Ideasmiths Podcast #1: John Grindrod

Listen to John Grindrod discussing his latest book, Outskirts: Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt, with David Ellis at Hyde Park Book Club in March 2018. They talk about the green belt, council housing, modernist architecture and the re-building of Britain after the Second World War.

Outskirts: Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt (Sceptre, 2017), tells the story of those mysterious and hotly contested tracts of land on the edges of towns and cities. The book charts the origin of the green belt concept and explores how it came to influence the development urban Britain in the post-war decades, before considering the role of the green belt in Britain today.

Outskirts sheds light on why the green belt has become such a salient political issue, but the book also tells a profoundly human story of family life on the green belt. Grindrod grew up in New Addington on the edge of the London green belt in the 1970s with his family who had moved there from inner London. Grindrod explains how his family struggled to fit in on the estate and examines the role the green belt played in their lives. He meets people whose lives have been shaped by living and working in the green belt, from environmental activists to farmers. Outskirts is a insightful and poignant work, which skilfully blends social and political history with memoir, reportage and reflections on the natural world.

In addition to Outskirts, John Grindrod is the author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain (Old Street, 2013). This is a social and cultural history of the period when Arndale centres, Brutalist council estates, ring roads, prefabs and New Towns fundamentally altered the British landscape. In Concretopia, Grindrod meets the people responsible for re-building post-war Britain and considers the legacy of their work in the early twenty-first century.

John has written for publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Financial Times and Big Issue, and given talks at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Academy, Google, The Royal Institution of British Architects and the Edinburgh Festival. John runs the website, which contains a remarkable collection of materials on the built environment, and he can be contacted on Twitter @Grindrod

This podcast includes John’s talk, an audience Q&A and a post-show discussion between David Ellis and The State of the Arts’ Jack Simpson.