The Changing Geography of Everyday Life in Britain 1950-2010

The Changing Geography of Everyday Life in Britain, 1950-2010
Regions & Nations – Scotland

17.30 – 19.00, Wednesday 5 June 2013
Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Summerhall
Edinburgh EH9 1PL

Supported by





Ian Angus AoU, Plan Manager, Strategic Development Planning Authority
Bright Pryde, Regional Networks Coordinator, The Academy of Urbanism
Diarmaid Lawlor AoU, Head of Urbanism, Architecture + Design Scotland
John Lord AoU, Director, Yellow Book Ltd
Eugene Mullan AoU, Director, Smith Scott Mullan Associates
Ian Gilzean AoU, Chief Architect, Scottish Government

Click to read the A+DS report


John’s presentation, The Changing Geography of Everyday Life in Britain, 1950-2010, draws on research he has undertaken over the past 2 years. Using data, historical sources, contemporary accounts and images he aims to provide an account of some of the extraordinary changes we have experienced in that time, in particular the end of the intensely local working class lives described in books like Uses of Literacy and Family and Kinship in East London, both published in 1957. Since then, the settled “communities” described in those classic texts have felt the full force of driving forces including rising household income, a huge increase in car ownership, the development of New Towns and housing estates, and waves of migration.

The tumult of change is reflected dramatically in the results emerging from the 2011 Census. From a place perspective, the interaction of these and other powerful forces have led us to point where – for good or ill – we live our lives in a larger space than ever before, with everyday life conducted around an expanding network of locations. This has had profound effects, not least for the district and town centres that used to be central places in those local lives. Just as we were trying to digest these huge changes, the advent of the internet has changed the game again and at a startling rate. The implications for society’s relationship with places are potentially enormous, with an infinite number of commercial, cultural, social and other exchanges set loose from the constraints of physical presence.

The presentation aims to describe these developments and explain – at least in part – why they happened. It will reflect on society’s ambivalent attitude to the new geography, a sense that (to quote Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts) “…we got what we wanted, and in the process we lost what we had.” But John will argue that, despite the immense power of the forces at work, we are not on a predetermined path: the distance we travel by road has been flat lining for a decade, and average income has been declining in real terms. Above all, there is a host of evidence that people continue to value the events and transactions that bring us together, for work, learning or pleasure. The discussion, led by Diarmaid Lawlor with a contribution by Eugene Mullan, will provide an opportunity to discuss the implications for policy makers and practitioners.




Biography – John Lord AoU

John Lord AoU is the director of yellow book, the economic development and regeneration consultancy that he founded in 2000. He was previously a senior director in Scottish Enterprise and the first chief executive of Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire. After leaving SE John was a director with EDAW (now Aecom) before setting up his own practice, JLA, in 1997. He has worked throughout the UK and in Europe, specialising in strategy development, research and evaluation. He leads and participates in multi-disciplinary teams, with a particular interest in the interface between economic development and placemaking.

Select Bibliography

John Benson, The Working Class in Britain 1850-1939, Longman, 1989
Joanna Bourke, Working Class Cultures in Britain 1890-1960, Routledge, 1994
David Gilbert, David Matless & Brian Short (eds), Geographies of British Modernity, Blackwell, 2003
Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life, Penguin Modern Classics, 2009*
David Kynaston, Austerity Britain 1945-51, Bloomsbury, 2007*
David Kynaston, Family Britain 1951-57, Bloomsbury, 2009*
Alison Ravetz, The Place of Home: English Domestic Environments 1914-2000, E & F Spon, 1995
Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Yale, 2nd edition, 2010*
Andrew Rosen, The Transformation of British Life 1950-2000, Manchester University Press, 2003
Humphrey Spender, Worktown People, Falling Wall Press, 1982. See also the Bolton Worktown Mass Observation archive:
Michael Young and Peter Willmott, Family and Kinship in East London, Penguin Modern Classics, 2007*

Key sources *


Billy Liar, director John Schlesinger, 1963
Of Time and the City, director Terence Davies, 2008*
Both available on DVD

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