overlooked wilderness. As well as receiving the Royal Society of Literature’s Jerwood Award, Edgelands was serialised as a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. Paul recently helped lead the project ‘Places of Poetry’, prompting reflection on national and cultural identities in England and Wales. 

Kathryn Rooke is the archivist at Gunnersbury Park Museum, a local history museum based in the former home of the Rothschild family and set in 185 acres of beautiful parkland. She is also Assistant Archivist at the Natural History Museum. Kathryn has worked previously at Lancashire Archives, The Clothworkers’ Company, The Barber-Surgeons’ Company, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). After spending a few years in Taiwan, she now lives in West London and loves to be outdoors with her pug dog Horatio and her children, watching birds, climbing trees and camping. 

Alistair Cartwright is a writer and historian based in London. He recently completed a PhD on postwar London’s rented rooms. He is Publicity Officer for the Architecture Space and Society Centre at Birkbeck College and writes on housing and the city for Counterfire.org. 

Amber Cooper-Davies is a collage illustrator and stop-motion animator, working with intricate cutting techniques and delicate paper puppets. She graduated from Middlesex University in 2013 and has been enjoying freelancing ever since, contributing her work to books, magazines, theatre, online, campaigning and augmented reality projects.

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