I began to read Raymond Williams seriously after my PhD supervisor, Les Back, put me on to Border Country, the novel that was unfairly panned at the time of publication. I had read bits and pieces before then, particularly his 1958 essay ‘Culture Is Ordinary’, which I still think is one of the greatest British essays ever put to paper.
With almost miraculous serendipity I was teaching at Hereford College of Arts, and discovered that Williams’ grave was near to where I lived in Abergavenny. I made a pilgrimage to Clodock Church, near Pandy. I then began to write about the ‘Border Countries’ of Williams, and those I had come from, on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border. I began to map these on to the ones Edward Said wrote about, in my mind.
So here is a micro-phase, with its relevant published traces, Border Country, a Visit to the Grave of Raymond Williams, which opens the phase, and then The Bus Stop, The Cathedral, Fifty Years On, which introduces ‘austerity’ into those narratives – as the 2008 financial crash unravelled – and then Unpacking Ships and Containers, which closes my work in Wales and The Marches. The scene was then set for the material that led to my PhD thesis and first book, Small Towns, Austere Times, which was published by Zero in 2014. I theorised in Wales and then applied that in the Northwest of England.