Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Ian Nairn revival

Ever since I posted a video of Ian Nairn - a figure I had heard of but did not know a great deal about - I have been coming across references to him.

In the Observer a few days ago Rowan Moore told us that Nairn's work is being rediscovered and his life remembered in a new book - Ian Nairn: Words in Place by Gillian Darley and David McKie.

Moore wrote:
Nairn defended the particularities of place, people's right to inhabit their localities as they wish, and the beauty and character in the spaces around us. He raged against the destructive collusion of corporations and government. Gravesend, as do most British towns, shows that these battles still need to be fought. In the shadow of Blair's third way, in which we are still living, such collusions are more powerful than ever, which is why interest in Nairn is now resurgent.
Nairn, in his raincoat and Morris Minor, was an unlikely Icarus. He flew, he burned, he drowned. As alcoholism is now recognised as a disease, we should perhaps simply say that that is what killed him, but it might also be possible to guess that, in asking architecture to fill an emotional void, he was seeking the impossible. Also, that, in wanting officialdom to feel as intensely about places as he did, he was doomed to disappointment. But anyone who cares even slightly about their surroundings should be intensely grateful for his attempt.
Then I bought myself Jonathan Meades' new collection Museum Without Walls and found that it also has an essay on Nairn.

He says:
Nairn belonged to a literary generation that abhorred prissiness, that took pride in being bolshie, obstreperous and unsettling, in upsetting the applecart, in trampling the old cultural solaces - [John] Osborne, Peter Nicholls, Kenneth Tynan, Harold Pinter, Geoffrey Hill, Robin Cook, B.S. Johnson, Simon Raven, John Arden and J.G. Ballard, who shared many of Nairn's preoccupations.
Meades also describes meeting Nairn in 1982 in an attempt to persuade him to write again, but he was too far gone in alcoholism and died of cirrhosis of the liver the following year aged only 52.

According to Rowan Moore a BBC4 documentary on Ian Nairn is also to be broadcast soon.

1 comment:

Richard T said...

Both counties are a little out of your purview of Leicestershire and Shropshire but Ian Nairn also wrote West Sussex and much of Surrey in the Buildings of England with Pevsner. His voice in both is unmistakeable.