Wayward London

Graduate project - Book Proposal Wayward London challenges the stereotypical format of traditional nature writing. The project is divided up into four collections, North, East, South and West. Each collection is interactive, including maps, photographs and walking routes similar to a walking guide, but they are also critically engaging, presenting ecocritical philosophy, environmental data and contextual discussions in a series of thought-provoking essays. The collections will be based on a series of walks undertaken with a photographer and a specially invited collaborator who will provide skills and insight into the specific topics explored on each journey. Each collection approaches London in a different way and all will ask you to embrace the weirdness of nature and consider how the natural world behaves compared to how you expect it to behave.

Wayward Manifesto

This will be included as a mini booklet in every collection, it aims to present ecocritical philosophy in a consumable, interesting and understandable manner.
Wayward Collections are not nature books. Wayward London rejects the romantic and unrelatable traditions of old nature writing. The nature of London is not the nature of romantic wanderers, it is not idyllic and rural and beautiful. Nature is weird. Nature is so weird that even years of research and observation doesn’t make it less weird. The nature that is thriving in London is rebellious, resilient and wholly strange. We have a great tendency to think of nature as fragile, especially in light of the climate crisis, but the natural world is far from fragile. Understanding the climate crisis asks us all to zoom out, to imagine a world where our actions, as the human species, are as devastating as an earthquake or a tsunami. We are part of nature, but we are also a geophysical force in our own right. “When you think about where your waste goes, your world starts to shrink” and then, when you realise there are ecosystems that are thriving in a landfill site, your views on nature become twisted and uncertain. Humans like nature to be something that is ‘over there’, something abstract, understandable and fragile; this is how we justify our inherent and overwhelming desire to control nature. The Wayward Collections want to free nature, we want you to watch weeds growing through cracks in the pavement and laugh and wonder. What we have done to the world is depressing, but what the world is doing in spite of us is weird and wonderful.
Nature is Wayward, but more than that, nature is weird. Nature is so weird that even years of research and observation will not make it any less weird.
The eco-critical philosopher Timothy Morton suggests that in order to truly engage with the world, we must embrace the uncanny weirdness of nature in order to achieve something he calls, ecognosis - which is becoming accustomed to nature as something strange that does not become less strange through acclimation.
Consider a weed growing in a patch of bare soil - understanding basic biology and geography might explain how this weed came to be there - but it cannot capture the sense of magic and strangeness when you step back and think about a plant seemingly growing from nothing. It’s doubly weird when you consider that this weed is considered undesirable but the plant next to it is considered beautiful.
Wayward London embraces ecognosis as its core philosophy. I want people to look at the nature that is thriving in London and be able to understand the environmental complexity of urban nature as well as embrace it as something that is rebellious, resilient and wholly strange.
Wayward London is not a traditional nature book. Instead, it is a combination of interactive elements alongside engaging visual materials and thought-provoking essays. The project is divided up into four Collections, North, South, East and West, and each explores a different theme and area of London.
At the core of the collections are a series of journeys and walks questioning the role of nature in London. Each walk has been carefully considered with a planned route and concept.
The walks will be undertaken by myself, a photographer and a specially invited guest and materials gathered during these walks will dictate the Collection’s final outcome.
Each collection approaches London in a different way and all will ask you to embrace the weirdness of nature and consider how the natural world behaves compared to how you expect it to behave.
The collections aim to bridge the gap between academic eco-critical writing and narrative nature writing.
I want to write ecocritical philosophy that my mum could understand. Theoretical writing and philisophy have their place but are not widely accessible; the collections will be approachable and fun but also critical and stimulating.
The colections situate themselves as competitors to traditional nature books. Wayward London offers an alternative perspective, a more ecologically minded, collaborative and realistic series of books that offer new ways of thinking and approaching nature for a more sustainble world.

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