Unofficial Britain: Journeys Through Unexpected Places
By: Gareth E. Rees
LONGLISTED FOR RSL ONDAATJE PRIZE 2021
‘Terrific… Britain’s urban landscape is just as freighted with myth and mystery as its castles and ancient monuments and [Rees] proves it by unearthing a treasure trove of riveting stories.’ – Sunday Times, Best Books of the Year, 2020
There is a Britain that exists outside of the official histories and guidebooks – places that lie on the margins, left behind. A Britain in the cracks of the urban facade where unexpected life can flourish. Welcome to UNOFFICIAL BRITAIN.
This is a land of industrial estates, factories and electricity pylons, of motorways and ring roads, of hospitals and housing estates, of roundabouts and flyovers.
Places where modern life speeds past but where people and stories nevertheless collect. Places where human dramas play out: stories of love, violence, fear, boredom and artistic expression. Places of ghost sightings, first kisses, experiments with drugs, refuges for the homeless, hangouts for the outcasts.
Struck by the power of these stories and experiences, Gareth E. Rees set out to explore these spaces and the essential part they have played in the history and geography of our isles. Though mundane and neglected, they can be as powerfully influential in our lives, and imaginations, as any picture postcard tourist destination.
‘Unexpected and fascinating’ – Melissa Harrison, author of The Stubborn Light of Things
‘The mythical and the municipal collide in a weirdly compelling tour of Britain’s built environment.’ – Financial Times
“You should read this book. It will make you stay up too late, laugh out loud, and then freak yourself out looking out of the window at the haunted-looking binbag blowing past Carpet Right in the dead of night.”
- Michael Smith, author of Unreal City
“Rees finds soul in these soulless locations, charting stories and encounters as rich as those found among rolling hills and chocolate box villages. A delight.”
- The New European
“Should be required reading in every motorway service station coffee shop up and down this land”
- The Psychogeographic Review
“A wonderful ramble through the Brexit Britain of today – warts and all.”
- Elsewhere: A Journal of Place
“Essential reading if you are interested in the urban wyrd and how folklore is mutating and developing in modern times.”
- Folk Horror Revival
“Unofficial Britain was my book of 2020”
- Paul Cheney, Half Man Half Book
“Effortlessly combining urban folklore and personal memoir, history and psychogeography, road-trip narrative and gonzo journalism.”
- Ends of the World
“A fascinating and sometimes unnerving book”
- Shiny New Books
“Dry and often very funny”
“[…] harnesses the personal and philosophical, offering thoughts that are penetrating yet always entertaining […] A fresh take on vistas some may too readily dismiss.”
- Never Imitate
“An appreciation of quotidian, overlooked and sometimes grotty landscapes; part memoir, part ‘hauntology’, and a stiff dose of nearness and weirdness to counter the tweeness that afflicts some topographical writing.”
- Will Wiles, author of Care of Wooden Floors