walking backwards into the future

walking backwards into the future
Online Reading Groups
May 2021

Build by Emma Daman Thomas
Build, Emma Daman Thomas, 2021

‘Let us face the future’ said a famous manifesto. But how exactly, at any actual time, are we supposed to do that?’

In his essay ‘Walking Backwards into the Future,’ Raymond Williams asks how we can look to the future whilst being so absorbed in the needs of the present. He invites us to think about the language of this work: ‘how many of the words we use to define our intentions have a relationship to the past: recovery, rehabilitation, rebuilding.’

This May, Peak is co-hosting a trio of online reading groups led by Dr Kirsti Bohata, Kandace Siobhan Walker and Esyllt Lewis, as a portal into our Culture is Ordinary programme, marking the centenary of cultural theorist, socialist and educator Raymond Williams born in the village of Pandy in the Black Mountains in 1921. Together, we hope to explore collective strategies for cultivating response-ability for our future, drawing on Williams’ writings and a host of writers, activists and poets selected by the reading group hosts.

How to bookReading groups are online, free and have a limited capacity of 10 participants. Contact louise@peak.cymru to book your place, letting us know if you have any access needs to join the session. We’ll then email you the reading materials, which we invite you to read at your own pace before the reading group. Reading materials will be made public for those not able to attend the reading groups after the sessions.

Between Country and City

Wednesday 12th May, 5.30–7pm
Kirsti Bohata, Professor of English, co-Director of CREW, the Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales.

Drawing on the ways in which Raymond Williams’ writing speaks to the challenges of addressing contemporary concerns and crises, Kirsti Bohata hosts a reading group to explore our response-ability to environmental ecologies and climate change in the context of debates about land use, rural communities and the relationship between country and city.

The group will centre on two sets of readings, with Raymond Williams’ ‘Between Country and City’ essay as an anchor point for both. The first set invites a reading of the essay The Evolution of Extinction Rebellion by Matthew Taylor and also an Interview with Dr. Hope Jennings entitled Margaret Atwood on “Everything Change” vs. “Climate Change” and How Everything Can Change, a discussion of Margaret Atwood’s term ‘everything change’; imperialism and also, the feminist anthropocene. The second set invites reflections on the contentious debates around rewilding and Wales, using contemporary images, a short extract from Raymond Williams’s novel Border Country, a short paragraph from his essay ‘Welsh Culture’ and the article Rewilding Britain’s Rainforest by George Monbiot, which purposes that we need a willingness to confront vested interests to restore our trashed ecosystems.

Kirsti Bohata Website | Twitter

Between Country and City, Readings 
Between Country and City, Raymond Williams

Dreaming as Praxis

Wednesday 19th May, 5:30pm–7pm
Kandace Siobhan Walker, writer and filmmaker from the Brecon Beacons and other places.

Inspired by Raymond Williams’ idea of ‘a sharing socialism’, writer and filmmaker Kandace Siobhan Walker hosts a reading group to investigate the necessity of collectivity, imagination and dreams in radical struggle and change.

The first reading is an interview with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a geographer and prison abolitionist from the US, that invites us to question whether a world without prisons (and police) is possible. The second reading is an interview with Poka Laenui, a Hawaiian elder, that presents generative ways of engaging with the past. The third reading is a speech given by US anarchist and philosopher Murray Bookchin in 1978, which is perhaps in closer political proximity to Williams’ essays in The Year 2000 and Resources of Hope. The final “reading” is an hour-long YouTube video in which different political and activist groups discuss the realities of a Green New Deal; the video demonstrates how the changes proposed would radically transform a fictional northern coastal town.

These readings have been selected to demonstrate the wide-ranging approaches of people working towards a radical transformation of the world we live in, drawing connections between impossibilities, dreams and concrete change – recognising the necessity of dreaming wildly.

Kandace Siobhan Walker Website | Twitter | Instagram

Mae’r coed yn pydru \ Just Keep Scrolling

Wednesday 26th May, 5:30pm–7pm
Esyllt Angharad Lewis, artist, translator and co-editor of mwnwgl and Y Stamp.

Drawing on her recent performance lecture with Pegwn – the group of artists, writers and thinkers who have come together around Welsh language futures, Esyllt Angharad Lewis hosts a reading group which explores both the tension, and potential, between layers of language in translation.

Esyllt Lewis

Esyllt has offered an image as a proposition for the reading group. Made with instagram in mind, the English is an invitation to look past the urgency of the Welsh message and carry on consuming. However, Welsh speakers are unable to avoid the weight of “mae’r coed yn pydru”. Treating Welsh here almost as a code, these words draw a link between the Welsh language’s existence / extinction and the demise of nature.

Esyllt Angharad Lewis Twitter | Instagram


Build, Emma Daman Thomas, 2021
Musician and artist Emma Daman Thomas is creating a series of artworks responsive to the Culture is Ordinary programme. Build explores differing perceptions of time and change, through the geologic time of Radnorshire standing stones. Apparently immutable, but continually changing, Emma locates them as trigger points, a form of ‘earth acupuncture’, and sites of release, softening and stretching out.